Christopher Columbus discovered America, the Civil War was about states’ rights, and colonization was good. History in Texas has already been whitewashed and it’s about to get worse.
Where are we in society? We’re in 2021; where are we? Where did you think we would be? Are we living in the future yet? Are you parking your flying car in the carport of your Jetson’s house? Yeah, me neither. It’s funny how our society promised the world would be futuristic by 2020, but we don’t have robots to clean our houses yet. Even worse than not having a flying car or a robot named Rosie to clean our house, is that the public schools in Texas are still teaching our children 400-year-old lies.
The one conversation that lives rent-free in my head.
When my son was in kindergarten, he came home with a puppet he made out of a paper bag. I asked him who the puppet was. “Christopher Columbus,” he told me.
So, I asked him, “Was Christopher Columbus a good guy or a bad guy?”
“He was a good guy,” he told me.
“Because he sailed across the ocean.”
Before I could respond, his older sister, in second grade at the time, responded, “Um. No. He was a bad guy because he was really mean to Native Americans.”
I told her that, only two years earlier that I had a similar conversation with her. She came home, excited to learn about this man who sailed across the ocean and discovered America. It was the same thing I learned in school many years ago.
Now we know better.
Columbus didn’t discover America, and he wasn’t the first person to sail across the ocean. Columbus didn’t prove the Earth was round. Columbus enslaved, murdered, and mutilated thousands of Indigenous people. Yet, schools in Texas are still teaching kindergarteners that Christopher Columbus was a hero.
That puts parents in a tough situation. Do you allow your kid to believe that a villain was a good guy? Or do you have an honest conversation with your five year old about Columbus? Most parents would agree that five years old is too young to teach genocide to. Then, how do you get them to understand why the teacher mislead/lied to them?
Learning that Christopher Columbus was a hero is leftover Lost Cause mythology that Texas schools never stopped teaching.
According to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), kindergarteners are expected to identify the contributions of historical figures. Those figures include Stephen F. Austin, George Washington, Christopher Columbus, and José Antonio Navarro.
Should Christopher Columbus be one of the figures on the list?
Probably, not unless the kids are old enough, to tell the truth to. Experts say that children aren’t old enough to understand both the historical and emotional context of difficult knowledge, like the genocide, torture, and enslavement of Native Americans by Christopher Columbus, until the sixth grade. Definitely not kindergarteners. To teach five-year-olds about Christopher Columbus, they have to be taught lies and mistruths.
By fifth grade, the TEKS mandates that your student learns the benefits of colonialism and how the Civil War was over states’ rights. Here is the exact verbiage:
- Explain the central role of the expansion of slavery in causing sectionalism, disagreement over states’ rights, and the Civil War;
- Explain when, where, and why groups of people explored, colonized, and settled in the United States, including the search for religious freedom and economic gain; and
- Describe the accomplishments of significant individuals who settled for religious freedom and economic gain during the colonial period, including William Bradford, Anne Hutchinson, William Penn, John Smith, and Roger Williams.
Should our schools teach children that colonialism was a good thing?
Historically, colonial domination has involved subjecting innocent populations to murder, torture, and exploitation: moral evil and economic good. Colonization was built on racism. Superiority and inferiority were concepts incorporated into American policy, legislation, and practice, where black and brown people had no rights and were only considered 3/5ths of a person.
Colonization happened. Children should learn about it, but with the same context as any other historical points, they should learn the truth about it.
If you haven’t seen this exchange between James Talarico and Steve Toth, you have to see it. Once you do, there will be no question in your mind what the goal of these bills is. To further whitewash an already whitewashed history. They seek to maintain systemic oppression and racism by lying to children about the history of Texas and the history of America.
What will this mean for the future generations of Texas?
They’ve already passed through the legislature and have been signed by Greg Abbott. The only hope we have with these bills is to elect people who commit to an anti-racist curriculum and un-whitewash the history that’s already there.
There are seven State Board of Education members coming up for re-election. If redistricting gets held up in federal courts and doesn’t happen before the 2022 election, that won’t change. However, if redistricting happens at the end of this year, all fifteen SBOE members will be up for re-election. Regardless, the SBOE elections next year will be one of the most important elections because they will determine the future of our children’s education and Texas’s future.
Everything begins and ends with the education of the youth who will one day control the future. So please help us make Texas a more inclusive place.