Discovering Columbus: Re-reading the Past

Teaching Activity. By Bill Bigelow. 6 pages.
How to engage students in a critical analysis of the textbook version of “discovery.”

  • Time Periods: Colonization: 1492 - 1764 | Themes: Education, Imperialism, Native American | Reading Levels: High School | Resource Types: Teaching Activity PDFs

discoveringcolumbus1pdfMost of my students have trouble with the idea that a book — especially a textbook —can lie. That’s why I start my U.S. history class by stealing a student’s purse.

As the year opens, my students may not know when the Civil War was fought or what James Madison or Frederick Douglass did; but they know that a brave fellow named Christopher Columbus discovered America. Indeed, this bit of historical lore may be the only knowledge class members share in common.

What students don’t know is that their textbooks have, by omission or otherwise, lied to them.

This lesson was published by Rethinking Schools in Rethinking Columbus. For more lessons like “Discovering Columbus: Re-reading the Past,” order Rethinking Columbus with more than 80 essays, poems, interviews, historical vignettes, and lesson plans edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson. See Table of Contents.

Keywords: Christopher Columbus, Taino, Arawaks, Indians, textbook comparison, encounter, conquest, discovery.

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