The Portrayal of Christopher Columbus in Elementary School Education

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Christopher Columbus has been portrayed in different ways at various times throughout history. In his own time he was not famous for "discovering" a new land, but hundreds of years later he is. Slightly over one hundred years ago the United States proudly celebrated the quatercentury. Approximately 24 million people attended a great international exposition in Chicago marking the event (Thernstrom, 1992). In stark contrast is the controversy that was ignited over the 500 year anniversary of Columbus' voyages. In the very recent past how Columbus is presented has begun to change. Up until the late 1980's Columbus was portrayed as a great discover. "Even when the Spanish were seen as cruel and greedy, Columbus was pictured as clean-handed and fine minded" (Yolen, 1992). The voyages of Columbus were represented as the "heroic" beginning of an overseas expansion of European peoples that brought "civilization" to an uncivilized part of the world (Nash, 1992). This image of Columbus began to be examined by educators, authors, historians, politicians, and church groups as the Quincentenary - 500 year anniversary of Columbus encountering the America's- approached. Many believe that the natives story should be taught- detailing the atrocities committed by the Spanish. Others believe that the traditional image of Columbus should be respected and taught to young school children. Still others feel that a more realistic and balanced view of Columbus's encounter and the subsequent events should be portrayed in schools across the country. There are those who want to change the image of Christopher Columbus in childrens textbooks and trade books from that of a hero to a man responsible for invasi... ... middle of paper ... ... History Teacher Feb. v25 n2 Morris, Jimmy, O. (1992) A Magnificent Encounter Teaching K-8 October p66 Nash, Gary B. (1992) The Consequences of 1492 Social Studies and the Young Learner March/April p3-5 Ricklin, Leslie P., and Miller, S.P. (1992) Discovering Columbus Teaching K-8 October p62-64 Thernstrom, Stephan (1992) The Columbus Controversy American Education Spring p24 Washburn, Wilcomb E. (1984) "Preparations and Problems of Preparing for the 500th Anniversary of Columbus's Discovery of America Paper presented at the Meeting of the Fifth International Reunion for the Histroy of the Meeting of Nautical Science andHydrography, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Woll, Christina B. (1992) Teacher's Bookshelf Social Studied and the Young Learner March/April p29-30 Yolen, Jane (1992) History's Other Voice Instructor. Sept. p41

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