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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Feel free to copy or use for inspiration:

Dear Mrs. Young,

As Columbus Day approaches I would like to clarify what part it plays, if any, in your curriculum.

In recent years I have begun to question the celebration of Columbus Day. While the arrival of Columbus was clearly a positive for Europeans, for the indigenous people it brought about the demise of the culture and even their lives. The arrival of Europeans also brought diseases previously unknown which killed an estimated 90-94% of the Native Americans within 150 years, effectively halving the world's population.

While I understand that genocide and slavery are topics that may be difficult to broach with kindergarteners I do not wish my daughter to celebrate a time which was undoubtedly a terrible time in the history of Native Americans. In my mind it would be like celebrating the positive effect that plantations had on the economy while ignoring the suffering of African slavery.

Thank you so much for your quick communication thus far!

Sincerely,
 

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It wasn't until my first year of graduate school that it even occurred to me that Columbus Day might not be not so great. I was in class, looking at the syllabus, and there was an assignment due Oct. 12. I asked the professor, "Is this a typo, or do we not get Columbus Day off?" She was INDIGNANT. Oh my goodness, I've never seen anyone so angry from something I said. "It's Indigenous Cultures Day, and YES we have class." So the fact that you're aware of this now, and are taking steps to remedy it during your daughters formative years is, IMO, wonderful. The ONLY thing I'd say about the letter is this: affect is a verb, effect is a noun. You want the noun
:
 

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Well, wait - if I'm reading that right it sounds like you don't know whether or not they will be celebrating anything. It could just be treated like any other day, right? If the teacher isn't planning on celebrating then the letter is out of place. Why don't you just call the teacher and ask, instead of sending a letter like that?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Its on the state curriculum that certain holidays be acknowledged "appropriately". I want to know how she is going to acknowledge it.
 

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I taught upper-elementary for a few years in Portland...

We taught the facts about Columbus day, the time line of events, the genocide, and the impact on the world. It was part of a larger curriculum of world explorers which usually came after a unit on Native Americans. It was usually taught very briefly since our main focus for 4th grade was the Oregon Trail and The American Revolution for 5th, both full year curricula.

Since I had many, many children of immigrant families from Guatemala, Mexico, and other Latin American Countries, we would make of point of discussing the long-term cultural effects of The Spanish Invasion of the Americas. It was always a very interesting and enlightening topic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by 2crazykids View Post
I taught upper-elementary for a few years in Portland...

We taught the facts about Columbus day, the time line of events, the genocide, and the impact on the world. It was part of a larger curriculum of world explorers which usually came after a unit on Native Americans. It was usually taught very briefly since our main focus for 4th grade was the Oregon Trail and The American Revolution for 5th, both full year curricula.

Since I had many, many children of immigrant families from Guatemala, Mexico, and other Latin American Countries, we would make of point of discussing the long-term cultural effects of The Spanish Invasion of the Americas. It was always a very interesting and enlightening topic.
Thanks! What do you think would be involved with Kindergarten?

Unfortunately we have a pretty "white" school
I went to a pretty diverse school and hoped my kids would have that too.
 

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I did a search here on "Columbus Day" because I knew I would find some words of wisdom.

I am literally sitting here in tears. My first grader is off on Monday for Columbus Day and her homework assignment to make a project in observance of this holiday. It is for a grade.

I am about to become the difficult class mom.

Any ideas on an alternative project to send?
 

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Slightly OT
But - for great ideas about alternative approaches to these types of holidays, you might try reading Black Ants and Budhists.
You can read the first couple of chapters here.
(you can also buy it at Amazon)

I am a homeschooler but I loved the way this teacher approached critical thinking, history and social justice issues. Very inspiring.

hth

Karen
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by armonia View Post
I did a search here on "Columbus Day" because I knew I would find some words of wisdom.

I am literally sitting here in tears. My first grader is off on Monday for Columbus Day and her homework assignment to make a project in observance of this holiday. It is for a grade.

I am about to become the difficult class mom.

Any ideas on an alternative project to send?
Have you read Jane Yolen's book Encounter (it's a picture book).
Maybe she could make a report on this book, or write her own story/book inspired by that story.
hth
Karen
 

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Karenwith4, did the homework assignment require glorification of this insensitive holiday? Maybe you can have a thought provoking project. While it's nice that one side of the world finally met the other, it had bad consequences too. And Columbus himself was pretty brutal. He personally enslaved native people to force them to mine for gold. Not just the Europeans that followed, he himself set the tone. Surely your son's teacher can't mark down for an honest, accurate project. I'm a library teacher, but wouldn't you know, I failed to read any books about Columbus. Hmmm. Must have slipped my mind.
 

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PS, Karen. The school may require something about this holiday, so don't take it up with the teacher, take it up with the office, with the district if you have too. Go ahead and have your son do the project, but add the facts to it.
 

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Thanks for the advice.

The more you start thinking about this
:

What is really bad is that the facts are so horrible to discuss with such a young child. I sat down with my child and asked what was said in school, and then I tried to discuss the facts and it was very difficult.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The teacher responded well and even told me that my concerns were well founded.

she wrote me back a letter to effect that she was required to observe the day by law. She will read a book to the children about the journey across the Atlantic and they will use cut out shapes to create the 3 boats on paper.

Now I just need to find out about Thanksgiving.
 

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Can't you just keep her home from school that day? I guess if I had a personal conviction about something that ds's class was doing as a whole I'd make the decision to keep him home. I wouldn't expect a teacher to change her curriculum, no matter what issues I had with it, for our family's convictions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by WalkingByFaith View Post
Can't you just keep her home from school that day? I guess if I had a personal conviction about something that ds's class was doing as a whole I'd make the decision to keep him home. I wouldn't expect a teacher to change her curriculum, no matter what issues I had with it, for our family's convictions.
I didn't ask her to change the curriculum. I wanted to know what the children would be taught that day.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by WalkingByFaith View Post
Can't you just keep her home from school that day? I guess if I had a personal conviction about something that ds's class was doing as a whole I'd make the decision to keep him home. I wouldn't expect a teacher to change her curriculum, no matter what issues I had with it, for our family's convictions.
It's already a school holiday. The class may have some weeklong activities dealing with the holiday itself.
 
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