“Today is Columbus Day in the United States. Do you know about Columbus Day?”

“That’s when you celebrate killing all the native Americans!”

This is a real conversation I had when I was teaching English at Lycee Gambetta, a public high school in Tourcoing, France. The students were serious. They knew all about Columbus, sailing the ocean blue in 1942. They also knew that he “discovered” land people were already living on and claimed it for Spain, tried to convert those inhabitants to Catholicism, and murdered them while searching for gold.

I kept trying to tell them we certainly weren’t celebrating genocide; that Columbus Day was more a celebration of the discovery of a new world to Europeans, but it didn’t sink in. These kids had already been taught that we ran around rejoicing in the destruction of indigenous cultures and people.

Scary, isn’t it? This is what children in other countries are learning about us? Maybe it IS time we reconsider.


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