Letter: School Committee should restore Columbus Day
Our Pittsfield School Committee has always had the students' interests at heart. However, I take exception to the way it has voted to eliminate Columbus Day to make it Indigenous People's Day on the school calendar. Not only will students miss out on the achievements of Columbus, this vote proves to be very insensitive to our community.
It would be to our schools' advantage to have an age-appropriate curriculum on Christopher Columbus that would teach students the power of persistence, and the use of knowledge and intellect with which to pursue their dreams. Columbus was an exceptional navigator and remarkable explorer. He bravely navigated across an unknown "Sea of Darkness" in the Age of Discovery and landed on the island of Hispaniola.
Recorded history of the Americas and Caribbean starts with Columbus which gives historical significance to his voyages. There was no written history about these continents before his arrival in 1492.
Within the curriculum students would be made aware of the power of writing, as Columbus kept a diary, and of his diligence in mapmaking skills and in charting routes across the Atlantic Ocean, which are still in use by sailors today.
Unfortunately, Columbus has been accused of genocide which is untrue since he was in the Americas such a short time. Other facts state the native population died from diseases because they lacked immunity. These diseases were not transmitted deliberately.
Columbus is said to have been a strict governor while ruling the Indies. These and other issues, such as the selling of slaves as prisoners to Spain, was the custom of explorers in 15th century Europe, and can be discussed and explained at appropriate age levels. However, Columbus never owned any slaves or brought any to the Western Hemisphere from Africa.
Our schools should focus on the achievements and accomplishments of Columbus and the fact that he introduced European culture, with its many contributions, to the New World.
I sincerely hope the Pittsfield School Committee will reconsider its vote to change the Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous People's Day on the school calendar and add a more fair and balanced curriculum about him to our schools that would show sensibility, as well as sensitivity, to our community.
Maryann T. Sherman,
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