Kids Study the Dark Side of Columbus
Jeffrey Kolowith's kindergarten students read a poem about Christopher Columbus, take a journey to the New World on three paper ships and place the explorer's picture on a timeline through history.
Kolowith's students learn about the explorer's significance — though they also come away with a more nuanced picture of Columbus than the noble discoverer often portrayed in pop culture and legend.
"I talk about the situation where he didn't even realize where he was," Kolowith said. "And we talked about how he was very, very mean, very bossy."
Columbus' stature in U.S. classrooms has declined somewhat through the years, and many districts will not observe his namesake holiday on Monday. Although lessons vary, many teachers are trying to present a more balanced perspective of what happened after Columbus reached the Caribbean and the suffering of indigenous populations.
"The whole terminology has changed," said James Kracht, executive associate dean for academic affairs in the Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development. "You don't hear people using the world 'discovery' anymore like they used to. 'Columbus discovers America.' Because how could he discover America if there were already people living here?"
What is the point of all this "nuance" you may be asking yourself? Why would kids in kindergarden need to appreciate that Columbus was "mean" or that he was "bossy". Well, if you are asking yourself this question, then you have failed to appreciate the purpose of this deconstruction of history, brought to you by the politically correct ideologues of the postmodern left.
The "whole terminology has changed" because the purpose of history is not actually to teach history--silly you! The point of this lesson is to indoctrinate little kids into the dogma of the left. This is their first taste of political correctness, and it won't be the last.
Soon they will learn that people like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and the other Founding Fathers have nothing to teach us morally uplifted modern types; that they were evil white males who had slaves; and that they were... racist and otherwise far from perfect. The kids will take away from this that they are not to idealize these men; and that they should take their accomplishments with a grain of salt. Nothing they might have said or written or done about freedom and liberty; no accomplishment--e.g., like establishing the freest nation in history; literally nothing, can make up for the fact that they were flawed human beings and inferior to the intellectuals of today's political left.
From the superior postmodern perspective, there is nothing of value to learn from a slave-holding--and clearly imperfect-- Thomas Jefferson; there is no moral superiority in a system that strives toward increasing individual human freedom and dignity compared to a system that doesn't even recognize the rights of the individual and enslave the human mind.
Postmodernists have embraced moral relativism. They have discarded reason and reality; and abandoned the past, including the foundations of western civilization. No figure from history is immune from their incessant moralizing and their incredible ability to read the minds of historical figures and plant their own emotions there. They don't care about actual accomplishments (we had a major demonstration of this fact when Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for accomplishing nothing--but he sounds good and is the latest and perhaps greatest mouthpiece of leftist nonsense the world has ever seen); what they care about is feeling good and morally superior.
The kids in Kolowith's classroom are basically learning that western civilization is a lie. That there is nothing special about America--or freedom--or, for that matter, there is nothing special about reason, reality, truth. That Columbus discovered a new continent and opened up the world simply pales into insignificance next to the "fact" that he was bossy and mean. Or that he inadvertantly introduced European diseases into the primitive (oops! that certainly was politically incorrect!) populations that he came into contact with. It hardly matters that anyone from the Europe of that day who came into contact with those populations would have caused the same outcome--particularly since the infectious theory of disease was not yet part of human consciousness. Good grief! If he was so special or important, he should have known everything we know today!!!
If you think this attitude is just a tad self-serving and narcissistic, you would be exactly right.
In a post a few years back, Wretchard captured the essence of the postmodern left's sensibility toward the past (and it is a sensibility with very little sense, common or otherwise). In the post, he discusses a movie review of "300", which is about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. The review includes the following presumably serious statement by the reviewer:
One of the few war movies I've seen in the past two decades that doesn't include at least some nod in the direction of antiwar sentiment, 300 is a mythic ode to righteous bellicosity.
Wretchard then goes on to comment:
I have no idea whether 300 is a good movie, but Steven's review is an entertaining example of how all events, including those which happened nearly 500 years BC, must be judged according to prisms of contemporary political correctness. Miller had to remember, for example, "that we're in the middle of an actual war". Did he not realize his duty to denounce it? But what if Miller had made a movie about the fight against Hitler? Would it have been necessary to remind the audience that Hitler was a nonsmoking, animal-loving, vegetarian artist? Or had he remade Zulu to include some white faces among Prince Dabulamanzi's impis?
The most interesting thing about those who habitually denounce ethnocentricity and cultural blindness is that they are not without such sentiments themselves, the difference being that their cultural point of view is rooted in the mid-20th century, rather than say, ancient Lacedaemonia.(emphasis mine)
It is hard to imagine, but once upon a time humans who wished to understand the modern world looked to the giants of intellectual thought from humanity's past. In the wisdom of these writings modern man would be able to find the words and meanings relevant to analyzing the events of today. But now, it is as if history has been turned upside down. We no longer look to the past to understand ourselves and our journey--instead we use our present feelings and our modern understandings and prejudices to reinterpret and deconstruct the past.
Is it any wonder that we are horribly confused and disoriented, not knowing who we are or where we are going? Is it any wonder that today's events do not seem to have any rhyme or reason? Modern philosophical assumptions distort and/or obscure any appreciation of our own past. Where once we strove to understand the thinkers and events of the past by placing them within their own cultural and historical context; it is now common practice to judge them by contemporary standards, emotions and inclinations.
That this rather perversely condescending and ultimately nihilistic tendency is a direct result of the essential narcissism of our times seems fairly clear. Only a narcissist of the most pathological sort could or would haughtily dismiss Plato or Aristotle as merely primitive Greeks; or dismiss Christopher Columbus and his historic and courageous explorations of the planet; or reject the writings of a Thomas Jefferson or John Adams because they were white male slaveholders. Only a self-absorbed postmodernist who believes he has all the answers to not only current problems, but that his superior and perfect intellect has nothing to gain by considering the admittedly imperfect thinkers and ideas of the past.
Gee, they were all probably mean and bossy, too.
The dilemma of the postmodern narcissist is that they possess an unqualified belief in their own perfect righteousness and moral obligation to judge the past; combined with an aggressive ignorance about it.
Their behavior raises the question, how can we possibly understand our present selves--we who represent the sum of more than 5000 years of civilization--if we dismiss all that has gone before us and made us who we are?
When the very philosophical foundations that have made it possible for us to live and thrive in this modern world are abandoned because they were conceived and acted on by imperfect human beings (unlike today's "intellectuals" whose perfection is apparent to all), then what is left but the pointless and pervasive nihilism currently promulgated via postmodern political rhetoric?
The nihilism has been concealed within the doctrines of political correctness and multiculturalism, both of which cleverly assert their own absolute and inviolate truth, even as they advocate the most blatant relativism and subjectivity.
One of the most critical tasks that must be accomplished in order to unravel reason, truth and reality from human experience is a reinterpretation of the past . By deconstructing the ideas, events, and thinkers of the past; forcing them into our own postmodern procrustean template, we have essentially cut ourselves adrift from history and removed our philosophy from any anchor in the real world.
Somewhere in the last fifty years or so, the entire field of philosophy has been completely hijacked by its most narcissistically-inclined branch--politics.
Metaphysics, epistemology, and even ethics, are all now subservient to politics. Normally there is a heirarchical relationship between all the branches of philosophy; with the base being metaphysics, the study and the nature of existence. Epistemology is dependent on and closely related to metaphysics, and it is the study of how we know reality and existence; while ethics, the study of how humans should act, is dependent on epistemology. Politics--or how humans should interact in society--should be dependent on ethics.
in our postmodern world we have turned it all upside down. We are told how we should properly interact and it has become the ethical standard of behavior. Having set up this relativistic ethical standard; postmodern intellectuals can now question both how we know reality and even insist that it does not exist separately and independenly from our senses.
The entire purpose of this vast philosophical inversion is give the advocates and followers of totalitarian collectivism--particularly socialism and communism--a carte blanche to rewrite the history of the last century that clearly and undeniably demonstrated their ideology's intellectual and moral bankruptcy.
It also permits the deconstruction of reality and truth that is necessary to undermine and distort the history of humanity's struggle for individual freedom.
The resulting relativistic rhetoric that emanates from postmodern philosophy has obscured and hidden the actual events of the past (they must be recreated in movies that conform to the dogma of today); and the process of ridiculing and demeaning the the actors and thinkers of the past simply because they were not "modern" begins as soon as possible in the k-12 curriculum.
Kids will casually learn to dismiss the importance of man's cognitive faculty--the essential tool for perceiving the world; they will be constantly exposed to words whose meaning has been perverted; and they will be rewarded for not making any moral judgments--except the politically correct, approved-by-the-left kind.
This philosophical disintegration and learning catastrophe is celebrated by postmodernists as "freeing" ourselves from the tyranny of the past; but it is really a calculated attempt to radically dissociate our thinking from any of those unpleasant and inconvenient dictates of an "oppressive" reality that is always threatening to undermine the narcissistic belief that we are the center of the universe; and place limits on our unbridled sense of moral superiority.
Victor Davis Hanson has written:
Our current crisis is not yet a catastrophe, but a real loss of confidence of the spirit. The hard-won effort of the Western Enlightenment of some 2,500 years that, along with Judeo-Christian benevolence, is the foundation of our material progress, common decency, and scientific excellence, is at risk in this new millennium.
But our newest foes of Reason are not the enraged Athenian democrats who tried and executed Socrates. And they are not the Christian zealots of the medieval church who persecuted philosophers of heliocentricity. Nor are they Nazis who burned books and turned Western science against its own to murder millions en masse.
No, the culprits are now more often us. In the most affluent, and leisured age in the history of Western civilization--never more powerful in its military reach, never more prosperous in our material bounty--we have become complacent, and then scared of the most recent face of barbarism from the primordial extremists of the Middle East.
We have so embraced multiculturalism and political correctness that we no longer have the intellectual tools to fight--or even face--the barbarism that threatens to destroy us and our way of life. Many of our number even believe we are not worthy of surviving and consider us morally inferior to the barbarians.
So, here we are today, in a place where leftist ideology has brought us; morally, intellectually, and physically paralyzed. We place greater value on beautiful words and rhetoric than on behavior; what is said, instead of what is done. We seem, for example, unable to distinguish between the deliberate targeting and killing of innocents and the accidental and unavoidable killing of innocents despite herculean efforts to avoid it; between waging war to give people a chance at freedom and democracy; and waging war for domination and imperialism; between standing up for what is right and accepting the consequences, and abandoning one's values and surrendering with "honor" to the scum of the earth who heap scorn upon us no matter what we do.
Let me conclude with a quote from Douglas Murray (page 218), and as you read it, think of the postmodern movie reviewer from the beginning of this piece:
Cultures which have forgotten about war, or believe it is a thing of the past, can neither imagine, nor imagine the need for, conflict. Portions of America are as attracted to such dreams as their European cousins....Though they cannot imagine the apocalypse, only a generation brought up on self-esteem would draw from that the conclusion that the apocalypse cannot therefore happen.
The postmodern narcissistic dilemma can be summed up this way: the politically correct prism through which our children are being forced to perceive and interpret the world around them, is entirely dysfunctional and useless. It is designed to make them feel good and to enable and encourage the same dysfunctional narcissism that believes universal peace and brotherhood is just around the corner if you just have happy thoughts, say and think in proper fashion--and aren't so mean and bossy.