Columbus Day rebranded as Teacher Institute Day


Graphic courtesy of Hannah Horton

Sakina Ghatalah, Staff Writer

In years past, the portrait of Columbus was painted by elementary teachers as brave, heroic, and valiant. However, the transition from a sheltered elementary school to upper grade study of Columbus reveals more sordid details of gruesome genocides. Many are left with questions and a less than patriotic mindset.

Even though Fremd, like many other schools, has been celebrating October 12th, the day that the continent of America was “founded,” since its inception, a change occurred this year. Instead of being listed as Columbus Day, Fremd is marking it as a Teachers Institute day.

Principal Kurt Tenopir explains the alterations made to the school schedule due to finals moving back to before the winter vacations.

“The change with Columbus Day has to do with our new school calendar. With District 211’s shift to holding final exams before Winter Break, we needed to take some steps to ensure that each semester contained roughly the same number of days,” Tenopir said. “District leaders felt that making a change to the days on and around Columbus Day would minimize the impact on other parts of our calendar.

Junior Brian Knox thinks it to be a requisite to not celebrate Columbus Day, and instead respect the tragedies that happened from there on by educating students on the matter.

“I feel that Columbus was a man that had a very different view of the world than we do today. He did some things that were questionable with the native population, but he ended up helping out the old world to progress,” Knox said. “I do not feel like he should be celebrated in the way that he is, not for discovering America, but to honor and respect the memory of the indigenous people.”

Although, many recognize Christopher Columbus as the explorer who found the Americas, a growing number of critics are challenging conventional thought. Europeans had been exploring in Canada centuries before the Santa María, Pinta, and Niña.

There are evident arguments for and against the journey Columbus undertook. Columbus’ voyage across the Atlantic facilitated the blending of the New and Old Worlds, which also marked the beginning of European conquest in the Americas. Yet with this spread of ideas, cultures, and goods, native populations were decimated by mass murders, disease, and enslavement that wiped out entire tribes and villages.

Social studies teacher Martin Zacharia believes that Columbus Day is a controversial holiday due to the questionable man behind it.

“Columbus and other figures in history are complicated but a lot of great progress came from his discovery, but at the same time there was loss that came too. In particular, not just Columbus but European explorers also brought disease that killed a large population of Native Americans,” Zacharia said. “It’s a reminder that great progress brings great consequence and often times negative consequence which can’t necessarily be justified but it’s important to acknowledge.”

Leading an expedition to an unknown area on a unorthodox route with people all around him sharing their cynic opinions was a credible move. However, the torment inflicted on the indigenous people for gold, slaves, and fame is not a circumstance to be glorified.

Tenopir further comments on Columbus Day commemorated as a celebration versus as an opportunity for students and Fremd to become more educated and empathetic individuals.

“Many states are changing the way we think about Columbus Day because of the explorer’s treatment of indigenous people,” Tenopir said. “Attending school on days like Columbus Day or Veterans Day provide for powerful lessons about our country’s history, lessons that I hope will make us more respectful and compassionate citizens.”

Despite some pessimistic implications attached to Christopher Columbus, the world would be drastically different if he hadn’t stumbled upon the shores of the Bahamas thinking it was India, a key argument of those who support the holiday.

Sophomore Lesia Kozych has conflicting views regarding Columbus.

“He ordered his crew to pillage the Native population without mercy and took thousands as slaves. He should get credit for his arrival in the New World and the expedition that he lead; however, he should not be celebrated due to the many lives that were lost in his hands,” Kozych said. “It brings up the question if it was all worth it?