Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Columbus’

Telling the Truth

October 12, 2010

When I was twenty two years old, I decided to read an entire set of encyclopedias. I was that guy.

I wish I could say I finished, but the truth is, I had randomly hand picked about half of them to keep in my car (yeah, I was that guy, too.) So with half in my small New York apartment, and the other half in the back of my silver Ford Escort station wagon, I just never got a good reading system going to finish the collection.

One night however, back then with a bottle of Merlot and hand-rolled cigarettes, while curled up with a hard-cover copy of A-B, I came across the name, Bobadilla, and the very interesting story accompanying it.

It was one of the first times I realized that I had been lied to in grade school. You know, deliberately speaking falsely is one thing, but in some cases, I believe intentional omission of facts is akin to lying.

And so we have Bobadilla.

The Cliff Notes version is Francisco de Bobadilla was hired by Spanish King Ferdinan and Queen Isabella to take over for good ole’ Chris Columbus across the way here in the New Land. In 1500, once Bobadilla got there (or here, rather) he confirmed reports that Columbus had been a cruel and dishonorable leader in the Americas, and was thus sent back to Spain in shackles and chains.

And while I don’t imagine anyone will rush to their dusty book shelves to read the rest of the story, they might read more online about how Christopher Columbus was arrested.

It’s insightful, especially for the generations who learned in school the story of Christopher Columbus the hero, who set out bravely in search of the New World, with his three mighty ships, The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Ma- OK, you know the plot, at least as we were told it in school.

Why do we uphold the tradition of telling our kids the sanitized versions of such historic tales, and then fail to follow up with the truth, the rest of the story, when they are older? Like the Native Americans and White Man sitting down to break bread, and be at peace, and live in harmony and be BFF’s. Oh, is that how it happened? I’m not so sure that’s the whole story.

I suppose it’s gotten better to some degree. My father’s generation was taught in school that the Red Man was nothing but a savage, beast-like man who scalped the innocent. Since then, history texts have undergone major restorations, to reflect the Native American’s naturally spiritual and peaceful ways, and the greed and plunder of their paler “visitors.”

Or on Valentine’s Day, which we learn is about love and cutting pink doilies and making cards when we are little – but then we are never set down in class at an older age and told about St. Valentine, one of many martyrs killed, for right or wrong, for what he believed in. That’s an important story, and a great lesson wasted. It’s a missed opportunity for a sixteen-year old student and a crucial question not asked: What would you defend until the end?

I just think telling our kids partial truths breeds confusion.

I’m not sure if it’s gotten better since I was in school, so I asked my six year son tonight what he learned about Christopher Columbus this year, and he said, “well, he only wanted gold and spices to get rich and someone else actually discovered America anyway.”

It’s a step in the right direction, I guess.

But it’s still a half truth, which is a gross inadequacy of our American education system.

I don’t propose to have a answer. But I have a question. How can we expect our kids to grow into responsible adults who speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, when we ourselves condone, and in some case even encourage, the glossing over of crucial points of life?

It’s a gap I hope all of us parents can shorten, together as we go.

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