Columbus Day Controversies

By Liana Loewus — October 11, 2010 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Today is just like any other Monday for students in Los Angeles, Miami, and Dallas—but in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago, schools are closed for what’s become a contentious holiday, reports

Columbus Day has been a federal holiday since 1934, but more and more places are choosing not to commemorate it because of the historical figure’s multifarious past.

According to, “Teachers have discovered the complexity of teaching about [Christopher Columbus]. They tell students about his groundbreaking visit to the Americas, but have to balance it by telling about his treatment of Native Americans.” James Kracht, a dean at Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development, is quoted as having told the Associated Press, “You don’t hear people using the word ‘discovery’ anymore like they used to. ‘Columbus discovers America.’ Because how could he discover America if there were already people living here?”

A class of 4th graders in McDonald, Pa., put on a mock trial for Columbus. The students found him guilty of “thievery and misrepresenting the Spanish crown,” and sentenced him to a life sentence in prison, the news site says.

Proponents of the holiday assert it is an important part of U.S. history and celebrates the legacy of Italians in America.

Some districts seem undecided about their position on the Columbus Day debate. A D.C. public school teacher told Teacher that one copy of the district’s official school calendar called Oct. 11 “Columbus Day,” while another referred to it as the ‘Fall Holiday.’” The district’s website uses the former title for the day off.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.