Christopher Columbus: Hero or villain? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Christopher Columbus: Hero or villain?

Burlington, Vermont - October 10, 2011

He sailed for the Queen of Spain more than five centuries ago and is credited with discovering the Americas. But on Columbus Day, some say Christopher shouldn't be celebrated.

We've all heard the rhyme: "In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue." For centuries the famous mariner was hailed a hero and in 1937 Columbus Day became a federal holiday. For more than seven decades the second Monday in October means a paid holiday for some people and a good shopping day for others. So Channel 3 decided to catch up with some of these bargain hunters bustling on Burlington's Church Street  to get their opinion. Christopher Columbus -- hero or villain?

 "I don't think he was such a wonderful guy but at the time he was quite an explorer and adventurer," Steve Silberberg

"As a discoverer, someone who went off to sail the world and find what he could, then I guess he's a hero and a brave guy," Susen Shapiro. But Shapiro's not so sure his arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492 should be celebrated. "I don't know if he's more of a villain. Anybody who destroys another people is not good. Let's put it that way."

"Symbolically, he brought disease and death," said Gil McCann, a sociology professor with the University of Vermont. He studies race relations and says over time this holiday has become less popular with many and certainly does not sit well with Native Americans. "From a Native American perspective there was nothing to discover. They were here. It was their land... and so it's a misguided celebration."

"It's important to us that we're teaching Columbus Day as one of the points in history in the evolution of America," said Jeanne Collins, Burlington's Superintendent of Schools.

In Burlington educators say over the past decade the in-class conversations about Christopher Columbus have evolved. Collins says teachers recognize that some students still consider Columbus to be a hero but in one of the most culturally diverse districts in the state, the Queen City has veered away from teaching holiday curriculum. Instead, students learn about Columbus when studying the discovery of the Americas in history class, and it's a more inclusive message than it used to be.

"There's a greater understanding of the diversity of viewpoints and a greater understanding of the number of different cultures who were involved in the evolution of America," Collins said.

In Vermont, Columbus Day is not a state mandated school holiday. As long as each district meets its 175 day requirement, holding classes on Columbus Day is optional. So Burlington, along with the many districts in the state, keep kids in the classroom on this day and keep the conversation going.

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WCAX. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.