I posted this on another social network, FF, a few years ago, and with School around the corner, I thought it might stimulate those of you who have school-age children and/or grandchildren:
My son recently had to do a report on a “great explorer” – Hernando Cortes. I had already cautioned him that the school system would attempt to whitewash the military invasions of Columbus and some of his fellow countrymen by calling them explorations. I had taught him that Columbus and Cortes were invaders and not discoverers, and thankfully he is very vocal about this piece of historical trivia. Part of his project was that he had to provide the flag of the country that financed his so-called “exploration.” The problem is that the governor of Cuba, Diego Velazquez authorized Cortes to go to the east coast of Mexico and scout it out, but do not cause any trouble with the natives. Cortes decided to supersede his authorization and decided to go into Mexico to do battle with the Aztecs. The rest is history: the great Aztec empire fell to Cortes and his band of followers. Since he did not have authority from a country to “explore” the heart of Mexico, my son did not provide a copy of the flag from the country that authorized his “exploration.” He identified this fact in his paper, but his teacher took two points from his score, which caused him to get a B instead of an A. I wrote the instructor a note expressing my displeasure that she would reduce his grade by 2 points, notwithstanding the fact that Cortes was not under any national authority to do what he did. In fact, my son put in the report that the governor of Cuba sent a hit squad to apprehend Cortes after he discovered that he exceeded his authority.
The instructor wrote me back a letter advising that she felt that my son’s grade was fair, because she had told the class that she wanted a flag of the “birth place” of the “explorer.” My son could not recall these instructions, despite the fact that the project information sheet required that the flag of the country that financed the “exploration” be provided. She thanked me for my concern and advised me that if David, Jr. provided a copy of the flag of Cortes’ birth country she would reconsider his grade. Although I felt like going to the mat on this issue, the bigger concern was my son’s paper being reconsidered over a non-relevant issue. He did provide a flag of Spain for reconsideration, but it is clear to me, although I am not sure her motivation, that she and many other educators are helping to whitewash history and is treating the Corteses of the 15th and 16th century as explorers, when many of them were in fact invaders, and the distinctions do not blur.
The greatest colonial merchant in recorded history is Christopher Columbus, and it is no accident that the United States celebrates the anniversary of his arrival on the shores of South America as a national holiday. And it is no accident that Western historians use 1492 as the demarcation between the Medieval Period and the Renaissance. In fact, the commission to attack the "islands and the continent in the ocean" was granted by King Ferdinand, and it is an unambiguous historical fact; yet the history curriculums have replaced invasion with discovery in this regard.
I happened upon the document authorizing Columbus' invasion of South America years ago, in of all places, the souvenir shop at the Empire State Building. (Oh, I have a buddy name Mike who always reminds me that that is why New York is called the "Empire State.") It reads in pertinent part: "For as much of you, Christopher Columbus, are going by our command, with some of our vessels and men, to discover and subdue some Islands and Continent in the ocean, and it is hoped that by God's assistance, some of the said Islands and Continent in the ocean will be discovered and conquered by your means and conduct, therefore it is but just and reasonable, that since you expose yourself to such danger to serve us, you should be rewarded for it. And we being willing to honour and favour you for the reasons aforesaid..."
I've had friendly debates with some friends and colleagues who believe that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. They argue that I should teach my son the truth, but do not raise issues that interfere with his grades, but I counter by saying, "Where will it stop? Today it is grades they want you to compromise on; tomorrow it will be a promotion, and the day after that it will be fame; and the day after that it will be your own survival."