Lesson 1: “Discovery”

“’Discovery’ represents the point of view of the supposed discoverers.

It’s the invaders masking their theft.”

Finders Keepers!

Re-examining Basic ‘Truths’

Things to consider  before the activity:

All written material should be read skeptically.  Explore the politics of print. Perspectives on history and social reality underlie the written word, and that to read is both to comprehend what is written, but also to question why it is written.

My intention is not to encourage an “I-don’t-believe-anything” cynicism, but rather to equip students to analyze a writer’s assumptions and determine what is and isn’t useful in any particular work.

Reading is a metaphor. How I encourage students to approach written material reflects how I hope students will approach the world. Will they be mere consumers of text—and the world—or will they feel empowered to question, critique, and act?

Activity and Assessment

After your group has examined and we have discussed it as a class, write a half page paragraph answering the following bolded questions (1, 3, 4, 6).


1. Historical Thinking

2.  Career Related Learning Standards

Using one of the historiography texts, critique the book’s treatment of Columbus and the Taínos. 

1.  How factually accurate was the account?

2.   What was omitted—left out—that in your judgment would be important for a full understanding of Columbus (for example, his treatment of the Taínos; slave-taking; his method of getting gold; the overall effect on the Taínos)?

3.  What motives does the book give to Columbus? Compare those with his real motives.

4.  Who does the book get you to root for, and how is that accomplished? (For example, are the books horrified at the treatment of Taí- nos or thrilled that Columbus makes it to the so-called New World?)

5.  How do the publishers use illustrations? What do these communicate about Columbus and his “enterprise”?

6.  In your opinion, why does the book portray the Columbus/Taíno encounter the way it does?

7.  Can you think of any groups in our society who might have an interest in people having an inaccurate view of history? (This last question is tough but crucial.) Is the continual distortion of Columbus simply an accident, or are there social groups that benefit from children developing a false or limited understanding of the past?


13 Responses to Lesson 1: “Discovery”

  1. Trumpus, Meghan says:

    Columbus is a jerk

  2. Valerie Troyer says:

    It makes me very mad that someone would sail across the ocean and claim the land that someone else was already living on, and call it “discovering the new world.” Columbus did no true discovering, all he did was steal the land, possessions, and lives of the natives.

  3. Kaylee Gribling says:

    My thoughts on Columbus are pretty much the same as the above ^. He’s a jerk, and is a disgrace. He found no land but simply stole what was already there to the natives. He treated the natives horribly and took advantage of them because he’s selfish. I’m disappointed that the real truth about Columbus is hardly taught to anyone and that people simply celebrate his findings of America without any questions.

  4. Francesca Bonanno says:

    I agree with all of the post above. It’s not fair and just what he did. He took advantage and manipulated the natives into thinking that he was this great guy and just wanted the best for them. I’m really shocked about the truth of Columbus. He’s a disappointment to our country. Everyone should know what Columbus really was like and what he really did. They need to know the truth about him, not the sugar-coated story.

  5. Megan Bryant says:

    I am incredibly shocked at what kind of person Columbus was. He sailed for weeks on end to find new land but ended up enslaving the innocent natives. HOWEVER; I think it is important to remember that Columbus didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. Yes, it is an appalling thing. And yes, I think it was injudicious. But in 1492, it was somewhat customary for explorers to treat natives of new lands like that. I do not think Christopher Columbus was just or right in what he did to the natives. Even though I understand that what he was doing was fairly common and the norm for explorers, I do not agree with his decisions to cut peoples hands off and to steal everything they had simply in the name of Spain.

  6. Bobbi Connelly says:

    COLUMBUS IS A JERK. Like really Columbus? Why do you have to be so poopy? He didn’t discover “the new world” he stole it from innocent native Americans. What? that’s not fair. What a jerk.
    Growing up you think he’s a cool guy, like “oh he discovered America, lets dedicated a day in his name.” WHAT? people don’t even know what happened. I didn’t even know it happened. America is ignorant.

  7. Dial, Deborah says:

    I thInk that Columbus did technically discover America. Yes the native Americans were there first so Columbus shouldn’t have called it “his discovery”, but who knows?? What if. Columbus never found America. Would we be calling it home right now? So I don’t think that he discovered America but I do think that he found it but he just shouldn’t have been so rude and violent about it..

  8. Zachary Lusby says:

    Columbus may have had attributes considered quite the opposite of noble, but his actions against the natives are still revolting. His decisions and treatment of those who inhabited our land should never be overlooked or worse, hidden from us. His tale of selfishness and horror still is a poignant lesson for our generation to learn.

  9. Moseley, Isabella says:

    Did you know that Columbus cut off the ears of people because they said that they needed to turn back around? there was an unknown mission after the main ones, and they actually left Columbus on an island as punishment. But honestly, it was the right thing to do, even though it was inhumane. I disagree with his motives and his decision making as much as i respect him for finding a new land. A “new” land, what a joke. well, okay, re-discovering it. In my opinion, he is a jerk.

  10. Cj Tran says:

    Columbus didn’t discover anything. He simply took something that belonged to the natives. He had no right saying that he discovered it. He was more then a jerk he was an asshole. Excuse my language but its true. He took something that belonged to the natives a while before he showed up so the land rightfully belonged to the natives.

  11. Brook Cummings says:

    History is full of violence, manipulation, and greed. I feel like what Columbus did was awful, but it does not shock me. Although his motives were terrible I am still thankful to live in America. I believe that he should have approached the Natives in a different way, but then again what if he did? There is the possibility that America would be a completely different place. I think it is interesting that we supposedly founded and pride America on freedom, but repeatedly we oppressed other groups of people including both the Native Americans and African Americans.

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