Noticing that today is Columbus Day – only because my federally employed husband has the day off while my children got on school buses this morning – I decided to do a little more research on the holiday…or day of observance…or day of protest(?). First I checked out wikipedia. I think it’s a great place to start when I want to learn more on a subject because it’s usually simple and to the point. I remember coloring pictures of the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria at this time of year when I was in elementary school. Reading wikipedia this morning gave me another perspective on the discovery of the Americas.
Apparently not everyone is happy about celebrating Christopher Columbus. In the US, it’s celebrated as Columbus Day. Many other countries celebrate (or protest) this day as well but with other names. It’s Day of Indigenous Resistance (Venezuela), Day of the Race (most of Latin America), and Hispanic Day (Spain). In Nevada, it’s a day of observance and all government offices remain open (except federal, of course). In New York, everything closes except the stock markets (I wonder what would happen if they did). In Colorado, the Columbus Day parades are protested in Denver by Native American groups. In Hawaii, it’s Discoverer’s Day, and they celebrate more the work of James Cook in the Hawaiian islands than Columbus’s meanderings in the Atlantic. There are parades and protests all around the world.
Here in Virginia, it is a legal holiday. And that makes sense, seeing that a lot of American history happened on the soil here. So, why are my kids in school then? I don’t mind; it just seems strange. Especially since the schools in the city next door are closed. We live in a pent-city area (is that correct? bi-city, tri-city,…). In our city, all courts, city offices, libraries and post offices are closed and there’s no trash collection, but school’s in. Everything’s the same for 3 of the other 4, except 2 of them aren’t opening their school doors today. And for the fifth city, everything’s open (except federal places).
So even though we are the UNITED States, we still aren’t quite united on this one. I think, though, that we have a pretty good system of checks and balances here. They don’t always balance perfectly, but, then, no system is perfect. When we lived in France, we got to see some of the ways their system works. We weren’t citizens, but we got to observe for the year and a half we lived there. And since we’ve also lived in several different states, we’ve seen how the different systems work just within our own country. Since each state makes some of their own laws and rules, going from one state to the next, we can’t remember if we can drive legally while talking on our cell phones (which is distracting anyway) or who is required by law to wear a bike helmet (I make our whole family wear them no matter what age) or what birth month dictates when a child can start kindergarten.
Schools have been a big issue for us. In France, we spoke with a few of the military families that we met there. We found out, whenever the military transferred their families to another part of the country, their children would know exactly what to expect at school the next day they attended. The whole country teaches the same curriculum. If a child is in the 7th grade and is studing world history in Paris then they would be studying world history in Cannes. Their math classes align; sciences, history, languages… everything is taught at the same level. And the level is not easy; my children found their studies in France harder than their honors classes here in Virginia, and we are in a very good school system. It has been frustrating at times for our children to go into yet another school and take the same science class over again. Or to have to catch up the best they can on that state’s history. And on top of that, to make new friends and compete with all of the kids who have lived there all of their lives.
But after next summer, we’ll be back in Florida – permanently – and we won’t have to worry about those things as much. They’ll finally learn that their state bird is the mocking bird, and the state flower is the orange blossom, and they were born in Pensacola (not Pepsi-Cola).
In fourteen hundred ninety-two, a lot of things were going on. Some sad crimes resulted from people expanding around the world. But hopefully today’s world can learn from all of that history, and we can use that to do better in the future.