Jump to content

Menu

How Racist is The World of Columbus and Sons?


NewIma
 Share

Recommended Posts

We are considering doing Beautiful Feet Medieval history this year. One of the books is The World of Columbus and Sons by Foster. I have no experience with this book but the title makes me think it is going to take a Columbus is a hero perspective. Has anyone read it and have any feedback to share? Or a suggestion for an alternative book to cover the same topic/time frame? We are looking for materials for a 10 year old and an 11 year old. Thanks!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've only read half of the book to my kids who were 12, 10 and 8 at the time.  It does say Ne*** when talking about people who live in Africa, so I just inserted the correct terminology.  As far as making him out like a hero, I guess it does - it just depends on what you mean.  Since this was a read aloud, I was able to say that his actions were wrong.  Just like with any other history book, truth be told. 

Personally, I wouldn't just give it to my kids just to read at this age. 

I like the concept that Foster did.  It is very detailed too. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I mostly couldn't stand the Foster books though there was one that wasn't as deadly dull as the rest, and that might have been it (ETA: I think it may have actually been George Washington's world that was the least worst one.  I really don't recommend any of them though).  I think you're going to find that anything published earlier than, say, 1970 (and perhaps that's being too generous) is going to have what we perceive today as racist/colonialist/Columbus-as-hero views.  I dealt with it on the fly (with all books we read) because I always read this sort of thing aloud.  I will say that I don't remember if this book or the Foster books more generally were particularly bad about this, but at this point that doesn't mean anything because it's been so long since I used them.

10 hours ago, desertflower said:

It does say Ne*** when talking about people who live in Africa, so I just inserted the correct terminology.

FWIW, the term Negro (I assume that this is the word you are referring to) was widely accepted until the late 1960s (for example, MLK Jr. used it in his I Have a Dream speech in 1963), so that isn't evidence of racism in a book written in the early 60s and published in 1965.  Whenever we encountered words such as this--all of the words--I read them aloud and used it as an opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding them.

Edited by EKS
  • Like 9
Link to comment
Share on other sites

28 minutes ago, EKS said:

I mostly couldn't stand the Foster books though there was one that wasn't as deadly dull as the rest, and that might have been it.  I think you're going to find that anything published earlier than, say, 1970 (and perhaps that's being too generous) is going to have what we perceive today as racist/colonialist/Columbus-as-hero views.  I dealt with it on the fly (with all books we read) because I always read this sort of thing aloud.  I will say that I don't remember if this book or the Foster books more generally were particularly bad about this, but at this point that doesn't mean anything because it's been so long since I used them.

FWIW, the term Negro (I assume that this is the word you are referring to) was widely accepted until the late 1960s (for example, MLK Jr. used it in his I Have a Dream speech in 1963), so that isn't evidence of racism in a book written in the early 60s and published in 1965.  Whenever we encountered words such as this--all of the words--I read them aloud and used it as an opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding them.

Ok.  We just do things differently. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We had it from the library and I remember I found it unusable. I can't remember what was so offensive because it was so long ago, but I remember it as being pretty cringeworthy. Like, more so than the D'Aulaires book about Columbus, which we also ended up not using, except that we looked at the pictures and I talked about it instead of reading it. And then we went and looked at an exhibit that had a bunch of Taino artifacts. 

I think if you want a anti-racist view of history or even just a balanced, middle of the road view of history, then Beautiful Feet probably isn't the right program for you in general.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

21 minutes ago, Farrar said:

We had it from the library and I remember I found it unusable. I can't remember what was so offensive because it was so long ago, but I remember it as being pretty cringeworthy. Like, more so than the D'Aulaires book about Columbus, which we also ended up not using, except that we looked at the pictures and I talked about it instead of reading it. And then we went and looked at an exhibit that had a bunch of Taino artifacts. 

I think if you want a anti-racist view of history or even just a balanced, middle of the road view of history, then Beautiful Feet probably isn't the right program for you in general.

This seems like understatement.  

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It was not one to my liking.  Most coverage of Columbus for children is pretty far fetched and hero driven, especially older books.  And while I tolerate some of it, we end up balancing books with excerpts from Columbus's own logs and those of his other captains/overseers.

I'm looking at The World Made New: Why The Age Of Exploration Happened And How It Changed The World.  It's not the same feel as a read aloud (maybe Pedro's Journal could be worked in there) but it's a better overview than what I used with my oldest - Explorers Who Got Lost - and it will fit in with our other books: Outrageous Women series, Hakim's History of Science, Explorer News, and Human Odyssey.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 minutes ago, Terabith said:

This seems like understatement.  

😆 I try to be without judgment on what people are actually looking for. This board is filled with people in the know, but sometimes someone on one of my local groups asks a question that is just so... like... are you WANTING that or are you APPALLED by that, because I can't even tell with homeschoolers sometimes. 

  • Like 1
  • Haha 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ok, this thread got me to thinking and looking..... I actually have a shelf of books I keep out of sight of the kids that I use to talk about racism and sexism and stuff with my older kids. I bring out bits of material and we discuss.  I went and looked and I do still have a copy of the book. I flipped through it this morning to see if current me feels the same as I did 15 years ago. (This is a book I haven't picked up again since then.)

The information in World of Columbus and Sons is very conversational.  It's about a time period and people that are rarely discussed in children's books.  There's a very heavy focus on European history; very few people of color and very few people outside of Christianity are discussed at all.  I think you could largely edit it and make it functional without overt racism.  That said, I think there are some significant tone problems. There is an element of hero worship.  There's significant glossing over of very ugly events. There's some passive-aggressive slighting like this bit: "On it, when he was not too drunk, he could mark with complaisance what an immense territory he and his Ottoman forebears had acquired." (with reference to a map owned by Mohammed II, p. 18). Here's Mehmed II's wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehmed_the_Conqueror  He actually did some significant things, and there's no mention of him having a drinking problem. Columbus himself has been associated with drunknness and violence also and yet he is portrayed as a hero.

I don't particularly like their handling of slavery (p. 30-31) or the Inquisition (p. 125).

I think my biggest takeaway is just I don't like her writing. Here's an example from p. 64, "King Edward, growing yearly more good-natured and easygoing with much loving and good living, was not overly disturbed by Warwick's fury, but wanted to avoid an open break with his stormy cousin."  If that doesn't irritate you, I think you could make the book work if you wanted to with careful guidance and editing beforehand. (Personally, this sentence irritates me a bit. Even after the whole crazy succession story which involves both Warwick and Edward IV, Edward IV had secretly married someone largely deemed unsuitable, a widow, Elizabeth Woodville, and then dismissed Warwick's brother, George Neville, as Lord Chancellor. Warwick was ticked, and not without reason.  The story is not told and the relationships are described without any sort of nuance at all. Edward is simply cast as a hero, and Warwick a villain. History is more complicated than that.)

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Farrar said:

We had it from the library and I remember I found it unusable. I can't remember what was so offensive because it was so long ago, but I remember it as being pretty cringeworthy. Like, more so than the D'Aulaires book about Columbus, which we also ended up not using, except that we looked at the pictures and I talked about it instead of reading it. And then we went and looked at an exhibit that had a bunch of Taino artifacts. 

I think if you want a anti-racist view of history or even just a balanced, middle of the road view of history, then Beautiful Feet probably isn't the right program for you in general.

Do you know of any other Medieval History curriculums for High School? I refuse to read the D'Aulaires bio books, but we do love their mythology books.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 minutes ago, NewIma said:

Do you know of any other Medieval History curriculums for High School? I refuse to read the D'Aulaires bio books, but we do love their mythology books.

I used SWB's The History of the Medieval World with both girls in their sophmore years, and added a few Great Courses to it.  We probably used a few biographies also.  I actually used a couple of Foster's books as read alouds in Middle School and early High School with lots and lots of discussion, but not Columbus.  I agree with you about the D'Aulaires bio books and we also loved their mythology books.  

We really liked the SWB high school history books, and one plus for us was that they were available on Audible.  Perfect for listening together in the car for some chapters and then I assigned other chapters for them to read and outline or summarize.

Edited by CindyH in NC
punctuation and I appear to be repeating myself a lot :-)
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

SWB's book is interesting.  The Great Courses lectures by Phillip Daileader are great - there are three sets,  but only two are available for streaming on Wondrium (formerly The Great Courses Plus).  Your library or Audible might have the other one.  There are other lectures by Dorsey Armstrong, but I preferred Daileader. 

 

ETA: We also used Spielvogel's college level Western Civilization text for medieval history. 

Edited by klmama
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The second year of my humanities core covers European history, including medieval (link in my sig). But if you want a full medieval year, I'd do SWB's books or the Spielvogel text. Both are great options.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a note about Spielvogel's Human Odyssey -- it is somewhat biased. In the ancients portions, there's a condescending overall tone about "superstitious primitive people and their religions". In the Medieval portion, there is an overall negative tone about the Catholic Church and people of faith. In the Modern portion, the tone is left leaning, specifically with a positive view of Socialism, and glosses over the atrocities of Stalin and Hitler.

I found the ancients portion to be fine, as many texts take that attitude of superiority about early religions, and we just discussed that all texts are written from a slanted, particular viewpoint, and that Spielvogel clearly has a secular/atheistic view about all religions. But I found the text to be more frustrating to use for the Medieval through Modern portions. Just our experience, FWIW.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Farrar said:

I think if you want a anti-racist view of history or even just a balanced, middle of the road view of history, then Beautiful Feet probably isn't the right program for you in general.

I agree.

12 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

Just a note about Spielvogel's Human Odyssey -- it is somewhat biased.

It's also incoherent (IMO).  If we're talking about high school history, I'd use the K12 book Our Human Story if you need a high school level book or if the student has had a pass through world history already, Strayer's Ways of the World is truly excellent.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you're not going to use 50 year old science texts, you shouldn't use 50 year old history texts. The past hasn't changed, but our understanding and knowledge of the past sure has in that time.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Newlma Look at History Odysseylevel 2, Medieval. I used that with my younger son with learning issues and added some additional writing work. https://www.pandiapress.com/product/history-odyssey-middle-ages-level-two/
 

https://www.pandiapress.com/product/history-odyssey-middle-ages-level-three-ebook/ This is the high school level program. You can buy it digitally for $11, as it is being redesigned, and maybe splice some of that into level 2 if it looks too difficult.

Edited by prairiewindmomma
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...