Coming from high school, most students are used to having Columbus Day Monday off of school. However, since we are all going to classes today, the University of New Hampshire does not give us the holiday off and instead gives us this Friday off for “Fall Break.” This got me, much like many on campus, asking the question, “Why the heck are we going to class today? Its Columbus Day!” Just a little research into the matter answers my question, showing that it is not required to have Columbus Day off.
Many Federal and State government buildings do close for the holiday. Banks are closed and the US Postal Service does not deliver, among others. Since it is a Federal Holiday, many government institutions take the day off. This includes public schools. Private schools and charter schools are more likely to keep their doors open for the day. Most children don’t think about the significance of Columbus Day, they just look at it as a day off. But, as they start to age their eyes are open to the controversy surrounding the holiday.
The reason to celebrate Columbus Day is historically for Christopher Columbus’ sailing to what is now America. Some call this the discovery of America, others say it was already discovered and he just happened upon it. I remember learning early in elementary school of his sailing to America. I was taught to remember the year with a simple phrase that went, “Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in fourteen-hundred and ninety-two.” I always assumed that Columbus was the founder of America, because that’s the way we were taught growing up. It wasn’t until I came to middle school and high school that I began to learn of the controversy surrounding it. I never really thought much about it though, because I was just happy I didn’t have to go to school that day and it gave me an excuse to sleep all day. I understand why I was not taught about the controversy early on, because it is by no means appropriate for a first grader to know about. But, does teaching what is being taught give us a false impression on the holiday? Now that I don’t have the holiday, it gives me a chance to reflect on the day.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that Columbus discovered America. There were the natives already living there, so it’s hard to debate he discovered something that had already been found. He did help bring modern innovations over and set the groundwork for what would later become the United States of America. That is usually overshadowed about the debate over the treatment of the natives and such. I don’t want to turn this into a preaching, because I am by no means an expert on this topic and I don’t have the credentials or a strong enough opinion on the matter to defend a side of the argument. What I do say is to learn a little more about the topic, think about why we have this day off and why it is a holiday. Think deeper than considering it just another day off from school.