Dumb Things We Do

Since I’m in the midst of sugar withdrawals, I thought it would be an appropriate time for a good old-fashioned rant. Here we go . . .

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that there are many things we teach and/or do as Americans that are just plain dumb.

One of them is our inordinate educational obsession with Christopher Columbus. The girls and I have been exploring explorers lately, and it’s amazing how much weight is put on Columbus at the expense of other fascinating characters. I did a search for “explorers” on www.abcteach.com, one of my favorite sites for printables, and more than half of the results were for Columbus. I’m sure this is because we celebrate Columbus Day as a national holiday, which is also just plain dumb. He didn’t even land in what is now the United States, for crying out loud.

We recently read a book called “The Discovery of the Americas” which gives a pretty fair, kid-friendly account of the whole history of our hemisphere. Lots of interesting tidbits about the various explorers. Columbus was given no more weight than any others, really, which was refreshing. The book pointed out that he was extremely perseverant and found some good sea routes to the Caribbean. He also ravaged the natives (the book made this point very generally) and insisted until his death that he’d made it all the way around the world. Oh yeah, and also, HE DIDN’T EVEN LAND IN WHAT IS NOW THE UNITED STATES. Yet he, above all others, gets a national holiday and a poem to remember the year he came here (or there, technically).

That’s just dumb.

Incidentally, I was intrigued reading about Magellan’s trip around the world. Especially when you look at the globe and realize how FAR it is from the tip of South America across the Pacific to Asia. And they had no idea. One ship turned back. Magellan himself got killed in the Philippines. Only one ship (out of five) made the entire trip, and with only 18 men (out of 250) left alive. That’s some serious drama.

OK, so another thing that irks me is that we haven’t switched to the metric system. Today The Muse and I worked on how to convert various measurements within the metric system (kilometers to meters, liters to milliliters, etc.). All you have to do is move a freaking decimal point. That’s it.

On the other hand, to convert feet to miles you have to do some serious arithmetic gymnastics using conversion formulas no one can ever remember. And how about miles to kilometers so we can actually communicate with the rest of the planet? It makes my math brain hurt just thinking about it. Havarti sometimes laments the amount of time that was wasted in his college science courses converting crap from standard to metric and vice versa.

Why do we continue to do this to ourselves? It just doesn’t make sense. Stubborn and stupid.

And while we’re on stubborn and stupid, can we please get rid of the Redskins as the name of a football team already? Seriously, “Redskins?” All of the uses of Native Americans as mascots really really make my blood boil, but that one in particular is so blatantly awful, I can’t believe people have allowed it to continue for this long. Argggh.

Rant over. For now. 🙂

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 7

  1. Yes, I looked it up. The U.S., Liberia, and Burma are the only countries that don’t use the metric system. Liberia, which has a formal unemployment rate of 85% and some of the worst educational statistics in the world. And Burma, the best known for its human rights violations. (I’m sure there are some wonderful things about both of these countries as well, but they aren’t exactly model nations we’ve aligned ourselves with here.)

  2. About not using the metric system: I saw a mpa the other day (internet) which claimed to show the countries which do not use the metric system. I was surprised: there were only 3!! (Is it accurate?)

  3. Thanks, Kelly! It’s so true that few people bat an eye at the Redskins thing. You know if there were a predominantly black college calling their teams the Crackers, there would be some serious upheaval. The thing about the word “foot” is so true, too, Paula. Very confusing for the wee ones. And Brynne, that drives me crazy, too. Not only do we give CC more emphasis than we should, we also feed kids the wrong facts to justify our doing so! Arrrgh. Deborah, I’ve heard good things about Jean Fritz’s books. I’ll have to check that out.

  4. Annie we have very similar rants in my household! Columbus’ actions ended up being so horrible that it’s scary knowing that children are still educated to his greatness. And knowing that we have a little one on the way he certainly will not be taught to think such things so I wonder what sort of school hyjinx will come out of little Ben not agreeing with his teacher about the “truth”. Also, my husband is a huge football fan but is honestly appalled by the continuous use of the team name Redskins, and any other similar names. Yet it seems to raise the eyebrows of so few people! Excellent points all around friend.

  5. This is a fantastic post. I started hating our system of measurement when one of my kids just could not conceive of why a foot would not be the measurement of a regular foot. He kept insisting that very few people have a foot that is 12 inches long so how is he supposed to remember that. He is right (and ironically may actually end up with feet 12 inches long).

  6. What drives me the craziest is all the kids’ books I read when I was little that claimed most people in Columbus’s time thought that the earth was flat. When in fact it was common knowledge in Europe that it was round. They just thought (with reason) that Columbus was crazy for thinking he could sail all the way around it.

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