Lesson on Columbus leads to my own discovery

 

With Columbus Day coming up, I got to thinking about how it's a shame the way his image has been tarnished in the past few years.

Sure, his discovery of the New World brought untold grief to the native peoples, but if he hadn't set sail, we'd all be walking around in a foreign country saying "Buon giorno" in Rome or "Buenos dias" in Madrid or whatever it is the French have to say when they meet in Paris.

Our granddaughter was out of school sick last week, so we kept her at our house. We helped Karson with her homework, and we told her we knew she had recently drawn a picture of Columbus' three ships for her sixth-grade class.

"What were the ships called?" I asked.

"The Nina, the Santa Maria and ... the, uh ... "

I reached over and held up a pen lying on the table. I figured "pen" would prompt her to remember "Pinta." She had an answer right away.

"Marker!"

"No, Columbus didn't sail on the Marker. What else is this called?"

"Uh, crayon?"

"No, think again. Forget that it's a marker. What else do you call something that writes?"

Her furrowed brow smoothed out instantly.

"A pencil. The Pencilia!"

"The Pencilia? The Nina, the Pencilia and the Santa Maria? Really?"

She finally got the answer and we went on with her work, which brought up her knowledge of the Civil War, the sinking of the Lusitania during World War I and the concentration camps of World War II.

"Good grief," I said. "That's a lot of information for the sixth grade. What class is this?"

"Social studies."

"What is social studies?"

"History."

"Really," I said. I remembered back to social studies when I was in grade school, and I never really knew what it meant. We certainly weren't social, and we didn't study it more than any other class.

As the homework continued, I grew to appreciate even more the public schools and the teachers who do the work. I would never want to home-school anyone.

Later, I walked into our office and Karson was working on the computer. It was time to test her retention of the material we had gone over. I picked up a pen from the desk and asked, "Quickly! What ship is this?"

Without hesitation, she blurted out, "Lusitania!"

WISE WORDS: My wife and I were dining in a cafeteria last week when we noticed a family celebrating a birthday at a table across the room. A balloon had "90" written on it.

My wife went over and wished a happy birthday to the woman who was the guest of honor. When she returned, she told me what had happened.

"I asked her whether she had any advice for me," said JoAn, who has a lot of living to do before 90.

"And did she?" I asked.

"She said, 'Do right, and move away from wrong.' "

I thought those were wise words, no matter how many years we are given on this Earth.

Unless, of course, they meant JoAn should move away from me.

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