4) Zinn Essay (Essay #2)
Historical Fiction or Fictionalizing History; Questions of Truth, Honesty and Interpretation (Zinn’s Columbus)
Essay Assignment: Your task is to choose one of the topics below and write an essay of 500-700 words. All essays must be typed and DOUBLE-SPACED!
1) QUALITY OF IDEAS (10): Student has thought critically and analytically about the questions posed. Paper avoids unfounded generalizations and clichés. The thesis is clear and succinct and is supported by well-founded evidence. Evidence is included which is substantive, sufficient and salient and helps reinforce the thesis. Paper is coherent and reflects careful thought.
2) STRUCTURE (10) : Paper has:
a) Thesis: The paper has an initial thesis paragraph which focuses and organizes the paper. It is interesting and has a bit of rhetorical flourish. The opening provides a preview of the rest of the paper.
b) Body: The body paragraphs provide supporting evidence. Evidence is separated into paragraphs. Paragraphs develop the argument in the first (thesis paragraph).
c) Conclusion : Student concludes the paper with a bang (rhetorical flourish. Thesis is reiterated (in different words) and the main point is driven home.
3) LANGUAGE USE (10): Student demonstrates control of grammar and conventions of the English language. Language is used carefully and precisely. Register is appropriate to school setting (no slang, profanity, clichés or inappropriate idiomatic expressions).
Total points = 30
1. Howard Zinn is right (or wrong) to try to change the way we view Columbus.Explain.
2. Has he changed the way you view the Admiral of the Ocean Seas? How?Whyor why not?
3. Columbus should be considered a hero or a villain? Why? Defend your reasoning.
4. Official history is “written by the winners.” Howard Zinn, however, insists we view our history and culture from the point of view of the losers. Do you agree with Zinn’s position that we must view events from the point of view of the losers? Explain.
5. Do you think it is wise (or unwise) to attack the official history of Columbus by retelling his story from a Native American’s or common person’s perspective? Explain your answer.
6. In an article called “Questions of Conquest; What Columbus Wrought and What He Did Not” by Peruvian born writer Mario Vargas Llosa,the author asks, “Was the discovery and conquest of America by Europeans the greatest feat of the Christian West or one of history’s most monumental crimes?” After reading Zinn’s article, viewing the movie and/or other sources and using your own background knowledge give your opinion.
7. Compare Bosch’s “1492 The Conquest of Paradise” movie version of Columbus with Zinn’s view in the article you just read? How are they the same, how are they different?
8. Hollywood (and our culture) is famous for “white-washing”history and/or distorting the historical truth to make our heroes look bigger and grander and more perfect than they really were. Is this tendency to glorify and clean up our heroes-- like Columbus -- healthy? Why or why not?
9. Read the second chapter of “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James Loewen, called “The True Importance of Columbus” ppgs.37 -74. Write a reaction paper in which you agree or disagree with Loewen’s main ideas. See me to get a copy of the chapter.
10. In a book called ”Lies my Teacher Told Me” the authors claim that we Americans have lied to our children about Columbus in order to sanitize him and make us feel better about the violence inflicted on Native peoples -- and ultimately to make us feel better about ourselves. Do you agree that we are guilty of lying to our children? If yes, should we have done this? Why or why not?
11. Compare the story of “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” with the story of Columbus. How is the debate over Columbus similar to the “debate” over “truth” as written about the Three Little Pigs. How is the children’s book similar the debate over Columbus?
12. Read Jane Yolen’s children’s book called “Encounter.” It’s the Columbus story told from the point of view of a Native American child. Do you think this could or should be used in a classroom? Why or why not?
13. Read a section from David Stannard’s American Holocaust about Columbus. Based on his evidence and your own knowledge,is it fair or appropriate to use the term “holocaust” when referring to treatment of Native Americans? Cite several examples.
14. Imagine you are an elementary school teacher who is in disagreement with your principal over an “order” to teach (or not teach) The Encounter by Jane Yolen. Write an essay in which you argue your position to defy this order. Discuss 2 specific images or examples.
15. Should Columbus Day be abolished as a national holiday. You may take a pro or con positions or you may explain both positions. Use Zinn and/or ask other citizens and get quotes.
16. Write a respectful letter to your middle school history teacher in which you explain how disillusioned you are with the way you were taught history, in particular the history of Columbus. Set forth a plan in which you suggest how he/she might improve his or her instruction.
17. In "The Conquest of Paradise" Columbus is heard reading the following journal entry. Do you believe this was his own words? Why or why not?
Journal entry: October 21, 1492
“I believe we have returned to Eden. Surely this was how the world was in the beginning of time. If the natives are to be converted to our ways, it will be by persuasion and not by force. No man will ever see this world as we have seen it for the first time. We come in peace with honor. They are not savages and neither will we be. Treat them as you would your own wives and children. Respect their beliefs. Pillage will be punished by the dagger, rape by the sword.”