School is a place where children go to learn and eventually grow into knowledgeable and mature adults. When children begin school, they take nearly everything the teacher says at face value. As they grow older, they may begin to question what is being taught to them but by then, some of the most common lies that students are told have already seeped in. For example, as children, we celebrate events like Thanksgiving at school by dressing up as pilgrims or Indians to celebrate the peaceful union of the two groups. But as we grow older, we discover that this so-called peaceful feast between the pilgrims and the Indians was more like a slaughter. Sometimes it can be shocking to learn how big a gap there is between what we are taught in school and what really happened. Below is a list of eleven of the biggest lies that you were probably taught in school. Even today, nearly all of these lies are continuing to be taught to children.
11. Van Gogh Cut Off His Own Ear
One thing that many people believe to be true about Van Gogh is that he cut off his own ear and mailed it to his girlfriend. Since this is such an outrageous thing to do, many people remember this “so-called” fact about Van Gogh well beyond their schooling years, but it’s just not true. Many historians now believe that a fellow painter cut off Van Gogh’s ear. Apparently, the two were in an argument when Van Gogh threw a wine glass at Paul Gauguin. In response, Gauguin took out his sword and sliced a bit of Van Gogh’s ear off. After, Gauguin told people that Van Gogh was crazy in order to avoid arrest.
10. Benjamin Franklin And The Kite
Most of us have heard of the American legend of Ben Franklin flying a kite during a thunderstorm. Legend has it that by performing this experiment, Franklin discovered electricity. While it’s a nice story, it’s nothing more than a legend. Although Franklin proposed the kite flying experiment, he never actually went through with it. If he had gone through with it, he most likely would have died.
9. Diamonds Are Made From Coal
Almost everyone believes that diamonds are made from coal when it is highly compressed, but this is just another lie that we are taught in school. In actuality, diamonds are formed in vertical shafts filled with rocks that are formed by volcanoes. In fact, coal and diamonds are very rarely found in the same area. Coal is most often found near the surface of the Earth, while diamonds can be found in the Earth’s mantle, and are carried up by volcanic eruptions. One thing that is true about this lie, is that diamonds are formed by intense heat and pressure, but from carbon rather than coal.
8. Columbus Discovered That The Earth Is Round
Many of the things that we’re taught in school about Columbus are false, but the idea that Columbus is the one who discovered that the Earth is round, is way off. In fact, people had known for about 2,000 years that the Earth wasn’t flat thanks to Ancient Greek Mathematicians, Pythagoras, Aristotle and Eratosthenes. Columbus was actually pretty bad at estimating the size of the Earth. He thought it was smaller than it was, and that Japan was further from the coast of China than it actually was. The truth is, Columbus landed in America because of sheer dumb luck.
7. George Washington And The Cherry Tree
When we are little, we are taught that when George Washington was young himself, he chopped down a cherry tree. However, Washington proved how trustworthy he was by fessing up to the deed by saying, “I cannot tell a lie.” The story is used to teach children not to lie, even though the tale is actually a lie itself. It turns out, George Washington’s biographer inserted the tale into his books, ten years after Washington’s death. Today, most historians believe that the tale about George Washington cutting down a cherry tree is complete fiction.
6. “Witches,” Were Burned At The Stake During The Salem Witch Trials
One of the biggest myths surrounding the Salem Witch Trials is that women who were accused of using witchcraft were burned at the stake. In reality, people who were suspected of being witches were put in prison or hanged. The myth of the witches being burned prevails because the townspeople used to burn the bodies of the witches to protect the town from evil after the witches were already dead.
5. We Only Use 10% Of Our Brain
The idea that we only use 10% of our brain is an urban legend that has been wrongly attributed to people like Albert Einstein. However, according to neurologist Barry Gordon, “we use virtually every part of our brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time.” In fact, if any part of our brain were slightly damaged, the effects would be profound. The myth that we only use 10% of our brains continues to live on in movies such as Limitless and Lucy, and of course, in our school system.
4. Deoxygenated Blood Is Blue
The myth that deoxygenated blood is blue arises from the fact that our veins appear to be blue. The myth goes that blood turns red when it is exposed to oxygen, which is why we bleed red instead of blue. However, this idea is completely false. The reason our veins appear to be blue is because of the way our eyes perceive colors. When light is refracted through the layers of the skin, mostly blue light reflects back to our eyes, making our veins look blue.
3. Newton And The Apple
In grade school, we are taught that when Newton was sitting under a tree, an apple fell onto his head and, Eureka, he discovered gravity. While the idea of having an “aha” moment is nice, the real story is that Newton took two decades to fully develop a theory on “universal gravitation.” He also had some help from others like Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke and Edmond Halley. Newton’s eureka moment was more like two decades of rigorous work.
2. Lincoln Was Strongly Opposed To Slavery
When we learn about Abraham Lincoln in school, he is celebrated for being one of the greatest proponents for freeing the slaves. However, the truth about Lincoln is a lot less heroic. Lincoln didn’t necessarily want to emancipate the slaves, he just wanted to make the Union stronger and emancipating the slaves was a part of that. Lincoln said, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.” Lincoln’s loyalty was with the Union, not the slaves.
The story of Thanksgiving goes as so, the Pilgrims who were unprepared for the winter were saved by some of the friendly natives. The next autumn, the two groups shared a feast together that would later be called, Thanksgiving. The real story is a bit crueler. A few years before the pilgrims arrived, the European fisherman and settlers introduced a plague to the Native Americans that wiped out 96% of their population. There were so many bodies strewn about, that the settlers would pick up and move to a new town, rather than deal with the dead Native Americans. In the new town, they would introduce the plague again to a fresh batch of Native Americans, and so the process goes. To make things worse, there is evidence to suggest that the Pilgrims knew that the plague had wiped out the Native Americans, so they chose to move to Cape Cod where the Native Americans had nearly all died. That way, they could use the cleared lands and corn of the Native Americans. In addition, the Pilgrims would steal food and tools from the surviving Native Americans in order to survive themselves.