Myths you were taught in school

Another thread got me thinking, what were you taught in school that you found out later was completely inaccurate?

My first revelation was that Columbus wasn’t the first to think the Earth was round. I remember in grade school our text book said that Columbus used to watch the ships sail away and noticed they sunk on the horizon, not just get smaller therefore the Earth was round.
I am sure this question has been done before but the search function it timing out at the moment.

Back in the 20s we were taught that the human animal could not survive a round trip to the moon.

This conclusion was based on the maximum speeds in mph that aircraft could achieve in that era and the probable longevity that man could attain.

The round trip crew would have been long dead at sit-down!


That electrons fly in orbit about a nucleus.

That we evolved from apes. :stuck_out_tongue:

What? They don’t? What have they been teaching you down in Mexico? Back to chemistry for me.

Which leads to the argument I hear from Christians all the time: if we evolved from apes how come there are still apes?


That the seasons are caused by the change in the distance from the Sun to the Earth. You see that one bandied about a lot. In fact, the Earth is closest to the Sun in January.

Ezstete, even given those assumptions, that’s still wrong. I don’t know what the maximum speed of an airplane was in the 1920s, but even given a very leisurely 50 km/hour, it’d still take less than two years for the round trip. Which is not to say that some teachers mightn’t have taught that, anyway.

Oh, and we did evolve from apes, since we are, ourselves, apes. We did not, however, evolve from gorillas (though the last common ancestor between us and gorillas isn’t all that far back).

Oddly, though Creationists would have a field day with this, aamco is accurate. The early anthropoids were generally plains-living generalists, from which the Hylobatids and Pongids specialized for tropical-forest life, while the Hominids retained the generalist characters of their ancestors, simply reducing the jaw, expanding the brain, and adding to manual dexterity the precision grip. So it actually makes more sense to say that apes evolved from early man.

What I don’t understand. Who was actually taught we descended from apes? I remember the phrase “common ancestor” which is quite appropriate to the best of my knowledge and reading. I learned this around 1973?

Myths we were taught:
Columbus was first European to reach America.
There is fairly convincing proof Norwegians made it over first and a good chance that others may have. What would be far more appropriate is that Columbus opened up the Americas for Exploration, immigration and exploitation.

I had a History Teacher who attempted to teach us that “The Devil created jazz because he knew the communists would twist it into Rock & Roll”. This was in 7th Grade and I got a lot of heat at first for calling her an idiot and walking out of the class to go visit the principle. The link expands the story a little.

I had a Gym teacher who insisted that running was the best exercise. I later learned that was not really true.

There’s also a body of though that “Europeans” might have come over during the Ice Age, when Europe and North America were connected by an ice sheet.

That deep knee bends were good for you. Thank you, phys ed teacher from Hell, for my ruined knees.

Apparently, Brendn the Navigator beat the Norse by hundreds of years, cite.

I was taught in college freshman physics that window panes in old buildings are thicker at the bottom because the glass had flowed.

Put a sweater on or you’ll catch a cold.

I was taught that cathedral windows were thicker at the bottom because the glass had flowed, glass being a “supercooled liquid.”

I later learned that the term “supercooled liquid” is misleading at best. A better term is “amorphous solid” or “noncrystalline solid.”

More importantly, glass doesn’t flow.


Are you sure that’s what the book said? After all, there was a famous account just like this, except that the person wasn’t Columbus, it was an ancient greek. Could your young mind have mixed up the facts?

In about 1962, my health teacher told us how to practice proper posture. “With your back against the wall, press the small of your back against the wall. Try to get as much of your back touching the wall as possible.” After about 40 years of backaches, a physical therapist taught me that the spine should form a series of curves. I learned that tilting my pelvis forward like that gave me lousy balance all my life.:rolleyes:

My gym teachers always had us do deep knee bends. The surgeon who scoped my knee said he cringes at the thought of deep knee bends.

Of course, as children, we heard all that BS about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, throwing a dollar across the river, and blah, blah.

I remember reading the same thing about Columbus in third grade – it must be in a textbook somewhere.

I went to a Christian academy. One of my elementary school teachers taught us that women have one more rib than men due to the Garden of Eden, and of course the Columbus thing. Some of my elementary school teachers (all white school) also taught that slaves were treated very well and were far too valuable to abuse like we saw on that agitprop Roots. (We were too little to ask really critical questions, like “Isn’t it more economically feasible to whip a slave and keep him, maimed but yours, than to have him run away?” or “What about sexual abuse?” or “What about the knowledge your loved ones could and at some point probably would be sold away?”, etc.).

On the other end of the racial UL spectrum, I was taught by a black college teacher that Charles Drew (who he incorrectly identified as the man who performed the first blood transfusion [Drew’s main distinction is perfecting the separate freezing of plasma and red blood cells]) died from a car accident because the hospital refused to treat black men. While absolutely false (white doctors treated him but he was just too severely injured), I have seen and heard this probably more than any other UL; it’s made its way into textbooks, pop culture (an episode of MASH that I know of) and even the History Channel. The same myth about Bessie Smith even inspired an Albee play.