History is considered to be one of the most important school subjects for kids to learn, but it has, in many ways, been problematic over the years.
For one, it’s centered around men (“his story” is how the term originated). Secondly, much of history is dependent on word-of-mouth storytelling. That means that, sometimes, facts may be skewed.
When we learned history back in elementary school and middle school, we may have brushed off any minor inaccuracies. But that’s problematic in its own way. For one, leaving out factual details changes the entire story as it is. Even one fact can turn a hero into someone who, at their actual core, was more of a villain.
Since homeschooling and virtual learning will become even more widespread in the 2020 school year, now’s the perfect time to make a concerted effort to combat these historical inaccuracies. If you’re teaching your children, you might want to include the details that schools often leave out. While school is significant and teachers are mostly following a curriculum, it’s important to right these educational wrongs for the future.
This is also important for preserving the history of today. These days, we have better methods to keep track of what’s happening in the world. But one less-than-accurate opinion could literally change up history for kids decades down the road. By learning real history — even the gritty and uncomfortable stories — kids will see how far we, as a nation, have come.
Here are eight history lessons to start out with.
1. Christopher Columbus
Of course, you should start with a big one — Christopher Columbus. For one, Christopher Columbus wasn’t even his real name — It’s Cristoforo Colombo. Many students believe that he was out to prove the world wasn’t flat and ended up discovering America. That’s also not true. “There was no need for Columbus to debunk the flat-earthers — the ancient Greeks had already done so,” writes History. “By 1492 most educated people knew the planet was not shaped like a pancake.”
He also wasn’t into making friends with the Indigenous people. Instead, he treated many of them like slaves. “With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want,” he reportedly wrote, per Attn:.
2. The Salem Witch Trials
Between 1692 and 1693, more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft — and many ended up losing their lives because of it. Due to the trials, the term “witch hunt” became more popular. Not as many people know that there were also a lot of racial, political, and religious issues happening in Massachusetts around that time, per National Geographic.
You might have also assumed that it was only women who were accused, which is factually not true. Men, and even dogs, lost their lives due to these accusations. People were also pardoned throughout the trials; not everyone was executed.
3. Newton's Apple
While much more lighthearted, the story of Newton and his apple is also riddled with some inaccuracy. The story goes that an apple falling from a tree and hitting him is how a young Isaac Newton started piecing together the law of gravity. But supposedly Newton, like many, loved a good story.
According to History, he had moved home after his school shut down due to the bubonic plague. While out in the orchard, he noticed an apple falling from a tree and had some questions. Sources believe it never actually hit him at all.
4. Henry Ford
Henry Ford was the force behind Ford Motors. Back then, he was known as one of the country’s most famous entrepreneurs.
However, he actually has a very dark history. He was an anti-Semite, and politicians worked hard to try to make sure that fact wasn’t openly stated. They even went so far as to censor newspapers with quotes from Ford about his beliefs.
“The company has, in fact, worked hard to separate itself from the legacy of its founder, starting with Henry Ford II, who effectively forced out his grandfather at the end of World War II,” states CNBC. Yet there are still countless buildings named after him, including schools.
5. Women's Liberation
The women’s liberation movement happened between the 1960s and 1980s. Many students imagine the time period by the ways it’s been described — with women going wild and even burning their bras.
The truth of the matter is, this movement was much more important than it’s given credit for. Prior to the movement, women didn’t have many rights in the world. They risked being fired for pregnancy. Their chances of buying a house without a man being present were slim. While much has changed, women still aren’t viewed equally in many circumstances. When women band together to create social change, it shouldn’t be treated as a joke.
6. Albert Einstein
When you think of Albert Einstein, chances are that you know him best as “a genius.” However, Albert had quite an interesting backstory, much of which is rarely mentioned.
When he was younger, his parents actually thought he might have a learning disability because it took him a long time to verbalize. When he got older, he flunked his entrance examination for a polytechnic school that was located in Zurich.
His wife, Mileva Marić, rarely gets the credit she deserves. Not only was she also a talented physicist, but History states that she may have helped her husband with some of his great theories. And Albert treated her incredibly poorly in return. He cheated on her and was controlling. Eventually, they split, and Albert wound up marrying his cousin.
7. The Black Panthers
The Black Panthers did quite a lot of good for their community. But based on how they’ve been portrayed throughout history, many people think they were a terrorist organization.
Bobby Seale and Huey Newton founded the organization in 1966. At the time, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover referred to the group as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” per the BBC. People believed him and failed to realize that the group was actually providing free breakfast to less-fortunate neighborhood kids. The group also encouraged Black people to vote and have their voices heard.
The reasons why the Black Panthers were perceived as a threat have more to do with fear and the continued oppression of Black folks in this country than they do with any actions the Black Panthers might have taken to fight systematic and overt racism.
8. Ben Franklin
When you think of Benjamin Franklin, you probably view him as the man who discovered electricity while flying a kite. Turns out, that’s absolutely false.
Mental Floss reports that Ben was given an electricity tube by his friend and fellow scientist Peter Collinson. Ben then wrote a letter to Peter that said he thought lightning and electricity were related. It’s thought that he then conducted the experiment himself by using a kite and a key during a thunderstorm, but that actually hasn’t been proven. If it did, people believe that Ben would have accidentally killed himself.
He was also known for having many affairs. In fact, his wife helped him raise an illegitimate child whom he had outside of their marriage.