8 American History Stories We Learned As Kids In School That Are Actually False

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

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

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Isaac Newton is perhaps the greatest physicist who has ever lived. He and Albert Einstein are almost equally matched contenders for this title. . Each of these great scientists produced dramatic and startling transformations in the physical laws we believe our universe obeys, changing the way we understand and relate to the world around us. . In 1665, at age 22, a year after beginning his four-year scholarship, Newton made his first major discovery: this was in mathematics, where he discovered the generalized binomial theorem. He was awarded his B.A. degree in the same year. . By now his mind was ablaze with new ideas. He began making significant progress in three distinct fields – he would make some of his most profound discoveries in these fields: . Calculus, the mathematics of change, which is vital to our understanding of the world around us. . Gravity. . Optics and the behavior of light. . He did much of his work on these topics back home at Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth after the Great Plague forced Cambridge colleges to close. . Isaac Newton, who was largely self-taught in mathematics and physics: . •Generalized the binomial theorem . •Showed that sunlight is made up of all of the colors of the rainbow. He used one glass prism to split a beam of sunlight into its separate colors, then another prism to recombine the rainbow colors to make a beam of white light again. . •Built the world’s first working reflecting telescope. . •Discovered/invented calculus, the mathematics of change, without which we could not understand the behavior of objects as tiny as electrons or as large as galaxies. . •Wrote the Principia, one of the most important scientific books ever written; in it he used mathematics to explain gravity and motion. (Principia is pronounced with a hard c.) . •Wiscovered the law of universal gravitation, proving that the force holding the moon in orbit around the earth is the same force that causes an apple to fall from a tree. . •Formulated his three laws of motion – Newton’s Laws – which lie at the heart of the science of movement. . •Showed that Kepler’s laws of planetary motion are special cases of Newton’s universal gravitation. #isaacnewton

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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.