Things Taught in High School That Aren’t Actually True

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By Darryl Henderson

While you may think of teachers as being the figureheads for factual correctness, they’re only human and sometimes fall into the trap of believing common misconceptions and relaying them to their pupils. Here are 17 things taught in high school that aren’t actually true.

Dinosaurs Are Extinct

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While Tyrannosaurus Rexes and Triceratopses are no longer roaming the earth’s countryside, there are still elements of dinosaur DNA present in many living creatures on our planet. Many birds, reptiles, sea creatures, and mammals are direct descendants of dinosaurs, with crocodiles even living alongside the creatures around 95 million years ago.

Neanderthals Were Not Smart

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Neanderthals may not have been as sophisticated as the Homo Sapiens that replaced them, but they were not as lacking intellectually as the curriculum often suggests. They had a penchant for art, and learned how to make tools in order to survive, existing as a species for more than 300,000 years, according to the BBC.

Thomas Edison Invented the Light Bulb

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Thomas Edison has managed to leave a legacy far greater than what he probably deserved, getting credit for the invention of the light bulb. He didn’t come up with the concept, though. He just made it more accessible for the everyday person to use.

You Can’t Fold a Piece of Paper More Than Seven Times

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While it will be very difficult to fold a standard A4 sheet of paper with your bare hands more than seven times, the theory has been disproven on multiple occasions. As per Live Science, high school student Britney Gallivan folded a sheet of paper 12 times in 2002, awarding her a Guinness World Record.

There are Seven Colors in the Rainbow

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School children are taught that there are seven colors in the rainbow, which includes indigo, a mix of violet and blue. This first came about thanks to Isaac Newton, who had a fascination with the number seven, therefore adding indigo to the list when formulating his white light spectrum theories.

Toilets Flush the Other Way in the Southern Hemisphere

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The idea that toilets flush in the opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere derives from logic but is ultimately untrue. The Coriolis effect is responsible for hurricanes and cyclones spinning in a different direction in the Southern Hemisphere, but as the National Geographic suggests, you cannot observe the effect by watching the way the toilet flushes.

Salem’s ‘Witches’ Were Burned at the Stake

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The Salem witch trials of 1692 have been the subject of many artistic interpretations over the years, most notably Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. Many high school students would have heard tales of the witches being burned at the stake, which is not true. The American method of punishment was hanging, not burning, which was a European method.

Napoleon was Short

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History teachers love to talk about Napoleon being inferior in height to most, as though it gives them more authority in their day-to-day lives. However, his recorded stature of five feet two inches was recorded in the French measurements of the time. In English measurements, he was five feet seven inches.

Christopher Columbus Didn’t Discover the Americas

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The historic explorer Christopher Columbus is often wrongly credited with discovering the Americas in 1492, a populated area now known to have had a human presence for over 28,000 years. Columbus wasn’t even the first European to have visited the New World, as History reports, with Viking explorer Leif Erikson sailing to the Americas in the 11th century.

There are Three States of Matter

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Liquid, solid, and gas are the three states of matter taught in high schools, with most science teachers choosing to ignore the fact that there are at least two more to consider. Plasma, which is the state at which stars exist, and the Bose-Einstein condensate, a lesser known, and even lesser taught, state of matter.

We Only Use 10% of Our Brains

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This fact has been regurgitated in many schools over the years, giving children the hope that they could become superheroes if they found a way to access the remaining 90% of their brain power. Unfortunately, it’s a myth, with menial actions such as clenching and unclenching your fist using more than just 10% of the brain.

Blood is Blue Until it Meets Oxygen

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There is a common misconception that our blood is blue until it is oxygenated, a belief that likely stems from the blue coloring of our visible veins. While the blood does change color when it comes into contact with oxygen, it turns from a darker red into a lighter red.

Chewing Gum Takes Seven Years to Digest

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The myth that swallowed chewing gum takes seven years to digest is likely told by teachers to stop their students from chewing gum in class. While you shouldn’t swallow it in large quantities, a single piece of swallowed gum will be in and out of your system within hours.

The Great Wall of China is Visible From Space

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It has long been suggested that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure that can be seen from space, but this isn’t true. The wall is simply too thin to be spotted by the naked eye and can only be seen from space when using high-quality telescopes.

George Washington had Wooden Teeth

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George Washington’s dental troubles are the subject of great intrigue among high school students. Many of them were told that he possessed a set of wooden dentures. However, his dentures were far more complex, made from ivory, gold, lead, and some real teeth pulled from other people.

Chameleons Change Color to Reflect Their Surroundings

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It’s often suggested that chameleons have the ability to change the color of their skin to blend into their surroundings, making them difficult for predators to spot. This isn’t true, as chameleons will change their coloring depending on their mood, their body temperature, and their exposure to light.

Isaac Newton Developed his Gravity Theory After Being Hit by an Apple

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Science teachers love to conjure up the image of Isaac Newton sitting underneath an apple tree and developing his theory on gravity after an apple fell on his head. While it makes for a great story, it’s a myth, as Newton simply used the analogy of an apple falling from a tree to base his theory around.