Facts you learned in school that are no longer true
School curriculums contain plenty of useful subjects: algebra, grammar, chemistry. Of course, there are plenty of other lessons that didn’t prove quite so accurate. From history classes that glossed over some crucial details to the health classes that used scare tactics rather than facts, it’s almost guaranteed that every student learned a few lessons that turned out to be false.
Whether you went to a ritzy private academy or run-of-the-mill public school, it’s time to put the lessons you learned to the test. Stacker scoured news articles and other expert sources for examples of commonly taught facts that were later proven false, urban legends that nevertheless made it into the classroom, and historic events that were oversimplified to the point of falsehood.
Read the full list to discover which scientific fact pretty much all schools got wrong before 2006, check whether you know the real story about the first Thanksgiving, and find out whether your teachers knew what they were talking about.
Pluto is a planet
Though Pluto had been recognized as the ninth and smallest planet in our solar system for decades, its status was downgraded to a dwarf planet in 2006. The discovery of other Kuiper Belt Objects that are roughly the same size as Pluto led to its change in status.
George Washington had wooden teeth
Oral hygiene and dentistry weren't exactly stellar in the 18th century, so it makes sense that George Washington and many of his contemporaries had false teeth. However, the first president’s teeth weren’t actually made of wood, as many students learn, but of lead, human teeth, cow teeth, and ivory.
Vincent van Gogh cut off his own ear
The idea of van Gogh slicing off his ear fits well with the idea of the tortured artist, but unfortunately, this fact isn’t true. In 2009, two German historians released a book that claims that van Gogh actually lost the ear in a sword fight with artist Paul Gauguin.
Christopher Columbus discovered America
Christopher Columbus may have a holiday named after him, but he didn’t actually discover America. Though the explorer did land on several islands in what is now the Bahamas, he never actually set foot on the North American continent. Bad news: He most likely didn’t sail here in the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria either.
Isaac Newton discovered gravity when an apple hit him in the head
Sir Isaac Newton still can be credited with discovering gravity, but he didn’t get his bright idea after being smacked in the head by a falling apple. His brain wave actually occurred after watching an apple fall from a tree.
Albert Einstein was a bad student
The German-born physicist was certainly eccentric, but that didn’t make him a bad student. Though teachers might like to tell students that Einstein wasn’t always good at math to encourage them, he was actually always successful in school.
Pilgrims and Native Americans sat down together at the first Thanksgiving
Almost every detail that students are taught about the origin of Thanksgiving is false. No turkey or pumpkin pie was served, the Pilgrims didn’t invite the Native Americans to their table, and they didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November.
The Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure that can be seen from space
Satellites orbiting Earth can see the Great Wall of China, but that’s not the only man-made structure that’s visible. If the weather conditions are right, astronauts in the International Space Station can see the pyramids, large bridges, and other large cities.
Raindrops are shaped like teardrops
The cartoon depiction of the raindrop looks a lot like a tear, but scientists say this isn’t accurate. Most falling raindrops actually look flat—more like hamburger buns—according to the United States Geological Survey.
You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction
Despite what your English teacher may have said, you can actually start a sentence with a conjunction. Grammar purists won’t be happy about it, but who cares?