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13 Facts From School That Have Been Debunked

13 Facts From School That Have Been Debunked

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Remember those “facts” your well-intentioned teachers imparted to you as a child? Some were based on incomplete information, outdated research, or just plain old myths. But hey, nobody’s perfect – even textbooks! Science marches on, discoveries are made, and once indisputable truths turn out to be surprisingly incorrect.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t about bashing teachers of the past. They worked with the knowledge they had at the time. Consider this a celebration of how our understanding of the world continues to deepen and evolve. Think of it as the ultimate “Things Have Changed” edition for our brains.

Buckle up for a journey of shattered illusions and freshly discovered updates. Ready to have your elementary school mind blown? Let’s dive in!

1. Chameleons Change Color to Match Their Surroundings

Macro shots, Beautiful nature scene green chameleon
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We were taught chameleons are masters of camouflage, magically blending into any background. This even became a metaphor for people who seamlessly adapt to different social situations.

The updated reality is that while they can alter their colors for camouflage, chameleons mainly shift hues to express emotions or regulate temperature. Mood rings of the reptile world! Think bright colors for attracting mates or asserting dominance, pale colors to cool down on a hot day.

2. Humans Only Use 10 Percent of Their Brains

thinking man at his computer with headphones and a pen
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This myth promised untapped genius if we could just unlock that other 90%. It fueled a whole industry of self-help books and get-smart-quick schemes.

Brain scans have proven that we use way more than 10%. Different areas handle specific tasks, so not every part is active at once, but those idling regions aren’t useless. Think of it like a house where the lights are only on in the rooms you’re currently using.

3. Christopher Columbus Discovered America

american woman with a flag in the woods in jeans
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The old-school belief was that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, and BAM – discovered a “New World” totally unknown to Europeans. His voyage was celebrated as a bold feat of exploration, changing history forever.

This was actually far messier than textbooks implied. First, Indigenous peoples lived in the Americas for thousands of years – clearly, they discovered it first. Second, Europeans (most likely Viking explorers) actually set foot on North American soil centuries before Columbus. Columbus was important, just not how we were taught. His voyages ignited massive European contact and colonization, forever altering the globe – for better and worse.

4. Diamonds Are Formed From Coal

beautiful woman with diamond earrings rich
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It was previously believed that the power of time and pressure turns this humble substance into the most coveted gemstone! It was a nice allegory for the hidden potential in all things.

Both diamonds and coal are carbon-based, that part’s true. But they form miles apart under vastly different conditions. Diamonds need far more heat and pressure deep within the Earth’s mantle. So much for that inspiring visual of transformation!

5. The “Three States of Matter” Are the ONLY States

Dry Ice on Metal Spoon show three states of matter
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Everything in the universe was neatly categorized as solid, liquid, or gas. End of story, right?

There are some other weirder states of matter! There’s plasma (think stars, lightning), Bose-Einstein condensates (where atoms get so cold they clump together), and more that gets REALLY mind-bending! Turns out our “basics” barely scratched the surface of how wild matter can behave.

6. You Lose Most of Your Body Heat Through Your Head

woman reading a map outside in a beanie hat
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This is why Mom made you bundle up in hats and scarves. It seems to make sense—your head is exposed to the elements!

The truth is you lose heat proportional to the surface area of exposed skin. While your noggin matters, it’s no more special than uncovered arms or legs when it comes to feeling the chill. Is it time to ditch those itchy hats? Well, it depends on how cold it really is!

7. Pluto is a Planet

Shot of Pluto taken from open space
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There were nine planets to memorize: Pluto, the happy little oddball out at the edge of our solar system.

But Pluto got demoted! In 2006, astronomers reclassified it as a dwarf planet. Why? They discovered many similarly sized objects out in the Kuiper Belt where Pluto resides. Naming them ALL planets seemed messy, so new definitions were created. Pluto may be small, but started a big debate!

8. The Tongue Has “Taste Zones”

Close-up of a human Tongue
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Maps were drawn on tongues showing sweet at the tip, sour at the sides…you get the idea. It made a weird kind of sense in explaining why different foods hit your palate in different ways.

The updated reality is that all taste buds can sense all the basic tastes, just with varying sensitivity levels. It turns out the map was an oversimplification. Flavor is gloriously complex!

9. George Washington Had Wooden Teeth

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Boston Common George Washington monument
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Yikes, sounds horribly uncomfortable! Images of splinters in your gums are cringeworthy. This myth made him seem even more historically stoic for enduring it.

The truth is that his dentures were a mix of things, including human teeth (likely from enslaved people, which is its own horror), animal teeth, and ivory. Still gross, but luckily for George, not made of wood!

10. The Food Pyramid is the Perfect Guide to Nutrition

healthy products fruits and vegetables food
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This colorful pyramid graced the cafeteria walls. Carbs galore at the base, with an ever-decreasing amount of other food groups as you climbed towards that tiny, almost unattainable peak of fats and sweets.

Yikes, modern nutritionists cringe! Food pyramids were overly simplistic, and heavily influenced by food industry lobbyists (hello, giant bread and grain base!). While not entirely wrong, modern guidelines like MyPlate offer a more balanced approach, emphasizing plenty of fruits and veggies.

11. Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis

Hands of computer users have pain and injury to the fingers Cracking Your Knuckles Causes Arthritis
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That satisfying “pop”! Parents and teachers warned of dire joint deformities if you indulged. Probably more to discourage the annoying habit.

The updated reality is good news for fidgeters! While that cracking sound is air bubbles popping within the fluid around your joints, it’s harmless. There is no proof it causes arthritis, though some research is ongoing on whether there are any other long-term effects.

12. Albert Einstein Failed Math

Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity
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It’s comforting for struggling students—if this genius had bad grades once, there’s hope for anyone, right?

The reality is that Einstein was brilliant at math, especially in middle school. The myth may stem from his failing a COLLEGE entrance exam, but this was due to struggles with the French language section, not the math portion.

13. Bats are Blind

bats are blind
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The phrase “blind as a bat” exists for a reason. We pictured them bumbling around, relying only on echolocation to navigate.

Surprise – bats CAN see! While some species have tiny eyes and rely heavily on their amazing echolocation skills, others have decent eyesight. It varies!

13 Money Secrets They Never Teach in School

boys learning about money
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Think about your school days – geometry, the periodic table, maybe a Shakespeare play or two. But did you learn how to balance a checkbook, understand how credit reports work, or the magic of investing for the future? Unfortunately, many schools don’t prioritize practical financial literacy.

This leaves too many people unprepared for the realities of managing money in the adult world. The good news is, it’s never too late to learn! 

13 Money Secrets They Never Teach in School

17 Insane Things That Were Acceptable for Children in the 1960s

black and white photo vintage kids on a slide
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Many of the behaviors that were deemed ordinary for children in the 1960s would be mortifying to people today. If parents from the ’60s were to raise their children in the same manner in today’s world, they might find social services knocking on their doors. As time progresses, so do parenting methods and the level of supervision and exposure provided to children.

17 Insane Things That Were Acceptable for Children in the 1960s


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