teen male in school setting
Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
April 9, 2024 ·  5 min read

21 Things We Were Taught in School That Turned Out to be False

Education is the foundation upon which our understanding of the world is built. However, as our knowledge evolves, some of the lessons we learned in school are revealed to be inaccurate or oversimplified. Let’s embark on a journey of unlearning as we explore 21 things we were taught in school that have been debunked or revised over time.

1. The Great Wall of China is Visible from Space:

The Great Wall of China
Image Credit: Pexels

Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall of China isn’t visible to the naked eye from space. While it’s an impressive architectural marvel, its width and color blend with the surrounding landscape, making it difficult to distinguish from orbit.

2. Humans Only Use 10% of Their Brain:

The notion that humans only use 10% of their brains is a myth.
Image Credit: Pexels

The notion that humans only use 10% of their brains is a myth. Modern neuroscience has shown that different parts of the brain are active at different times, and even during rest, much more than 10% of the brain is active in various functions.

3. Christopher Columbus Discovered America:

Christopher Columbus
Image Credit: Library of Congress

The narrative of Christopher Columbus “discovering” America disregards the fact that indigenous peoples had long inhabited the continents. Columbus’s voyages marked significant historical events, but they were not the first encounters between the Old World and the New.

4. The Tongue Map:

Tongue with taste receptors map sticking out from open mouth. Five flavor zones. Pseudoscientific theory of human taste buds
Image Credit: Shutterstock

The idea that different tastes are sensed by different areas of the tongue in distinct “taste zones” has been debunked. Taste buds for sweet, sour, bitter, and salty flavors are distributed across the entire tongue.

5. Blood is Blue Inside Your Body:

The blue color observed in veins is a result of light absorption and scattering through the skin.
Image Credit: Pexels

While diagrams often depict deoxygenated blood as blue, blood is always red due to the presence of hemoglobin. The blue color observed in veins is a result of light absorption and scattering through the skin.

6. The Five Senses:

The Five Senses
Image Credit: Pexels

While sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch are traditionally taught as the five senses, humans actually have more than five senses. Proprioception (the sense of body position), vestibular (balance), and thermoception (temperature) are among the other senses recognized by scientists.

7. Seasons are Caused by Earth’s Distance from the Sun:

The misconception that seasons are caused by Earth's varying distance from the Sun is prevalent.
Image Credit: Pexels

The misconception that seasons are caused by Earth’s varying distance from the Sun is prevalent. In reality, seasons are a result of Earth’s axial tilt, which causes different parts of the planet to receive varying amounts of sunlight throughout the year.

8. Napoleon Bonaparte’s Height:

 Napoleon statue on Horseback, the work of Armand Le Veel, located at Napoleon Square in Cherbourg-Octeville, France. Black and white photography.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Napoleon Bonaparte is often depicted as exceptionally short, earning the term “Napoleon complex” to describe individuals with short stature. However, Napoleon’s height was average for his time, around 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 meters) tall in French units.

9. Bats are Blind:

Flying bat
Image Credit: Pexels

Contrary to the common belief that bats are blind, most bat species have perfectly functional eyesight. However, some species of bats rely more on echolocation than vision, particularly those that hunt in low-light conditions.

10. Vikings Wore Horned Helmets:

Viking reenactment
Image Credit: Pexels

Despite popular depictions in art and media, there is little historical evidence to support the idea that Vikings wore horned helmets. Such headgear would have been impractical in battle and likely served ceremonial or symbolic purposes if worn at all.

11. George Washington’s Wooden Teeth:

Image Credit: Pexels

The myth that George Washington had wooden teeth persists, but his dentures were actually made from a combination of human and animal teeth, along with ivory and metal.

Read More: 37 Facts About the World That Will Surprise the Most Intelligent People

12. Goldfish have a 3-Second Memory:

Woman staring at glodfish
Image Credit: Pexels

The idea that goldfish have a memory span of only three seconds is inaccurate. Goldfish are capable of remembering things for months, demonstrating learning capabilities far beyond the three-second myth.

13. The Brontosaurus Exists:

Brontosaurus toy
Image Credit: Pexels

The Brontosaurus, long depicted in dinosaur books and movies, was thought to be a misclassification of the Apatosaurus. Recent research, however, has suggested that the Brontosaurus may be a distinct genus after all, resurrecting its status as a valid dinosaur.

14. The Salem Witch Trials Only Targeted Women:

Image Credit: Pexels

While the majority of accused individuals in the Salem Witch Trials were women, men were also targeted and executed. The trials were a complex interplay of social, religious, and political factors, rather than a simple persecution of women.

15. Lightning Never Strikes the Same Place Twice:

Image Credit: Pexels

Contrary to the common saying, lightning can and does strike the same place multiple times. Tall structures such as skyscrapers and antennas are often struck repeatedly during thunderstorms due to their height and conductivity, making them prime targets for lightning strikes.

16. People Thought the Earth Was Flat in the Middle Ages:

Earth from space
Image Credit: Pexels

Contrary to the popular misconception, educated people in the Middle Ages generally understood that the Earth was round. Ancient Greek scholars had already proposed a spherical Earth, and this knowledge persisted through the Middle Ages.

17. Albert Einstein Failed Math:

Math on chalkboard
Image Credit: Pexels

Despite the myth that Albert Einstein failed math in school, he was actually an accomplished mathematician from a young age. His struggles were more related to his distaste for the rote learning methods of his school, rather than an inability to comprehend mathematical concepts.

18. Diamonds Come from Compressed Coal:

Image Credit: Pexels

The common belief that diamonds form from compressed coal is inaccurate. Diamonds are formed deep within the Earth’s mantle under intense heat and pressure, in processes unrelated to the formation of coal.

19. Metal Conducts Heat Best:

Meat grilled in pan
Image Credit: Pexels

While metal is often considered the best conductor of heat, certain non-metallic materials can conduct heat even better. Diamond, for example, has exceptionally high thermal conductivity due to its unique molecular structure.

20. Chameleons Change Color to Blend In:

Image Credit: Pexels

While chameleons can change color for various reasons, camouflage is not their primary purpose. Communication, regulating body temperature, and expressing emotions are among the main reasons chameleons change color.

21. The Five-Second Rule:

Popcorn on floor
Image Credit: Pexels

The idea that food dropped on the floor is safe to eat if picked up within five seconds, known as the “five-second rule,” is not supported by scientific evidence. Bacteria can contaminate food almost instantaneously upon contact with a contaminated surface.
As our understanding of the world advances, it’s essential to revisit and reassess the knowledge we’ve acquired over time. The process of unlearning misconceptions allows us to refine our understanding of the world and embrace a more accurate depiction of reality. By challenging what we were taught in school, we pave the way for deeper learning and intellectual growth.

Read More: 39 Common Medications That Can Have Potentially Detrimental Side Effects


  1. 25 Things We Learned in School That Were Completely WrongBest Life. Maggie Parker. July 3, 2019.
  2. 30 ‘facts’ you learned in school that have since been proven wrongBusiness Insider. Jacob Shamsian and Olivia Singh. September 28, 2018.
  3. 32 “Now-False Facts” That Were Really Taught In Schools, But Did Not Stand The Test Of TimeBored Panda. Dominykas Zukas and Denis Krotovas. November 17, 2023.