Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
April 22, 2024 ·  5 min read

9 “Facts” You Learned In School That Are No Longer True

As we grow up, we are taught various facts that are deemed to be true. Often, information that was once widely accepted to be true is then discovered or revealed to be false many years later. As we learn more about the world, some “facts” we are taught in school turn out to be false, or with new information, things just change. Here are nine examples of widely-held beliefs that are no longer considered true.

9 “Facts” We Learned In School That Are No Longer True

Our teachers do their best to teach us based on the knowledge held at that time. As with everything, what is “true” or “factual” changes with time and knowledge. There are hundreds of examples of things people used to believe were right that have now proven not to be. For example, there was a time in history when bloodletting (the process of bleeding someone out when they were ill) was thought to help a patient “bleed out” their illness. As we know, Doctors stopped using this “treatment” a long time ago, as they now know it does much harm with zero results. The following are some facts that many of us learned in school that have since been found to be false.

1. Pluto is no longer a planet.

For decades, we were taught that Pluto was the solar system’s ninth planet. However, in 2006, the International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto as a “dwarf planet” as it did not meet the criteria to be classified as a planet. That being said, some researchers have begun to appeal that decision, making a case for why Pluto should be considered a proper planet. So who knows – perhaps this “fact” will be turned back around in another rendition of this article. (1)

2. The “witches” of Salem weren’t burned at the stake.

In the witch trials that took place in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 17th century, over 200 people were accused of witchcraft. Contrary to popular belief, the accused were not burned at the stake but were actually hung. This is in accordance with New England Law, which still followed English law at the time, that stated that the penalty for witchcraft was hanging, not burning. While witches in Europe were historically burned at the stake, this was not the case in the Salem witch trials. (2)

3. Diamond is not the hardest substance.

We were taught that diamond is the hardest substance on Earth, but recent discoveries have proven otherwise. Ultrahard nanotwinned cubic boron nitride has been found to be even harder than diamond. Scientists have found that it resists indentation 58% more than diamond. There is another material, wurtzite boron nitride, that is also stronger than diamond by 18%. (3)

4. George Washington’s teeth were not made of wood.

According to legend, America’s first president, George Washington, had wooden teeth because of his poor dental hygiene. However, this is simply not true. The dentures that he used are at the Mount Vernon Plantation House Museum and are made of a combination of ivory and real human teeth. The human teeth were ones he had purchased from slaves. It was common back then for slaves to sell their teeth to dentists to make money. (4)

5. America gained independence seven years after July 4, 1776.

Americans celebrate the 4th of July as the day America gained independence from British rule, but in reality, the process was not that simple. It took seven more years until the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783, which is when America was officially recognized as a free country. July 4th was the day that 12 of the 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence. The 13th colony signed it one month later. The American Revolution continued for seven more years until the United States of America was actually free from British rule. (5)

6. Folding a piece of paper more than seven times is mathematically impossible.

For a long time, it was widely believed that no matter how big or thin a piece of paper was, it could not be folded more than seven times because the laws of physics forbade it. However, this was proven false when Britney Gallivan, a high school student from California, managed to fold a piece of paper 11 times in 2002. She realized that others had been folding the paper in alternating directions, whereas she folded it in the same direction. Students then beat her record ten years later in 2012, when they folded the paper 13 times. (6)

7. There are not just three or five kingdoms of classification of life.

In school, we were taught that there are three or five kingdoms of classification of life: animals, plants, bacteria, fungi, and protists. However, there are actually as many as eight kingdoms of classification of life, including Archaea, Chromista, and Hacrobia. The United States currently recognizes and teaches six classifications, but scientists have identified up to eight. (7)

8. The Great Wall of China is not the only man-made structure visible from space.

Another widely-held belief is that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from space. The truth is a bit more complicated than that. You can see the Great Wall sometimes when the conditions are favorable and when it is covered in snow. Otherwise, you can’t see it very well – and certainly not from the moon (another myth). However, some man-made structures are visible from space, including airports, cities, and highways, when lit at night. (8)

9. Israelite slaves did not build the pyramids.

A popular belief is that Israelite slaves were forced to build the pyramids in Egypt. However, it has been proven that the workers who built the pyramids were paid laborers, not slaves. They could move up the social ladder and were buried in tombs near the pyramids. These paid laborers were Egyptian and typically came from poorer families. This myth came from statements made by a former Israeli Prime Minister when visiting the Pyramids in 1977. A Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor disproved that, noting that the Jewish people did not yet exist when the Pyramids were built. (9)

 In conclusion, it is important always to question what we are taught and challenge what we believe to be true. Facts change constantly as further discoveries are made and knowledge is acquired. Sometimes, incorrect information is also taught based on bias, corruption, or social norms that are later taken down by the discrimination that they were based on. The truth may not always be what we think it is, so continue to question what you’re told and think critically – you never know what truths you might uncover.


  1. This Day in History: Pluto loses planet status, demoted to dwarf planet in 2006.” KCRA. Sydney Hartman. August 24, 2022.
  2. Were Witches Really Burned at the Stake During the Salem Witch Trials?History. Evan Andrews. August 13, 2014.
  3. DIAMONDS: THE HARD FACTS.” Pursuit. Andi Horvath
  4. Wooden Teeth Myth.” Mount Vernon
  5. America’s ‘Real’ Independence Day Is Not July 4.” Time. Olivia B. Waxman. June 29, 2017.
  6. The Number of Times You Can Fold Paper.” The Spruce Crafts. Dana Hinders. September 16, 2022.
  7. Five Kingdom Classification System.” RUF
  8. China’s Wall Less Great in View from Space.” NASA
  9. Great Pyramid tombs unearth ‘proof’ workers were not slaves.” The Guardian. Associated Press in Cairo. January 11, 2010.