Five Falsehoods Taught as Fact in School

By Emilie R.:

Not everything we learn in school is 100% true. There is an endless list of claims and theories out there that used to be considered facts, but are now merely misconceptions. So why are these still being taught to us in school as concrete fact? Most of these things have been disproven very recently; our textbooks from the 80s have not been updated, nor have the curriculum or the brains of our teachers. Granted, constantly-changing evidence does not make it easy to keep up with what’s fact and what’s not anymore, but to ensure that these misconceptions don’t keep getting passed on, it is important to keep up with new evidence. For starters, here’s a list of five of the most common misconceptions still taught in school.

1.     There are five senses

The amount of senses is subjective, and varies depending on who’s asked, but there are certainly not five of them. Sure, there’s touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell, but what about temperature, balance, or pain? Just human eyes alone contain four different sensory receptors.

2.     Different parts of the tongue sense different flavours

The idea of there being different flavours sensed from different parts of the tongue arose from a misinterpretation of research done in the 19th century. We actually taste everything the same way with all parts of the tongue. So unfortunately, the “taste map of the tongue” that you learned about in elementary school was a complete and utter sham.

3.     Napoleon was short

Most of us learned at some point in history class that Napoleon Bonaparte was very short. In reality, he was five feet, seven inches; quite tall for a Frenchman of his time. This misconception came about because of confusion between the British inch and the French “pouce”, which is longer. The British thought he was only about five feet, three inches, and took delight in depicting him in British propaganda posters as a tiny man.

4.     Thomas Edison invented the light bulb

Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb, but he did buy the patent for it from the Canadian inventor, Henry Woodward. Why is this man’s name not pounded into our brains by teachers? He was Canadian! We should be insanely proud and patriotic towards him. Instead, Edison is mostly accredited with inventing the light bulb, which, to be fair, he did improve, but he didn’t invent it originally. That’s like saying Henry Ford invented the automobile.

5.     Toilet water flushes in different directions in different hemispheres

The fact that toilet water in the southern hemisphere goes counter-clockwise while toilet water in the northern hemisphere goes clockwise is something that is often taught when learning about the Coriolis effect in science class. This too is a complete falsehood. The direction toilet water flushes may be different in some places, but it is only dependent on the plumbing of the toilet itself and has absolutely nothing to do with the Coriolis effect.


Not everything taught in school is fact, so don’t be so quick to believe anything your teacher tells you, or anything you read in your textbook. The next time your teacher says something you know is false, don’t hesitate to raise your hand and be the obnoxious kid in the class correcting them; your classmates may learn something from you.