Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lies Your Teacher Told You: The American Revolution


This is the first post in a fun new series I've been planning for awhile. The more time I spend in a college classroom the more aware I become of just how many inaccuracies are taught as truth for the sake of simplicity (or downright indoctrination, but that's for another day) and it has become a sort of game of mine to blow people's minds by informing them that a certain piece of common knowledge is actually completely untrue. One of my favorites? The myth of the American Revolution.

What is the big lie we tell kids about the American Revolution, you ask?

We tell them it was a revolution.

The name itself is the lie. The United States has never experienced a revolution. Like, ever. What we call the American Revolution really should be called the American War of Independence, because that is all it was.

The definition of a revolution is the dismantling of one social structure and replacing it with a new social structure. The Haitian Revolution is a pretty fantastic example. Haiti went from being a country dominated by white slave owners, to being a country in which former slaves had driven out the majority of the white population and established their own government to replace the French colonial government they had forcibly removed. That is a huge change in social structure; the Haitian Revolution completely flipped the social hierarchy of the country and dramatically altered the demographics of the ruling class. That is what a revolution looks like.

The American "Revolution" on the other hand, changed next to nothing. All the American "Revolution" did was change which elite white men were calling the shots. The social and political structures remained virtually untouched. The colonists won their independence from Great Britain, sure, but the colonists on top before the revolution were still on top after it.

Fun fact: I accidentally ruined my American History professor's lecture plans on the day we were scheduled to talk about this. He asked "was it a revolution" and I raised my hand and said a short version of the above, and he just stared at me and started laughing. Apparently he had planned his entire lecture around all of us saying "of course it was!" and then him explaining why it actually wasn't. In other news, I don't raise my hand in this class anymore.

In short, there is really no such thing as the American Revolution, just an admittedly well fought war of independence. I hope you get as much joy out of telling people this as I do. I've found it really irritates people when you tell them that things they believe to be common fact are actually not true. I get a sort of sick joy out of watching people angrily defend the lies their teachers told them. As you can imagine,, I'm great fun at parties.

Any thoughts on our classifying it as a revolution? Any favorite lies you realized you were told in high school to share? Lets chat in the comments!

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