Columbus Day has come and gone, but debunking myths never goes out of date. Rachel Motte takes on the silly notion (still taught in some textbooks!) that Columbus believed the earth was flat:
“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” but not because he wanted to defy any maniacally tyrannical flat earthers. That this falsehood still endures in countless textbooks is both remarkable and (if you’re like me) completely maddening.
You see, there were no serious flat earthers in Columbus’ time. None. Everyone with much education knew that the world was, is, and ever shall be, round. In fact, everyone had known this about the earth for ages.
So why is it that my daughter’s homework today read “On Columbus Day, we remember a sailor named Christopher Columbus. During his time, people thought the world was flat.”? Half the books I found in the library echoed the same refrain, despite the fact that this bit of historical fluff has been disproved over, and over, and over…
Why has such a silly idea found such remarkable staying power? The various answers to that question are nearly as infuriating as the myth itself. There are several theories.