Lies-to-children are when something is simplified to explain a concept. It’s wrong, but it leads the learner to a more correct understanding than they head.


  • Electrons go around the nucleus of an atom like planets is a lie told to elementary school children. In high school science the lie is that each orbit has a different energy level.
  • That DNA is a wound double-helix ‘staircase.’ And that you have your mother’s and father’s entire DNA in you.
  • That when parents love each other they make a baby.
  • There are only two sexes, and that is determined by DNA.
  • We live in the best country in the world.

We often use analogies or simplifications that gets the basic concept down. But if they learn more on the subject, they will find out that what the were told isn’t exactly true.

Lies-to-children is simply a prevalent and necessary kind of lie… Universities are very familiar with bright, qualified [students] who arrive and then go into shock on finding that biology or physics isn’t quite what they’ve been taught so far.

‘Yes, but you needed to understand that,’ they are told, ‘so that now we can tell you why it isn’t exactly true.’

Once you have the basic understanding, you can drop the analogy, and explain it more accurately.