(Beijing Review) A post on social media demonstrating a string of falsehoods published in Chinese textbooks currently used in primary schools has recently gone viral. One example is a story titled Young Thomas Edison Saved His Mother, which appears in textbooks for second grade primary school students. According to the story, when Edison was 7, his mother suffered from acute appendicitis and needed a surgical operation. However, the operation could not start since the light in their home was too dim. Edison used several mirrors to reflect the light from oil lamps so that the doctor could go through with the operation. To begin with, there are no records of appendicitis operations having taken place during Edison's time. Furthermore, such action would not achieve the desired lighting effect.
Another story about George Washington claims that he damaged his family's cherry tree. The fictitious fable goes on to explain that since the tree in question was his father's favorite, Washington was so scared that he hid in the house. But he eventually confessed to his father, who then praised him for his honesty. The source of the myth can be traced to Mason Locke Weems, who wrote the apocryphal anecdote in his biography of Washington published in 1809.
Some argue that textbooks are not supposed to convey phony stories related to real historical figures, as they may have a negative impact on children. However, some proponents claim that a lot of stories in textbooks are fabricated, such as fables and fairy tales. They argue that those texts are fine as long as they deliver positive messages, since they are not history books.