Should The Flat Earth Theory be taught in schools?The Flat Earth Theory (FET) is an alternative theory to the commonly held theory that the Earth is round. It is a valid, robust scientific...

Should The Flat Earth Theory be taught in schools?

The Flat Earth Theory (FET) is an alternative theory to the commonly held theory that the Earth is round. It is a valid, robust scientific propostion and it answers many of the questions which the Round Earth Theory (RET) fails to answer.

More and more scientists are starting to realise that the RET is out-dated. We owe it to American Freedom and to our Children to teach the controversy between the equally valid and scientific RET and FET.

Don't we? 

Asked on by beefheart

50 Answers

jeffsuzuki's profile pic

jeffsuzuki | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

My favorite statement regarding science is this:  Science is a method of finding out what is not true.

Too many people treat science as a bag of facts:  the Earth is spherical; human beings evolved from lower life forms; the sun generates energy through nuclear fusion.  But in modern culture, the line between "fact" and "opinion" is often blurred, so it's easy for someone to argue that Creationism and other pseudosciences be taught in the classroom.

Should we teach the flat Earth theory? long as it's the first step in a lesson on why scientists do not believe it.  The supporting evidence (disappearance over horizon, eclipse shadow, photographs) make the FET less and less tenable, until the viability of the spherical (not "round") Earth theory is established.

Moreover, presenting the supporting evidence does one more thing.  As our recent national debate on health care/jobs/etc. demonstrates, it's easy to attack someone's ideas without offering anything of value of your own.

But science doesn't work that way.  You cannot replace a scientific theory by simply attacking it; the accepted theory is accepted because it explains a number of observations.  If your replacement can't explain them *all*, plus some others that the current theory can't explain.  Otherwise, no one will listen to you---and no one should.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

I can't tell if the Flat Earth Theory is a joke or not... It is known that Earth is expanded at the center and doesn't have perfectly sperical measurements. It is also known by complex measurements that excape my ken (I believe reported in New Scientist around 2002) that the universe is flat with a central convex curve and that the Cosmic Microwave Background vibrates in the key of B (Bing Crosby's "family key", perhaps reported in Discovery 2003ish...), which are both pretty odd things for science to have measured but no more odd than having measured anti-matter, which weighs ever-so-slightly less than matter, and particles becoming waves--well--and now the latest measurement record at the CERN-Gran Sasso experiment of a muon-neutrino oscillating into a tau-neutrino in mid-flight between CERN and Gran Sasso. But this flat Earth it a joke? If it's a joke then certainly it should not be taught except in Public Speaking classes. If however there is sound science--somewhere--conducted by sound scientists producing sound and reproducable confirmed results, then no matter how peculiar, certainly it should be taught--but those are a LOT of IFs!

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on


what you are saying is perfectly true for The Arts. In The Arts we should never proscribed a 'correct' view and always encourage self-discovery and self-expression.

But you cannot really be suggesting that our understanding of Science or Maths is so subjective that we should encourage students to select the answers which they prefer?

You are posting on the internet, which was built using Highly Accurate, Specific, Detailed Scientific Knowledge. The internet was not built on whims, contrariness and free-flowing, fluffy thinking.

In high-school level science there is a right and wrong answer. And students do experiments to find basic scientific truths. Encouraging them to believe that science truth is theirs' to pick and choose is... weird. Their experiments PROVE WHAT IS BEING TAUGHT. Teaching them rigourous science is not merely 'spoon-feeding them' the current, conventionally-held, fashionable POV.

To suggest it is, is ludicrous, to say the least and disregards the last 600 years of progress.


I think the most important part of this whole thing is the fact that being so gung ho to tell and "teach" kids what is right and what is wrong is that we stigmatize being wrong.  This is very different from simply presenting the history of science or showing how scientists believe they arrive at the truth, etc.

When you stigmatize being wrong and emphasize the importance of parroting back the "correct" answer and throwing since proven theories out as not even being worth consideration, you create an atmosphere in which actually being creative (which always involves the chance of being wrong) is stigmatized.  This is as deadly to the sciences as it is to the arts.  The unwillingness of today's students to take the risk of being wrong is going to come back to haunt us in ways we haven't yet imagined.  (Look at Japan for an example, they are running screaming away from extended school days and incredible testing regimes even while we are running towards them full tilt...)


I realize that you aren't suggesting that we stigmatize creativity, but I worry that the acceptance of things as always "right" and "wrong" whether scientific or not is dangerous.  I am also not suggesting that we encourage them to simply pick and choose what they think is correct.  I am suggesting that we teach them that it is acceptable to be wrong and to examine theories that others might think are crazy.

And let us not forget that experiments designed by people with an hypothesis already in mind may very well prove that their hypothesis is correct, but only according to their experiment which may be flawed or biased or both.


Lastly, I think there was almost certainly some free-flowing and fluffy thinking involved in building and inventing the internet.  The first person who thought of connecting computers in a huge network must have at least gotten a few "he's an idiot" laughs from people around him or her.  Without that free-flowing and "fluffy" thinking, advancements are few and far between.

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usbummer | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Should The Flat Earth Theory be taught in schools?

The Flat Earth Theory (FET) is an alternative theory to the commonly held theory that the Earth is round. It is a valid, robust scientific propostion and it answers many of the questions which the Round Earth Theory (RET) fails to answer.

More and more scientists are starting to realise that the RET is out-dated. We owe it to American Freedom and to our Children to teach the controversy between the equally valid and scientific RET and FET.

Don't we? 

Please enlighten us with the questions that FET can answer that RET cannot.

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Given the overwhelming evidence against the flat earth theory I have a very hard time believing it should be taught in school as fact. Perhaps if you were proposing that it could be taught in a mythology or a religion class, there might be some merit in the idea.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Sure, teach it.

But whoever decides to be crazy enough to teach something like creationism or Flat Earth Theory, gnomes and fairies, and the likes better NOT TOUCH the feeble budget of the American public school system to fund a basal reading series, testing materials, software licenses nor all the other kaboodle that comes as a result of implementing "new ideas."

Plus....who in the world would teach it?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The Flat Earth Theorists have a constitution.  Among its finer points:

  • The Earth to be a flat disk floating on an infinite ocean.
  • When a ship is at the horizon, its lower part is NOT obscured due to the sphericity of the Earth.  It is only sinking.
  • An aeronaut at the highest possible altitude will see what appears to be a concave surface.
  • The earth is flat and square, and the sky is a round canopy.
  • It was possible for a 1492 ship to sail west from Europe across open oceans directly to Japan.


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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Perhaps the question could be better centered around whether we want to teach kids what to think or if we want to teach them how to think or just to think at all.  Most of the students I see by the time they get to high school are so well trained to think that there is a right and wrong answer (almost always determined by the teacher at the expense of any other authority) that they are unwilling to think for any reason, especially if there is some concern that they might be wrong or might not get an A.  The idea that we cannot bring up things that were wrong in the past because it might be misleading is somewhat troubling to me in that it suggests that our students couldn't ever really figure out for themselves which was right and wich was wrong.

If we have to spoon feed them all the right answers, what are we really doing for them in the end?

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I don't think that the flat Earth Theory should be taught in schools. As a teacher I know it is difficult enough to get students to understand what we teach now. Introducing a concept like FET would really throw them off track.

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lfawley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I have to agree with the other posters who have indicated that, since we have conclusively proved the the Earth is not in fact flat, the theory should not be taught in schools as a theory. However, it should be taught as a part of the history of thought and intellect, of scientific inquiry. All of what we know has been learned through experimentation, through coming up with ideas and testing them against known facts, experimenting, and learning from observations.As such, the theory is an integral part of our scientific history and of our history of knowledge regarding the world around us, but it should not be taught as a plausible fact any more than we should be teaching students that 2+2 =5.

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clamo88 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

The argument over the Darwinian theory and the Biblical belief that God created the first humans in Adam and Eve should not be confused with the incredibly outdated notion that the world is also flat. Posted by bullgatortail


The theory that Life on Earth was created by God a few thousand years ago and that species are separate and fixed has as much scientific validity as the Flat Earth Theory. I think this thread's question is a very valid question. Why include Creationism in the curriculum and not FET? Is it any more reasonable to teach Creationism than FET?

Both theories are ancient attempts to explain the world around us. They are both pre-scientific. They are both utterly contradicted by basic scientific facts and simple to disprove. Creationism has as much scientific relevance as the claim that the Earth is flat. 

Why teach one and not the other?

Flat Earth Theory has been disproved.  We can prove that the earth is round (cylindrical).

We cannot disprove someone's belief in Creationism because we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God or some supreme being that people believe in as their Creator.  Who is to say that one day in God's world is not equal to 1 Billion years in our world, for example?  That would permit someone to believe in Adam and Eve and in scientific facts that the earth took millions of years to sustain human life.

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jmj616 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

I suppose the Flat Earth Theory could be mentioned in passing, but as they say in French, it's really passe' (that is, way out of date).

From what this Literature major understands, it was not even commonly believed by educated people in Columbus's time.  Old Chris was not out to prove that the world was round; he just wanted to find an easy route from Europe to Asia.

The Talmud, which contains knowledge 2,000 years old and older, is quite clear that the Earth is round.

And of course, photos taken from outer space make it pretty clear that the Earth is round.

So, the Flat Earth Theory should be mentioned, briefly, as something that some people once believed in, but very few people believe in today.

And who knows?  Scientists discover all kinds of strange things that people previously thought were impossible.

Maybe the Earth really is flat.  As an employee of the New York City Department of Education, sometimes I feel that if I take one more step into the bureaucratic morass, I will fall off the edge of the Earth into a fifth dimension. 

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I like the "God does not play dice" quote but agree that it does not constitute an attack on science.  Nor did I mean to say that science is not valid, just that other points of view are also valid, whether they follow the scientific method as we accept it or perhaps are a bit different.  The specific passage I was thinking of is from a response to a letter which Einstein wrote:


A child in the sixth grade in a Sunday School in New York City, with the encouragement of her teacher, wrote to Einstein in Princeton on 19 January I936 asking him whether scientists pray, and if so what they pray for. Einstein replied as follows on 24 January 1936:

I have tried to respond to your question as simply as I could. Here is my answer.

Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the actions of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a supernatural Being.

However, it must be admitted that our actual knowledge of these laws is only imperfect and fragmentary, so that, actually, the belief in the existence of basic all-embracing laws in Nature also rests on a sort of faith. All the same this faith has been largely justified so far by the success of scientific research.

But, on the other hand, every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe -- a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

It is worth mentioning that this letter was written a decade after the advent of Heisenberg's prin ciple of indeterminacy and the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics with its denial of strict determinism.


I was always struck by Einstein's description of this unseen spirit and his humility in the face of it.  Of course I am taking from this my own interpretation, but I think it suggests that Einstein ackowledged that something was out there bigger than us, something perhaps that was free from the natural laws that we think govern the universe.  From this perhaps one could think that he believed that the natural "laws" which we place so much faith in are limited and can be proven true or false or partially true.

Particularly that the understanding or belief in these laws is also "based on a sort of faith" strikes me as an admission that the scientific method is also based on some of the same supposition and assumption that are so readily dismissed when it comes to looking at a way of viewing the world that we do not agree with.

Does this mean that the Flat Earth Theory is right?  I would agree with most when I say that it appears to have been proven wrong.  Do I think that something might be gained in the teaching of it or the discussion of it or the examination of how it was arrived at?  Absolutely.

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Of course we must always turn to science and just accept the fact that the scientific method always yields truth and reason whereas other methods of examination or thinking must be completely false.  Of course no scientist ever conducts an experiment with any bias.  No scientist has ever claimed to have made a discovery and then been shown to have fudged their results.  Of course no one practicing the "scientific method" has ever admitted that it isn't the only way of making sense of the world or that it cannot eventually explain everything.

Then again, Einstein admitted and discussed as much when the talked about the spiritual aspect of what he was doing and how he approached science.  But we don't like to bring that up because we must keep science somehow "pure" while any other ways of looking at things, whether they be through a creationist lens or that of a more mystical one has to be completely dismissed because they are based on supposition and assumptions rather than real "science."

Truly embarassing.

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kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I love how we can completely dismiss the Flat Earth Theory as "preposterous" when the round earth theory was similarly "preposterous" at the time.  Given that we are constantly finding out that things we thought were certainly true are in fact false and we cannot explain even some of the simplest "theories" like gravity completely, why must we decide which theories can and cannot be taught?  Shouldn't we allow all ideas to be present and then help students understand how to determine for themselves which ones are true?  Shouldn't we encourage the discussion of and examination of "outrageous" ideas to encourage people to think for themselve and be willing to be open minded?

Once people decide that certain things are right and only certain things should be taught, you are engaging in something called cultural engineering.  Some people call it cultural literacy but it depends on your perspective.  If you want everyone to think the same way, go ahead and decide that only certain things can be taught.  If you want people to push the envelopes and think wild, out of the box thoughts, you should leave things open and allow students and teachers to be dynamic and respond to situations that arise and teach and learn what they are interested in teaching and learning.

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