Thursday, July 10, 2014

6 Famous Quotes That Teachers Sometimes Get Wrong

I was reading Cool Cat Teacher (a blog I really enjoy) when I came across this:

I thought, 'Huh. I wonder if Aristotle actually said that.' 

So that there is no ironic misconception given the point of her blog post, I wasn't hating or criticising. I was just wondering.

I've seen this issue with quotes in social media from teachers now and then, and as educators we probably could do worse than to be a little more sceptical about our quote sources, and a little more diligent in our reserach. Here are the top 6 quotes I've seen recently that teachers sometimes get wrong:

#1 Aristotle
"There is one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing. Say nothing. Be nothing"

- Aristotle

According to Aristotle's Wikiquote page, under quotes misattributed to him the actual quote is "Do nothing, say nothing, be nothing, and you'll never be criticized."

Who actually said it? 
It's from Elbert Hubbard, not Aristotle. 

#2 Mahatma Gandhi

"Be The Change You Want To See In The World"

- Mahatma Gandhi

The closest thing to this that Gandhi ever said, according to this New York Times article, is "“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.” 

#3 Mahatma Gandhi (again)

Another popular misquote attributed to Gandhi is:

"First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. And then you win."

- Mahatma Gandhi

According to Gandhi's wikiquote page though, there is no record of Gandhi ever saying this. 

#4 Albert Einstein
This quote is not so much inspirational as it is prophecy and warning, except that it was never a prophecy.  
"I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots"
- Albert Einstein

Who actually said it:The Internet

One of the more ironic misquotes that gets passed around, the quote started popping up around 2012 on websites, according to

#5 Nelson Mandela

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God... (A)s we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same."  - Nelson Mandela

Who actually said it: 
Marianne Williamson in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles", Ch. 7, Section 3 (1992), p. 190.

According to Ms. Williamson, "Several years ago, this paragraph from A Return to Love began popping up everywhere, attributed to Nelson Mandela's 1994 inaugural address. As honored as I would be had President Mandela quoted my words, indeed he did not. I have no idea where that story came from, but I am gratified that the paragraph has come to mean so much to so many people."

The quote is also in the movie Invictus, about Nelson Mandela and the South African Rugby team.

#6 Socrates

The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.

- Socrates

According to quote investigator, it was Plutarch that came the closest to saying this. The article also mentions that this quote is sometimes misattributed to William Butler Yeats.

Bonus: Apparently most anything attributed to Buddha

While I was researching this, I came across the website Although teachers probably don't quote Buddha too often, I thought the treasure trove of quotes attributed to him and perpetuated by the Internets was interesting.

What are some quotes that you've heard that you suspect to be misattributed?


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