A Dent-ist in History

Why learning real history is so crucial


Sydney Tran

TALKING TEETH: A pair of dentures shouts, “the British are coming!” referring to Paul revere’s job as a dentist.

Paul Revere was a dentist. That’s right, Paul “the British are coming!” Revere was a dentist. Unless you’re some trivia god with stacks of random knowledge packed in your mind or a Revere historian, I don’t expect you to be familiar with Revere’s side gig. In 1768, Revere published an ad in the Boston Gazette promoting his skill of replacing teeth that weren’t only for show, but were good for eating and speaking. In the midst of rebellion and revolution, Revere was dealing with root canals. 

Like many other figures of the American Revolution, Paul Revere’s story is coated with lies and legend. For example, George Washington’s dentures weren’t made from wood, they were made from slaves’ teeth. In grade school, children are brainwashed into thinking the founding fathers are patriotic heroes that deserve countless monuments and museums dedicated to their fight for freedom. In reality, their so-called “fight for freedom” was really the push for the freedoms of the upper class white man. They loved to preach that Great Britain was treating them unfairly while holding hundreds of slaves under their belt. Thomas Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal” on the Declaration of Independence with around 600 slaves to his name. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think these men and their sacrifices for our country are truly magnificent, and the story of our revolution is something that has always fascinated me, but they should still be held accountable for their actions. A common point brought up is that back then, slavery was popular. But at the same time, it was unpopular. Cousins John and Samuel Adams didn’t own slaves. Neither did Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, or Thomas Paine. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember being told that our beloved American hero, George Washington, owned slaves. That’s where the problem arises; at a young age we are taught that these men are gods who could do no wrong. I’m not saying we should go around telling third graders our forefathers owned other humans and treated them like animals, but, you know, it shouldn’t be twisted and taught incorrectly to spare their perceptions of them. 

I could argue for days upon days about how history is the most important subject students are exposed to in school and why the raw narrative is vital. History is our culture, language, and the very ground we stand on. If you asked someone why we have classes dedicated to ruins crumbling to dust and rotting corpses, dedicated to studying history, most would say so we don’t repeat the past. While I wholeheartedly agree, I also believe it’s important we’re familiar with our foundations and the architects that constructed our past while paving the way for our future. It’s not just about catching their mistakes and avoiding them hereafter, but studying their accomplishments and recognizing their efforts for a better future. 

History reminds us that we’re human. Whether or not they lived centuries ago, they were human beings with feelings, goals, and values. And no matter how perfect our history books cut them out to be, even our ancestors can make mistakes. But with great mistakes comes greater achievements. Without the brilliant minds of past thinkers, we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are today. Sometimes history silences the true heroes and inventors of our modern era, and it is our duty to tell their stories and give them the credit they rightfully deserve. And to share their story, we must learn their story. 

The tales and triumphs we study in history motivate and move us. Tears cloud our vision when we’re reminded that Anne Frank never lived to see her 16th birthday. Our hearts soar with pride when we think about the American revolution and our victory over Great Britain. Whether it’s a triumph or loss, the tales we’re taught humanize these ancient characters and reinvent our past. The quicker we understand that the messages exemplified in the past define our future, the easier it is for us to make sense of our reality. And the better we understand the past, the better we understand the future.