Did Thomas Edison’s mother lie about a letter expelling him from school?

Claim:

Thomas Edison’s mother lied about the contents of a letter from her son’s school informing her that the school had expelled him from school because of “mental deficiencies”.

Valuation:

Mostly wrong

What’s true

Thomas Edison was described by educators as “confused” and spent only a few months in a formal classroom before being taken out of school and raised by his mother.

What is wrong

Edison’s mother received no such letter, and no evidence supports the claim that she lied to her son about his classroom performance to protect his feelings.

Renowned American inventor Thomas Edison was famously homeschooled by his mother, who was a teacher by birth. Young Edison’s problems with a formal classroom, as well as his affection for his mother, are well documented.

Edison’s early life is short and sweet described in the National Park Service biography of him:

Thomas Alva Edison was born February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio; the seventh and last child of Samuel and Nancy Edison. When Edison was seven, his family moved to Port Huron, Michigan. Edison lived here until he started his own business at the age of sixteen. Edison had very little formal education as a child, only attending school for a few months. He was taught reading, writing and arithmetic by his mother, but was always a very curious child and taught himself a lot by reading. This belief in self-improvement remained throughout his life.

According to a US Library of Congress biography by Edison, he was actually referred to as “confused” by a school administrator, an event that prompted his mother to remove him from the school, but this information was not conveyed to her in a letter, nor was it hidden by her from young Thomas:

Edison was a poor student. When a schoolmaster named Edison became “confused,” his angry mother took him out of school and homeschooled him. Edison said many years later, “My mother made me. From an early age he showed a fascination for mechanical things and for chemical experiments.

Based on fictional combinations of various actual fragments of truth, a century of spun heartwarming stories about Edison’s decision to homeschool and his ability to overcome early educational difficulties. On November 19, 2016, the Facebook page Love What Really Matters became the latest to follow this tradition and published a Video based on the text of a > Reddit post. The script of the video is as follows:

As a young child, Thomas Edison came home from school one day and gave his mother an essay. He said to her, “Mom, my teacher gave me this paper and told me only you should read it.

Her eyes filled with tears as she read the letter aloud to her child…

“Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have good enough teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself.”

Many years after Edison’s mother died, he became one of the greatest inventors of the century.

One day he went through a closet and found the folded letter that his old teacher had written to his mother that day. He opened it…

The message on the letter read: “Your son is mentally handicapped. We can’t let him go to our school anymore.

Edison became emotional as he read it, then wrote in his journal:

“Thomas A. Edison was a mentally retarded child whose mother made him the genius of the century.”

A positive word of encouragement can help change anyone’s destiny.

However, the veracity of this version of events is contradicted by the actual account given by Thomas Edison himself in a rare form interview to a long-extinct newspaper and literary magazine called TP is weekly published November 29, 1907. This interview is the earliest documented account of Edison’s leaving formal school and is therefore likely the source of historical fiction regarding his early upbringing:

One day I overheard the teacher telling the inspector that I was “confused” and that it wasn’t worth keeping me at school any longer. I was so hurt by that last straw that I burst into tears and went home and told my mom about it. Then I found out what a good mother is a good mother. She came out as my strong defender. Maternal love was awakened, maternal pride wounded to the core. She took me back to school and angrily told the teacher that he didn’t know what he was talking about, that I had more sense than himself and a lot more such speeches. In fact, she was the most enthusiastic champion a boy had ever had, and I immediately decided that I would be worthy of her and show her that her confidence wasn’t misplaced.

As noted in Edison’s first-person account, no letter to his mother was involved in these events, and Edison was never kept out of the loop to spare his already hurt feelings. One of the most prolific and ingenious inventors of all time, Thomas Edison was homeschooled until he ventured out his own at the age of sixteen openly grateful for his mother’s support and upbringing throughout his life.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/thomas-edisons-mom-lied-about-a-letter-expelling-her-son-from-school/ Did Thomas Edison’s mother lie about a letter expelling him from school?

Brian Ashcraft

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