This week school children across the country will be hearing the tale of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. You probably heard a similar story when you were in a kid that went something like this:
The Pilgrims sailed over to America from Plymouth, England on the Mayflower. During their first winter in the new country many of them starved because they were unable to produce enough food. In the spring, though, a Native America tribe taught the Pilgrims how to plant crops that would flourish, such as maize (corn). That fall, after an abundant harvest, the Pilgrims gave thanks by celebrating the first Thanksgiving feast with the Indians.
What is often left out of the story is what happened next: The Pilgrims continued to face food shortages for three more years.
Kids don’t often hear this not-so-happy ending. They are also rarely told the reason why the Pilgrims went hungry. “Bad weather or lack of farming knowledge did not cause the pilgrims’ shortages,” says Benjamin W. Powell. “Bad economic incentives did.”