An open letter to John Green,
With the AP World History exam coming up in a matter of days now, many students across the country are likely going through and watching all of the Crash Course World History episodes. I know that is how I’ve been primarily studying.
Now history and I have a love-hate relationship, but when it comes to Crash Course, I love watching these episodes because you make them so entertaining! You truly bring history to life by telling the stories of these people and countries and adding humor and modern day context into the story as well.
What I really think makes the episodes so commendable is how you always try to leave people thinking about some bigger point than just “what happened during this century?” You talk about dating advice, and what it means to live, and why humans strive for greatness. You use the historical context to challenge ideas of today. To argue, to persuade, and to make people imagine.
I wonder what a history class would be like if the curriculum was literally just watching Crash Course episodes and then further discussing the questions you asks through different lenses and perspectives.
One of my favorite projects that we never finished during my World History class last year was our Crash Course project. All of the students wrote their own Crash Course like script first. Then everyone did a first draft video and presented it to the class so that everyone could have a better idea of what it would look like on screen. Then we picked our favorite 5 videos and got into teams to work on producing those 5 videos. We even partnered with a video tech class so they could help us with the camera and special effects side of it.
The sad thing was that we were close to the end of the year (well, the end of first semester) and we never finished creating the videos because we only had 2 cameras which took too long for filming. I wish we could have spent more time brainstorming the script and then really produced some great videos. (I wrote one of the scripts and now that I’ve watched many more Crash Course episodes, I can guarantee that my script needed more work to really be as entertaining and yet factual.)
There’s another idea: an entire Crash Course class where students make their own Crash Course style videos based off of the information they learn and the questions that the information makes them think about. The trick to a good video is to not just relay facts, but instead to actually argue a point to your audience. Make the audience connect to what you are saying just like any good conversation or presentation. Plus at the end of the year it would be a great way to study: just go back and watch all of the videos you made!
Now while it is not my favorite subject at school, I don’t hate history. It is not even my least favorite class because the students in the class and the teacher are both great. I just don’t tend to enjoy history classes because I think they try to cover too much information in not enough time, and I wish that we spent more time on the ideas then on the hard facts and dates. Crash Course videos while still talking about the facts, manage to make me laugh and think in ways that I have never been able to do with a textbook or test.
So thank you John Green for helping students like me get through the AP World History exam, and maybe one day the exam will be able to make us enjoy history as much as you do.