Some people got a great high school education. But some of us were sent to an evangelical Christian school, where we learned that evolution is a lie, Columbus was a cool dude, and Catholics are faking it. For us, and anyone else who suspects their education could use a revisionist refresh, there’s the free YouTube channel Crash Course.
Crash Course is a series of educational videos started by YA novelist John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars) and his brother, vlogger Hank Green. The 22 courses, each with up to 48 episodes, cover a wide range of topics in history, science, social science and the arts. The hosts are engaging (though older viewers might find them a bit cloying), and the content is thoroughly researched and includes frequent citations of primary sources.
My particular remedial education centred on US History, which begins with Native American civilisations and early European conquests. Host John Green speaks at a rapid clip, with visual aids popping up around him. This course won’t explore every cranny of American history, but it excels at building a coherent narrative to shift your understanding of major events.
For instance, the episode on the War of Independence is called “Who Won the American Revolution?” It reminds us that America has never been a monolith, and that while the revolution dismantled some power structures, it strengthened others, such as those based on race and gender. Green also reminds us that this didn’t have to be the case, that even at this point in history, many were fighting to free slaves, enfranchise the poor, and give rights to women.
Crash Course is great at answering, “What was the deal with that era?” That wrap-up quality makes it a useful supplement for current high school students, who often need to hear the same information presented a few different ways. When she taught high school biology, my Lifehacker colleague Beth Skwarecki showed her students the biology and chemistry series. (For younger students, try Crash Course Kids, which focuses on Year 5 science topics.)
Crash Course is meant for everyone. “When people ask us how we want these things to be used, we don’t really have a coherent answer,” John says in the channel’s intro video. “We’re just trying to create educational content in the hopes that it will be useful to people.”
Get out those calculators and sharpen your 2B pencils – it’s Back-to-School Week! Going far beyond the classroom, Lifehacker is bringing you genius tricks and ideas on how to start routines, brush up on old skills, or learn something new this year.