Crash Course World History: World History in a Cool, Zany Nutshell
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“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a sermon from his book Strength to Love (1963)
Back when Philippine high school consisted of four years, history was taught as a separate subject in two year levels. The first year covered Philippine history, while the second year focused on world history. I remember very little of my history lessons from those days. I do recall being able to give satisfactory answers when called upon by the teacher, because I had the benefit of using borrowed copies of Teodoro A. Agoncillo’s “History of the Filipino People” and Gregorio and Sonia Zaide’s “World History” to supplement the standard textbooks. which were often heavy on facts but light on analysis.
Facts and analysis presented in a fun and engaging manner is what makes the Crash Course World History the go-to refresher for students cramming for a history exam and older folks who may have forgotten their history lessons. The educational web- based series of videos discussing important events in world history is hosted by the very cool John Green, whose name should ring a bell to anyone who’s come within 12 feet of a teenager. I’m no spring chicken myself, and I’ve enjoyed a couple of Mr. Green’s young adult bestsellers.
The charismatic author of “The Fault In Our Stars” is the perfect host for a video series about a subject that many high schoolers through the years have deemed to be eye-wateringly boring. Green uses an engaging, conservational style of discussion that emphasizes the key points without dumbing them down. He’s not shy about showing his awkward, goofy side, which makes him extremely relatable to his young audience. Cool animation and cute segments, coupled with an under-12-minute runtime, guarantee that the informative videos will hold any learner’s attention.
As a supplement to in-class history lessons, Crash Course World History is unbeatable. The best use of the Crash Course videos would be as a lesson starter or a recap. The comments on the series’ YouTube videos are very encouraging. People, high schoolers and boomers alike, are discovering that history is not boring after all and wishing that schools got with the program and taught history the way Mr. Green does in the videos. Getting young people interested in history is the probably the greatest contribution to education by the Crash Course series.
A second volume, Crash Course World History 2, tackles the big ideas that are both the results and the drivers of history, like war and race relations, money and debt, nationalism and globalization.
My only issue with Crash Course World History is Green talks too fast that I miss certain points in his discussions. This is easily solved by turning on the subtitles or setting the playback speed to .75x or three-quarters of normal speed. At under 12 minutes, a video crams too much information that, to be honest, I find very little of the content sticks. Or maybe it’s not for me, whose days of trying to impress the teacher during class recitation are long gone.
There’s still no substitute to a good history book and a teacher. High school history textbooks in the Philippines generally suffice to cover the prescribed curricula. For a little more depth, I recommend “World History: Patterns of Interaction,” published by McDougal-Littell and “World History & Geography” from McGraw-Hill. Available in low-priced Philippine editions, these books are twice as long as local textbooks, so they’re able to explain things in fascinating detail using accessible language.
More that the books, the teacher remains the prime and indispensable facilitator of history knowledge in the classroom, whether to encourage learners to be critical of what they read or to apply the lessons of history to understand our present or imagine our future.