Review: Crash Course World History


"Mr. Green, is this going to be on the test?"

"Yeah, about the test. the test will measure whether your are an informed, engaged, and productive citizen of the world. And it will take place in schools and bars and hospitals and dorm rooms and places of worship. You will be tested on first dates, in job interviews, while watching football and while scrolling through your Twitter feed. The test will judge your ability to think about things other than celebrity marriages, whether you will be easily persuaded by empty political rhetoric, and whether you will be able to place your life and your community in a broader context. The test will last your entire life and it will be comprised of the millions of decisions that when taken together make your life yours and everything, EVERYTHING will be on it.

I know, right? So pay attention!

I'm writing this less than 10 minutes after finishing the final episode of Crash Course World History, and I am extremely sad that it's over. I have spent the past month or so watching one episode of Crash Course per day, while eating my lunch at work, and it has been such a beautiful and entertaining respite from my day, which largely consists of people knocking on my office door and asking dumb questions. However, I came home today and was torn between the desire to spend my Friday night lying on the couch and zoning out, and the guilt trip to actually do something productive when it occurred to me: I can watch Crash Course on my PlayStation! I did this by logging into Khan Academy (the provider for this course) on the system's web browser, and then full-screening the embedded video on the web page. This resulted in me binge-watching the final 11 episodes of Crash Course (although my husband scolded me for hogging the Internet). But all of this culminates in me saying that John Green is a hero to online education. Seriously, have a look at his TED Talk if you're not sure that you want to take this course, or indeed learn online in general. His passion for encouraging people to educate themselves is what ultimately led to the creation of Crash Course World History (which premiered on YouTube before it was adopted by Khan Academy), and that passion shows through in every single episode.

Each video takes a chunk of history, often a chunk that is seriously misinterpreted by typical history courses, and examines it in a way that is funny and engaging. It also is meant to stimulate the viewer to go out and do their own research further into topics that interest them. The full course consists of 41 videos at around 10 minutes a pop, though I could easily have been spellbound by 500. John Green makes a concerted effort to cover the massive span of human history in a non-Eurocentric manner (and he makes a big point of this) in what little time he has, and he strives to inspire his audience to think unconventionally about the past, present, and future.

If you have ever thought history to be a boring topic, I challenge you to watch ONE episode of this series. I absolutely loved it and I hope you do as well.

Since the writing of this post, Crash Course World History is no longer available on Khan Academy. It is, however, still available on YouTube.