I’m probably a power consumer of instructional videos on DVD or as downloads—on a wide range of subjects. But my favorite course of all time is called Big History, taught by David Christian. I wish everyone could take this course.
Big history literally tells the story of the universe, from the very beginning to the complex societies we have today. It shows how everything is connected to everything else. It weaves together insights and evidence from so many disciplines into a single, understandable story—insights from astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology, history, economics, and more.
David Christian developed his big history course at Macquarie University in Australia. When I came across his lectures a few years ago, he really blew me away. Here’s a guy who’s read across the sciences, humanities, and social sciences and brought it together in a single framework. It made me wish that I could have taken big history when I was young, because it would have given me a way to think about all of the school work and reading that followed. In particular, it really put the sciences in an interesting historical context and explained how they apply to a lot of contemporary concerns. I liked the course so much and thought it so important that I bought a lot of copies and gave them away to a lot of my friends.
I often hear that kids give up on science because they were intimidated by the math, or put off by dissections in biology. David got me thinking that big history could excite kids about science and learning in general. So we brought some great folks together—including a bunch of fantastic teachers—to create a free big history course for high school students. We suspect it’s a course that could belong in many high schools around the world, but we’re going to take our time to get it right in a few U.S. and Australian schools while also working to develop technology resources that make big history fun to learn and easy to teach. A lot of the course content will live online so that students can access it from home as well as the classroom.
Getting this done the right way is going to take some time. And I’m really excited to see the end result. If you’re an educator, I hope you’ll think about getting your school involved. If you’re a curious student, a parent or a lifelong learner like me, keep tabs on the Big History Project—learning more about it just might bring you to see the world in a different way.