We have the Greens to thank for an online education

A meditation on Crash Course, an educational Youtube channel by John and Hank Green

Aliya Gibbons, Staff Writer

Remember the guy in that Youtube video that your history teacher showed you? The one who wrote The Fault in Our Stars? Or the other guy that might have taught you bio? Those two are the Green brothers. They probably taught you a lot, and they can teach you even more.
Youtube is a bizarre corner of the internet. As one of the earliest forms of social media, and one that revolutionized the use of the internet, it contains a very strange combination of videos – everything from viral videos like “Charlie bit my finger,” to even more viral music videos like Baby Shark (Youtube’s most watched video with 12 billion views), to educational videos and social media influencer stunts. Youtube really has it all.
Sometimes the seemingly endless possibilities can lead to bad outcomes. Like any social media platform, the combination of fast information and feedback paired with the misguided understanding of complete anonymity can lead to all kinds of harmful or offensive content and comments that are mean and malicious. But there are parts of Youtube that are undeniably creating good. Hank and John Green are one example.
Their Youtube career started as two brothers living in different parts of the country making video entries back and forth. Now they run a nonprofit channel with a wide network of influence, 14.5 million subscribers, and over 1 billion video views that are all about education, for free.
The channel is called Crash Course (although their original channel is called Vlogbrothers), and if you went to high school in the United States (or even abroad), you have probably seen at least one of their videos – played in your class or on your own in a desperate late-night attempt to cram before a test.
Hank is the ‘STEM brother’ and made many of the Crash Course science videos in its early days as a channel. His Instagram biography reads “I may have taught you biology,” and he definitely has taught many of us. John is the ‘humanities brother,’ as the author of many young adult novels, his first series was on English literature and then history.
The channel has now grown well beyond the two of them with over 30 main series covering a wide array of subjects including statistics, philosophy, and economics, and with many side series like ‘office hours’ and a kid series. The wonder of Crash Course is not necessarily its growth or the breadth of knowledge that it provides, although that is certainly impressive in itself, it is the way the channel has revolutionized the idea of education. Short of an internet connection and a device (which of course, is a major challenge), Crash Course can not only help any student academically but it also provides free education and knowledge to anyone. You don’t have to be a student to learn.
Crash Course has gone on to create a side series ,“How to College,” and a side organization, Study Hall. The thought behind both of them is that 40% of all people who have student loans do not have or will not go on to have a degree. The three main obstacles to student success are money, the bureaucracy of college, and the difficulties of actually learning. “How to College” and Study Hall work to address all three of these obstacles. Study Hall works with Arizona State University to start an educational journey on Youtube and turn it into transferable credits at a third of the cost of a regular college course.
Hank and John Green are two brothers who have dedicated their adult lives to free, accessible, and entertaining education, not because it’s good business or for internet fame, but because they are passionate about what they know and about teaching others. And their passion shows, which is why I find them so entertaining, especially Hank, who is the main force behind the creation of Study Hall (and the creation of so many other independent and side series, too many to list). Hank also dedicates his other social media platforms such as Instagram to answering people’s questions from weird biology facts like being able to taste the saline in your IV to random inquiries like why space is dark when the sun and other stars are so bright.
Their original channel (Vlogbrothers) still exists today as video entries between brothers about “mid-morning existential” crises, which artists in the Louvre have ever seen a baby, AIs, and more. The Vlogbrothers channel is an oddball collection of videos that are always a little ridiculous but still somehow educational. The Green brothers may be cringy at times, but they are authentic in a way that is addicting, and they have taught me a lot. They could teach you a lot. They sure have taught our entire generation more than can be imagined.