Bill Gates plans to teach Australian man’s history course in schools worldwide

Sep 11, 2013

Billionaire Bill Gates is seeking to revolutionise the way history is taught in high schools across the world, based on the work of Australian academic Professor David Christian.


He designed a course called Big History which covers nearly 14 billion years of history from the Big Bang to the internet and beyond.

It gives students a wide-angle look at the universe and humanity's presence on the cosmic timeline, by combining the sciences, history and economics into one cohesive story.

Mr Gates has been so inspired by Professor Christian's work he has proposed a partnership to expand his teachings to all Australian and US high schools and, ultimately, classrooms around the world.

The course has already transformed history lessons for Year 10 students at Sydney's Redlands High School.

Written By: Kerry Brewster
continue to source article at abc.net.au

0 comments on “Bill Gates plans to teach Australian man’s history course in schools worldwide

  • 2
    Alan4discussion says:

    The outline description looks promising, but I have not seen the details.

    It is important to have a science based overview of the big picture, rather than scrappy disjointed bits of subjects.



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  • Yes, it does look promising. The idea of free on-line course material has been out there to the terror of the established text book industry, and its interlocking school board connections. I will be very interested to see how this impacts the text book fights in Texas and if the experience of what happened to Bill Nye while pushing his “Big Think” effort, is a model for what we can expect by way of push back. Dr. Steven Novella has been extensively involved in on-line course development and wrote about the Bill Nye experience at his (Novella’s) blog here.

    P.S. There is an article, just today, on the Americans United blog about the current push from Creationists to get back in the fight over Texas textbooks.



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  • I really hope that this course takes off. It would be more accessible to students, being presented as an integrated whole. It normally takes half a lifetime at least.



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  • I’m glad it’s “Australian academic Professor David Christian” and not “Australian academic Christian Professor David.” 😉

    Steve



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  • 6
    godsbuster says:

    I get the distinct impression those who have commented so far did not read all the way to the end of the article where this lurks:

    “All religions, all indigenous traditions, all origin stories provide a large map of where you are,” Professor Christian said. “Without that map there’s a sense in which you are intellectually lost and maybe ethically lost and I fear that’s the situation we are leaving students in today.”

    Without religious and indigenous traditions and origin stories we are intellectually lost?…ETHICALLY LOST?!? Mr. Christian will remain on probation till we hear the details on how he treats religion. In his talk here he appears not to mention it. That augurs about as well as his name does.



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  • When I studied history in high school it was mostly memorising lists of battle dates. Surely there is more to history than battles.



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  • 8
    Alan4discussion says:

    In reply to #6 by godsbuster:

    “All religions, all indigenous traditions, all origin stories provide a large map of where you are,” Professor Christian said. “Without that map there’s a sense in which you are intellectually lost and maybe ethically lost and I fear that’s the situation we are leaving students in today.”

    Without religious and indigenous traditions and origin stories we are intellectually lost?…ETHICALLY LOST?!? Mr. Christian will remain on probation till we hear the details on how he treats religion.

    If it deals with these issues in a manner similar to Richard’s approach in “The Magic of Reality”, there should be no problem, – but like you, I have yet to see the details.



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  • In reply to #6 by godsbuster:

    I get the distinct impression those who have commented so far did not read all the way to the end of the article where this lurks:

    “All religions, all indigenous traditions, all origin stories provide a large map of where you are,” Professor Christian said. “Without that map there’s a sense in whi…

    You couldn’t possibly tackle ‘Big History’ without mentioning the different belief and ethical systems. The fact that the content goes back 14 billion years rules out any creationist interpretations for a start. Armed with the knowledge of the whole framework of human development should equip students with a great basis for seeing things in perspective. If the course completely ruled out a religious interpretations it would not be taught at Redlands, a Church of England Girls School.



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  • In reply to #8 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #6 by godsbuster:

    “All religions, all indigenous traditions, all origin stories provide a large map of where you are

    I don’t think this is as bad as it first sounds. He wants to study all religions and all indigenous traditions to see how they influences ethical beliefs. You can’t very well study ethics without religion.

    His only error is thinking there is no morality without religion or myth. Even non human species have rules of conduct, e.g. reef fish who clean teeth.



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  • 11
    godsbuster says:

    In reply to #8 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #6 by godsbuster:

    “If it deals with these issues in a manner similar to Richard’s approach in “The Magic of Reality”, there should be no problem, –

    Agreed, but I suspect that in order to make this palatable to the godbothering, Evolution denying superpower he might mealy mouth the “we got our ethics from religion” meme. Also objectionable is the appeal to authority – where Bill Gates is brandished as some sort of benighted imprimatur of having the right stuff. The article does it. And, more tacky yet, Christian does it in his talk. Meanwhile Gates is backing a highly dubious if not pernicious mass circumcision campaign in Africa based on bogus science.



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  • 12
    godsbuster says:

    In reply to #9 by Nitya:

    In reply to #6 by godsbuster:

    I get the distinct impression those who have commented so far did not read all the way to the end of the article where this lurks:

    “All religions, all indigenous traditions, all origin stories provide a large map of where you are,” Professor Christian said. “Without…

    Please see reply number 11



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  • .In reply to #12 by godsbuster:

    In reply to #9 by Nitya:

    In reply to #6 by godsbuster:

    I get the distinct impression those who have commented so far did not read all the way to the end of the article where this lurks:

    “All religions, all indigenous traditions, all origin stories provide a large map of where you are,” Professor…

    My concern is that it won’t be taught in much depth if it’s only given in year 10.

    I can’t see what Bill Gate’s support for circumcision has to do with the course.



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  • If Big History is supposed to give a panoramic view of history, perhaps its corollary can be created, too: Small History: a microscopic delve into the stuff that makes up the universe.



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  • 15
    godsbuster says:

    In reply to #13 by Nitya:

    .In reply to #12 by godsbuster:

    In reply to #9 by Nitya:

    In reply to #6 by godsbuster:

    I can’t see what Bill Gate’s support for circumcision has to do with the course.

    That would be because that has nothing to do with the course. It has to do with showing that just because Gates is involved with something doesn’t add legitimacy to it. Either you didn’t read the 2 sentences that preceded the circumcision reference or they were so badly written that you couldn’t understand them. In the latter case, my apologies.



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  • 16
    rdsomem says:

    Chill people.

    Big History is by far my favorite course of the Teaching Company/The Great Courses (http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=8050). It presents a fluid narrative from the big bang to the present day and ventures beyond. I cannot recommend this course enough.

    Throughout the whole 48 lectures Prof. Christian keeps asking the question “How do we know this?” and proceeds to answer it. THAT is why I like it so much. It’s not a bunch of facts brought down from authorities above. At every stage you learn how scientists know what they know.

    Regarding the (very few) religious and mythological passages in the course; they’re there because we’re not the first ones trying to answer origin questions, and the answers provided by our ancestors have mattered for a long, long time. They’re the product of the collective knowledge of groups of people all around the world. At risk of sounding like Deepak Chopra, that yearning to know what’s out there and how it all began, it’s what connects us with our ancestors.

    Again, I can’t recommend this enough.



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  • 17
    godsbuster says:

    In reply to #16 by rdsomem:

    Chill people.

    Regarding the (very few) religious and mythological passages in the course;…

    Religion has infested and saturated all civilization to its core. Today more than ever it balkanizes and cretinizes it. Has it occurred to you to even wonder why religion -such a powerful, omnipresent and influential a phenomenon in history would receive such scant mention in a history course?

    Here’s a partial answer from one of the reviews: “He is certainly not at all religious and strives all too evidently to avoid any spiritual facet of the human experience.”

    Perhaps professor Christian realizes that if you’re going to be truthful – important to the reputation of a history teacher – there’s not much good to be said about religion. So if you want your course to be adopted mums the word to avoid offense.



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  • In reply to #17 by godsbuster:

    In reply to #16 by rdsomem:

    Chill people.

    Regarding the (very few) religious and mythological passages in the course;…

    Religion has infested and saturated all civilization to its core. Today more than ever it balkanizes and cretinizes it. Has it occurred to you to even wonder why religion -such…

    So far I’ve only watched a couple of minutes of the You Tube talk given by DC. Not sure what I’ll think by the end of it. It seems to me that you may know more about him than I do. Does he have an agenda that’s not readily apparent?

    On the little information we’ve been given, the course sounds great. The fact the Bill Gates is prepared to fund the online course seems to add an air of respectability to it. As far as billionaires go, I thought he ( Gates) was one of the good ones. No? Apart from advocating mass circumcision of course, ( definitely not good)!

    I must confess that my reading of your reply was done in haste, as were the couple of comments I made. I was in a hurry, but I’m not now. I plan to watch the rest of the You Tube talk and see if he has some deeper motive that would really dampen my original enthusiasm.



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  • 19
    rdsomem says:

    “Does he have an agenda that’s not readily apparent?”
    He has this sinister plan of explaining the evidence for the big bang, the formation of stars, planetary systems, life, the rise of mankind, etc. He truly is a devious one.

    Seriously people, chill. This is science education at its finest.

    btw, I can’t bring myself to dignify rabid godsbuster with a reply. He/she/it didn’t read a word I wrote before foaming in the mouth.



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  • 20
    godsbuster says:

    In reply to #18 by Nitya:

    In reply to #17 by godsbuster:

    In reply to #16 by rdsomem:

    Chill people.

    It seems to me that you may know more about him than I do. Does he have an agenda that’s not readily apparent?
    On the little information we’ve been given, the course sounds great. The fact the Bill Gates is prepared to fund the online course seems to add an air of respectability to it. As far as billionaires go, I thought he ( Gates) was one of the good ones. No? Apart from advocating mass circumcision of course, ( definitely not good)!
    I must confess that my reading of your reply was done in haste, as were the couple of comments I made. I was in a hurry, but I’m not now. I plan to watch the rest of the You Tube talk and see if he has some deeper motive that would really dampen my original enthusiasm…

    I didn’t mean to insinuate any nefarious agenda or even any agenda at all on his part beyond wishing to educate. It is just his seeming avoidance to discuss religion and portraying it for what it is i.e. BS, that I feel we should no longer tolerate in education. Especially if you’re coming out claiming some marvelous new approach to it.

    My beef with Gates again is not so much him (although his business practices in MS left much to be desired) but rather a tendency in society to defer to celebrity and $ instead of evaluating something purely on its own merits.



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  • In reply to #20 by godsbuster:

    In reply to #18 by Nitya:

    In reply to #17 by godsbuster:

    In reply to #16 by rdsomem:

    Chill people.

    It seems to me that you may know more about him than I do. Does he have an agenda that’s not readily apparent?
    On the little information we’ve been given, the course sounds great. The fact the Bil…

    I’ve just finished watching the link you provided #6. If anything, I’m even more impressed with this fellow and his course . I think he puts religions into perspective when he says that all cultures have their origin stories, then sets about presenting our origin story with EVIDENCE!

    I think the conclusions are there to be drawn by the students. I can’t see too many of them finishing the course with their faith intact.

    His enthusiasm for the subject is infectious. All in all, I’d give it a big ‘thumbs up’!



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  • 22
    Dover Beach says:

    True. But it would have been wonderful if it were Australopithecus man’s history course to be taught! In reply to #5 by Agrajag:

    I’m glad it’s “Australian academic Professor David Christian” and not “Australian academic Christian Professor David.” ;-)Steve



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