An Open Letter to Students Returning to School

An Open Letter to Students Returning to School


Good morning Hank, it’s Tuesday. Today I’d like to deliver an open letter to students returning to school. Dear students returning to school: Not to speed your re-entry into formal education with a pop quiz or anything, but in what year do you think primary education became mandatory for all American children? 1918. Germany had primary compulsory education from the late 18th century, in Japan, thanks to the Meiji reforms, by 1900, 90% of Japanese kids were in school. in England, it happen around 1880, but regardless of where you live, primary education became a requirement sometime after 1775. That probably seems like a long time ago to you, but if you look at like human history since the Agricultural revolution the entire period of time that has featured compulsory education anywhere in the world looks like… this You’ll also note this two hundred and fifty year period has been a pretty good run for humans featuring, you know, steam engines, the internet, antibiotics, skyscrapers, a stunning increase in life expectancy, home pizza delivery, water purification plants, and landing a freaking Mini Cooper on Mars. Needless to say this is not a coincidence. Take for example, Adam Steltzner, the lead engineer on the Curiosity Rover’s descent and landing team. He went to a publicly funded high school before getting in both his Bachelor’s degree and his Doctorate from publicly subsidized universities. So let me ask you a question, students about to return to school. How fraking psyched are you for the end of summer? How psyched are to have the opportunity to learn about the Universe and its inhabitants for several hours a day at no cost to you? The answer of course, is that if you’re anything like I was, you’re not psyched at all. I mean, a) you might be a bit of a social outcast.
I know I was. I never really learned how to shave, and that-that’s fine now, but back then, when I had like the Sony My First Mustache,
it was just a disaster. And b) you may often feel like
your studies are mind-numbing, instead of mind-stimulating. Like who wants to read the Taming of the Shrew? You basically have to translate it from Shakespeare into English, which is ridiculous because there is already an excellent filmic translation available in the form of Ten Things I Hate About You. So if you’re anything like me, you’re gonna spend a lot of time whining that 1) none of this will ever be useful in your real life And 2) your teachers are stupid. And 3) math is really hard and you’ll never understand it, ditto physics, history is boring, French is just an endless series of je ne sais pas literature is an impossible hunt for symbols, and physical education is an oxymoron. Well here’s the thing. When you watch the Curiosity Rover land, it is far more moving and exciting if you understand the physics, and the math, and the history behind that moment. French is useful because the French do speak English, but they pretend not to. And it’s not only literature that’s symbolic, all communication among people is symbolic. As is consciousness itself. And physical education is not an oxymoron, because your body is not born knowing how to do this! But yes, your teachers may be stupid. So are you! So am I! So is everyone. (except Neil deGrasse Tyson) The whole pleasure of being a human is in being stupid, but learning to be less stupid together! But more important than all of that, you need to remember that school is not about you! School doesn’t exist for your benefit, or for the benefit of your parents. Schools exist for the benefit of me. The reason I pay taxes for schools, even though I don’t have a kid in school, is that I am better off in a well-educated world. Public education isn’t a charity project, I pay for your schools because
I want you to grow up and make my life better. I want you to to make me beautiful books that will bring me pleasure and consolation, I want you to make me cooler cars for me to drive, and drugs so that I can live a longer, healthier life. I’m paying for your education in the hopes that you’ll invent a microwave pizza with actually crispy crust, And that you’ll spread the availability of the internet So that I can get more YouTube views in Zambia. You education isn’t just about you, your nation is making an investment in you because they believe that you are worth it. So the next time you’re like half-asleep in class, fantasizing about being a kid chosen for a special mission, or wizard school or whatever, please remember something: You are special! And you’ve been chosen for a special mission that was denied to 99.9% of all humans ever. We need you! We believe in you! And we’re counting on you. Best wishes, John Green. Hank, quick postscript for people nerdy enough to be interested in education outside of class, Please check out CrashCourse and SciShow, our educational initiatives, link in the doobly-doo. And for those of you nerdy enough to dream about being a Time-Nanny for an Evil Baby Orphanage, I have great news! A professional gaming company is Kickstarting an Evil Baby Orphanage card game. It looks really cool, so check that out as well, link in the doobly-doo. Hank, congratulations on Curiosity not crashing into Mars, I know that’s like the highlight of your year, I will see you on Fri-

100 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Students Returning to School

  1. This is so important. I remember hearing my dads friends complaining about taxes and how it is spent on schools. They said that it was unfair they had to contribute to that when they didn't even have kids. That is ridiculous and absurd, but they aren't the only ones with that mentally unfortunately. Things like education and health shouldn't just be free because its a basic human right, but also because it's for the greater good.

  2. This video introduced me to Vlogbrothers. Since then, I've watched it at the end of every single summer. I'm going to college for the first time tomorrow. Thanks, John.

  3. The government does not invest money in schools for the welfare of the child; If not to ensure social order through education using teachers; And these in turn comply without question an educational system; In this way they establish the norms that will regulate the individual; Whose aim is the moral, physical and intellectual control of the population, seeks to produce individuals by means of specific (cellular) technologies for their social insertion. Not any insertion, but that which allows the reproduction of the economic system in favor of a few and the worst they do with the money paid by citizens in taxes; That derive from our work. And attention if the student fails to define himself when he leaves high school will suffer, because if you are not classified for any school, Will be destined to "safeguard the homeland" or of employee for life.

  4. I would enjoy the school system if it actually taught me anything, as opposed to reviewing everything I learned in 1-4 grade at a Montessori school.

  5. This is like you were put in prison and told to be grateful for food and accommodation. Well, USA record incarceration rate strangely correlates with live live expectancy and IT revolution, because of which you broadcast this video. 95% of what I was taught in school was useless in both my personal life and in my higher education and this 5% is what I learned myself from books and Internet before classes took place, so don't put that s. on me, that without school I'd be dumb. Without it I'd be as wise as I was finishing my degree before even applying to collage.

  6. I'm 18 and have never shaved (and am male), there was about a one year period where people said I should shave, and after that where more "Oh, you have a beard (now). Cool."

    I also get a disturbing amount of requests to stroke my beard.

  7. I'd be exited for school if I had enough time for physics in my schedule, if I hadn't taken literally every math class my school offers already, or if sociology (The only class in my schedule that seems interesting other than chemistry) were in the first half of the year instead of the second.

  8. I also if I was only taught by public school, nothing else other than social skills and how to eat and drink, even if I got nothing but Straight As, I wouldn't make it in life, first of all, school got rid of driving education, so no car, and also I'm not sure that you're taught to cook, so no food other than from your parents.

  9. if what you described is what you pay money for, then I can tell you now, that's not what tax money goes into. Schooling (not education) is does in literally the worst possible way for children and they we point to the ridiculous extremes of countries like japan and South Korea whose practises in education become the number one reason for suicide in their young people, and what they do to keep up is completely unethical. and yet, they're the bastions of schooling (not education) because it's cheap and industrial-line churning out of faulty "products" stays in line with everything else we do. Education is more like having your mind blown on wikipedia when looking up what google[x] does or the philanthropic contributions towards fixing the unjust world after procrastinating on your homework because it's tedious, uninteresting, and wasted on people forced to do things. I don't remember much of my GCSE maths because despite my wonderful abilities to bluff intelligence in subjects I'm not strong or interested in, I don't remember it. If I was made to retake my GCSE exams now, despite my mantra that "I always remember more than I think I do", I would, guaranteed, do worse and when you're of a personality type that only puts your heart into stuff you care about, that is, chemistry, space, computing, Transhumanism, theological interpretations, and drawing, School is a very bad thing. I hated drawing in school. I hated it because I hate boring, uninteresting still life and hyper realistic faces, and I will burn Picasso as a heretic so he can never invent cubism because I consider it utter nonsense, but still. and then I encountered something that wasn't that. and now, years after doing art for the last time, I enjoy art, and it's multimedia expressions. standardisation is useless, and thus schooling is a mathematical failure, and one of the worst examples of irrelevance being integral to our society, except for Representational democracy (direct democracy is entirely superior in every way except scalability and that's gonna fix over time anyway)

  10. Quoi? Bien sûr je ne parle pas anglais! Pourquoi je regarde un YouTuber anglophone? Trop des questions! Allez à vos écoles publiques et rappelez-vous bien que nos universités sont publiques et excellentes aussi.

  11. I enjoy helping my students understand chemistry. The best experience you can have in a classroom is when students finally understand a concept that they have been struggling with and their eyes light up.

  12. I cried. I know people say this all the time but i had actual tears running down my face and i was like… why?

    And i kind of know. I needed to hear this without knowing how much i did. I've been back in school after fall break and my teachers are stupid but I'm supposed to be fuckin Einstein and I'm not.

    All my life I've been fine at school. I was a little bit above average. I'm probably pretty smart. Smart enough that for my life until now I was able to sucsessfully go to school and enjoy life. But most of all to score enough points to be content with myself without having to work myself into damnation.

    Now I am in 10th grade in a german Gymnasium which is basically the smart people high school. I just entered a new part of it called Oberstufe that just flips the entire system so that everything i learned and how i learned it seems absolutely worthless and I know that our system is not bad but just by going up one year i stopped being able to understand anything and i try and i just dont know anything all while my exams just got 5 times more important.

    Im drowning. It seems like im supposed to have become Einstein while i went from decently smart to actual zombie.

    All my happiness comes from the hobbies i have that i force myself to go to despite just not having the energy or motivation because i want to actually live and the internet that im on and stay up way too late for to fill the void because it makes me… feel.

    I am floating in a blurr of tiredness with single spots of light that i hold on to with everytjing i have because i cant see anymore.

    I am relieved that i still fear death and pain because i sometimes dont know if i want to live anymore.

    I dont even remember what this video said so i am going to watch it again.

    But it made me feel. It made me feel a little bit better i think.

    Thank you John Green.

    PS to anyone that read this: i dont apologize for being a mess but i kind of want to right now

  13. My class doesn't foster such an environment that makes a Community of Learners. They're quite annoyed with learning, school and intellectualism ( Some are even disgusted to be a ' nerd ')

    I feel that this environment discourages me from enjoying learning. What should I do?

  14. 3:01–3:06, Preach it brother!!! The rest was more of a, very well said, mental exercise to examine the world surrounding us. Thanks a lot!

  15. I find it extraordinary that you believe any of that is universal. We're not all that fortunate. Sometimes it is exactly as soul-crushing and hopeless and boring and stupid as the kids will have you believe.

  16. Dear John, I have been really struggling to motivate myself for uni recently. I am studying the subject I have dreamed about since primary school, but lately studying felt a little pointless. Thank you for reminding me how privileged I am to be able to study what I want and to take up the career I have dreamed about for so long. I will be going back to work now, dftba

  17. Investment in education should be a investment in humanity. That's why it is so sad that many governments don't consider it to be a priority.

  18. I have a lot of personal experiences, both from my own childhood and from being a mom, with good, interesting schools as well as stifling, (though high performing,) traditional public schools. Now that I've watched my little one go through a few years of conventional public schools, I can see why so many kids hate school. From day one, schools need to be teaching in a way that expresses that knowledge is meaningful and relevant for each one of us. For instance, when you introduce math, explain to some degree how math and numerals were developed in early history. Explain to the children that once upon a time, like them, no human knew how to do math but we learned slowly over the course of our shared human story just as they will learn together over their lifetimes. We should raise our children up to see themselves as a part of the grand continuum of humanity's never-ending story of learning and growth. But we don't do that. We sit kids down at a desk from a very young age and condition them to follow instructions whether doing so is meaningful to them or not. It's just wrong. It's cruel even. We rob our children of a love of learning when we lead them to conflate learning with study. Study and following didactic instruction have their place but are only a small sliver of a person's educational experience overall and certainly should NOT be the focus of our attempts to educate our youngest learners. We don't teach our children how to learn and then we are surprised when they are not interested in it later. Smh, America. Smh.

  19. Nobody is saying that you don't need to learn or go to school! We're just saying the way we teach is wrong and we need to change it! This is probably the only video on youtube that says the modern education system is good the way it is.

  20. Takes five hours to find a few inventors who actually went to school and did't drop out EUREKA! Now I know the few people to put in my video!

  21. I’m watching this while doing algebra and suffering but I think about this video a lot when I feel the urge to stop caring about school and turn into a Jaded Teenager Who Does Not Care™️

  22. I feel much more motivated by your words than anything that i hear from school, not necessarily from my teachers, but also my friends who are just constantly complying about how tired they are. And i get it because i also feel like this, but the most ridiculous part of this complaining is that we all agree with the statement "I want to go home so i can learn".. But if you actually think about it, we also all agree that we're so lucky to be abe to learn in a such a creative program (we're ib students) than in our country's oriinal system, which is now so influenced by the government, to the point where history and national language textbooks and curriculum are being changed, the way the ppl above want them to be… It's frustrating and wrong and we also all agree that it's time for our generetion to change it all to better, even if it requires 4h of sleep every day.

  23. Thank you, John Green, for continually reminding me why I keep going to school. I just started a new semester of college, and I’m going into the education profession, and I watch this every time I start school anew.

  24. Schools shouldn't start at 8 or 7:30 something in the freaking morning. Lay back the rules on dress code because it's not the end of the world if a stomach, bare shoulder, bare knees, bare feet or even a bra strap is shown. Stop kids from raising their hands in class to ask questions or picking someone out without their hand raised to answer a question a teacher asks. Let kids ask their questions without their hands raised and allow them to go to the bathroom when they need to. Stop the annoying bell ringing and let the class end on the time because being held back and let out with only 5-10 minutes to get to the next one or to go to the bathroom and make it on time is impossible. Especially when there's hundreds of people in the hallways trying to get to class and your next class is in a completely different building. Cut back on homework because uh hello? Part time jobs and extracurricular activities exist. I have a few other words of advice but I think I've done enough here.

  25. I'm atm doing my bachelor's degree in molecular science and technology and I needed motivation to get out of bed and get to class, after a bad night's sleep. Thanks for reminding me that I used to really enjoy school and this is a privilege, not a stressful slow torture (man it feels like that sometimes).

  26. “No cost to you”
    John, do you realize that some of us go to private schools? In which you have to pay thousands of dollars (or at least your parents do) to get lessons?

  27. The quality of ones education, sadly relies on the motivation of the teacher. Some teachers were excellent when they were younger, but years of difficult students and teaching the same curriculum over and over again makes them unnecessarily strict and short-tempered. Some teachers spend a lot of time in elementary, then they get moved to teach older students,and can't control the class. Also, some teachers began teaching because they like kids. This of course isn't bad, (you don't want a teacher that doesn't like kids) but sometimes they don't know the material that well. On the contrary, some teachers are exemplary, they know the material well, they can control a class, will find ways to make learning fun, and can still enjoy teaching same material. I have been lucky enough to get most of the exemplary teachers, and that is probably why I am such a nerd. One thing I try to remember when I have the not as great teachers is, The situation is what you make of it. work your hardest, Try your best. if it doesn't work. just try and pass. If something other than what they teach in school is what you have a passion for; pursue that, and make sure you pass. If you don't like school, try not to stay in it forever.

  28. We watched this in social studies class today and when he said teachers are stupid the teacher Mr.Haxton says I hope that wasn't meant for me 😂😂

  29. All I really learned from gym class was how to be quiet while the teacher makes fun of everything I find interest in that isn’t gym or sports or school

  30. 2:24 The sentence 'Everyone is stupid except Neil deGrasse Tyson' is not aged well. He has made stupid mistakes.
    Ps I am also big fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson.

  31. I think your money is poorly invested there John. They used our money to create a babysitting service obsessed with trivial pursuit. It was structured for the industrial revolution to create obedient workers who can follow directions without questioning anything or being creative. It's not really built to focus on anyone's interests or strengths and groups people by age rather than academic understanding. Having dealt with a bunch of people in both internet and real life the results seem to be rather poor. I'm 30 and I'm still pissed at them for how much they made me feel like a prisoner instead of student.

  32. Judging by that tweet, unfortunately, we must now include Tyson with the rest of humanity, for we are all sometimes stupid.

  33. Dear YouTube recommendations
    I'm not going back to school this year so stop suggesting me back to school videos.
    Thanks!

  34. John, we all freaking love you. Only a week ago I have applied to go back to college to retake my English Language GCSE, and POOF this video appears on my newsfeed just now! This video has made me pumped full of energy, and I am thankful to be retaking a subject that means a lot to me. (due to my INCREDIBLY low grades back in high school… Didn't have ANY learning support whatsoever until a month before my exams… Helpful!) Xxx

  35. I just want to say how grateful I am that after 7 years, the closed captioning still adequately indicates that the last word of the video gets cut off

  36. It's been 7 years and this video is the only way for me to get back to school (tomorrow!) without feeling absolutely not psyched at all. Thanks John 🙂

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