Saturday, December 15, 2007
Like history? Learn it from a brilliant instructor and -- as my reader -- save money. Read below for how.
On a recent visit to the Getting Things Done in Academia blog, I found an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon posted. Calvin was taking a history test.
Test: When did the Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock?This reminded me -- because this has been the exact opposite of my experience -- of the course in European history I am currently taking from Scott Powell's series, A First History for Adults.
Calvin (writing as he answers the question): 1620.
As you can see, I've memorized this utterly useless fact long enough to pass a test question. I now intend to forget it forever. You've taught me nothing except how to cynically manipulate the system.
Calvin (speaking as he faces the reader): They say the satisfaction of teaching makes up for the lousy pay.
Fellow student Jason Crawford, guest-posting at Mr. Powell's blog, Powell History Recommends, explains this contrast very well in "Why I Love Powell History":
The biggest problem with most history classes is that they are simply boring (as anyone who took history in high school can attest). Out of those that manage to be engaging or at least entertaining, the biggest problem is that you, the student, don't retain the material you have learned: you may remember a few individual facts, but not the material as a sum. These classes are little better than storytime.There's more, and I have to say that I fully agree with this review.
Powell History solves both problems, easily putting it in the top 1% of history lectures or writing I have ever encountered.
First, the lectures are engaging. Scott tells history for what it is: a grand, dramatic narrative, an epic tale literally about the fate of the entire world. He carefully chooses the characters and events to focus on, and explains the causal connections, the link from one event to another.
Scott shows you the connections between the people, places, and events of history -- not only the causal connections in a sequence of events, but also, through his ... "periodizations", the connections between events in a period, such as the Reformation, the American colonial wars, or the growth of the union in the period before the Civil War. The result is that each period becomes a meaningful mental unit and a means by which the student can remember history.
I'm thrilled with Scott's courses. They are what I have been seeking ever since high school: a way not just to hear about history from someone else who knows it, but to learn it for myself. [bold added]
But it gets better. I have already noted here that on a per-lecture basis, Mr. Powell's courses are a bargain, comparable in cost to a night at the movies at their normal prices, but he's offering a holiday special at his site right now, with a special deal for readers of this blog!
Mr. Powell's 30-lecture Story of America, normally offered for $449.00, is going for $379.00. (See Kyle Haight's review.) His 20-lecture History of Europe (which I am currently taking) is $289.00, or $60.00 off. And the latest addition to his courses, the upcoming 10-lecture series, The Islamist Entanglement, is $199.00 for the holidays, or $50.00 off.
Those are pretty good deals, but not as good as you'll get as a reader of Gus Van Horn! If you sign up for any of these Powell History holiday specials and tell them I sent you, you will get an additional $20.00 off. (See PS below for how to receive the discount.) That would be Story of America for $359.00, History of Europe for $269.00, or The Islamist Entanglement for $179.00. That comes to $11.97, $13.45, or $17.90 per lecture, and you won't have to endure crowds, sit through previews beforehand, or feel the disappointment that is becoming synonymous with "Hollywood" these days.
Think about it. An engaging and well-organized presentation of history as it can and ought to be taught, in the comfort of your own home, for about the price of a movie and some snacks. Sounds like a great way to spend a few evenings to me!
Sounds like? Is. I'm taking one now myself, and Teller (Yes. Of Penn and Teller) is one of my classmates! And if you want to hear from others who have taken history from Mr. Powell, you can read their testimonials here.
So take a look, think about it, and sign up! You'll enjoy it!
PS: I should have been more clear. To receive this additional discount, you will need to email Mr. Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org and mention this referral when you sign up for the holiday rates.
12-16-07: Added PS.