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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Every Atheist Parent Needs: John Green

My stepdaughter is smart as hell. She’s far ahead of her years when it comes to most things, and she’s able to put together shit that even eludes me and her father. If you give her any sort of tech, she’ll have it mastered by the end of the day. She’s absolutely brilliant, but she hates school, she hates the idea of learning, and she most definitely hates words like, “science”, “history” and “math”.

She doesn’t understand that half the things she loves and is great at, are mathematical in nature.

She doesn’t get that her favourite activities are impossible without science.

She has no idea how chilling, triumphant and terrifying history can be.

The reason, is because schools have no fucking clue how to teach math, history or science. The best way I have ever heard it said, was by Neil:

I have always maintained that the way math should be taught to children, is through real life situations. I’m not talking about written problems where Jack has four apples and Jill asks for two. I’m talking about hands on experiences, away from the desk where kids are forced to use quick logical thinking to complete their tasks. Budgeting events, seating arrangements, polling, cooking, lemonade stands, foot races based on geometry, etc. Under no circumstances should children or teens be taught math with abstract formulas in black ink on white paper. Expecting success from that is just as ridiculous as expecting god to answer your prayers.

The fact remains, schools do not teach this way yet. They’re still hoping for a fucking miracle and I came to the conclusion a long time ago, that if I want my kids to love these things, it’s 100% on me to get them there.

With my stepdaughter, who is 11, I struggle. I don’t see her as often as I would like, but when I do, I try to get some teaching in. For example, one night we were watching a movie and a kid in the movie exclaimed about how much they love history. My gorgeous girl quickly quipped, “I hate it!”.

Now, you know Godless Mom paused the movie.

I gasped and asked her, “How can you hate history? It’s so incredibly fascinating!”

“No, it’s not.” She’s 11. She knows everything. Duh.

“Are you kidding?” I asked, and went immediately into the story of Rasputin. This is my go-to story for anyone who thinks history is dull. The fucking miracle-working monk, who practically ran Russia and could not be killed. That led to the story of the revolution and how it was speculated that two Romanovs may have survived their family’s massacre, and that there is a headstone near us, in Burnaby, BC that claims to mark the grave of Alexei, heir apparent to the Russian throne, sufferer of hemophilia and the sort of boy who should never have been able to survive a bloody massacre of any kind. I told her about Anastasia and that Disney movie of the same name is loosely based on this story.

As I spoke her eyes widened. She started asking questions. I pulled out Nicholas and Alexandra and other history books (Godless Mom has an insatiable book problem and you would be hard pressed not to find a book about any topic on my shelves) and looked at pictures.

This led to communism, to the 1st and 2nd World War, the Nazis and as we started in on Israel, I realized it was 3am and we had to go to bed.

The takeaway, though, was that she loved it.

Sure, some kids love math the way it’s taught in schools. Some students excel in status quo science classes. Some children even love history, no matter how dull you make the lessons.

But they are in a minority. Most children walk away from school with just shreds of these subjects being retained, and a deep sense of loathing for learning them.

All it takes to change this, is a slightly different approach and there is one man who is proving the truth in that statement with just about everything he does.

That man is John Green.

It would be easier to list the things that John Green is not, because he appears to have accomplished about everything so far. He’s a Dad, a husband, an author, a vlogger, an entrepreneur, an educator, an entertainer, an adoring brother, a philanthropist and so much more that he has been chosen by Time magazine as one of the most influential people in the world.

The best thing that John Green is though, is a tool for parents to use to get their kids passionate about learning. He is not an atheist, but he sure as hell acts like one.

John Green and his brother Hank, together make up the Vlog Brothers – a YouTube channel that was one of the first instances of vlogging. The two brothers were so successful with their vlogging, and it led to them founding VidCon – the largest real life meet-up of online video content creators and their fans.

The two were passionate about teaching the love of learning, and went on to create Sci-Show and Crash Course – two educational YouTube channels that are truly and undeniably fun, extraordinarily well done, and literally changing how people feel about learning as I write this.

One of my favourite Sci-Shows:

and one of my favourite Crash Courses:

John Green has also written a string of novels for young adults that transcend that genre and have Mommies and Daddies the world over stealing their teens John Green books to read. They are intensely beautiful, gut-wrenching and emotional and they’re written in a voice so authentic and so relatable that by the end of them, you feel like you’ve made a friend.

My personal favourites are Paper Towns and The Fault In Our Stars, the latter of which has been adapted for film and will be out in June:

John Green has made the near-impossible not only possible, but fun as hell. When you feel like you’ve lost the war against your kid’s hatred of learning, use this secret weapon. They have no chance up against this man’s infectious passion for knowledge.


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