Bill Gates wants to change how students learn history. As a recent feature in The New York Times Magazine details, the Microsoft founder and current richest man in the world went on a mission to change history curricula in the US after he became enamored with “Big History” — a series of DVD lectures from Australian professor David Christian. The DVD series “put forward a synthesis of history, biology, chemistry, astronomy and other disparate fields, which Christian wove together into nothing less than a unifying narrative of life on earth,” writes The Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin. In short, it’s a holistic approach to history, rather than a strictly chronological one. A lesson on the Big Bang theory, for example, “offered a complete history of cosmology, starting with the ancient God-centered view of the universe and proceeding through Ptolemy’s Earth-based model, through the heliocentric versions advanced by thinkers from Copernicus to Galileo and eventually arriving at Hubble’s idea of an expanding universe,” Sorkin writes.
Since discovering the videos in 2008, Gates has personally invested $10 million in the Big History Project, in the hopes of eventually creating an integrated history course for high schools around the country. The program launched in 2011 in just five high schools, Sorkin reports, but has surged in the three years since its inception.