April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Hank and John Green: Using Their Powers for Good

Anyone who works with teens should know about and embrace Hank and John Green. You can get to know the siblings through the VlogBrothers, a YouTube channel where Hank and John trade video conversations back and forth on every topic under the sun. This vlog inspired a host of followers christened Nerdfighters, not because they fight nerds, but because they are nerds who endeavor to be awesome.

As you probably know, John Green is the author of Looking for Alaska (Dutton, 2005), An Abundance of Katherines (Dutton, 2006), Paper Towns (Dutton, 2008), and this year’s Odyssey award winner, The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012), four titles sure to appeal to even your most reluctant readers. Dedicate 18 minutes of your life to watching his TED Talk entitled The Paper Town Academy. In this talk, he delivers the best response I’ve ever heard to the question, “Will this be on the test?” It’s worth printing out and putting on the walls of classrooms everywhere:

“Yeah, about the test… The test will measure whether you are an informed, engaged, and productive citizen of the world, and it will take place in schools and bars and hospitals and dorm rooms and in places of worship.You will be tested on first dates, in job interviews, while watching football, and while scrolling through your Twitter feed.The test will judge your ability to think about things other than celebrity marriages, whether you’ll be easily persuaded by empty political rhetoric, and whether you’ll be able to place your life and your community in a broader context.The test will last your entire life, and it will be comprised of the millions of decisions that, when taken together, will make your life yours.And everything, everything, will be on it…. I know, right?”

Hank Green co-founded DFTBA Records, a distribution network to help talented musicians find audiences. His own musical talents are evident in the song “This is Not Harry Potter.” The lyrics, all by themselves, are positively brilliant:

“And in the darkest hours, of my darkest nights

I found myself curled up with twilight

And I couldn’t help but wonder as I ravenously read

Can you avada kedavra the undead

’cause Edward Cullen totally has it comin’

and if he saw Voldemort he’d better start runnin’

Cause there’s not much that the dark lord and I

could agree on but I think that we would both hate that guy.”

I am eternally grateful to Hank for producing The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, a modern twist on Jane Austen’s story. My husband has tried reading Pride and Prejudice, really he has, and has valiantly stayed awake for portions of various movie adaptations of the book, but it wasn’t until Hank’s vlog version that the characters and plot became interesting to him.

Crash CourseIndividually, the brothers are talented and creatively prolific. Taken together, they are forces for good on our planet. For the last year, Hank and John have been teaching classes via YouTube. Hank Green earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Eckerd College and a master’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Montana. John Green graduated from Kenyon College in 2000 with a double major in English and religious studies. They both have the educational credentials for their YouTube tutorials in which Hank teaches biology and ecology, and John teaches world history and literature. The buzz phrase in education right now is “student engagement,” and you’ll certainly feel that when you view these incredible videos (CrashCourse and SciShow), which are gateways to engagement: funny, entertaining, and informative.

The brothers Green clearly love learning, reading, and exploring the world we all share.They proudly embrace the word “nerd” and they make learning cool, and all of our students will be stronger, wiser, and kinder having made their acquaintance.

For more on the Green brothers, see SLJ’s coverage of An Evening of Awesome, featuring Hank and John at Carnegie Hall.

SLJTeen header

This article was featured in our free SLJTeen enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month.

Empowering Teens: Fostering the Next Generation of Advocates
Teens want to make a difference and become advocates for the things they care about. Librarians working with young people are in a unique position to help them make an impact on their communities and schools. Ignite your thinking and fuel these efforts at your library through this Library Journal online course—April 24 & May 8.