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I spent $120 to learn from George Bush. Should you?

If you watch Youtube, you’ve probably seen hundreds of ads for a website called Masterclass. This place somehow finds a way to get the world's greatest in all sorts of subjects and has them create an online class where they talk about how you can improve your skills in their subject. Whether it’s Gordon Ramsay teaching you how to cook, John Legend teaching you how to write songs, or George W. Bush teaching you how to be an “authentic leader”.

It was this last one that intrigued me the most, knowing that Bush’s presidency is not usually seen in too positive a light by people with beliefs similar to mine. That being said, I know very little about what he actually did, and I thought it would be funny to take this class. I don’t know, all of my article ideas are way better in my head.

The service (as of now, the price seems to have changed at least a few times in the past) costs $10 a month for access to all the classes on the site (of which there are a substantial amount), but you can only buy a year at a time, making the lowest investment a hundred twenty dollars. For me, this is only an hour's work at most, so I quickly decided to give in and pay for it (another deciding factor was the fact that you can refund your purchase within thirty days).

Ignoring my lack of transitions, how's the actual class?

Not great. DEFINITELY not worth $120. The whole service is yet to be seen, but I really don't feel like I got too much out of this class that I couldn't have learned from a Ted Talk or Youtube video. It's mostly basic advice, like "be humble, build relationships," that sort of stuff. At one point he straight up tells you that it's necessary to "work together". Never mind, it's all worth it.

That's not to say I got nothing of value from it: although this isn't the purpose of the video, I did find enjoyment from it as you would from a documentary, finding it interesting to watch Bush talk about his thoughts and ideas behind some of the decisions he made across his presidency. A lot of them I knew nothing about, like embryonic stem cell research and hurricane Katrina. Obviously, I took most of the subjective things he said with a huge grain of salt, knowing he was gonna be biased. Nevertheless, I was entertained by it.

Another thing is that this class doesn't seem to have a clear idea of who its audience is. In the beginning, he acknowledges that very few of the people watching this class will become president and that it's mostly going to consist of leadership advice that you can use not only in any professional position, but in daily life as well. However, during the middle of the video, he talks about somewhat president-related things, and although there are some general skills he relates to ordinary life, he doesn't seem to have a super firm idea about what the general person would find useful in a slightly smaller-scale leadership position.

Which brings me to another thing: Who is writing and deciding the actual content of these videos? I assume Masterclass has writers to help make the class better, and obviously editors, producers, and whatnot. But it's hard to gauge how much of what George Bush (or anyone else) is saying is their idea, and how much of it is Masterclass' idea. There's not a single thing I could find that discusses any aspect of the creation of these classes in any way, and although I'm not demanding that Masterclass release a full breakdown of who their team consists of and how every episode is made, there's no bit of behind-the-scenes information or footage at all, which is just weird to me.

Overall, this program just doesn't seem to satisfy any demand that too many people have. If you want a straight-up step-by-step tutorial on how to do something specific, Youtube is gonna be way better and more specific than anything you'll find on Masterclass. If you want quick and effective improvement in a subject, your efforts will be better spent somewhere else. This random article I found two seconds ago states it well: "[Masterclass] is aimed at the more casual learner, who may want to get to know an instructor’s mindset as opposed to hands-on advice. After all, a 2-hour course by Serena Williams won’t make anyone substantially better at playing tennis." Like I said, if you just want more insight into a specific person's mindset regarding their craft, then you're more likely to get what you want, although, like I also said earlier, I have no idea how much of what they say is their own words and ideas.

As of right now, I haven't explored the website too much, having just watched Bush's and a bit of a few others. The $120 I paid does last for a full year, although I plan to refund that if I can remember to do so. It's really hard to tell right now whether I'd end up watching too many more of these over the next year, nor is it easy to know whether it would be out of genuine interest or a desire to feel like my money was spent on something worthwhile. While it's hard for me to make a conclusion for myself, I hope I've provided enough information to aid you in making your own decision.

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Reda Rountree
Reda Rountree
Oct 06, 2022

This headline was intriguing, I loved this idea for an article. I also loved that you took a Masterclass from someone with an opposite political ideology from your own; that makes for a way better read/article. At one point, I’d really contemplated buying the Neil Gaiman masterclass, or Ava DuVernay‘s screenwriting one, so I’m glad you delved into, “who’s producing this, anyway?” because I seriously doubt Neil Gaiman wrote his own script for that class. Thanks for saving me money — don’t forget to get your refund!

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