Flocabulary: https://www.flocabulary.com/subjects/


It’s gotten Aussie kids rapping about long-dead American politicians … and had audiences laughing at poor old King George III, 200 years after he died. This is your Squiz Kids Shortcut to Hamilton—the podcast where we dive into the who, what, when, where, why and how of the big news stories. I’m Amanda Bower.

And I’m Bryce Corbett.

Bryce, this Shortcut is kind of personal, isn’t it? I saw Hamilton back when I was living in the US, after my kids listened to the soundtrack so much that we knew it off by heart. And you’re seeing it on New Year’s Eve in Sydney! I am SO EXCITED FOR YOU.

I’m so excited for me! Today, we’ll take you through WHO Alexander Hamilton was; WHY the musical about him has been a global smash hit; and WHAT else you can learn about through music.

Listen carefully – there’s a Squiz at the end!

Now Bryce, stop me if you feel like I’m spoiling anything… but these facts have been around for a couple hundred years now. Alexander Hamilton was born in the mid 1700s on a tiny Caribbean island called Nevis, but he was so obviously bright that the local community raised money to send him to get an education in New York City. Which, in the musical, is referred to as “The greatest city in the world.”

And he arrived in New York just as people were getting serious about independence from the British, yes?

That’s right, and he really threw himself into writing in favour of the 13 American colonies uniting, and if necessary fighting off the British. In the musical, you’ll hear them say that Hamilton wrote “like he was running out of time”. Over the course of his military and political career, he wrote A LOT, and was considered brilliant.

And he wrote letters for George Washington, who would eventually be the first president of the United States, when he was leading the revolutionary fight against England, right?

Exactly right. He also served on the battlefield, and in the battle of Yorktown, which is an AMAZING moment in the musical, he famously had his men remove the bullets from their guns as they formed a circle around the British. He didn’t want anyone accidentally firing into the air and giving them away… but how scary, to be approaching an armed enemy that way!

And once the Americans won the war, what did Hamilton do?

The short answer: a lot. He practiced as a lawyer, founded the Bank of New York, wrote a series of now-famous essays in support of the new American constitution; and was then appointed by President Washington as the first treasury secretary. He clashed with other founding fathers a LOT, and ended up being shot in a duel by the Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr. He packed a lot of life in, and he died before he turned 50. That is a very brief summary, but it covers most of the important stuff.

Other than the tragic death, it’s hard to imagine the life of a politician making for fascinating theatre. WHY is the Hamilton musical so popular?

Well, first of all, it isn’t COMPLETELY true to the facts. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote Hamilton and starred as Alexander when it first played on Broadway, took what’s known as “artistic liberties”. So for example, one of the most famous songs “My Shot”, when Alexander meets three other young revolutionaries, is imagining an event that never happened. They were all important friends of Hamilton’s, but that night in the bar never happened.

And I’m guessing that these Cabinet rap battles I’ve heard so much about probably didn’t happen, either?

Ah, no. Thomas Jefferson definitely did not taunt Hamilton by singing, “You’re never going to be president now…” But what Lin- Manuel Miranda says is that the drama of Hamilton’s life is just like a hip-hop drama… that happened 200 years ago. And Bryce, the music is truly a work of genius. I wish I could play some here, and not just sing it badly for you, but you know, copyright laws don’t really allow that.

And I’ve heard that everyone in the show isn’t just a great singer and dancer… they can really act, too.

Yeah, that was clear when the filmed version of the Broadway show came out on Disney plus. We got to see the amazing acting up close, and it was extraordinary… especially King George III. Lin Manuel cast actors of colour into all the roles of VERY white characters from history, many of whom were in fact slave owners. That was a really modern twist, and it’s in the Aussie production too. You’re going to see some incredibly talented indigenous singers and dancers from Australia and New Zealand.

I can’t wait! Now Amanda, you told me that when your son was 9, he got obsessed with Hamilton, then read a huge biography of him.

Yep! And that really launched his love of reading non-fiction. Can I put my teacher hat on, even though it’s the holidays, and tell you WHAT an amazing educational tool music can be?


Bryce, I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to talk about this. When Hamilton first hit the stage in New York, kids in my year 4 class suddenly had this passion for learning about the founding history of their country! It made it history come alive for them, and as an Australian, I found I had to learn pretty quickly, too! And it is amazing how things just STICK in your head when they’re part of a song. I mean, I bet if I say… “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down”

“Never gonna run around and desert you.”

Thank you, Rick Astley. Between us I think we have many brain cells dedicated to remembering his work. People who study education know that different people learn in different ways, but that for a lot of us, music really helps with memory. As a teacher I loved challenging kids to multiplication rap battles… they would change the words to a song they loved, and use it to help remember the maths—one really great one was doing the four times table to Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance… 4, 8, 12 16..

There’s also this great YouTube channel called Flocabulary, which is a library of educational raps, written by teachers with way more musical talent than I have. I’ve used it for everything from maths to history to English… and Bryce, they even have a “Week in Rap”, which is a wrap up of the news. So I expect to hear you rapping the first Squiz Kids Today podcast on January 31, please.


The S’Quiz

1. For which American President did Alexander Hamilton write letters?
2. How did Alexander Hamilton die? \
3. How is Bryce going to present the first Squiz Kids Today podcast for 2022?