The Khan Academy and the Snake Oil of Education Deform


——- Original Post———

The Huffington Post ran their Best in TED Talks for 2011. Coming in at number two is Salman Khan, whose online Khan Academy they tout as educational manna from heaven. His videos have made him the favorite “educator” of Bill Gates. Khan is a bright young man, an ivy-league graduate and perhaps the single best representation of what is wrong with the education deform movement.

Khan has a great backstory. He started out by tutoring a relative online. His lessons were very clear, helped along by a computer drawing program that helped the student visualize math concepts. Khan realized that, if he could do this with math, he could do this with any subject. The idea for the Khan Academy was born. Since then, he has used his own resources and time to make thousands of videos on a wide range of subjects.

First, who has the time and the resources to make thousands of educational videos? That’s right, an ivy-league grad who comes from money who does not have to worry about things like holding down a job. But, he is an educational innovator, right? What educator has ever used visuals and pacing when teaching new concepts? How about, MOST EDUCATORS? The first thing that came to mind when looking at Khan’s videos was, “hey, that is what I do.” All of my lessons start out basic and work up the ladder of complexity. I am helped along by visuals that I have either photocopied for my students or drawn on the board. (Yes, there is plenty to draw when teaching history.)

But, in the eyes of the general public, public school teachers who do this every day are lazy union bums who are afraid of the Khan Academy’s awesome, cutting-edge pedagogy. The way I see it, there are only two differences between Khan and most teachers I know: 1) we are not wealthy and so Americans do not automatically worship everything we say and 2) we teach in the flesh and not on a screen. We do not have the time to make thousands of videos because we are too busy dealing with real life children with real life learning and behavior issues.

“Oh, but the student can go at their own pace with Khan Academy videos.” Yeah, that is a great argument. Apparently, the pause button on youtube will be the savior of the education system. A kid can stop a lesson whenever their cell phone rings or whenever they want to do some facebooking. There will be no teacher or parent there requiring their kids have even a modicum of an attention span. I wonder if this is the type of education Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg or Arne Duncan would want their own kids to have. I forgot, the “Academies” they send their children to have real teachers with small class sizes. The rest of us get “virtual” academies like Khan’s. It is perfect training for all of the virtual jobs, homes and relationships our kids will have when they are grown.

The last refuge of the Khan cheerleader is “this is not the solution to our education problem, it is just one more tool educators can use.” I would believe that if Khan was not co-opted by the Gates Foundation. I would believe that if Khan had locked himself up in a dingy basement somewhere making these videos, then networked with educators across the country and said “here, you can use this for your students, it is a learning aide”. He would be a true philanthropist and educator in that case. Instead, he has allowed himself to become a deformer shill and believes in his own propaganda that his videos represent a paradigm shift in education.

No, Salman Khan represents what is wrong with the deform movement. He assumes that he is the first to use what amounts to a very basic teaching technique. The assumption is that teachers in public schools have not discovered this inspired, cutting edge pedagogical method of drawing pictures and building towards complexity. He has the one method that unlocks learning in any subject with any child and he is going to show all of us idiots how it is done. Because he is wealthy and educated we buy into the propaganda about him, while he has bought into it himself.

My response to Sal Khan and his adorers is this: nice videos. You have a knack for teaching. The only difference between me and you is that you are on a screen and I am in flesh. Kids can press pause on you and come back to you later. I, on the other hand, have to help my students resist their desire to press pause on me when they tire of my lesson. That is because my class has no pause button. If they press pause in my class, that means they have tuned me out and become alienated from me, the subject, the school and the learning process in general. No, I cannot afford to have my students press pause, Mr. Khan. I have to teach my kids to not press pause. I have to teach this because they live in a world where pausing and restarting is the way to handle problems. Not incidentally, pausing and restarting are two functions you can find on a Microsoft Xbox or PC. I suppose this is why you are Bill Gates’ favorite educator. You see, he wants a generation of people who internalize pausing and restarting. Just because Bill Gates and half the nation celebrates your genius does not mean you have found the keys to teaching. You’re a smart man, Mr. Khan, but I have been doing what you do for over a decade now, only better and in the flesh. While you have been celebrated, I have been vilified. Even this criticism will be interpreted by your supporters as another lazy teacher scared of losing his tenure and his job. Believe that prejudice if you want. I am more concerned with the fact that my students will grow up without attention spans or imaginations or the ability for critical thinking because we are obsessed with the ideas of well-spoken wealthy people who believe kids can be educated on computers and be taught that filling in bubbles on a test is “learning”.  I am concerned with creating a future of automatons instead of citizens. Worst of all, I am worried that they will grow up to be the type of automatons that drool over the hare-brained, ill-conceived words of wealthy people that think they occupy a higher moral plane because they have won in business. I want the next generation to be citizens with the ability to question power and wealth. This is what you fear, which explains why you hate teachers like me.

49 responses to “The Khan Academy and the Snake Oil of Education Deform

  1. The arrogance of out of touch wealthy people who think providence has given them insights which us peons are too dumb to grasp.

  2. This was a really bad post. You’re misunderstanding pretty much anything possible to misunderstand.

    • This was hard-hitting analysis, thanks

      • How about this then? If “that’s what you do” then USE IT. Let him do all the lecturing business while you actually innovate and be creative to the benefit of your students. We like sal because he is a particularly GOOD lecturer. You’re right, most teachers do some variation of this. Not all are GOOD at it. But why not ask yourself- is lecturering the best use of your time if it can be done over the internet without you? The truth is that what he does is only supposed to be supplemental. You are supposed to use this to become the kind of teacher you can’t be because you have to waste time lecturing instead of asking questions and one-on-one tutoring. You are too worried about your job security to recognize a TOOL that will make you better at your job. With that attitude, I don’t care how much you act like you care, how much can you really?

      • Oh and just in case you missed the point, which it sounds like you try really hard to do, this whole “he assumes we teachers haven’t discovered his secret miracle cure for education” is totally false. What he knows is that IT ISN’T ENOUGH. What you are doing isn’t enough. How could it be if it can be replicated by a youtube video? It’s a good start but student learn so much better when you can offer one-on-one teaching. That’s a fact. Maybe you just don’t want the challenge of going beyond this model? I don’t know. But yeah, looks what you’re doing is working because the United States ranks so well in comparison to- oh wait.

    • Michael Paul Goldenberg

      Excellent analysis there, David. I’m convinced that TAT clearly is off the mark. And that money grows on trees. And that Santa Claus is real.

  3. According to the NYTimes (, he grew up in an immigrant, single-mother household. Doesn’t sound like old money to me.

    He also did the bulk of the videos from a closet with no budget WHILE working full-time in finance and they became popular before Mr. Gates got involved.

    • What you did not mention was that he was from a suburban, immigrant household and was a graduate of Harvard and MIT. I am sure the “closet” he worked from while working full time in finance (try working full time as a teacher, which was my point) was a cramped affair indeed. We all know how those hedge fund managers have small closets.

      • You should watch some of his talks. His wife and him didn’t own a house when he quit his job. And to clarify, he was a young ANALYST at a hedge fund, not the manager. Very different compensation. And if you think people working FOR hedge funds have more time than teachers… well, you haven’t met anyone working in finance then (typically 60-80hrs/week).

      • So, he succeeds despite his background and that means he “comes from money?” Those were YOUR words. And they were wrong. Coming from money means your family had money, which they didn’t. So what if he was able to go to an ivy leage college? What is your point? You sound jealous, haha. He didn’t quit his job because he could afford to- he started to put ads on his site after he quit, and once the word got out about his wonderful site he was able to take a modest salary from the donations he recieved from generous supporters. Note that if he was wealthy he would not need to do this. Maybe it’s because this is your blog, but you make no effort to sound unbiased at all. You’re all condescension and bitterness. It doesn’t help your case.

  4. Funny you mention that, since my school is in Manhattan’s financial district and many of our teachers are from the world of high finance. They all complain of how much harder they work as teachers. I cannot tell you how many stories they have of “”working” from home or spending 3 hours in the middle of the day at the gym. Many of the “hours” they put in was leisure and down time.

    Own a home or not, I doubt MIT and Harvard grad Salman Khan ever had to want for anything. He is not a working stiff like the rest of us and he had the material and the time to make countless videos.

    I am not denying that Salman Khan is genuine and honest in what he has done. He certainly is and seems like a very nice man. That is part of the problem. He is very nice, very genuine, very smart and easily used by the education deformers like Gates. He puts a nice face on reform. But he has no concept of the education system and what he is calling for. He is an elitist who came up with an idea that is being foisted on a school system, without regard for the traditions and institutions of that system.

    If he was a suburban, ivy-league grad, hedge-fund analyst who makes videos for free in his spare time, there would be no problem. But he more than that now and has injected himself into a public debate on schooling that he has zero appreciation for.

    And I appreciate your comments. I enjoy opposing views and what other people have to say. Thank you for the discussion.

    • Michael Paul Goldenberg

      While much of what you say about Khan and his academy are on-point and accurate to my mind, where you go wrong is in giving him credit for doing what he does as being good teaching. It isn’t, particularly not in mathematics. There are many incisive critiques from the math/math education world to that effect. Not blaming you, as you’re not a math teacher and you get much else about Khan right. Just saying that he’s not even as good as the hypesters credit him for when it comes to straight-ahead lecturing. In fact, he’s a lazy hack who barely prepares his math videos. Not all that surprising considering he has no live kids to give him feedback when he’s running off the rails and that he has no training or background as an instructor in anything.

  5. Khan Academy can be counted as a success when our students start showing up already knowing that day’s topic, inside and out, from their study of Khan Academy videos.

    I have yet to find a student who found the videos and loves them, without urging from a teacher who suggests the student needs to get the material learned in order to pass a class.

    I may not be quite so opposed to Khan’s work as this post appears, but we need to be vigilant at least, don’t we?

  6. You are the last of a dying breed of educators, my friend. Soon the teaching field shall be consumed by individuals like myself who have attained the majority of their collegiate education via online resources and thus truly understand the processes of intertwining technology and learning. Your efforts are noble but Khan-like education is indeed the future.

    • You are the first person ever to see the “future of education”. *cough*

      And to what extent do the future educators for which you claim to speak believe that technology and education should be “intertwined”?

      The vast majority of teachers I have trained have come from brick and mortar classrooms and want to teach in brick and mortar classrooms. Not everyone is enthralled by the latest corporate flavor of the month.

      • Obviously I cannot dictate the future uses of technology and to what uses it shall be used for because I do not know what technology is to come. But I do know that traditional methods will only get us so far. With Khan-like technology, for example, any one villager in the Western Sahara can become educated in plasma physics or linear algebra or any study they wish because the resources are so easily accessible. Don’t get me wrong, new technology obviously needs to be used in conjuncture with traditional teaching methods but in order for the world to be educated and improved on a mass scale, we need teaching methods that are cheap and can be easily distributed. Khan presents a framework to do just that.

        Don’t misunderstand me, I realize that Gates is a pseudo-philanthropist and the corporate entity should not be present in the education system. But this is the base technology and I am certain systems shall evolve from Khan’s and eventually mass technology will be available for all; free of special interest.

    • Michael Paul Goldenberg

      What a joke. If Khan is the future, we’re doomed. A guy who can’t be bothered to prepare for more than five minutes to teach things that are much deeper than he realizes. Math isn’t a cookbook of recipes to be memorized without understanding. There are no jobs for people who know nothing but procedures, if for no other reason than that computers are vastly faster and more accurate at crunching numbers: Wolfram Alpha is free, in case you missed it. You can reach it and use it on a smart phone.

      Your condescending tone may make you feel like you’re on the cutting-edge, but you’re just deluded as to what it means to teach or learn something with real depth. When it comes to skilled teaching in mathematics, Sal Khan couldn’t touch a truly competent, innovative instructor. But thanks for playing, “Let’s Spout Off About That We Do Not Know”

  7. Mr. Ogden, Khan’s stuff works only so far as it inspires students to seek it out and learn the stuff. In my experience since Khan got started, I have found only one student out of thousands who sought the stuff out on his own — and that was for a project on the use of technology in education.

    There is some promise in Khan’s work. The ultimate school was, is, and always will be, Alexander on one end of a log, and Aristotle on the other. Anything that comes between student and teacher is interference.

    A computer, even one with Mr. Khan’s videos, comes between Alexander and Aristotle.

    • Well, let me change your experiences as I am a student who sought out these videos on my own after discovering them and continue to do so to this day. They are an invaluable asset to any autodidact and to any true scholar. Just because you have an ample amount of experience with apathetic students doesn’t mean most individuals wouldn’t seek out this information if they had the time, energy and resources.

      And yes, you are correct, that will always be the supreme form of teaching but unfortunately we do not have several hundred million Aristotles to throw around. As I said above, this obviously needs to be used in conjuncture with traditional methods but if we are to educate people in Swaziland, Nicaragua, or any other impoverished area, we are going to have to use methods similar to Khan’s if we have any chance to do so.

      • Michael Paul Goldenberg

        If you were a smart, perceptive autodidact, Trenton, you’d have found the equally free, far better math videos out there. Try those of James Tanton, James Grimes, Paul Zeitz, Dan Meyer, just for starters. Then tell me you learned math from Sal Khan. Sal’s a hack, a lazy one at that. Give me the sort of capital he’s been given and I could put together a team of truly gifted teachers who would make you forget you ever heard of Sal. But even without Gates’ money, the list I gave you represents real mathematics teaching free. Khan? A joke, and not a funny one.

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  9. I must say that the original post was both way off the point on what Khan brings to the mix and also symptomatic of the snarky tone of voice that inhabits too much of our discourse today. It is this attitude of aggressive debate that puts off people who, like me, enjoy polite debate.

    • How polite would it be for a bunch of people who do not do your job, and have no clue of what your job actually entails, to come along and say that you suck at what you do and this computer program does it better? I would venture to bet you’d be pretty insulted.

      Well, this is pretty much what the most fervent zealots of the Khan Academy do when they push Khan’s videos. They base their opinions on sound bites picked up from the media (“failing schools”, “achivement gap”, “ineffective teachers”, etc.) and base an entire reform policy on it. It is obvious that none of these people are familiar with the research around standardized tests or the impacts of poverty on school achievement. The greatest sin of all is this disregarding of poverty further serves to keep poverty in the U.S. invisible and a non-issue.

      So, pardon my intemeperate tone.

      Before I wrote the snarky post in question, I brushed up on Sal Khan, his academy and his website since, you know, I am not in the business of putting things out there for public consumption that are based on ill-informed ideas. You are perhaps the 20th person to tell me on the internet that I am “off the mark” on Khan and the 20th person who has not bothered to point out where I am off the mark.

      You may think the emperor has clothes. I am under no such illusion.

    • Michael Paul Goldenberg

      You can’t top the Khan Kadre of Kritic-Krushing Kommandos for nastiness. They impugn EVERY critic’s motives, qualifications, and standing. The only “critics” they accept are those who praise King Sal. It’s a nasty little group, to put it mildly. The post here was anything but off-point. It was in fact precisely on-point if you’re a professional educator and know what it takes to teach. Sal sits somewhere and talks to no audience. No one throws things, yells out, no loudspeaker interrupts his pearls of wisdom (too bad he can’t invest more than 5 minutes putting those marvelous videos together, take into account student confusion, likely errors, learning styles, etc.), no parent requires that he spend hours tracking him/her down to discuss junior’s work habits, absences, in-class behavior, problems, etc., and then yells at Sal for his trouble.

      Only someone who simply doesn’t understand what this is all about could complain that the original post was too snarky. I don’t know what you do for a living, but if Bill Gates held up some rank amateur former hedge-fund manager and proclaimed him the “best ________ I’ve ever seen,” then gave him $2 million, and soon, on the strength of that, someone gave another $6 million, and the fellow then had the temerity to put on one of his promotional videos that “we still need your donations,” maybe you’d be just a tiny bit upset. Particularly as you watched the nation’s mayors, governors, Secretary of Education, and president cut your benefits, salary, due process/job protections, and make you the scapegoat for the collapse of Wall Street and just about everything else that’s wrong with the country while NEVER giving you credit for things that go well.

      Don’t know about you, but that might tick me off a bit.

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  12. AssailedTeacher,

    I was glad to find some strong arguments against Khan Academy. I concur with your statements; in addition, I would like to add my view of it. I think that the main motivation of creating a Khan Academy was getting more money. Be also noted that at 2007 ALL Digital Conference Bill Gates claimed that he really wants something revolutionary happen in the area of education. I guess Sal was aiming at Bill Gates in the beginning. He is a Harvard Business school grad! He certainly thought this through. And I don’t think that Sal really thinks about education and the fight with teachers. I think that it is all about the money. He wants students to watch the videos ON HIS web-site so he could make a money and to do that, he should attract the clients, students who watch his web-site for hours. Think about it: millions of people watch it for hours all around the globe; that’s definitely some real money there. And I wasn’t even talking about constant millions of dollars that he is receiving from Gates foundation. He was given 2M $ to translate his academy to many other languages; instead, he used some random people who just offered their help for free. The question arises, where did the 2M$ go?

    As for content of the Khan Academy, I, as a senior high school student found it very shallow. It’s only the basics of the fundamental sciences. Moreover, the Chemistry content was mostly copied from the Princeton Review SAT II Chemistry textbook. Moreover, all other playlists are missing some important topics.

    • Thank you for your informed response. It certainly is all about money and how much Khan and his circle of web developers can pump from the education system. He has a worldwide vision which makes regular schools and teachers his enemy.

      The sad thing is that it is getting less likely that bright young students like you will be able to get the enrichment they need from their education. The big selling point at KA is that students can go “at their own pace.” But what if students want a challenge? What if students get curious about something not strictly in the curriculum and need a real teacher to point them in the right direction? What about the children who thrive in traditional classrooms with rigorous content? The Khan Academy has no answers aside from the same one-size-fits-all solutions that Gates and the education deformers want to see.

      Thank you for your comments and good luck in your education, because it is looking like you’re going to need it the way things are going in the system.

      • As a high school student, I would definitely agree that a lecture taught by a teacher is far better than Khan’s videos. I wouldn’t rather make the “work at their own pace” the greatest key here. I think the key is the length of the video: they are 10-15 minutes max. And that’s what gets students involved in this. The only possible use of the KA is if we take a student who misunderstands some important key concepts from the past and has an exam just around the corner; and here is where KA can be helpful. It may explain massive material in amazingly short period of time. And that’s what counts. Therefore, I would make this as one of the biggest advantages of the KA.

        Let’s take an example. Take the 35 hour long Calculus course at youtube posted by OCW (MIT’s course ware) and the Calculus playlist in KA. The first thing is timing. As I said before, a student is attracted by a fact that he or she can learn fundamental concepts in a relatively short amount of time. However, the OCW’s course is more in-depth yet much longer.

        What I wrote above is what would any average/mid-level student think.

        And I think that Sal criticizes the teachers’ methods not because he is against them but because he is trying to attract more students by the arguments that I have written above.

        Another key point is learning in developing countries where the quality of education is below average. Here is another area in which KA has strong arguments. Not all the students can be exposed to the high-level teaching and here is when KA comes forward.

        Sal has too much money for “non-profit organization”.

        If I were him I would put all my videos on the flash disk, make tenth of thousands of copies and send them FOR FREE all around the globe.

        Also, KA is not the place for high-level education; it’s just basic collection of videos for an average understanding. The real understanding comes from experienced teachers and good books.

      • I have heard many people, especially adult college students, who say they use the KA videos to catch up on material they do not understand. These are people who are generally self-motivated, have some sort of academic background and have their own aims for watching Khan’s videos.

        The problem is, most kids in public schools are not self-motivated and are not allowed to shape their own educational aims. Putting them in front of a KA video would not necessarily motivate them any more than usual. Furthermore, the idea that they could pause it (hence, go at their own pace) is usually lauded as one of KA’s selling points. But, what is the guarantee that the average public school student would have the basic background to be able to follow the video? There are students with reading, auditory and even mathematical learning disabilities that can only be addressed by an actual teacher who can react and respond to the needs of their students. That is KA’s biggest failing, its most fatal failing in my opinion. There is no way for KA to respond to the varied human needs of all of their students.

        They certainly do want to bring these videos all over the world. After we have sucked the developing world dry of resources, bomb their homes and overthrow their governments, we are arrogant to believe that KA videos will uplift the education of the developing world.

        Non-profits are the new boom industry. There used to be a time when nobody profited from a non-profit. Nowadays, the executives will just pay themselves ridiculous salaries and roll those numbers up into their costs. That is what the KA is about, as is just about every other education deform group out there.

    • Michael Paul Goldenberg

      In sum, you’re vastly more perceptive than many of your peers and far too many adults who think they understand what Khan and his academy are actually about. Kudos to you.

  13. What the hell is wrong with you people? Has ANYONE ever stated that Khan will replace teachers or even attempt to? No, never. Because such comments would be asinine as hell. Get this through your unfathomably ignorant heads, Khan-like technologies are there to supplement already existing lesson plans and educations or to take the place of teachers when they aren’t accessible or are too expensive for one to afford. Why is that such a threat to you people?
    Have you ever even heard the man speak? Khan’s words on the future uses of his technology:

    “This could be the DNA for a physical school where students spend 20 percent of their day watching videos and doing self-paced exercises and the rest of the day building robots or painting pictures or composing music or whatever.”

    Yep, sounds like a totalitarian set on destroying the wondrous institution of public education. Get over your poor conservative ideals and realize we’re in the 21st century and technologies like this will be one more tool for the progression of humankind.

    • Thank you, Trenton. This is the type of response we have come to expect on this site from Khan Academy supporters. It will forever remain here as a testament to the myopic, intolerant and completely brainwashed manner in which KA acolytes express themselves.

      I would appreciate it if you could a blow a gasket in the comments section of the other posts here on the Khan Academy. They address whatever argument you think you’re making.


      Thanks again.

      • Yes, how silly of me to use rationality with a public school teacher. I bet you think you deserve tenure too, huh? I’ll stop using reason, I can see it greatly angers you.

      • Whatever “rationality” you believe you have is lost under a flurry of ad hominem insults. Plus, I’ve already covered the point you made elsewhere, hence the links.

        In the end, it does not matter because you obviously have the common anti-teacher bias held by so many others. I doubt that you know what tenure is. I also doubt that you know the difference between Khan’s words and his actions, as well as the actions of self-styled reformers who want to destroy public schools in a Neoliberal attempt to privatize education.

      • Bahahaha I would go back and take a basic logic course if I were you because you obvious don’t even know the definition of the ad hominem fallacy. I never attacked you on a personal level, I simply made note of your biased opinion and lack of knowledge. But I can’t continue this argument in good conscious, I can feel my IQ dropping with each response I am forced to make to these asinine remarks. So sure, believe whatever you want. I couldn’t care less. You people will be out of the system soon enough anyway. Respond if you feel the need to, but I am certainly done with your drivel.

      • Yes, of course, calling people “ignorant” is not a personal attack.

        Good riddance to bad rubbish. See you in the Teach for American program, Trenton.

      • It is such a pity that the conversation is so riddled with snark and vindictiveness.

  14. What the hell is wrong with you people? Has ANYONE ever stated that Khan will replace teachers or even attempt to? No, never. Because such comments would be asinine as hell. Get this through your unfathomably ignorant heads, Khan-like technologies are there to supplement already existing lesson plans and educations or to take the place of teachers when they aren’t accessible or are too expensive for one to afford. Why is that such a threat to you people?
    Have you ever even heard the man speak?

    You ought to come listen to the school boards in Texas. The wackoes at the State Board of Education especially wax hopeful that projects like Mr. Khan’s will replace teachers — making education cheaper (no benefits for computers, who don’t have kids that need health care either), easier to control (computers will tell you John Calvin played a bigger role in creating the government of the U.S. than Thomas Jefferson did, without any twinge of conscience or guilt — or worse, better information so the kids know what’s going on). Millions have been thrown down ratholes to make the idea work here. Teacher layoffs will hit close to 100,000 at least by this fall.

    Asinine? Perhaps. Real, nevertheless. Khan may not intend it, but others are happy to use his work as the tool to disemploy teachers and gut public education.

    Also, Khan’s stuff doesn’t really supplement any lesson plan. Check social studies — what is there in U.S. history is sparse, skinny, and not coordinated with state standards at all that I can tell.

    So, in summary, no, Khan’s stuff doesn’t really supplement existing lesson plans, nor do I see any effort to do that, and despite Khan’s best intentions, others are using his existence as justification to get rid of teachers and make education worse for those who cannot afford private boarding schools.

    Takes a pretty thick and unfathomably clueless head not to see that, if you’re paying attention to politics in America. Listen to Scott “Ahab” Walker in Wisconsin. Listen to the ravings of the lunatic Rick Santorum. You’ve never heard them speak?

  15. To further assail the Assailed One – You are overlooking one glaring fact – our educational system is severely flawed. We rely on an industrial model which holds time as the constant value in education and allows mastery/learning to be a variable. Khan academy is a tool to be used to help all students learn – to reach mastery of BASIC concepts. Innovative and creative thinking, interpersonal skills, time management, abstract thinking and concepts – these are and will remain the domain of the teacher.

    Absolutely true that most good teachers use the same methods as Sal, but wouldn’t your life be better if some of that burden could be pushed back onto the students and their families? There is no need to tell a seasoned teacher that higher expectations placed on a student yield better learning. There is also an opportunity here to move some responsibility off of teachers and back onto the society and parents who have foisted so much of the responsibility for child rearing onto our schools.

    The lack of respect for teachers is a symptom of a society that does not value education or the teaching profession at all. Further, EVERYONE is an education expert because they have gone through the system. Until we have a populous who understands the importance of education and the value of truly good teachers and innovative thinking, we will struggle to move our schools beyond the outdated model they currently follow. While Khan Academy cannot accomplish any of this single handedly, it is an encouraging sign that any educational enterprise is receiving the amount of attention that this one is. Think of it as a first tentative step to awakening the intellectual curiosity of the American citizen (and the world – let’s not forget that this project crosses national borders to reach children and adults who would potentially have NO access to education without it). Anything that help people learn and sparks their curiosity about education should be embraced.

    Humbly submitted,
    Justin W. Marquis
    PhD – Instructional Systems

  16. Is Khan Academy a tool for teachers to use to help students learn, or a tool to be used to flog teachers daily until their morale improves?

    I loved Khan Academy as a rogue concept, when my administrators warned against using it because it distracts from classroom discipline. Now I worry about why they like it.

  17. I’d like to mention also…that I have used Khan Academy. I have paused it. I didn’t “go look at facebook.” I tried to work out the problem before watching him do it. I went over and and a difficult concept that lo and behold, just revealed itself to me the 101st time. I find it insulting that you, as an educator, evidently have such a low opinion of we students. Apparently, you are the only thing between us and certain brain melting via social networking. No, you don’t do what he does because you’re hateful, something which Mr. Khan is not.

  18. Nothing much to say after reading this vain, antagonistic, and pointless writing. Only one line for the writer, “Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.”

  19. You just give ’em hell, Teacher. Thanks for this post. These elite reformies and their apologist lackeys act like they invented breathing or something.

  20. Pingback: New Policy for the Khan Academy | assailedteacher

  21. Bashing teachers seems to have become all the rage. You are right to highlight the way something that could look like a radical movement (if you squint really hard) actually fits very nicely into the trend towards deskilling, outsourcing, privatisation, commercialisation and disempowerment – collapsing schooling the economy that it could have been a counterweight to. Another example: Sugata Mitra with his suggestion that good teachers don’t need to know a thing about the subject the younger ones want to learn – they just have to be encouraging supervisors like the traditional granny. A boon to people who want to roll the public sector back even further.

  22. I didn’t get to get an education because of a combination of being gifted and having physical and mental disabilities. I would have loved a chance for my teachers to explain things to me at my own pace, but they were more concerned about absences and slowing down for the slower kids. It’s attitudes like your that are destroying education. Education isn’t about learning how to focus according to someone else’s paradigm, and it’s not about getting a job. I was never going to get a job, i’m not physically fit, and they were more focused on teaching me attendance than transmitting knowledge that has widely useful applications that having nothing to do with getting a job or paying tax dollars.

    • I’ll elaborate some more. I have really scattered math skills. I’ve taken and failed remedial algebra because since i already know 90% of the material, the class basically becomes an exercise in getting to class in the first place (physical disabilities) and then trying to to fall asleep as the teacher speaks for 3 hours and it’s all review with 2 sentences of new information. I can’t do that. I CAN go on Khan academy, and pinpoint that i’m having problems with middle school proportions. I test into algebra class, but I have a deficit in proportions that is not apparent and it hinders me. But when I make a mistake, instead of saying “oh, you’re missing the foundation, no wonder you don’t get it” it becomes about did i do my homework and was i paying attention. 6th grade is when my math started to suck, and I’ve never made real progress since then. I’ve learned a lot of stuff beyond that, but when you introduce the proportions I just get confused again, and then they think the imaginary numbers are too complicated to understand when the real problem is the proportions. From 6th grade to now at age 28, i’ve been going to school and trying to learn the remedial math. Nobody ever attempted to help me pinpoint my weaknessess. Khan academy has allowed me to do that on my own.

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