Note: This article was originally published on my other blog, The Philosophical Warrior, however, I have decided to consolidate my efforts onto this blog, so am working on moving any articles from that blog here as well. This article was written after my first year of teaching. I am no longer teaching and will be posting another article which discusses my time in the Mandarin “education” system.
“Education needs to be more than just the regurgitation of facts. Education needs to lead to a higher quality of citizen, a more active citizen, a more energized and engaged citizen. We need a radically new type of education system that creates citizens, not drones good at passing exams and working in capitalist factories and offices.”–From the book The Intelligence Wars: Logos Versus Mythos by Joe Dixon, a.k.a. The Pythagorean Illuminati.
How I Became a Public Education School Teacher
I recently took an opportunity to become a public education school teacher, granting me an inside look at the fully rotting educational system currently utilized here in the US. During the summer of 2016, I was coaching one of my swimming programs at the local public pool, and one of the parents of my swimmers mentioned that the local middle school was hiring the physical education teacher position, and encouraged me to apply. To this, I responded that I did not have a teaching license so would not be able to apply. She then informed me that there is a program in place for anyone who already has a Bachelors degree to begin teaching immediately while at the same time, earning their teaching degree. I had been thinking of getting into education in the past, and thought, if opportunity is knocking, I would answer. Long story short, I applied and was hired, and thus began my nine month journey into the rotten world of US public education.
For the past nine months, I have been working as a full-time teacher as well as a full-time university student. As a part of earning my teaching degree, I was required to take several classes that were “teaching” me how to teach. What a joke. The textbooks that I was forced to read and “reflect” upon were awful, filled with techniques dressed up to look like they are in the best interest of the students, working to develop critical thinkers able to tap into their own creativity. However, when looked at with a critical eye, are simply techniques to keep students in line and prepared for a world that does not value individual creativity. As a way to keep myself sane in the face of forced readings for my degree, I was reading Salman Khan’s book, The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined to remind myself that there are amazing people in the world working to bring about a free genuine world-class education for all, and that viable solutions are being proposed. If given a chance, these proposals could revolutionize education and bring about a new and overdue era of Hyperhumanity.
Educational reform is certainly not a new topic in the US or the world. True educators have been fighting to bring about an educational system that genuinely addresses the needs of every unique student since humanity began learning and educating one another. Attempts are being made to address these needs currently in education, however, it is clearly not enough. We need to be cultivating a generation of creative problem solvers and rational critical thinkers, and right now the education system in the US is not fulfilling the needs of our rapidly changing world landscape. For the first time in human history, the internet has provided access to information and collaboration in real time that spans the globe. A global meritocracy may be fully achieved through the world becoming a one world schoolhouse. Everyone in the world has a right to the benefits of an education and should be empowered with the ability to determine their own pathway in life. The future of humanity depends on every single human being receiving the opportunity for a free world class education.
With the advent of the internet, brings the ability to provide education to the largest number of humans in the history of our world. Tools like Khan Academy help humanity progress to their next level of excellence. The founder of Khan Academy, Salman Khan, who through his organic and dialectic process of becoming one of the world’s most beloved and influential teachers, has shared his vision of the future of education in his seminal book, The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined. Here I present to you a thorough summary, review, and commentary for this amazing book, which I highly recommend everyone reads.
The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined
“I’m writing this book because I believe that the way we teach and learn is at a once-a-millennium turning point.”
This turning point is crucial to take a hold of, and the possible solutions presented in this book may go a long way towards ushering humanity into a new intellectual enlightenment. Following Sal’s introduction, in which he outlines several of the issues concerning effective education, he delves into those problems and provides rational and implementable solutions along side rational critiques of the current systems inherent problems.
PART 1: Learning to Teach
So how did Salman Khan come to be one of the most influential educators of our time? It was quite by accident. When Sal got married, it was a big family affair with more than forty-relatives in attendance. During the wedding festivities, Sal was talking with one of his cousins, Nadia, who was distraught because recently, she had done poorly on a math test. She was a very serious straight-A student, and was not taking this setback very well. Sal offered to tutor her remotely to help her improve her understanding of the content she was struggling with. Thus was the entry of Salman Khan into the world of education. He had not intended to be an educator, but he did possess the passion to spread the joy and excitement of learning with others. Sal began thinking about how people learn and the best way to help his cousin. With this, he began figuring out how he would remotely tutor his cousin since they lived in different states. He thought deeply about the nature of learning and the way in which education is presented in our current educational system. While he was evaluating his own understanding of the nature of education, he came up with two initial precepts which were:
“That lessons should be paced to the individual student’s needs, not to some arbitrary calendar; and that basic concepts needed to be deeply understood if students were to succeed at mastering more advanced ones.”
With this thought, Sal began tutoring Nadia. To get them started, he equipped them both with an inexpensive pen tablet which would allow them to see each others work using a program called Yahoo Doodle. The start of their tutoring sessions were very difficult with frustrations originating from both technological limitations as well as uncertainties from his cousin about the content and her abilities. While struggling through these first few weeks, Sal began to realize a few important concepts concerning the nature of teaching and learning. One of those being that sometimes a teacher/tutor can become a source of anxiety for the student and cause thought-paralysis. This was causing Nadia to often guess answers, which lead Sal to tell her that he would no longer accept guesses, either she yelled the answer out when she knew it, or told him that she did not understand and needed more direction. This seemed to work, and soon enough, Nadia had figured out where she had been stuck and was able to retake the test she had done poorly on. She passed the test with flying colors, which then led to other family members requesting tutoring from Sal.
This was the beginning of the Khan Academy, although Sal did not yet know this. He began experimenting with a variety of presentation methods and teaching methods while working with his small student base of relatives. When it began to get overwhelming and frustrating organizing sessions with all of his tutees, which were spread all around the US, Sal began looking for a more efficient way to present the information to his tutees. When discussing these frustrations with a friend, he suggested to Sal that he use YouTube to record and post his lessons allowing his tutees access to them at their convenience. Initially Sal did not think that this would work because his perception of YouTube was that it was for funny videos of cats doing silly things, not serious mathematics. He tried it anyway, and thus the way in which Khan Academy presents its content to students was born.
As Sal began to create his videos, he incidentally discovered a few key ideas concerning how to format and present them. One of his decisions was to utilize a computer chalk board which had a black background, reminiscent of the traditional chalk blackboard. Another consideration was the duration of the videos. At that time, YouTube had duration constraints of under 10 minutes, which ended up being just about the right length for the attention span of his tutees. Here Sal had stumbled upon something that academic researchers had discovered long ago, which indicates that students attention spans range from ten to eighteen minutes. Embracing this knowledge, Sal began creating a database of instructional math videos to use when tutoring his cousins.
“My point here is that long before Khan Academy or YouTube even existed, solid academic research had gone a long way toward describing the length and shape and limits of students’ attention spans. Yet these findings—which were quite dramatic, consistent, and conclusive, and have never yet been refuted—went largely unapplied in the real world.”
Here Sal brings up an excellent point. There has been a good deal of research done on behalf of educational reform, and as Sal points out, some of the most important results are ignored by our educational “leaders”. The education system is being run by careerist bureaucrats who are much more interested in lining their fat pockets, then with creating any genuine educational system, that produces autonomous creative individuals excited to contribute their passion and skills to the world. Instead, we produce piles of docile sheeple with fundamental gaps in their learning unable to make any real contribution to the forward progress of humanity. At best, they can act as debt slaves for the rich OWO masters currently running the world via unregulated predatory free market capitalism.
Focusing on the Content
When creating the videos, Sal did not show his face in the videos, instead, visually presenting the blackboard where he would write down the problems and solve them in real time while audibly explaining what he was doing. The decision to not show his face was not one born from any academic research into increased instructional effectiveness, but more because he was paying for what was now becoming the Khan Academy from his own personal savings, and not showing his face in the video was more cost effective. This again, became an important distinction for effective teaching as he would discover through his dialectic beginnings.
“Human beings are also hardwired to focus on faces. We are constantly scanning the facial expressions of those around us to get information about the emotional state of the room and our place in it.”
“So if faces are so important to human beings, why exclude them from videos? Because they are a powerful distraction from the concepts being discussed.”
As Sal would discover, not showing his face in the video turned out to be an important step towards effective video instruction. He discovered that by not showing his face, he was removing a possible distraction which could lead to less retention by the students. Does this mean that Sal thinks that all instruction should be faceless?
“This is not to say that faces—both the teacher’s and the student’s—are unimportant to the teaching process. On the contrary, face time shared by teachers and students is one of the things that humanizes the classroom experience, that lets both teachers and students shine in their uniqueness. Through facial expressions, teachers convey empathy, approval, and all the many nuances of concern. Students, in turn, reveal their stresses and uncertainties, as well as their pleasure when a concept finally becomes clear.”
What Sal concluded is that the video presentations were useful in presenting the content to the students while allowing them a pace set out by them, as they work through the content in the videos. It allows videos to do the lecture work that takes up so much of teachers class time, and frees up that time for teachers to actually work with the students as they apply the content learned in the video lecture. By freeing up the teachers time to actually work with the students on the areas that they need help in, it creates a more efficient learning environment for all involved.
“This suggests something that is at the very heart of my belief system: that when it comes to education, technology is not to be feared, but embraced; used wisely and sensitively, computer-based lessons actually allow teachers to do more teaching, and the classroom to become a workshop for mutual helping, rather than passive sitting.”
“At its most fundamental, mastery learning simply suggests that students should adequately comprehend a given concept before being expected to understand a more advanced one.“
Wow, what a revolutionary concept! Allowing students time to fully understand a concept before being asked to understand a more complicated one, how unreasonable! That this is even an issue needing to be discussed is simply mind boggling and telling to the motivations and true nature of our current educational system. This, good enough is good enough, mentality is simply unacceptable and anyone who does not immediately side with implementing mastery learning is an enemy of reason, and should be removed from any future discussions about the future of education.
Sal is a big proponent of mastery learning and has incorporated this into the Khan Academy as one of the guiding principles of the academy. Mastery learning is not a concept that was introduced by Sal, this concept has been around for many years. In 1919, a progressive educator named Carleton W. Washburne began working to improve educational practices and introduced what became known as the Winnetka Plan, which contained at its heart the concept of mastery learning. Essentially mastery learning puts emphasis on target levels of comprehension, instead of a set amount of time to learn the concept.
“In a traditional academic model, the time allotted to learn something is fixed while the comprehension of the concept is variable. Washburne was advocating the opposite. What should be fixed is a high level of comprehension and what should be variable is the amount of time students have to understand a concept.”
There was a good deal of interest in the Winnetka Plan during the 20s including the concept of mastery learning, this was however, short lived. During the time, this type of reform was very expensive, requiring new textbooks, exercise tablets, etc. While the cost was an issue, the main reason for this project not taking off and becoming a new standard for instruction and education was more the resistance to new and threatening ideas.
“In a truly shocking 1989 study, it was concluded that between 1893 and 1979, “instructional practice [in public schools] remained about the same” (and it really hasn’t changed from 1979 to 2012 either)!”
“One research paper concluded that “students in mastery learning programs at all levels showed increased gains in achievement over those in traditional instruction programs…. Students retained what they learned longer under mastery learning, both in short-term and long term studies.”
“Another study found that “mastery learning reduces the academic spread between the slower and faster students without slowing down the faster students.”
“Shifting the emphasis from students to teacher, yet another study recorded that “teachers who [used] mastery learning… began to feel better about teaching and their roles as teachers.”
Mastery learning worked its way into education reform conversations once again in the 1960’s only to be ultimately ignored by the educational “leaders” of our country.
“Human nature hasn’t changed. Bureaucrats and organizations still seem to have a built-in aversion to new ideas and approaches. People in all fields still have a tendency to protect their turf, sometimes at the expense of the greater good.”
These studies and evidence indicate that change is needed and the fact that there are solutions already present with which solid results have been seen, make not changing irresponsible and unacceptable. In the 1920’s one of the excuses that the establishment used to not instituting educational reforms like incorporating the concept of mastery learning, was due to the expense, however, today with the advent of technology, this excuse just no longer applies. Technology has significantly lowered the expenses associated with instituting a concept such as mastery learning, making this tired excuse simply not viable any longer.
Some of the most important results taken from studies conducted about the effectiveness of mastery learning showed that students are more likely to take an active and responsible role in their education. It was observed that students in mastery learning programs “developed more positive attitudes about learning and about their ability to learn.” While another study found that “students who learned under mastery conditions… accepted greater responsibility for their learning.”
This responsibility towards one’s own learning is one of the most important aspects of learning and one that is fundamentally missing from education as it is presented today. With the rigid bells, set class times, and separation of the content into chunks of information, today’s students are being robbed of an efficient and comprehensive education. Khan Academy is providing educators with a resource to utilize and begin working towards an educational system that embraces mastery learning, instead of ignoring it in order to uphold the status quo at the intellectual expense of students everywhere.
How Education Happens
Sal highlights the power of the brain and its ability to learn by developing neural connections. Sal simplifies the notion of learning into an analogy comparing working out our muscles to working out our brain. Just as we would participate in physical exercise to increase our strength, endurance, etc, the same holds true for the brain. The more you subject your brain to a concept, the stronger the neural pathways created, will become.
“Without getting too terribly technical, what happens is that an “educated” neuron actually develops new synaptic terminals—these being the tiny appendages across which one neuron communicates with the next. The increase in the number of active terminals makes the nerve cell more efficient in passing messages along. As the process is repeated along an entire neural pathway leading to a particular region of the brain, the information is gathered and stored. As we work with the same concept from slightly different angles and investigate the questions surrounding it, we build even more and deeper connections. Collectively this web of connections and associations comprises what we think of informally as understanding”
One of the fundamental failings of the current educational system is the artificial separation of academic subjects. This artificial separation does not contribute to an atmosphere for associative learning–a theory that states that ideas reinforce each other and can be linked to one another.
“We lop them off at ultimately arbitrary places; we ghettoize them. Genetics is taught in biology while probability is taught in math, even though one is really an application of the other. Physics is a separate class from algebra and calculus despite its being a direct application of them. Chemistry is partitioned off from physics even though they study many of the same phenomena at different levels.”
“All of these divisions limit understanding and suggest a false picture of how the universe actually works.”
By separating education into academic subjects, it also sends a message to students that when they have “completed” that subject, that they are ultimately done learning that subject. This may lead to a perception with some students that they no longer need to understand and remember this information because they have completed the content and passed the class. This belief can lead to problems comprehending information that builds upon the content already learned, ultimately creating detrimental holes in their learning.
“In gradually developing my own approach to teaching, one of my central objectives was to reverse this balkanizing tendency. In my view, no subject is ever finished. No concept is sealed off from other concepts. Knowledge is continuous; ideas flow.”
Education needs to be making constant connections between the content areas, and one of the biggest hurdles to effective learning for students is removing this unnatural division of learning into subjects and units.
Filling in the Gaps
In our current educational system, students are moved through content at the pace that the teacher and state has designated. If that pace does not work for some of the students, they may fall between the cracks and begin developing holes in their understanding of the content. This, over time creates a big problem when that student is then expected to work on and understand the next level concept. Even those students who do grasp the concept when it is presented, may not retain that information because as neuroscience has shown, repetition is important in retaining information learned. In the educational system in its current state, teachers have their units and once that unit is done, they are generally moving on to the next subject. Ultimately then, the need for repetition concerning that topic falls to the student. Again, in the current system, these students are now into a new unit which has new information required to learn as well as the assignments that will inevitably go with it. So, when will the student find time to review this information again? In addition to not having much time to go back and review, traditional classroom models essentially discourage students from taking a proactive approach to their education.
“The whole thrust of her education has taught her to be passive—to sit still, absorb, and eventually parrot back. Now she’s being asked to be thoroughly proactive, to diagnose her own difficulties and actively see to their resolution. That’s asking an awful lot of a student who has been trained to do the opposite.”
This is completely backward to what students should be taught. They should be taught and encouraged to take responsibility of every stage of their learning process. One of the solutions to this problem offered by Khan Academy is the ability for students to self-pace their lessons. When a student utilizes Khan Academy videos, she/he is allowed to pause the video, rewind, re-watch, etc. This freedom allows students to move through the content at the pace necessary for that student to learn the content. With resources such as Khan Academy and their multitude of videos, modules, and worksheets, the students are no longer constrained by classroom walls and bells that dictate when that particular subjects learning time is complete.
“This kind of learning fosters not only a deeper level of knowledge, but excitement and a sense of wonder as well. Nurturing this sense of wonder should be education’s highest goal; failing to nurture it is the central tragedy of our current system.”
PART 2: The Broken Model
Our current educational system has not changed in any kind of dramatic way since its inception. How can this possibly be the case? The human race as a whole has experienced amazing progress, and the fact that our public education system has not changed in any dramatic way should tell us just how far behind in our potential progress we are. Just imagine a world filled with Hyperhumanity, in which everyone is consistently working to improve both themselves, as well as the world community. We are being robbed of this potential progress by the OWO and their greed as well as their stooges happily taking scrapes from the big boy table.
People often fear change and will fight against it despite the possible and likely better outcome. Sal brings up important traditions that are used to keep education in the state that it is in today. He highlights the dangers of dogmatically clinging to old customs that keep students behind where they could potentially be, simply because people in the establishment enjoy their positions and do not want that to change.
There is a large industry that is dependent on the current educational system staying as it is, including but not limited to major publishers and test-prep companies that create tests such as the SAT’s, NWEA, PARCC, etc. It is organizations like these that are helping to keep the educational system in its current ineffectual format, simply because they profit from it. Are we going to allow them to hijack the futures of our children in the name of careerist bureaucratic greed?
Sal takes his readers through a brief history of how education came about, starting from humanity learning to write knowledge down, to the creation of the printing press and text books, to our modern age of technology. He addresses the idea of standardized instruction and how it developed. With the advent of the printing press, came the opportunity for education to become more structured and standardized. Before books, education came in the form of teachers orating concepts based on their own understanding of that concept. This meant that a teacher who possessed a fundamental misunderstanding of a concept or concepts, would then pass on this misunderstanding to his/her pupils. The printing press helped to reduce this problem by producing standardized textbooks from which teachers could structure their lessons. Concerning the creation and implementation of standardization in education, Sal says,
“In a world growing more complex and gradually interconnected, standardization was a means to inclusion; it promised a leveling of the playing field and at least the potential for a true meritocracy.”
“The challenge, however—the same challenge in the early days of textbooks as now in the wider world of Internet-based learning—was this: How can we most effectively deploy standardized learning tools without undermining the unique gifts of teachers?”
While standardization will have a place in education, the emphasis placed on this system will not be as heavy as it is currently.
We must not allow our educational future and that of our children to be stolen by careerist educators more concerned with their reputation and the bottom line on their bank account, then they are with providing functional and efficient educational opportunities for students. Are we going to allow these unethical dinosaurs to keep the US educational system in the veritable dark ages? It is up to us to help visionaries like Salman Khan to usher humanity into the new intellectual enlightenment and finally allow Hyperhumanity its chance to shine.
The Prussian Model
In this section, Sal discusses the creation of the Prussian Model, which the US public education school system is directly modeled around. He talks about the purpose of actions like splitting up subjects into units and spitting the students up by grades, etc. All of these measures were put into place to develop, and this was specifically stated by the creators, a passive and docile population easy to control and place in menial jobs.
“The idea was not to produce independent thinkers, but to churn out loyal and tractable citizens who would learn the value of submitting to the authority of parents, teachers, church, and, ultimately, king.”
“The Prussian philosopher and political theorist Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a key figure in the development of the system, was perfectly explicit about its aims. “If you want to influence a person,” he wrote, “you must do more than merely talk to him; you must fashion him, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will.”
Our world has evolved considerably since the inception of organized public education. To continue using this type of structure is simply mad and again demonstrates the unwavering stance the OWO and their cronies have taken towards the education of the populace. Today, more and more jobs are expecting employees to be creative and able to think on their feet, all the while, our education system, is teaching them the exact opposite. Not to say that there are not parts of the system that have some merit and clearly do work on some level because we have students that successfully learn to read and write, calculate math, etc. However, these minimum requirement are no longer enough to progress students to the level they need to be for the demands of today’s workforce and society as a whole.
Swiss Cheese Learning
In this section, Sal highlights the major problems that come with separating subjects into units and ultimately different classes. He also addressed the practice of grades and passing students who receive 70% or 80% in a class. He argued very eloquently and astutely that by allowing a student to progress to the next subject with a grade of 70% means that the student did not understand 30% of the content which will be important to understand. There is a very high probability that the next level will be building on all of the information contained in the section the student only understood 70% of.
“We are telling students they’ve learned something that they really haven’t learned. We wish them well and nudge them ahead to the next, more difficult unit, for which they have not been properly prepared. We are setting them up to fail.”
This creates holes in students foundational understanding, which will put that student at a disadvantage in the next level class. This is when students will often hit walls in conceptual understanding because they have been told by their grades and by extension, their instructors that they understand the information well enough to move on. However, when they are moved on and are expected to draw from the foundational information that he/she only understood 70% of, all of a sudden the student is confused as to why comprehension is not being achieved.
“Forgive a glass-half-empty sort of viewpoint, but a mark of 75 percent means you are missing fully one-quarter of what you need to know (and that is assuming it is on a rigorous assessment). Would you set out on a long journey in a car that had three tires? For that matter, would you try to build your dream house on 75 or 80 percent of a foundation?”
Sal believes that no student should be passed from one level of comprehension until full comprehension is attained. This means that every student should pass each concept with 100% comprehension. This could be accomplished if systems such as mastery and self-paced learning were implemented.
Another symptom of this inefficient rotting system is the inability of many people to make connections from the classroom to the real world. It is completely useless to instruct students in various subjects if the real life connection is never actually cognitively realized.
“The difficulty, of course, is that getting to this deeper, functional understand would use up valuable class time that might otherwise be devoted to preparing for a test. So most students, rather than appreciating algebra as a keen and versatile tool for navigating through the world, see it as one more hurdle to be passed, a class rather than a gateway. They learn it, sort of, then push it aside to make room for the lesson to follow.”
Tests and Testing
Sal provides an excellent critique concerning the nature of testing and the emphasis that is currently put on the results of those tests. While he is not against testing and actually considers testing a good source to discover where a student is at that time in their learning process.
“Tests measure the approximate state of a student’s memory and perhaps understanding, in regard to a particular subset of subject matter at a given moment in time, it being understood that the measurement can vary considerably and randomly according to the particular questions being asked.”
He does not, however, believe that the amount of emphasis should be placed on the results as are done currently. He again references the Prussian Model and how testing was originally a means to determine who would be placed in menial labor jobs, and who would continue on with their education to become a white collar worker. Again, this is no longer relevant in our society, as the workforce that is being demanded by companies is less manual labor and more in need of independent and creative thinkers.
The heavy emphasis placed on tests results also creates the side effect of teachers teaching to the test, meaning that they teach the content in a way that helps the students memorize the content known to be on the tests, allowing them a better ability to regurgitate the information stored in their short term memory. This type of presentation of content certainly does not create an atmosphere for mastery learning. What the students are essentially being told is that they just need to remember this information long enough to input it into the upcoming test, and then they are done “learning” this subject and can forget it. This is yet another factor leading to the Swiss cheese leaning gaps typically found in students.
“Again, I don’t deny the importance of testing, and I’m certainly not suggesting we do away with it. What I’m urging, though, is a measure of skepticism and caution in how much weight we give to test results alone. The accuracy and meaningfulness of test results should never be taken for granted.”
“Whether the process is called tracking or whether it’s known by some kinder, gentler (and less honest) name, the upshot is the same. It’s a process of exclusion, which is exactly the opposite of what our schools should be trying to accomplish.”
Sal discusses the dangers of squelching creativity through the process of testing and the practice of grading. These types of procedures often lead to the labeling of students which can create a negative stigma within the student which may follow her/him throughout their entire life. He also points out that creativity may be muffled before it even has a chance to flourish due to testing and the message the emphasis placed on test results sends students. By creating an atmosphere of conformity, where all students participate and interact the same way, as directed by the teacher and state, tells students that this is the way to do things, and that there is no room for different approaches to solve the problem.
“Let’s stay for a moment with this notion of differentness when it comes to problem-solving. Isn’t this simply another way of defining creativity? In my view, that’s exactly what it is, and the troubling fact is that our current system of testing and grading tends to filter out the creative, different-thinking people who are most likely to make major contributions to a field.”
The main message sent by our educational system is one of ultimate conformity, where there is little room for creativity. Combining the ineffective practice of separating subjects into chunks, separating students into grade levels, and placing heavy emphasis on testing and grades, may lead students to incorrectly view certain subjects as abstract and cold, void of any creative potential. Subjects like math, science, and engineering are often viewed as cold calculating subjects, in which creativity has no place. This leads teachers, and by extension students, to view these subjects as non-creative fields. This robs students of the right to see these fields for what they could be, areas for creative geniuses to usher humanity into their next level of divinity.
“There are two related points I’m driving at here. The first is that creativity in general tends to be egregiously underappreciated and often selected against in our schools. The second point—and in my view this is nothing short of tragic—is that many educators fail to see math, science, and engineering as “creative” fields at all.”
“The truth is that anything significant that happens in math, science, or engineering is the result of heightened intuition and creativity.”
Sal continues to discuss the problem of placing such a heavy emphasis on assessments providing an excellent analogy which demonstrates this irrationality.
“Imagine if we assessed student dancers purely by their flexibility or their strength. If we judged student painters purely by their ability to mix colors perfectly or draw exactly what they see. If we appraised aspiring writers purely by their mastery of grammar or vocabulary. What would we actually be measuring? At best, we’d be measuring certain attributes and prerequisites that would be helpful or necessary for the practice of these respective crafts. Would the measurements say anything about an individual’s potential for true artistry? For greatness? No.”
In our current education system, homework is yet another source of friction for both students and teachers. The debate has spanned from how much time students should spend per night on homework, the quality vs the quantity of homework assigned, as well as the inherent inequality homework poses to students with less resources to utilize at home such as technology as well as the level of education and availability of parents to assist their children. The main point presented in this section is that if and when homework is given, it should not be about how much is given but based on quality of the content and the challenging nature within. Sal provides readers with a summary of a few articles, blogs, and reports conducted about the effects homework has on school children and young adults. They all discussed homework and the variety of problems surrounding this hotly debated topic. One of the most recurring sentiments found among students was that they wanted harder more challenging work, not more. The emphasis that schools place on homework should be concerning the quality of the work, not the amount of content and the time it takes students to complete the task.
He discusses the importance of sleep for students and the fact that students are often given too much homework which deprives them of the proper amount of sleep necessary for the various age groups found in schools.
“Children up to age twelve, according to the National Sleep Foundation, should have ten to eleven hours of sleep per night. Teenagers require around nine and a quarter.”
Homework should not be given by teachers simply because that is what is done in education. It should be given to help reinforce the content being taught and to challenge students to delve deeper into the content, helping to create a deeper level of understanding. Instead, in today’s schools, it is often still more about how much homework is given, and less about the quality of the assignment.
“Why then have parents, teachers, and policy-makers continued to obsess about the amount of homework assigned at various grade levels? I believe there are two reasons. The first is simply that homework is an easy thing to argue about. Ten minutes? An hour? Reduced to a matter of duration, as opposed to quality or nuance, it’s easy to stake out a position. More deeply, however, people argue about how much homework there should be because homework itself seems to be a given—so deeply ingrained as part of our standard but archaic educational model that inquiries into the subject never really get down to bedrock.”
Sal also points out that homework contributes to inequality among students since not every student has the same home situation. Some students may have highly educated parents who may be able to help with the homework, while other students may not have that luxury. Perhaps their parents work long hours and are not at home during homework times.
“Traditional homework is a driver of inequality, and in this regard it runs directly counter both to the stated aims of public education and to our sense of fairness.”
“In short, homework contributes to an unlevel playing field in which, educationally speaking, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
Flipping the Classroom
Sal outlines a portion of his proposals for improving the format of education in the world by introducing his readers to the concept of flipping the classroom. While this concept is not new and was not created by Sal, it was given light by several teachers who began utilizing the Khan Academy videos for homework, and then working through module problems at school. These teachers contacted Khan Academy to tell them of the success they were having with this type of learning. Once again through a dialectical process, Sal and true educators across the country were discovering that with the help of Khan Academy and similar programs, they are able to “flip the classroom” allowing them to increase their instructional effectiveness.
So what exactly does flipping the classroom entail? The fundamental concept is that students would have lectures that they would watch as their homework, and then when they get to school, they will do what is traditionally given as homework at school. This way the students have the benefit of self-paced learning while viewing the lectures and the teacher to help the students work through the problems while in class. In this scenario, the teacher’s time is freed up from the broadcast lecture format of classes, and the time generally spent on these lectures, can now be spent working with students one-on-one. Instead of the students sitting passively in class listening to the teacher, they are able to get the lecture part done on their own at home, via videos like those presented on Khan Academy. When they get to school the next day, they have already listened to the lecture and are now ready to begin trying it out on their own. They get to school and get to work on the content with the benefit of the teacher in the room to help when the students run into concepts that they are struggling with.
In the traditional format of education, when a student would run into problems, he/she would often be at home working on homework, and depending on whether or not he/she have parents or other resources which may be used to help, then determines if the student will be able to continue with the content. When the students are at school, they are assured help because the teacher, as well as peers who may have already mastered the content are there to help.
This brings up another excellent benefit of this type of presentation of content, that being that it provides students who excel faster to then begin peer teaching. This type of activity benefits not only the student getting the help, but also the student who is explaining the concepts because it helps to solidify their knowledge of the content even more. By providing students with the opportunity to view the lectures at home, also provides the students with the ability to self-pace the lecture. When a student is viewing a lecture in video format, the students have the benefit of being able to pause the video, rewind, etc, which is not something that can be done to the extent that viewing videos can be, in the classroom with a teacher lecturing.
So what about the argument that some students will not complete the at home lecture homework due to lack of motivation or time? To this Sal says,
“Even if this is the case, in my opinion it is far better to miss out on the lecture than the problem-solving. The lectures are gravy; the real meat of the learning occurs when peers are learning and teaching one another alongside the teacher”
While the concept of flipping the classroom goes a long way toward combating many of the major problems facing effective education, it is not enough. If flipping the classroom were implemented into schools in their current format, we still have the problem of subjects being split up, students being separated by age, the days separated into chunks of time allocated to specific subjects, etc. The fundamental concepts of the Prussian Model are still very much present, which again was developed to create a passive populace easily controlled. These are problems that still need to be addressed, but flipping the classroom is a solution that may be implemented immediately into the current system and may help to increase the level of understanding students can obtain. It is a step towards an educational system that is genuinely interested in the welfare and futures of their pupils.
The Economics of Schooling
Sal presents his readers with some educational cost figures and points out that spending for education is often done lavishly but not wisely. He argues that spending should be looked at through an eye for effective teaching, and not just purchasing the newest technology with no game plan for effective use and implementation. Technology can be used to great effect in classrooms if it is understood and implemented properly.
He argues that teachers should be compensated better, and brings up the point that often teachers will suffer the brunt of criticism directed towards education.
“Clearly, teachers could and should be significantly better paid if some of the fat were trimmed from the bureaucracy and if more wisdom than tradition went into decisions about what expenses really drive learning. It’s not the teachers fault if superintendents and boards made unproductive choices; still, in the blame game that much of our education debate has become, teachers have come in for criticism that is often unfair or at least disproportionate to their role in the fiscal mess and the misallocation of resources.”
He discusses the importance of improving the student/teacher time ratio and points out that this would not necessarily take money, but more a willingness of teachers and administrators to re-think the classroom model.
“What will make this goal attainable is the enlightened use of technology. Let me stress ENLIGHTENED use. Clearly, I believe that technology-enhanced teaching and learning is our best chance for an affordable and equitable educational future. But the key question is how the technology is used. It’s not enough to put a bunch of computers and smartboards into classrooms. The idea is to integrate the technology into how we teach and learn; without meaningful and imaginative integration, technology in the classroom could turn out to be just one more very expensive gimmick.”
“The promise of technology is to liberate teachers from those largely mechanical chores so that they have more time for human interactions.”
PART 3: Into the Real World
Theory versus Practice
Sal discusses the theories of learning styles and presents studies conducted on this topic as well as their results. He talks about the complexity of the human brain and how dangerous it is to clump learners into categories of learning styles. He points out that his proposed changes are currently seeing results and should be given time to be presented and refined, as necessary changes are seen to help improve the process.
“Now, if you are properly skeptical of everything I am saying, a thought should be nagging you right now: Sal has been writing this entire book about ways to improve education, and now he is saying that it is irresponsible to make sweeping statements about the best way to educate. The difference is in how the arguments are made and how general the statements are. I am arguing for a particular set of practices that are already showing results with many students and can be tested and refined with many others; I’m not arguing for a generalized theory.”
Khan Academy is demonstrating that technology can be utilized in an amazing and very efficient manner. Through their own dialectic process, they are able to monitor students via a variety of technological tools, allowing them to compile data about effective teaching techniques, presentation styles, and how to best utilize our ever evolving technological advances for the benefit of all students across the world.
“My personal philosophy is to do what makes sense and not try to confirm a dogmatic bias with pseudoscience. It is grounded in using data to iteratively refine an educational experience without attempting to make sweeping statements about how the unimaginably complex human mind always works.”
The Khan Academy Software
The potential that the Khan Academy software contains to help students create a solid foundational understanding of concepts being learned is outlined by Sal in this section of the book. One of the biggest bonuses the software will produce is the real time feedback that is provided to teachers concerning the progress of their students. By enabling teachers to watch the progress of their students in real-time via the statistics provided which include but are not limited to time spent on each problem, how many times a module is completed, did the student make careless mistakes when answers were wrong, or was it more of a conceptual misunderstanding, etc. These real-time results allow teachers to make real-time corrections for students who are not understanding portions of the concepts being covered. This is incredibly beneficial because it will help to reduce the likelihood that students will form holes in their learning, which leads to further conceptual misunderstanding when moving on to the next level of the concept being learned.
With his own experience tutoring his cousins and the information he was able to take from the experience concerning the nature of learning, he realized that in order for students to obtain mastery over concepts, there needed to be a reasonable amount of repetition of the concepts as well as a set number of correct answers that needed to be completed in order to move onto the next level. He brings up an excellent point that by allowing students to move from one concept to the next with any grade less then 100%, potentially sends the message to students that what they have learned and retained is good enough.
“The issue, I eventually realized, came down not to some numerical target but to a much more human consideration: expectations. What level of application and understanding should we expect from our students? In turn, what sort of messages are we sending by way of our expectations and the standards they imply? My gut feeling was that in general the expectations of teachers and educators are far to low, and further, that there is something condescending and contagious in this attitude. Kids come to doubt their own abilities when they sense that the bar is being set so low. Or they develop the corrosive and limiting belief that good enough is good enough.”
In order to incorporate this concept of mastery learning into his own software, Sal thought about how he may accomplish this. He decided that by requiring a set number of problems answered correctly in a row prior to being allowed to move onto the next concept would help create this mastery of concepts. As Khan Academy continues to dialectically work through these very important questions, they are constantly altering their content, presentation methods, number of correctly answered questions required in a row, etc based on feedback and data from the millions of Khan Academy users.
The Leap to a Real Classroom
As the popularity of Khan Academy began to increase, Sal was invited to work with a summer school program in the California Bay area called Peninsula Bridge. This program was developed to provide educational opportunities for middle school kids from under-resourced schools and neighborhoods. In this test case, the students focused on the math content on Khan Academy because this was the most highly developed section of the Academy during that time. During the camp, the students were separated into two groups and inadvertently became a case study experiment. One group begin their math studies at the start of the Khan Academy content, that being the very basic arithmetic sections where concepts such as 1 + 1 = 2 are covered. The other group referred to as the “head start” group, started their studies in the content being covered in the 5th grade section.
It was expected that the students who were in the head start program would progress ahead of the students who began at the start of basic arithmetic. However, the results were quite surprising and informative about the kinds of gaps that exist in many students. Some of the students in the head start group began hitting walls with the content they were covering, due to holes in their fundamental arithmetic, while the students who started at the beginning, while initially taking longer, eventually surpassed the head start group.
“In comparing the performance of the two groups, the conclusion seemed abundantly clear: Nearly all the students needed some degree of remediation, and the time spent on finding and fixing the gaps turned out both to save time and deepen learning in the longer term.”
Another result that came from this test case was that some of the students in the program who became the top performers, would have likely in today’s school system, been placed in a remedial math program and labeled as slow. This would have happened despite the fact that they were not slow, but instead just had some major holes in their foundational math knowledge.
“In plain English, what this admittedly tiny sample suggested was that fully 10 percent of the kids might have been tracked as slow, and treated accordingly, when they were fully capable of doing very well in math.”
This makes one wonder just how many students have been irresponsibly labeled as slow or remedial, when in fact, they simply had a few fundamental holes in their knowledge creating a barrier bigger then they knew what to do with. This is again, a fundamental failing of the educational system, and the fact that no real solutions have been implemented by our “leaders” to help combat this major problem tells us a bit about the true motivations of the “leaders” of education in our country. I ask again, are we going to continue allowing people like Betsy DeVos to destroy our educational futures simply so that they can continue lining their already swelling pockets? The choice is ultimately ours to make, not theirs, we have the numbers, now what are we going to do about it?
Taking the Plunge
From the humble beginning of Khan Academy to what it is today, Sal takes his readers through a brief history of how Khan Academy began. He shares a correspondence he received from a student thanking him for the support Khan Academy provided, helping him improve his understanding of math. The message from the student was sent to his YouTube channel informing Sal:
” that where he’d come from, “blacks [were] not welcomed with open arms into schools.” As a kid he’d been “force fed medication to keep me from talking [then] chastised for not speaking out when called on.” With sorrow rather than anger, he said that “no teacher has ever done me any good.” Determined to give him a chance at a quality education, his family saved enough money to move to a less prejudiced community, but still, he wrote, “without a real mastery of elementary math I was slow to progress.”
The young man had made it to college, though he was still playing catch-up at the start. He wanted me to know that he’d “spent the entire summer on your YouTube page… and I just wanted to thank you for everything you are doing… Last week I tested for a math placement exam and I am now in Honors Math 200… I can say without any doubt that you have changed my life and the lives of everyone in my family.”
With cases such as this, it is hard to argue against what Sal and the amazing people at Khan Academy are working to produce for the world, free of charge. While this message provided Sal with some real motivation to continue, Khan Academy was still being solely funded by his savings account and being run out of his small walk-in closet at home. He was becoming unsure how much longer he was going to be able to run Khan Academy, when he was contacted by some folks at Google who were interested in learning more about the software and concept. Apparently, several of the senior engineers and executives had been using Khan Academy with their kids and saw the potential it contained. He had a few meeting with Google and was asked to create a proposal of what he would do with $2 million. He provided them the proposal, and waited for their response, but ultimately, he was still diminishing his savings, and despite the assurances from Google stating that they were seriously considering his proposal, he was beginning to worry.
Then in April of 2010, he received an email from a woman named Ann Doerr, and in the message she expressed how much of a fan of the site she and was and asked for the address so that she may send a donation. Sal had received donations in the past in amounts such as $5, $10, $100, etc. but when a check for $10,000 came in the mail, he was shocked. He immediately sent her an email thanking her for her generous donation, to which she responded with an offer to meet for lunch. During their meeting, she asked Sal how he was supporting his family, to which he responded that they were living off their savings. Twenty minutes after the meeting had ended, Sal received a text message from Ann which read:
“You need to support yourself. I am sending a check for $100,000 right now.”
This initial support from Ann Doerr provided Sal with the flexibility and financial breathing room to continue developing Khan Academy. As time progressed and Sal continued working on the site, he was surprised to receive another message from Ann informing him that Bill Gates had discussed Khan Academy at the Aspen Ideas Festival, discussing how he uses the site for his own learning as well as his kids. Sal was invited to the Microsoft headquarters to meet with Gates and thus began the financially supported beginning of the Khan Academy. With the support of people like Ann Doerr and the Gates foundation, Khan Academy was being given its rightful chance to shine, and as Sal said:
“It seemed that it was time for me to come out of the closet.”
The Los Altos Experiment
As Khan Academy was receiving more support and gaining more popularity, Sal was approached by the Los Altos school district in Los Altos California. The Los Altos School Board contacted him with a proposal to use the software in their schools to see how well it worked in an organized school atmosphere. The study was highly successful and lead to other school districts implementing similar programs. For example, Oakland Unity High School, where 95 percent of the students are African American or Latino and 85 percent receive free or reduced lunch, took place in one of the pilot Khan Academy programs. They had this to say about the program:
“We believe that our use of Khan Academy is resulting in a fundamental change in student character—with responsibility replacing apathy and effort replacing laziness. We believe that this character change is the primary reason behind the stunning results we are beginning to experience—at both the class level and in individual students.”
Education for All Ages
One of the most under stated topics concerning education, is the continuing of education past recognized educational periods in our lives, i.e. primary school through higher learning via colleges and universities. Why is it that once many people are “finished” with their formal educational training, do they often simply stop the process of willful learning? Well, I wager that a good deal of this behavior is conditioned into us by propaganda which bombards us with brainwashing messages to buy, buy, buy, consume, consume, consume! Don’t worry about learning anything, you are past that time in your life now. We have this almost unspoken agreement that once we are out of organized schooling, we are to find our career, and rot away there until death, steadily lining the OWO pockets with more and more money, and allowing our brain muscle to atrophy to a level of retardation. This is simply unacceptable if you have any semblance of a will to power, and those of us who want to continue our education, or want to properly learn concepts that were taught to us in school improperly or in a sloppy manner, now have the ability to utilize programs such as Khan Academy to continue our education.
Sal highlights the benefit Khan Academy provides for not just current traditional students, but also adults who are looking to keep their minds sharp and in shape. He brings up the amazingness of our brains and our ability to learn, no matter what age we are. When adults choose to continue their education, they do just that, they choose to learn. This means that the responsibility for the learning is placed squarely on the shoulders of that adult, which is also known as androgogy. He discusses the difference between pedagogy and androgogy, and makes a case that education should move from a mind set of pedagogic teaching to that of androgogic teaching. On this he says:
“Maybe androgogy–self-directed learning with the teacher as guide rather than director–may be more appropriate for everyone.”
When I began reading the God Series by Mike Hockney as well as the other amazing books detailing the true nature of our existence, I knew that one of the first things that I needed and wanted to do was to start studying math. Existence is math, therefore, I must understand math, now that’s an answer that I can wrap my mind around. Now to find a reasonable math resource to help a former MMA fighter clear out the cobwebs in my punch addled brain. Initially, I began with a middle school textbook, given to myself and my soul mate by his father, who is a retired math teacher. This process was a long and painful one because the textbook was absolutely terrible, with so many holes in the continuity of topics, that I began to think that this was going to be a frustrating and long process. Luckily, Brad, my soul mate, did an internet search for a math concept he was struggling with and found Sal Khan’s YouTube page. From there, everything is as they say, history. We have both been consistently studying math using this incredible resource for the past three years and counting. From my own experience with Khan Academy, I can say that Sal Khan is one of the most spectacular teachers in the world. I went from steadily struggling through a public education textbook, often having to force myself to study the content, to excitedly hoping onto Khan Academy to spend hours thoroughly immersed a in genuine mathematical education.
Growing up, I had always liked math, but like many, was given the impression by my teachers that much of what I was learning was mostly abstract and not particularly applicable to much more then calculating money exchanges for most students future careers. This I know is not the extent of mathematical applications, however, in my youth, this is what I attributed math to for the most part based on the messages I was interpreting from my teachers. In fact, i enjoyed the higher math classes the most, but remember thinking to myself, that it was more of a fun puzzle activity that did not have much relevance to my life. I would often say that since I am not planning on becoming an engineer, doctor, or scientist, that I did not need any of the higher math concepts, and so, I did not try to learn them in any meaningful way. I simply enjoyed them as an abstract puzzle/brainteaser type of activity.
When I understood that math was indeed the answer to existence, my view changed dramatically, and I could not begin studying math fast enough. As mentioned above, I first began with a middle school math textbook, which I thought would be a simple review of concepts that I should understand, right? It is after all, a middle school textbook, and I am definitely as smart or smarter then middle school aged students, right? Wrong. It was enraging and embarrassing to me how much math I no longer understood, and I went all the way through Differential Calculus in college, earning A’s through the majority of my schooling. I was struggling with basic fractions and percentages, wow!
When I began using Khan Academy, I was already well aware that I had several holes in my mathematical knowledge, so I thought that I would begin with pre-algebra. I soon realized that my holes ran much further back then this, and so I decided to begin at the beginning, and started working through the Early Math section. As I steadily found and filled in the holes in my mathematical knowledge, I realized just how poorly I had been taught math throughout my schooling, and it became frustratingly clear why I would often struggle through concepts in school.
This process opened my eyes to the inefficient and frankly unacceptable way in which I was taught math throughout my traditional schooling. I had so many holes in my basic arithmetic that it was no wonder I clung desperately to my calculator throughout school. I can pinpoint where my initial problems with math began, and it all flows from a terrible elementary school teacher who tormented me throughout my 4th grade year.
While I was in 4th grade, one of the tests often administered to us were basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tests. However, they were not just the concept, but how quickly you could complete the arithmetic. Timed tests. Oh the anxiety that would come to me and freeze up my brain when these tests were administered. To make it much worse, due to my anxiety during the tests, I would generally do very poorly on them, often not finishing enough problems to pass. As if this were not bad enough for a young fourth grader, the sack of shit that was being paid to teach me this information would regularly bring me up to the front of the class and make fun of me for not being able to quickly do basic arithmetic. Can you imagine the negative stigma this experience placed on me as I continued my mathematical education? Well, let me tell you, I still feel that anxiety when I am in public and have to complete basic arithmetic, especially if it is in front of anyone. Just another byproduct of the shitty public educational school systems in the US.
Luckily, I now have the best math teacher in the world to learn math via Khan Academy. I have been steadily working through all of the videos, worksheets, and modules offered in the math sections of Khan Academy, and am eagerly looking forward to genuinely understanding Euler’s Formula, i.e. The God Equation. While I still have a good deal of math to learn, I now know that I am receiving a thorough mathematical education, and I am eternally grateful to Salman Khan and all of the amazing people at Khan Academy who work tirelessly to bring the best education to anyone, anywhere, with the best price tag, absolutely free!
PART 4: The One World Schoolhouse
My Background as a Student
Sal shares his own experiences with public education, and the tendency of the institution to ultimately discourage learning past their structured curriculum. He shares with his readers an experience he had in tenth grade when he requested to be allowed to move into a more complex math class then the one designated for his grade level, due to the fact that he was becoming bored with the concept since he already understood it well. He was shot down by his school administrators with the unacceptable and irresponsible answer that if they let Sal move on to the next concept, then they would have to let everyone do it. What kind of answer is that to give to an enthusiastic student interested in learning more about a concept?
“Since I was as self-involved as most people at that age, I had no interest in what other kids did or didn’t get to do; I only cared that I myself had been denied, so I sulked and misbehaved (although I did have the therapeutic release of being the lead singer in a heavy metal band). Over time, however, a broader and rather subversive question started scratching at my mind; eventually it became one of my most basic educational beliefs: If kids can advance at their own pace, and if they’d be happier and more productive that way, why not let everybody do it?”
Sal continues to lead us through his own educational experiences from primary school all the way through an MIT education. He describes how these experiences, both positive and negative, helped shape his own personal theory of how education should be presented to students, and how he has used those experiences to help format the Khan Academy.
“Looking back, I think that in some odd and embryonic way, it was that stupid and infuriating statement—If we let you do it, we’d have to let everybody do it—that cemented my commitment to self-paced learning and started me on the path of trying to make self-paced learning a possibility for everyone.”
The Spirit of the One Room Schoolhouse
Sal details the major problem with artificially separating students into age groups and grade levels, which then allowed for the separation of subjects into curricula and the eventual setting of standards for each grade level. On this separation of ages he says,
“Take away this mix of ages and everybody loses something. Younger kids lose heroes and idols and mentors. Perhaps even more damagingly, older kids are deprived of a chance to be leaders, to exercise responsibility, and are thereby infantilized.”
This is a crucial point to be made concerning one of the fundamental problems with the current educational system. While in school, students are not given the sense of genuine responsibility, so when they become adults, they are not prepared for the demands of the ever-evolving landscape of our world. This in turn, makes it much easier for propaganda and brainwashing messages to be believed by the gullible, still ultimately infantile populace, in thrall to their highly emotional mythos minds. By providing students with the opportunity to demonstrate genuine responsibility in school, they will have the chance to practice these skills in a safe and supported environment, allowing them to hone those skills prior to entering adulthood.
So what is Sal’s vision for the future of schools and education:
I believe that the school of the future should be built around an updated version of the one-room schoolhouse. Kids of different ages should mix. Without the tyranny of the broadcast lecture and the one-size-fits-all curriculum, there is no reason this can’t be done. With self-paced learning established as the basic model, there’s no reason to lump kids by age, still less to “track” them based on perceived potential. The older or more advanced students become allies of the teacher by mentoring and tutoring the kids who are behind. Younger students benefit by having a range of role models, big brothers and big sisters. Older kids sharpen and refine their understanding of concepts in the act of explaining them to younger kids. No one is just a student; everyone is a teacher as well, worthy of the respect that goes with that. And the schoolroom, rather than being an artificial cloister shut off from the rest of life, comes to more closely resemble the world beyond its walls–and therefore to better prepare students to function and to flourish in that world.
What does this structure sound like? To me, it is an excellent starting platform for a genuine meritocratic state, in which we have a collection of hyperrational logos-based citizens working towards the omega point of human intelligence, ushering in the new age of Hyperhumanity.
Teaching as a Team Sport
Another of the areas of public education in need of reform is that of the position of the teacher and the demands made of those in the position. Having now experienced a year as a public school teacher, I understand the types of unreasonable demands placed on teachers, which ultimately trickles down to the students in the form of exhausted, grumpy teachers burned out by the demands placed on them by students, administrators, and bureaucrats alike.
Sal addresses the teacher-student ratio and the benefit that mixed aged learning would bring teachers in the form of team-teaching. This would bring so many benefits because all teachers bring with them a variety of teaching strengths and weaknesses. Team-teaching would allow for a combination of teachers with a variety of skills and techniques that all complement one another for the ultimate benefit of the students. The benefit does not stop at the students either. On the benefits that teachers would see, Sal says,
I believe a multiple-teacher system would go a long way toward solving the very serious problem of teacher burnout. Giving teachers more professional companionship and real-time peer support would make their work less stressful. As in almost every other field, teachers would now be able to observe and mentor each other. Younger teachers would learn from more experienced ones. Older teachers would absorb energy and fresh ideas from newer ones. Everyone would benefit from being less isolated.
These are the type of visionaries who are going to help usher humanity to their next level of divinity. The question is, are we going to help him, or are we going to continue shoving our heads into the sand and ignore the very real problems facing humanity. We must not continue allowing the OWO to control our futures, and the best place to start is at the beginning, education. There is nothing the OWO fears more than a genuinely educated populace able to see through their bullshit and lies. Well, are we going to allow them stay comfortably in their ill-gotten, un-meritorious positions of power, or are we going to take our rightful place among the community of Hyperhumanity? The choice is ours to make, and people like Salman Khan are helping to pave the way for those of us unwilling to sit idly by and watch as the world burns.
Ordered Chaos Is a Good Thing
“Picture the stereotype of a perfectly run conventional classroom. Desks are arranged in tidy ranks and rows as on a chessboard. Students deploy their notebooks at parallel slants, their pencils poised in unison, like the bows of a violin section. All eyes are on the teacher looming at the front of the room. Silence reigns but for the first tap of her chalk against the blackboard. It’s a decorous and fitting atmosphere… for a funeral.”
The above paragraph greets readers as Sal outlines his image of how the school atmosphere would be constructed in his vision of the future of education. There would be areas that would encourage bustling excitement and noise, while other areas would be designated for quiet study alcoves. Other areas would have students building robots, while other areas would be rambunctious with music or physical activities. He argues that with the implementation of self-paced mastery learning, one to two hours will be enough each day, so students would not be sitting in front of computers all day. They would instead have more time to discover their unique creativity and talents and contribute them for the benefit of all of humanity.
Imagine the creativity that would be allowed to flourish and how many geniuses may emerge if given the opportunity to explore their own unique talents and passions. Just look at the amazing discoveries and creations that have been made by our educationally stunted population. Imagine the possibilities of a populace that has been taught how to critically think and encouraged to explore their curiosities and passions. We would be much further along then we are now, that is for certain.
Summer break, the time that both teachers and students alike look forward to throughout most of the school year. What a sad thought. Why did schools organize themselves in this way in the first place? Well, it comes from a time that no longer exists, where agrarian life was a reality and children needed to be available to help harvest crops for the upcoming winter season. This is obviously not the case in our modern world, so why then do we still cling to these outdated practices? This again leads to the people profiting from the current system as it is set, with no interest in changing the benefits they receive from it staying as is.
Sal discusses summer break and how this, once again unnatural separation of education into chunks has a lasting and negative affect on students. He again brings up the nature of the brain and learning as we understand it today. He explains that students do not just stop learning during summer break, but that they actually unlearn. He again uses the excellent comparison of muscles in the body and how they will diminish if not maintained with regular exercise. The same holds true for the brain. So, when students take two to three months off for summer break, they will inevitably lose some of the content they learned while in school. This contributes to holes in their fundamental understanding of concepts which will be built upon in the upcoming school year. In addition, this can also help to lead to educational inequality, because well-off families can afford to hire a tutor for their children during the summer break to combat this loss of learning while, students of less well-off parents do not have this option.
Sal shares with his readers his proposed solution to this problem:
“My preferred scenario would be to trade it for a perpetual school experience where vacations can be taken whenever there is a need for one—not too different from what happens in companies. If students are working in multiage groups, all at their own pace, there is no longer an artificial stopping point when you transition to the “next” grade.”
Being a realist, he understands that summer break is not going anywhere anytime soon, so he points out that in the meantime, the computer-based self-paced learning offered by programs such as Khan Academy can be utilized by students during their summer breaks, which goes a long way toward defeating many of the problems that arise with summer break.
The Future of Transcripts
Sal discusses the major problem of classifying students by numbers such as the GPA. He points out that once again due to educational inequality, these numbers can be misleading and do not tell you about that student’s intelligence or creativity. He believes that grades should be eliminated, and in a self-paced mastery learning structure, grades would be unnecessary. Students would not advance to the next level of the content until they demonstrated mastery of the previous level, thereby eliminating the need for grades since everyone would be required to understand the concepts 100% before going on to the next level.
He does include testing in his purposed system, however, he would place less emphasis on the results of the test and would also alter the content of the tests from year to year more often than is done today. He would also include richer tasks such as an open-ended design component.
Concerning student appraisal, Sal says,
“I would propose, as the centerpieces of student appraisal, two things: a running, multiyear narrative not only of what a student has learned but how she learned it; and a portfolio of a student’s creative work.”
Sal talks about the Khan Academy software and how, with the student tracking technology, they are able “to track students’ progress, work habits, and problem-solving methods, in “unprecedented detail.” There are also several traits that can be inferred from this information including work ethic, persistence, resilience, etc. Concerning the creative portfolio Sal says,
“More than any data, grades, or assessment, someone’s actual creative product is the best testament of his or her ability to create from scratch, to make a solution out of an open-ended problem.”
Serving the Underserved
“The world needs all the trained minds and bright futures it can get, and it needs them everywhere. As a parent myself, I completely understand the human tendency to regard one’s own kids as the most precious in the universe. To every mother and every father, of course they are; biology takes care of that. But there is a somewhat dangerous corollary to this natural parental love. Sometimes it seems that , both as individuals and as societies, we think it’s okay to be selfish as long as it’s on behalf of the kids. Clearly, there’s a hypocrisy here; we’re still serving the interests of our own DNA and our own narrow clan. We give ourselves a free pass on something that is emotionally right but morally wrong. As long as our kids are getting educated, we won’t worry about the kids a block, or a nation, or a continent away. But are we really doing our kids a favor by taking this isolationist, me first position? I don’t think so. I think we’re condemning them to live in a world of broadening inequality and increasing instability. The better way to help our kids is to help all kids.”
The above statement demonstrates Sal’s dedication to providing a free world-class education to everyone, everywhere and one of the motivational factors involved. Just as the Khan Academy mission statement makes clear, so do his actions show his dedication to this most important of goals. Sal talks about the importance of getting education to everyone in the world and provides solutions for many of the most poor areas in the world to receive educational support via technology such as Khan Academy, including ways to provide it to areas with no internet access. Khan Academy works to translate their content into many languages, a project that is still being tackled to this day. While he does not claim to solve all world educational problems, he does believe that with innovation and creativity, we could reach a much larger percentage of the world’s population than is currently being done. He discusses ideas for how to help fund education for poorer areas using a form of educational socialism in which the more affluent communities would help to support those that are not as wealthy. While this is not the answer to the world’s educational problems, it is at the very least a start.
“In a perfect world, such schemes would not be necessary; governments and societies would see to it that all had access to quality education. In the real world, however, with its blatant inequities and tragic shortfalls in both money and ideas, new approaches are needed to prop up and refresh a tired system that works for some but fails for many. The cost of wasting millions of minds is simply unacceptable.”
The Future of Credentials
Sal discusses the nature of college and university education including both pros and cons of our current organizational structure for higher education. Sal suggests that instead of universities and colleges being in charge of both teaching and credentialing, that they become separate.
“What would happen if regardless of where (or whether) you went to college, you could take rigorous, internationally recognized assessments that measured your understanding and proficiency in various fields—anything from quantum physics to European history to software engineering.”
He goes on to propose ways in which this type of credentialing could be accomplished as well as to discuss the importance of this type of change which helps to decrease educational inequality.
“In short, it would make the credential that most students and parents need cheaper (since it is an assessment that is not predicated on seat time in lecture halls) and more powerful—it would actually tell employers who is best ready to contribute at their organizations based on metrics that they find important.”
What College Could Be Like
Is the current organization of college and university education really working to produce the largest amount of critical thinkers ready to contribute their unique talents to society? I don’t think they are. Sal discusses the current nature of college/university education and specifically addresses the motivations of the people who typically populate the professor roles. He brings up the fact that especially in Universities, professors are often there for research, and do not even enjoy teaching, viewing it as a necessary part of their job in order to be allowed the time and resources for their research. This in itself does not always provide students with the best instruction.
He points out that many companies presently do not put as much emphasis on GPA and degrees, and instead, use their internships with students “as something of a farm league.” He discusses the importance of internships and how this contributes to real time learning for students and points out the ridiculous nature of colleges/universities to relegate internships to summer only, catering to their calendar needs of lectures and homework. He brings up the very accurate point that incorporating internships during the school year would be more beneficial because students would be utilizing skills they have learned in a real-world situation, which helps to solidify the content being learned even more effectively.
He introduces his readers to several companies and some colleges in Canada who are currently utilizing internships during the school year to great success. Khan Academy currently utilizes internships and are using them as an experimental ground to help demonstrate the importance and effectiveness of internships versus passive lectures in universities and colleges. Sal is not advocating getting rid of universities and colleges, on the contrary, he is a big proponent of organized learning spaces and has this to say on the subject:
“I am a big believer that inspiring physical spaces and rich community really do elevate and develop one’s thinking.”
The face of university/college education would change in the future that Sal envisions. Instead of passively sitting in lecture halls taking notes, students would be busy with project-based learning activities, allowing them to witness the real world applications of the content they are learning. About this change, he says:
“What is completely different is where and how the students spend their days. Rather than taking notes in lecture halls, these students will be actively learning through real-world intellectual projects. A student could spend five months at Google optimizing a search algorithm. She might spend another six months at Microsoft working on human speech recognition.”
“One of the primary roles of the college itself would be to make sure that the internships are challenging and intellectual; that they truly do support a student’s development.”
He introduces his readers to a program developed by PayPal co-founder and Facebook investor Peter Thiel called the Thiel Fellowship which selects twenty high-caliber students who are each given $100,000 to drop out of college and work on an ambitious idea or project.
“According to the program’s website, the fellows will be “mentored by our network of visionary thinkers, investors, scientists, and entrepreneurs, who provide guidance and business connections that can’t be replicated in any classroom.”
Programs such as this are providing evidence that the traditional lecture delivery method for education may not be the best way to proceed and that these alternatives are showing real world results, not to mention the enthusiasm from students able to participate in these types of learning activities. On this subject, Sal suggests that schools would have specialties that students would be able to take advantage of based on their own interests.
“Why not a school of finance or journalism located in New York or London, or a school focused on energy in Houston? Even better, why can’t they all be affiliated so that a student can experience multiple cities and industries, all while having a residential and intellectual support network?”
These amazing ideas are the true future of education if we are genuinely looking to create a population of creative critical thinkers. This type of innovative thinking is what we need to embrace and support for the future of education. If we truly want to usher in Hyperhumanity, then we all need to support people and organization like Khan Academy, working tirelessly to improve the type of education offered to humanity.
Making Time for Creativity
Sal concludes his amazing book by stating that the changes detailed throughout the book would help encourage more creativity in students, allowing them to each find their unique talents and passions, and follow them to their omega point. The following passages really highlight his vision for the educational future of humanity:
“I would stress the connections and the continuity among concepts, there would be no brick walls between one “subject” and the next. Since learning would be self-paced and self-motivated, there would be no ticking clock telling students when they had to drop a particular line of inquiry. And since the higher goal of our school would be deep, conceptual understanding rather than mere test prep, students would be given the time and latitude to follow their curiosity as far as it would carry them. Thus my belief that creativity would emerge because it would be allowed to emerge.”
“The school I envision would be a place where mistakes are allowed, tangents are encouraged, and big thinking is celebrated as a process—whatever the outcome might turn out to be. This is no magic formula to make kids more creative; rather, it’s a way to give light and space and time to the creativity that already exists in each of us—and that, in some mysterious few who will go on to change the world, rises to the level of genius.”
“The schoolhouse would not be the most hushed of places; it would be more like a hive than a chapel. Students needing quiet could seek out private alcoves. But the bigger space would buzz with games and with collaborations. Self-paced rather than lockstep learning would encourage students to share their most recent discoveries about the workings of the universe. Lessons aimed at thorough mastery of concepts—interrelated concepts—would proceed in harmony with the way our brains are actually wired, and would prepare students to function in a complex world where good enough no longer is.”
The last few sentences of the book read:
“The cost of inaction is unconscionably high, and it is counted out not in dollars or euros or rupees but in human destinies. Still, as both an engineer and a stubborn optimist, I believe that where there are problems, there are also solutions. If Khan Academy proves to be even part of the solution to our educational malaise, I will feel proud and privileged to have made a contribution.”
So the question is, are we going to join this visionary educator and support his proposals, or are we going to continue to allow the OWO to regulate our futures, right from the earliest stages of our lives. A genuine comprehensive education is one of the most important subjects for any population to fight for, and the current state of education, specifically in the US, has lead us to the masses of ignorant Ignavi, unable to critically think for themselves, totally in thrall to their materialistic mythos addictions. This is one of the most crucial battle grounds for the future of humanity. Join the fight and help spread messages of reform such as those proposed by Salman Khan, one of the world’s most beloved and influential teachers. I for one, stand beside Sal. Where do you stand?
Important Links For New Jacobins
The website that introduced humanity to the Truth of the universe: http://armageddonconspiracy.co.uk/
The sacred and revolutionary books of Hyperrationalism, Pythagoreanism, Ontological Mathematics, Social Capitalism, 100% Inheritance Tax, Left Wing Meritocracy, Jacobinism, and SO much more. These are the books that contain the blueprint of a New World Order based on the ontological mathematical Truth of existence. They are Truly the only books that the hard/progressive/rational left need to read:
The books by Mike Hockney: https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Hockney/e/B004KHR7DC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1487979156&sr=8-1
The books by Adam Weishaupt: https://www.amazon.com/Adam-Weishaupt/e/B004LXB8GW/ref=ntt_aut_sim_2_1
The books by Michael Faust: https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Faust/e/B004LXBBUA/ref=ntt_aut_sim_2_1
The Pythagorean Illuminati have recently released many new books under a few new pseudonyms. Here is a quick article I wrote that contains links to the new books and author names: https://sacredcause.com/2017/04/06/a-list-of-new-books-written-by-the-pythagorean-illuminati/
A brand new website dedicated to the books by Mike Hockney, Adam Weishaupt, and Micheal Faust. This site was created by people who had their lives changed by the only True religion: Pythagoreanism/ontological mathematics. The purpose of this site is to help bring Pythagoreanism into the public consciousness. The group who created the site is called The Apollo Institute of Reason (AIR). Here is a link: http://themeritocracyparty.net/
The amazing Khan Academy website (completely free to use). This site will take you from elementary mathematics all the way through calculus and beyond. I can’t say enough about this site. If you are a burgeoning ontological mathematician like I am, then this is the site for you: https://www.khanacademy.org/
Patrick JMT (just math tutoring) also completely free to use: An excellent site that will add even more to what you are learning on Khan Academy. Some of Patrick’s awesome math videos are now a part of Khan Academy’s math curriculum too! Check it out: