First they came for the Teachers, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a teacher…oh wait, yes I am. Doh!
First, I think Khan Academy is great, I think any freely available education material is great. Though in my experience Khan Academy doesn’t work equally well for all students. I don’t really have much good to say about teacher’s unions, so I’ll follow my grandmother’s advice and not say anything at all.
However there is so much wrong with this article’s treatment of teachers, that I feel like I have to say something in their defense.
As a disclaimer, I do teach at a university part-time, but we are homeschoolers…so maybe those two biases will cancel each other out?
My wife was homeschooled for part of her life, while I only ever attended public school. At no point in thinking we would homeschool did we ever say to ourselves “We want to homeschool because we think teachers are incompetent.” We have always chosen this route because we have felt that it is what is best for our children, and our decision to homeschool is never set in stone. If we ever feel inspired that sending our kids to public school is best for them, that’s what we’ll do.
So with that said, let me point out a few things that particularly bothered me about this article.
For over a century, there has been a mass illusion that has been fostered by beneficiaries of tax money. This money has gone to teachers and educators.
No, this money has largely gone to administrators and government contractors. Teacher’s pay continues to be pretty lousy.
People who teach in MBA programs have never owned businesses. People who teach psychology have never worked as full-time psychologists. Professors get themselves licensed by their own group, few of whom have had any experience in the free market, where profit and loss determine who survives and who fails. Then, having created a state-mandated barrier to entry, they earn above-market wages paid by taxpayers. This starts at the university level, and then it moves down to the very lowest levels of the educational system.
The kinds of experience university faculty have will vary widely from university to university and between disciplines. For example just picking a few people at random from Harvard Business School’s faculty, you see that they all had experience either running companies or running large parts of companies prior to their going to teach at Harvard.
The science professors at the university I attended may not have all had experience running biotech firms, but every one of them had experience conducting and publishing scientific research, which is what they were teaching students how to do. That line about earning above-market wages is just bologna. Everyone working in academia knows that you can earn a lot more money working in industry.
Khan has proven that 100+ years of educational theory is wrong. With no training whatsoever in a formal program of education, he became, almost overnight, the most important teacher in the history of the world.
No, Khan has proven several bits of educational theory are correct, namely that different people can excel at learning through different methods. And the most important teacher in the history of the world? I would argue that was Jesus Christ. I’m sure others would argue differently, but I doubt most people (including Khan himself) would put Khan’s name at the top of the list.
They [schools] get all of this educational support material, and it does not cost them a dime. All the school has to do is buy used computers, add Wi-Fi, and let the students loose on Khan Academy’s site.
Except for all of the dimes it will cost them to buy those used computers, pay contractors to set up and maintain the computers, install the necessary software, configure the networks, pay the monthly internet fees, and administer the firewalls so that students aren’t spending all day watching cat videos on Facebook instead of doing their math homework.
Any high school mathematics teacher in the United States could now set up a rival program. There are probably 100,000 of them. If these teachers are any good, or if 10% of them are top-flight, then any one of them could do it. Nobody has done it. They are lazy to the very core of their being. They are not confident about their own abilities. They refuse to sit down with $200 worth of equipment and post videos free of charge on YouTube.
Or it could be that they’re all too busy working 12-16 hours a day preparing and teaching lessons, grading papers, and dealing with discipline problems of way too many kids per adult while earning a salary that is just slightly above minimum wage. Yes…definitely a bunch of lazy people we’re dealing with here.
Because one man has single-handedly proven that the entire theory of progressive education is wrong, and that you don’t need to have specialized training in order to be a great teacher.
No special training, except for a math degree from MIT and an MBA from Harvard. Probably also helps if your wife is a doctor who agrees to let you quit your full time job so that you can focus on making free educational videos.
I’m not trying to diminish the great work that Khan has done, he has been blessed with great opportunities and resources, and he has taken advantage of that fact to bless the lives of others. I just want to emphasize the fallacy of the claim that every other teacher in America (or even a large majority of them) are in an equal position to accomplish what he has done.
Anyone who wants to gain a following in the community can do so by offering top-flight educational services free of charge, simply by providing low-cost computers to students, and a minimal place to house them.
This may come as a shock to some people born in the internet age, but we’ve had top-flight educational centers for thousands of years, they’re called libraries. Getting a first-rate education will never depend on the quality of material available (and certainly not on the medium of that material), but will always depend upon the effort and dedication of the learner.
Again, I think it’s great that Khan has made this material available on a larger-scale, but I doubt most people in America who have internet access don’t also have access to a public library. Whether you’re using books and self-directed study like Nathaniel Bowditch, fighting against political, racial, and gender-related prejudice to get an education like Marie Curie, or just working hard in average circumstances, your education is largely your own responsibility.
He who can, does. He who can’t, teaches. He who can’t teach, teaches teachers
I’ve always believed that he who really wants a good education, will work hard to achieve one; he who doesn’t want one, or is too lazy to do the work, will blame everyone else for his failures.