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Khan Academy
Khan Academy

Khan Academy

Some people seem to be sold on the videos of Mr. Khan of Khan Academy. However, in “tutoring” mathematics, Mr. Khan does nothing but deliver the exact same methodology as the texts and as current public education. He is a video version of paper texts, showing, in essentials and fundamentals, nothing original whatsoever. He basically reads from textbooks. If Mr. Khan comes to grasp his errors, states them publicly, and starts promoting a rational, objective pedagogy, curriculum, and philosophy, then I will give him kudos. Until then, he is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and I recommend against him and his work. In “The Dangerous Mr. Khan” (National Association of Scholars, June 07, 2011), David Clemens attacks also Mr. Khan’s teaching of history. Mr. Clemens says at the beginning of his article:
So is the Khan video approach a “disruptive technology” which undermines the existing deathbed educational model by doing it faster, better, and cheaper? Mr. Gates thinks so. “It’s a revolution,” he enthuses. “Everyone should check it out.” (www.khanacademy.org) Wearing his education reformer hat, Mr. Gates declares himself “superhappy.” © 2011 National Association of Scholars. All rights reserved.
Mr. Gates is fundamentally wrong; he certainly knows computer software and business, but he does not know education or philosophy. Khan might do it faster and cheaper, but he does it in the same way, not better. He is in no way different in fundamentals or philosophy from, as Mr. Clemens puts it, “the existing deathbed educational model.” Hence there is no “undermining” or “revolution,” and certainly nothing to be “superhappy” about here; there is merely conformity and agreement, and reason to worry. Mr. Clemens goes on to say:
Mr. Khan observes that “from FDR’s point of view, Hitler definitely was in the wrong here.” This observation is so odd, that I have to hit the pause button and take a moment to think about it. In Mr. Khan’s History, whether Hitler should have invaded Poland or not is just a matter of viewpoint, wrong in FDR’s (and probably Poland’s) but okey-dokey in Hitler’s. Everything is a matter of viewpoint, perspective, and cultural positioning, therefore nothing is essentially right or wrong, to be applauded or condemned. Here Mr. Khan stands exposed as possessing a historical perspective steeped in academia’s standard issue, postmodern, left-leaning narrative of cultural relativism, multiculturalism, and moral equivalence. © 2011 National Association of Scholars. All rights reserved.
This is a major criticism. If true (I have not seen Mr. Khan’s history videos), then Mr. Khan is teaching skepticism: the denial of certainty, principle, and timeless truth. No thanks. Skepticism is a major philosophic error, as are moral and cultural relativism, all of which lead to personal and cultural frustration and disaster. And if true, this pretty much trashes Mr. Khan’s videos; they would be of no objective value whatsoever. Mr. Clemens also wrote:
Instead of the Internet democratizing information, it can fill our heads with whatever its algorithms decide our heads should be filled with. Just as unnerving, Internet distribution of Mr. Khan’s videos can fill everyone’s heads with the same information in the same way, and that is just what he would like it to do. Mr. Khan describes his mission as being to “deliver a world-class education to anyone anywhere . . .” and to have his videos become the “operating system” of the classroom with the teacher reduced to “coach.” It could happen. He has appeared on CNN, PBS, NPR, Charlie Rose. Students embrace Mr. Khan; Mr. Gates embraces Mr. Khan.   Imagine the consequences if his videos did become the DOS or Windows of education: tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of young minds, all fed by Mr. Khan’s fizzy version of history. Not only would all students absorb the same value judgments, goofy comments, and cultural relativism, they would also conclude that Mr. Khan’s factoids constitute knowledge of history. © 2011 National Association of Scholars. All rights reserved.
And that would be tragic. The same tragedy we are already facing with current American ignorance of basic history and science. Mr. Khan appears to show an anti-intellectual attitude here, in a comment he made to Mr. Clemens article:
Finally, there is nothing I would like to see more than other teachers/professors/experts adding their voice to the mix. Rather than wasting energy commenting on other people’s work with pseudo-intellectual babble, why don’t they produce their own videos and post them on YouTube? If someone can produce 20 videos that seem decent and want to do more as part of the Khan Academy, we’ll point our audience at them. If our students respond, we’ll figure out a way that they can potentially make it a career. regards, Sal
So instead of defending himself intellectually and philosophically, he attempts to argue — actually, to dismiss arguing — with his critics by calling argument mere “pseudo-intellectual babble.” And on top of that, he suggests his critics work for him!! Wow. He does not have the mind for an educator, especially for a revolutionary educator, who should be concerned foremost with ideas and philosophy and intellectual argument, because education is essentially intellectual — unless he disagrees, and thinks education is just stuff (which, actually, is more like his philosophic approach). I submitted a comment to Mr. Clemens on the NAS site, saying:
Mr. Clemens: I have not seen Mr. Khan’s videos on history, but I have seen some of his videos on math. No, he is *not* a good math tutor. His pedagogy and his understanding of reasoning and objecivity leave much to be desired. He does nothing more than present visually and auditorily the same *bad* pedagogy as is in modern texts. He suffers from Platonism and Pragmatism, and is destroyed by them, just as is modern pedagogy and modern texts. He is fundamentally and philosopically flawed. As for history, if you want a *real* history program, see Scott Powell’s HistoryAtOurHouse: http://historyatourhouse.com/  This guy knows what he is doing. He has good pedagogy, and understands human reasoning and objectivity.  Mr. Khan will never be able to touch Mr. Powell. Cognitively and philosophically, they are universes and light years apart. If Mr. Gates had the sense to fund Mr. Powell, we’d be living in a much better world. Sincerely, Michael J Gold Website:  http://www.mgtutoring.com Blog:  http://www.mgtutoring.com/blog
In addition to Mr. Powell and his HistoryAtOurHouse program, other people and companies who are *real* revolutionaries in education are David Harriman and his Falling Apple Science Institute, Peter LePort and his LePort School, and Lisa VanDamme and her VanDamme Academy. Mr. Khan is not and never will be anything like them.

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