Category Archives: Book review

Book Review: The Element by Ken Robinson

I have purchased this book the old-fashioned way. Went into a bookstore, started browsing, noticed it, and started reading. It opened so powerfully (which I won’t spoil for you), so I bought it. It certainly exceeded the high expectations I had for the book.

Ken Robinson is as good as a presenter as he is as a writer, so if you are on the fence, watch his TED talk first. Then you can make a decision.

The Element makes a simple two-step statement. That we need to find our passion to be truly happy and that the education system needs to be revamped in order to nurture our creativity. In that logic, Robinson adopts the same tone as Sal Khan and his One World Schoolhouse. Like Khan’s book, Robinson excels in explaining education’s role in finding one’s true passion. If you plan to read both books, start with the Element first – then read Khan for a detailed roadmap, and another excellent articulation of the vision.

The stories move you and they are all good. Toward the middle, I found myself questioning whether I read one story too many, but Robinson then pulled me right back into the book and showed me a connection. The education chapter alone is worth buying this book.

The book is entertaining – there are some good nuggets like Paul McCartney turned down by the school choir. “How good was that choir?” Those and other funny one-liners are neatly sprinkled throughout the book.

Robinson found his element in this book, and I do believe reading it will make you closer to finding yours.

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Book Review: The One World Schoolhouse by Salman Khan

We already knew that Sal Khan is a really good educator. What we didn’t know was that he is a really good writer.

Before I started reading, for some reason I was under the impression that Sal wrote One World Schoolhouse to create some promotional materials around his YouTube videos that made him a celebrity and landed him on a Forbes cover. Ahh – how first impressions can be misleading. It is the other way around: Khan Academy is promotional material for his book, or more specifically, for the vision he outlines in his book.

Sal managed to be bold, yet humble, serious yet witty. These are delicate balances and Sal achieved them masterfully. Who would have thought that I would laugh out loud when I am reading a somewhat academic book on a very serious subject. His vision is unmatched. As he also acknowledges, he does not have all the answers, but I think he has all the questions. Naturally, his book is a great conversation starter at the national level. Certainly, the future of education is a conversation that we need to have.

As with any good idea, his vision makes intuitive sense. Nurturing our kids’ (and our) passion is the most important thing we can do in this world. What were we thinking when we moved away from that? (yes that was kind of happening 1000 years ago). Khan carefully walks us through why the model we have today may have made sense 100 years ago, but he convinces us that it doesn’t anymore.

He is also spot on when he discusses the relationship between education and real life. If we don’t teach our kids to be responsible, how in the world can we expect that they become responsible adults when they grow up? If we don’t nurture their passion, how can we expect them to follow their passion? A determined few would, but most simply won’t.

The “follow your passion” literature, and its close cousin “rebrand yourself” genre may be oversold, but I have not yet seen a book that takes a step back and actually starts drawing an achievable path to those goals. Khan’s book is that rare gem. Ignore it at your own peril.