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.