Khan’s One World Schoolhouse

This blog post is by guest blogger Tom Stough, college librarian. Thanks Tom! 

Gentle OSA reader,

One might ask, why read a book by the founder of Khan Academy?  Aren’t his ideas well-known?  (One of his videos is posted right here on the OSA site, in fact.)  Well…your book critic is a librarian and kinda old-fashioned.   However…

I read The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Salman Khan. 

It was gratifying to learn a bit more about Khan the man as opposed to Khan Academy, although both are intertwined.  I learned that he is now the father of two young children, for example.  Many know that KA began as a tutoring project for his young cousin Nadia.  Regarding his philosophy, I had been under the wrong assumption that when my son Aidan learns math from KA, it was intended as a supplement to classroom material.  In fact, Khan intends for his material to be learned (and “mastered”) on its own, though he also describes extensive collaboration with Bay Area schools.

In one chapter, Khan writes at some length about the Prussian/German heritage of K-12 education worldwide and how that legacy hinders children today. This occurs often through low expectations of learning “well enough” rather than achieving “mastery” and “excellence”.  This won’t be news to many homeschooling parents.  However, he is becoming a force in the movement to reform primary and secondary education.  He advocates changing from small, single-age classes to large, multi-age sections taught by teams of teachers and parents.  This resemblance to OSA’s practices is not accidental.  And as a college librarian, I was very interested in Khan’s ideas for transforming higher education.  He skewers the education establishment at all levels for its infamous reliance on the “broadcast lecture”.  He quotes long-ignored studies that show students of all ages “tune out” after about 20 minutes.  (Members of the clergy have understood this for decades.)  I’ll be changing my own teaching practices as a result of reading this thoughtful (and controversial and readable) work.

–Tom Stough, OSA Parent