Turning Education Upside Down

In The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined, Salman Khan (the guy who started The Khan Academy) examines the classroom/lecture/homework educational model that has been in place for the past 150 years or so, and finds it wanting.

This isn’t a vitriolic book–Khan has plenty of good things to say for teachers and educators, as well as helpful insights for parents.

However, he thinks, inertia and bureaucracy unfortunately hinder the application of decades of research that show how ineffective the age segregated, standard curriculum, enforced group pacing model really is.  The current way was developed by the Prussians who were looking for ways to get a compliant working class together.  That worked well when most people were in farming or manufacture.  Nowadays, however, we don’t need a compliant, mildly educated working class.  We need a dynamic, creative, critical thinking knowledge class.

Instead of the current model, Khan believes, we should overhaul our educational system to focus on individualized learning, mastery rather than mediocrity, and integrated subjects, taught in mixed age classrooms in a year-round format.

Yes, he’s talking about taking the best parts of homeschooling and applying them to group schools.  I think it’s an awesome, long overdue idea.

The book covers how The Khan Academy came to be, how it’s being effectively used in classroom situations as well as independent learning, and how it could easily and cheaply be scaled for use internationally.  It contains a lot of data and research findings, but maintains a readable, upbeat tone throughout. The focus of the book is math (and, to a lesser extent, science), but you can easily see how the methods and ideas in the book could be applied to a wide variety of subjects.

If you’re interested in education, or have children (no matter how you’re educating them), I would highly recommend The One World Schoolhouse.  I found it helpful, both in confirming the commitment I already have to integrating subjects, and in giving me new ideas about how to approach math instruction and practice.  Although I think the site is really geared for older kids and I try to be really careful about the amount of screen time the kids get, I started letting Hannah and Jack do the math on The Khan Academy site after they get their other schoolwork done every now and then.  They love it, and it’s great practice!

How do you feel about the math instruction you received?  Are you teaching your kids (or helping with their homework) any differently than you were taught?


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

8 thoughts on “Turning Education Upside Down

  1. So this sounds a little bit like what the Danville public schools are starting next year. Only hearing it from parents of children involved I’m guessing that the Danville plan is not as up-to-snuff as this. In fact, the Danville plan sounded scary…..but, maybe this idea of integrated ages and mastery is the up and coming idea.
    Heather L. recently posted..The Tea Trolley

    1. It would be interesting to learn more about that–but I can see how it would be scary if they didn’t take the time to really prepare the teachers and have a rigorous and well-defined curriculum in place. Just integrating ages but using the same old public school curriculum would probably be a waste of time. If you read the book, I’d be interested in your take!

  2. I’ve been seeing this book on the bestseller’s list on Amazon for Kindle, but I never took time to read what it was actually about. I’m so glad I read your review…and picked it up! It’s fascinating so far!

  3. Love this! I’m really looking forward to reading this. I’ve actually begun preschool here at home w/ Lila and am toying with the idea of homeschool. The crazy thing is, when I taught English in public high schools, I always said my dream job would be to teach American Lit and US History as a 2-hr class. It just didn’t make sense to me to teach them independently of one another as I spent so much time teaching US History and the context around the lit (plus, I’m a bit of a history buff anyway and LOVE US History, so it would truly be an ideal job). I’m excited to learn more on Khan’s perspective. Thanks for sharing!

    1. When I was in 11th grade my AP US History and English were taught together in a block, which I loved. I didn’t have any other integrated subjects until college, but it’s absolutely an awesome way to learn (and teach!). Let me know what you think about the book if you read it!

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