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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bill Gates' favorite teacher (from Fortune magazine)

If you are interested in new ideas, education, and how businesses develop, you'll probably enjoy this article on how the Khan Academy came to be. If you are a member of a teacher's union, you'll cringe and give all kinds of reasons why the academy is harmful. There's a famous quote which goes into how people have a hard time understanding logic when it affects their wallet. It applies here.

What I like about Khan is that he gives the basics. In education today, there is a huge push for group problem solving and critical thinking. Form a group and ask them to figure out how to solve the housing crisis. Sounds great. After all they will teach themselves! Make them produce their evidence etc., etc. There is one small problem with all of this - students don't know the basics! They don't know the difference between the Treasury department and the Federal Reserve. They don't know the difference between the National Debt and the Federal Deficit. They don't know the basics of exchange rate effects. You may as well go to a local bar and ask out loud why the economy is screwed up. It's like a carpenter trying to build a shed when he is clueless about measuring and sawing.

Again, this is where Khan comes in. He is great at teaching the basics in a non-frills way; and people are obviously responding. Apparently, some are responding to a greater extent than they are to their college professors which is, of course, a bit threatening. And unions are quick to pick up on any such threat.

In the same vein, I detect a negative reaction to blogging on the part of educators. The first response I hear is that there is a lot of misinformation. This is true, but it is also true that there is a lot of learning that is obviously taking place; and the fact of the matter is the formal education system is not increasing the financial literacy in this country.

Personal finance blogs are.

At least, that's the way I see it.


  1. How long until the union tries to shut down the competition? This is what I love about the Internet and technology: It provides routes around entrenched channels, and it's hard to stamp out of existence since it exists in a virtual world!

  2. Education is in the process of changing in a big way. There are great online courses around the country and eventually it will be possible for students to take econ at MIT, Calculus at Harvard, and chemistry at Cal Tech and put it all together for a degree. It can't be stopped! Some still plod in front of the classroom and ignore the technology and teach like they did 100 years ago but they are on the way out. At the secondary level the unions will fight it.

  3. I have a teaching degree as does my wife... I must say I detest the public education system and its curriculum.

    Schools have lost their direction--they used to be a place where people learned how to think and to know enough to function in our world, now they are nothing more than a publicly funded daycare.

    There are many reasons for this, but it would take me days to type.

  4. re: DD I agree. The system needs to be shaken up. Maybe technology leads the way.

  5. Thanks for sharing the Khan Academy resource. Looking into this site. Also, this is an interesting topic that you raise, and on the last note ("the formal education system is not increasing the financial literacy in this country.") I think that colleges should include in the mandatory economics classes, a section about personal finance and the fundamentals and importance of savings, budgeting, investments, taxes, etc. This is a necessary knowledge now days, and young people really lack on this department, and make many mistakes that could be avoided.