Is our education system preparing us for failure? Sal Kahn, founder and twelve-year CEO of Kahn Academy, which is a non- profit organization that provides free educational material on a variety of subject to over forty two million registered users online, argues in his TED Talk “Lets Teach for Mastery – Not Test Scores” that the current system is continually building upon flaws in people’s knowledge that accumulate until they result in mistakes. With the current academic structure, Kahn argues that this result is bound to occur because while the current system dentifies students’ problems through test, it fails to correct them.
By doing this, even people who understand 95% of the material will be left with a gap remaining from the last 5% (Kahn). After years, this gap grows until someone comes to a situation where material from that gap is covered and they are unable to work it out. This results in a negative mindset that hinders them even more. Kahn’s solution to this problem is to use a mastery-based learning system. Rather than teach material for a designated time then move on, the material is taught until it is mastered. With this system, Kahn envisions a future where a most people can participate in academic endeavors currently beyond most.
While Kahn effectively argues his point with his logical and familiar relation of the education system, he is the pioneer of this idea, meaning there are few sources to back up his ideas, and since he does not establish his credentials clearly, in his presentation those unaware off his personal experience may be hesitant to trust him. Student 1 Because of Kahn’s background running Kahn Academy, Kahn certainly has the experience needed to talk about education. However, he fails to establish those credentials during his presentation.
Instead he relies solely on his deep knowledge of the education system to back up his arguments. While Kahn is certainly credible, his argument could be perceived as questionable because of his rapid jump into his topic. Practically his only mention of his credentials is when he initially states “based on my observations at Khan Academy” but this hint might go over many people’s heads as well as his mention of the “student after student” who contacted him with problems (Kahn). While these statements do give him a minor sense of redibility as an educator, it is nowhere near the vast amount Kahn deserves.
On one hand, anyone who knows of his involvement with Kahn Academy and his twelve years of experience as an educator would certainly agree that he has the experience needed to speak on his topic with authority. However, if unware of this fact, his immediate dive into his topic could leave his audience wondering at his qualification to talk about the subject. After all, the opinion of some random guy carries far less weight than someone with experience and who has showed dedication and ingenuity in improving the ducation system as Kahn has.
Though this point is negligible to people familiar with Kahn, for those unaware of his capability or new to alternate educational systems this might put them off. Despite Kahn’s failure to properly introduce himself, he is still able to project credibility through his deep understanding and articulation of the flaws present in the current education system. Kahn depicts the current system’s problems so accurately that even if unaware of his experience one can still tell that he has a deep understanding based on his personal experience and close observation.
His depiction of the traditional academic model” which sections students into groups and “shepherd[s] them all together at the same pace” is identical to the system most Student 2 are accustomed to (Kahn). This identification effectively sets Kahn up to propose his “master- based learning” system and allow people to contrast it to the current systems’ flaws. It is important for him to do this because otherwise his ideas could be perceived as unnecessary. First Kahn shows his knowledge of the current system and its flaws thus allowing him to propose a solution to those flaws without it seeming unrealistic or nneeded.
This kind of planning and his deep understanding of the education system allow him to show his experience effectively through his actions, which may be even more effective than simply listing his official credentials although it would have helped to present both. Kahn uses two simple concepts to effectively appeal to his audience’s emotions throughout his presentation: humor and familiarity. First, because almost everyone has at least a superficial understanding of the education system and its failings, Kahn can make assertions that most can relate to. He attempts to connect ith people based on mutual misfortune.
Who hasn’t messed up something and wished they had mastered it? Not only does this idea make logical sense, but it plays on people’s desire for improvement. This allows him to align his idea with the audience’s preexisting emotions about the topic and makes them more receptive to his solution for the problem. By first making the audience familiar with himself and the topic by relating mutual problems with the education system, Kahn makes his latter solution to the problem seem familiar and more viable. While subtle, this approach is far more effective han simply stating the solution or taking it for granted that others will agree with him.
By doing it this way, Kahn first establishes that there is a problem and only then provides a solution. This way, even those who might have had doubts about his idea are more likely to consider it. Along with using this to appeal to his audience, Kahn uses a more direct appeal in the form of humor to approach the audience. After establishing the problems with the education Student 3 system, Kahn uses an incongruous comparison to both endear himself and his ideas to the audience and make them consider is ideas more seriously.
After relating the problems with the current education system where students are “artificially constrained” to a specific amount of time for mastering a subject resulting in “variable outcomes,” Kahn uses a clever comparison to relate the absurdity of the current system. Imagining how the world would be if we did other things in life with a constrained timeframe, Kahn relates how disastrous homebuilding would be with this ideology by demonstrating it through imagined situation: “So we bring in the contractor and say, “We were told we have two weeks to build a foundation.
Do what you can. ” After two week the inspector says, “I’ll give it an 80 percent. ” And Kahn’s imagined response is, “Great! That’s a C. Let’s build the first floor. ” The first floor then collapses when work on the second starts. With this comparison Kahn humorously highlights his point that the current system which builds upon students flaws is bound to produce poor results. By portraying his points in this fashion Kahn is able to logically explain his idea in another way and provide entertainment to keep the audience engaged and interested in his discussion.
Because Kahn’s arguments come from his personal experience in the field, he is able to talk logically about the topic even though he is the pioneer of this idea, without other sources to support him. His entire idea is formulated from actual interaction with students and observation of the current system as a whole. As a result he is able to logically locate and relate the source of the problems facing the current education system, which is that it forces people to advance before they are ready.
His idea that the education system should allow people to aster material before they advance not only makes logical sense but also feels as if it’s the natural way to learn. Because of the logic behind his idea, it is likely that Kahn as simply the first of many educators who might be interested in a mastery system of education. Since the problem at the core of the Student 4 system is not being resolved, it is probable that more and more people will look to ideas such as Kahn’s. By basing his arguments off his own interactions with the education system, Kahn’s argument has a simple logic to it that allows it to be easily understood.
Overall, though Kahn’s argument is weakened by him not introducing himself more thoroughly, he still manages to effectively argue why the education system needs to change because of his logical and humorous approach to solving visible problems with the system. Through his logical and familiar depiction of the situation, highlighted by his use of humor, Kahn is able to translate a rather complex issue into an argument that anyone can understand and offers a solution. Even though he is the pioneer of this idea, his clear understanding and depiction of the situation lend weight to his dea, even to those who might now know who he is.
Many would agree that there are problems with the education system and Kahn highlights those while also explaining why they happen. If someone then considers the success that Kahn has had with Kahn Academy, it is clear that his ideas have some merit. Perhaps the most compelling part of his argument is his portrait of what the future could be like with a better education system. With a little effort, perhaps in the not-so-distant future the education system could be improved enough to allow everyone to contribute to difficult problems facing civilization.