In response to Quora question What are some dark facts about Khan Academy? by Mario Montano
I loved Khan Academy growing up. I could teach myself linear algebra while still a sophomore in high school. I could learn biology and chemistry during my summer break.
The questions that prop up are:
Why would anyone love that?
What is being achieved?
Was attempting to “get ahead” by learning how to multiply matrices actually useful in life?
Is regurgitation of miscellanea anything more than signaling conscientiousness and intelligence to future employers who mostly create meaningless services and products?
The issue with Khan Academy-style education is that it doesn’t sufficiently challenge present memes. Karl Popper, philosopher of science, emphasized that the creation of knowledge depends on people not merely replicating their culture, but constantly critiquing it.
For all the purported vision of flipping the classroom, Sal was still compromising way too much with our “Prussian, factory-model education system,” as he called it. And yet for all his willingness to utter scathing words, he didn’t advocate for replacing the largely useless education canon. Instead he merely copied and pasted it into digital format.
Is it useful for those who want to stay afloat or get ahead in the current system which is imbued to the brim with arbitrariness that stifles much potential? Yes. Absolutely. It will help you do well on your test. It may also make you feel productive and entertained if your motivational system has learned to derive dopaminergic kicks from knowledge for its own sake.
Is it what the world really needs? Not even close.
In general, education should be more relevant to meaningful work. Khan Academy isn’t attempting to selectively promote that which is Effective Altruist or Longevist or Transhumanist or which is explicitly defined in relation to a cosmic mission of self-betterment; so human capital is wasted. The time hovering above your head is slashed by a bloodletting doctor who misdiagnosed your condition and its treatment. Then the scarlet trickle falls on your skin — that of your loved ones, that of your non-existent future.
Aging, disease, and death beset mankind. And here we were, trying to accumulate more random knowledge than others; trying to beat each other at games that don’t matter. One thing is true: on my deathbed, I will not care about what score I got on some test which wasn’t of my own making.
See also: SSC Gives A Graduation Speech, Rescuing Philosophy, and The Super-Shulgin Academy
> One thing is true: on my deathbed, I will not care about what score I got on some test which wasn’t of my own making.
Something you care about is something that can be increased. So in some sense, all measures of success are scores (metrics) on high dimensional behavior spaces. Then, by Open Individualism, all tests (all measures of success with thresholds of success) are of your own making, just perhaps in different timelines.
Which of these classes of tests frustrate you? Why not allow for some moral benefit to self-directed learning exploration as a way of growing skills? Sure, it might be more organized and efficient if everyone knew their purpose with great clarity ahead of time, but it would leave us in a brittle situation if that purpose happened to be wrong and nobody could tell because they were too busy working in that direction without any slack.
Very funny indeed. I recently wrote that I have enough “knowledge” and actually need direct experience of something useful and meaningful. It was in reaponse to reading the grandiose world view of the psychologist Jordan Peterson which I find totally unhelpful. Yet another guy who thinks he holds the philosophers stone in the palm of hos hand and is keen to convince us of his guru status.