Tag Archives: school

Khan Academy: The (Near) Future Of Education?

Image result for Khan Academy

In talking about education, I’ve highlighted issues that give me fever dreams about my experience in high school and those that give me hope for future students. While I know it’s not a very sexy topic, it does matter a great deal.  A society full of idiots is only good for creating embarrassing YouTube videos and Chuck Lorre sitcoms, but not much else.

Our current method for education people in the western world has a lot of room for improvement. Some, like South Korea and Japan, do it better than others. Others, like the state of Texas, are easy punchlines in jokes about stupidity and I’m not just talking about their laughable record on sexual education.

Let’s not lie to ourselves. Education is hard. Every human being is wired different. Kids are especially tricky. Between puberty and sugar, it’s hard to help them learn, especially if they don’t want to learn. Our brains weren’t wired for assembly line style education that requires memorization, lectures, and standardized tests. They were wired for survival, reproduction, and avoiding hungry bears.

At some point in the future, we may be able to tweak that old wiring to make education easier. Companies like Neuralink are already working on that. However, that kind of brain building is years off. While it is promising, there are many who may lament that they or their children won’t get to benefit from this kind of innovation. They’re stuck using textbooks and number two pencils.

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Well, for once, I’m not going to fantasize about an advancement that’s way off in the future, like smart blood or sex robots. There are some amazing advancements in this field and they don’t require a brain implant. They don’t even require a private tutor from South Korea. Big changes to education aren’t just some far-off future fantasy. They’re actually happening.

That brings me to Khan Academy. I’ve mentioned them before, albeit not in great detail. I kind of feel bad about that because it’s doing some amazing work in the field of education. It is, very much, a game-changer to the way we think about education. It has the potential to educate people all over the world at a cost that’s almost negligible.

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What is Khan Academy, though? Well, that’s not an unreasonable question because it’s one of those things that is known in some crowds, but not others. It’s also fairly new. Khan Academy started only ten years ago and it started by accident, which happens a lot more than you think.

The story of how it came to be is actually pretty remarkable. The man who created, Salman Khan, didn’t intend to make it into one of the biggest innovations to hit education since the invention of pocket calculators. It just played out that way. Several years ago, 60 Minutes did a story about it and it reveals some pretty amazing insights.

However it came to be, Khan Academy’s mission is as bold as it is important. It seeks, in their own words, “to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.” At a time when the cost of education is rising frustratingly fast, Khan Academy dares to be bolder.

It doesn’t require big, fancy schools. It doesn’t require an army of trained teachers, some of which may or may not be qualified for their job. It doesn’t even require students to leave the house. It only requires someone with a computer, an internet connection, and an ability to access a website. These days, those are skills that most kids learn to do right out of the womb.

That’s not to say it’s better in every way. There are some things that you can’t just learn by doing exercises online. You wouldn’t want a mechanic, plumber, or gynecologist only learning their trade through online videos. You’d want them to have some kind of training.

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Even so, the value of having a cheap, effective way of educating young children cannot be understated. Beyond simply knowing how much to tip at a restaurant, education helps children think and reason for themselves. It helps them make sense of a world where the Kardashians are celebrities and Johnny Depp still makes movies.

We, as a species, need societies of kids and adults who can think. Until we perfect neural implants, education is still going to be a challenge. That’s why innovations like Khan Academy are so valuable.

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Idiots And How They Effect Your Love (And Sex) Life

For certain topics, there’s just no way to be subtle. There’s no way to soften the blow. The facts are just too plain and too true. This is one of them so I’m not going to try and be funny, witty, or sexy about it. I’m just going to come out and say it.

The world is full of idiots.

I doubt that sentence will shock anyone. Hell, even other idiots would agree with it. There are so many idiots in this world that it’s hard to keep up.

There are people who kill each other over what they think happens when they die, but fail to see the irony. There are people who pay more money to drink water from a bottle than from a faucet, even when the water from the faucet is just as good. There’s just no way around it. The world is full of idiots.

I bring up this simple, inescapable truth to highlight an issue that is both relevant and timely. At the moment, the school year is ending for many kids out there. While I’m sure plenty of them are looking forward to a summer of sleeping until noon and then taking a nap, the issue of education as a whole is much bigger.

Also, and you knew this was coming, it does affect your sex life. I’m not referring to the inherently futile issues surrounding teenagers and their insatiable desire to bone either. I’m talking about our collective sex lives, both as teenagers and adults. Education does affect that. It affects our sex lives a lot, often in ways we don’t think about.

For me to talk about this must make me sound like a hypocrite to some extent because I’ve repeatedly and excessively bemoaned how much I hated high school. Let me make one thing clear before I continue. Yes, I hated high school. No, that doesn’t mean I hate education in general. I actually enjoy learning and not just with respect to comic books, cartoons, and female breasts. I’m a curious person in general. I like learning new stuff.

Curiosity is one of those universal traits that’s hard-wired into our brains. We see such a crazy, complex world around us and want to learn more about it. That’s a good thing. By understanding it more, we’re able to adapt, survive, and prosper. It’s one of the few instances where caveman logic works to our advantage and doesn’t screw us over.

The problem is that when it comes to education, we’re still going about it like idiots. It’s like trying to get an idiot to fix your computer. Sometimes, he or she might do something right by accident. Other times, however, they’ll just make things worse.

Idiots are a reason why we still have so many problems. Crime, corruption, injustice, and inequality are largely driven and/or propagated by idiots. That’s not to say those idiots are malicious or cruel. Being idiots, they just don’t know any better. They see what they’re doing as right and can’ think on a level that allows them to understand why their approach is stupid in the first place.

Idiots are also a reason why we have so many problems in our love lives. Think about it. How many bad relationships or failed romances are a byproduct of stupid decisions from people who didn’t know the difference between genuine love and hopeless obsession? Why else would we have creepy stalker pop songs and iconic romances that are uncomfortably unhealthy?

Beyond the dumb decisions we make in our love lives, it gets even worse when we apply that to sex. Even though nature wired our anatomy to ensure that even idiots can successfully reproduce, we still find ways to screw it up.

There are still boys who don’t know the first thing about how a woman’s vagina works. They don’t understand there’s a right way and a wrong way to ensure their partner enjoys the process. At the same time, there are girls who don’t know the first thing about how a man’s penis works or how to keep it working. They either overestimate its durability or underestimate its efficiency.

This is why we have issues like the orgasm gap, which I’ve discussed before. It’s also why we have people who develop unhealthy attitudes about sex, love, and relationships in general. It’s not just that they’re idiots. They’re never given the kind of education that would allow them to improve the situation.

Make no mistake. Education does a lot to improve our situation. It improves our job prospects. It improves our ability to make informed choices about the economy. It improves our ability to form stable, loving relationships that turn into successful marriages. It improves our ability to raise our children. It also improves our sex lives. If a man or women knows how their lover’s anatomy works and can maximize that knowledge, then they have everything they need for a great sex life.

This isn’t a controversial position. Everyone from every side of the political spectrum, with the exception of some religious zealots who want to keep society locked in the first century, agrees on the value of education. They may not agree on the type of education that we should champion, but they do understand the value of having a society with fewer idiots.

In a sense, we’ve made a lot of progress on educating the human race and reducing the number of idiots in the world. Literacy, as a whole, is at an all-time high. More kids today have access to schooling and educational resources than at any point in human history. This is an objectively good thing. It’s why poverty has gone down. It’s why violence has declined to its lowest level in history, despite what the news may tell you.

However, there’s still room for improvement. There are still some woeful inefficiencies in our education system. I know this because I, and anyone else who survived high school, have lived through those inefficiencies.

There were times during my schooling where I really didn’t learn much. There are a few painfully long stretches where the only lesson that stuck was how much I hated school and how to count down the seconds until it ended. Pretty much every year after the fourth grade was like that for me.

Conversely, there were some times when education taught me a lot and really sharpened my thinking skills. A lot of this happened in college. That’s where I learned a lot more about the world and how to make sense of it. That’s also where I refined many of the writing skills that I employ now on my novels. Getting a college education is probably one of the most enlightening experiences I ever had.

That education didn’t come cheap, though. I know I’m lucky. There are some who simply can’t afford getting the kind of education I got. It also doesn’t help that the rise of student loan debt has turned an entire generation of otherwise well-educated students into debt slaves, which is almost as bad for society as being an idiot. That’s a major flaw that prevents too many people from enjoying the benefits of an education.

There are some countries that do a better job. The education systems of Finland and South Korea are well-known for their achievements in education. It shows in their rankings as first-world nations. They are, by nearly every metric, some of the most prosperous nations on the planet. There are other countries that are catching up, but it’s a race with no losers in the long run.

If there’s one message I’d like to belabor when it comes to education, it’s that the world needs less idiots. There are over seven billion people on this planet and it takes only a few idiots to ruin something for the rest of us. By having fewer idiots, the world is inherently better for our societies, our families, and our sex lives. Even if you hate school, chances are you still hate idiots just as much. Whether we’re still in school or graduated decades ago, we should all remember that.

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What I WISH I’d Learned In School

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I’ve said it multiple times and in multiple ways on this blog. Expect me to say it again in many other ways there is and even a few some thought impossible. High school sucks. I hated it with a passion. When I look back on my life, I’ll always see high school as one of the bleakest, most miserable experiences I had.

There are so many reasons I hated this point in my life, too much to list in a single blog post. Hell, I’d need a whole series of novels to adequately convey the misery I felt every day I had to endure that rancid swamp of standardized tests, cafeteria food, and adolescent hormones. The most I ever learned from high school was never wanting to be that miserable again.

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I like to think I learned that lesson well. My entire outlook on life changed for the better the day I graduated high school. Everything I did after high school, from going to college to getting my first book published, feels like a step up from where I was. Sure, it helped that I got into shape and fixed my horrible acne problem, but that shift in outlook still shaped a significant part of my adult life.

Even though I feel like I’ve done fairly well with that life, there are times when I look back at high school in ways that don’t give me night terrors. Other than not wanting to be so miserable, a lot of what I learned in high school hasn’t really helped my adult life.

I’m not just talking about quadratic equations or knowing what the hell T.S. Elliot was talking about either. A lot of the meaningful lessons I’ve learned came from experience, family support, and internet access. These are all things I could’ve learned without gym class, exams, and stale pizza. High school never really prepared me for adult life. It only ever prepared me to pass a goddamn test.

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With that in mind, as well as the knowledge that many kids are eagerly awaiting the end of the school year, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on all the lessons I wish I’d learned in high school.

These are lessons that would’ve helped my adult life in so many ways. I worry that the kids preparing for summer won’t know just how important these lessons are until it’s too late. Some have to do with life skills. Some have to do with understanding how the world works. In any case, these are the lessons that I wish high school had taught me.


Lesson #1: How To Start A (Non-Awkward) Conversation With A Stranger

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This is something that should come naturally. Having a conversation is one of the most basic elements of non-sexual communication there is. Other than a handshake, it shouldn’t need to be taught, right?

Well, this is where high school, ironically enough, gives teenagers too much credit. It’s half-true that most people know how to start a conversation. The problem is that for most of our lives, to this point, all the conversations we’ve had are with family members, relatives, or childhood friends that we’ve known so long that we remember the brand of diapers we used.

Starting a conversation with a friend is easy. Starting one with a total stranger that isn’t awkward is much harder. It’s also an important skill when it comes to making new friends, working with others, and even finding a lover. The hardest part of any new connection is starting that conversation.

Some high schools do teach social skills, but still give a higher priority to reading Shakespeare and passing a math test. I’m not saying those things aren’t worth learning. I’m just saying that better social skills will help people make friends, improve teamwork, and get them laid. No math test can ever do that.


Lesson #2: How To Tell Someone That You’re Romantically Interested

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A big part of what makes high school suck is loneliness. Unless you’re an athlete or an exceedingly beautiful girl, you’re going to feel lonely. On top of that, puberty is rewiring your brain to make you want to kiss, hug, and hump others in ways you thought were gross as a kid.

Teenagers may be melodramatic and prone to emotional meltdowns over a lost shoe, but they still have genuine feelings. They still feel love for others. Having that love and not knowing how to express it makes for some pretty awkward situations, some of which can be downright traumatic.

I had more than my share of crushes in high school. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to actually talk to these girls to let them know. For this one girl, I actually wrote a note and put it in her locker. I never heard from her again. That’s a clear indication that there’s room for improvement.

Having someone to love and to share your emotions with is healthy, regardless of whether you’re a teenager or a grumpy old fart. Knowing how to explore and express that love with someone goes a long way towards tempering that loneliness. For those enduring the rigors high school, less loneliness can only help.


Lesson #3: How To Spot A Scam

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As teenagers, our understanding and assumptions of the real world is painfully limited. That’s unavoidable because teenagers haven’t been on this planet long enough to have any real idea of how it works. Most of what they know comes from media, their family, or ugly rumors circulating around the cafeteria. To say that’s an imperfect perspective is like saying Kanye West is slightly eccentric.

In the real world, there are a lot of liars and frauds that will exploit the hell out of anyone’s imperfect understanding. When I was in college, I noticed a lot of school email accounts got bombarded with those Nigerian Prince scams. Some actually fell for those scams and lost real money because of them.

Beyond the scams in spam email, there are other elaborate frauds like work-from-home gimmicks, fake lottery winnings, multi-level marketing, and online dating scams. Those with limited life experience are especially vulnerable to these schemes and falling victim to them could ruin your life. Just ask anyone who invested with Bernie Madoff.

It wouldn’t be too hard or take too much time for high school to teach us the basics of scams and how to spot them. Teenagers are already cynical, by nature. Learning how to spot cheats and hucksters won’t just help them save their money. It’ll help them avoid being conned out of their faith, their trust, and their panties.


Lesson #4: How To NOT Freak Out When You Watch The News

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This is something I’ve brought up before. It’s a lesson I learned in college, but one I really wish I’d learned sooner than that. In the age of the internet and smart phones, it’s easy to get bombarded by all sorts of weird news stories that scare people into thinking the CIA put fluoride in their water to control their minds. For hormonal teenagers with limited life experience, it’s even scarier.

The world the news presents us is not the same as the world around us. The news can only ever highlight tiny bits and pieces of a much bigger picture. Most people don’t realize that until they’re adults. If they’re unlucky, they learn the hard way and spend too much of their lives hiding in a bunker, hoping that the Illuminati doesn’t send assassins.

Perspective is an important thing and teenagers struggle with that. As I said before, their life experiences are limited. They just emerged from childhood and began making sense of the world. The least any public school can do is help them.

That means telling them that the news rarely tells a complete story. It also means reminding them that the reason why something is news in the first place. These horrible stories we see every night are news because they’re rare. The world and the people the news describes are only brief glimpses at best and click-bait at worst.


Lesson #5: How To Craft A Resume (And How To Pad It)

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A major part of learning, be it in high school or pre-school, involves acquiring skills that will help you find meaningful work later in life. It’s not just enough to know how to read, write, and do basic math. Most people can learn how to do that for free these days, thanks to online services like Khan Academy.

To give you a better chance at finding a job, it’s important to develop other skills. Unfortunately, the only skill high school ever really teaches you is how to pass a test. That may help you get a driver’s license, but it won’t help with much else.

Even if you have skills, putting them together in a resume is a skill most people have to wing. I’ve actually taken classes that help with crafting resumes and none of those classes were offered in high school. I had to find those in college and after I graduated.

It’s a simple fact of modern life. To find a job, you need skills and you need to sell your ability to make those skills useful to others. That’s what will help you get a job. That’s what will help you find a lover. That’s what will help you get laid. Some skills don’t require college. Others may require a master’s degree. Learning how to seek and market those skills is far more valuable than just filling out a test form.


Lesson #6: How To Invest In The Stock Market The Right Way

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This is a topic I don’t blame high schools for avoiding. When most people, including highly educated people, talk about the stock market or the economy, it usually flies over everyone’s head. I would go so far as to say only a small part of the population is even wired to understand investing and finance.

However, there are few skills in life more important than knowing how to manage and invest your money. Anyone can just go into a bank and open an again. Knowing how to actually manage that money so it grows over time and isn’t undercut by inflation is a skill that’s often overlooked.

A teenager’s limited perspective of the world makes the stock market too complicated to understand. However, most teenagers do understand the value of making money. Why else would they make such a big deal about getting an allowance or a part-time job? That understanding, though, will only take them so far.

Contrary to popular belief, investing in the stock market isn’t just fairly easy. It’s actually pretty effective at building future wealth. It doesn’t just beat inflation. It beats nearly every other investment out there.

I didn’t learn anything about stocks in high school or college. Everything I learned came from a small booklet that a relative gave me. That booklet only had one real tip. Unless you’re going into the financial services business, the only real investment you need to make is in index funds.

Despite what the Jim Cramers of the world may tell you, nobody can beat the stock market. Nobody knows what it’s going to do today, tomorrow, or a year from now. You can’t beat, but you can make it so you don’t lose to it either. In some parts of life, not losing is just as good as winning. With money, it’s one of those lessons you don’t want to learn the hard way.


Lesson #7: How To Find The Job That Best Fits You

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This might not be something that can fit into a typical high school class. While most high schools have guidance counselors and career counselors, a lot of what they do is just sell you on the idea of going to college. They’ll help you find an education path. They may even help you find a career path. Finding a job that fits you, however, is not exactly a priority.

It happens all the time. People will make it through high school, go to college, and get all the right degrees for a certain career path. Then, they find out that the job they thought they wanted didn’t fit them. They either end up miserable working a job they don’t like or overwhelmed at the prospect of starting over. It’s not a pleasant feeling.

That’s why I think it’s more important to help teenagers figure out the kind of work that fits them. Some like making things with their hands. Some are more creative. Some are analytical. Some have personality traits that make working in a cubical akin to a prison sentence at Alcatraz.

I’ve worked more than my share of jobs that I hated. A lot of people endure that, even famous celebrities. Finding a job that actually fits someone’s skills and makes them want to do that job is a lesson too valuable to overlook. High schools are in a perfect position to help teenagers do that. The fact they don’t only makes the situation more tragic.


I know it’s too late for me to salvage my high school experience. It was a long time ago and I’ve since learned a lot about life, namely how to not be miserable.

However, I still feel like I started way behind the curve and have only recently caught up. How far ahead would I be now if I’d learned these lessons in high school? It’s impossible to know. All I know now is that high school still sucks and it’ll always suck for me. I’m okay with that. Hopefully, future generations will not know such misery.

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