Tag Archives: schooling

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.

Image result for standardized test

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.

Image result for standardized test

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.

Image result for smart kids

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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Success, How To Get It, And What Nobody Tells You About It

We all want it. We all work our asses off to get it. We all go to great lengths, learning whatever we can and doing whatever we must, to achieve it. For many of us, it’s a lifelong obsession that can be both agonizing and exhilarating.

No, I’m not talking about sex for once. I’m talking about something that is often associated with sex, albeit indirectly. I’m talking about success. It’s a relevant thing to talk about for me. I’ve got my first non-self published book coming out this month and another in the works for next year. Sure, it’s not the kind of success that’ll have me swimming in a pool full of champagne, but it’s a start.

I write erotica/romance novels because I want to make a living doing this. I want this to be my career. Naturally, I want it to be a successful career. I want to be able to pay a mortgage and an electric bill with this career. I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping I’m on the right path. However, in pursuing this career, I’ve realized something about success that often gets overlooked.

Nobody has any goddamn clue how to achieve it.

Sure, there are self-help gurus, scam artists, and Gwyneth Paltrows out there claiming they have some sort of secret. They claim they know how to find success, seize it, and hold onto it. They make it sound so easy. They make it sound like the lottery winners who lose all their money have no excuses.

Well, as much as I despise excuses, there are exceptions when it comes to success. If you’re lucky, you don’t have to learn the hard way. For most people, they don’t even have to learn it. It’s just something you tend to realize through experience, but even when we realize it, we don’t want to put it into to words and for good reason. When you break down the components of success, it’s kind of depressing to say the least.

Now I don’t claim to know squat about success. If I did, I’d be sending signed copies of my novels to Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman on a weekly basis. I only know what everybody knows to some extent, but refuses to acknowledge.

In that knowledge, we understand that success has three vital components.

  1. Having talent, which not everybody has
  2. Being willing to work, which not everybody is
  3. Having a certain amount of luck, which not everybody gets

It’s the giant caveat that grade school teachers and “Back To The Future” left out. We’re all told as kids that we can do anything we set our minds to. Doc Brown gave that advice to Marty McFly on more than one occasion. That works great in the movies. In real life, it has the same effect as rubbing goat piss on your feet.

Maybe it’s because we want to protect our children from the harsh realities of the world and I can understand that to some extent, but that doesn’t make those realities any less harsh. When it comes to success, we’re often at the mercy of forces beyond our control.

I’m not just talking about the luck aspect either. For some people, it doesn’t matter how determined or dedicated you are. You could wake up every morning at 4 a.m. and practice throwing a football until 3 a.m. You’ll still never be as good a quarterback as Tom Brady because he just has a unique talent for it.

The same goes for skills beyond throwing a football. You can be the most charismatic actor or actress in the world. You could have all the talent you need. However, if you don’t have the body of Jennifer Lawrence or the sex appeal of George Clooney, you’re not going to get the same chances. That talent just isn’t enough. It isn’t fair, but the real world has a knack for kicking fairness in the ass on a daily basis.

There are even people who do have immense talent, but they’re just not willing to work at it. We never hear about these people, but we probably know someone in our lives who has uncanny talent in something, but just chooses to do nothing with it. It’s tragic, but it’s another one of those forces that are beyond our control.

Even if we do have the sex appeal of George Clooney, the talent of Tom Brady, and the body of Jennifer Lawrence, there’s still that nasty thing called luck. This is, by far, the most frustrating component of success because it’s “kind of” random to some extent.

I say “kind of” because I’m not talking about the luck that involves lottery tickets, Las Vegas, or the NFL draft. Luck can be guided to some extent, but only to a point. Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick that nobody thought could play as more than a backup. There were 31 other teams who had a chance to draft him, but didn’t. Instead, he ended up going to New England.

Whether by luck or toil, Brady ended up on a team with a coach and a system that perfectly complemented his talents. Would he have succeeded as much as he did if he went to another team? That’s hard to say, but most can’t see him doing what he did with the Cleveland Browns.

Sometimes we have to put ourselves in a position for luck to find us. Sometimes we have to gamble that the luck will be there if we seek it. It doesn’t always pay off, but again, it’s not like the lottery or Las Vegas.

This is where the advice of someone like Scott Adams, the Dilbert guy, comes into play again. He often says in his books that success likes to hide in the ashes of failure. When you take into account the three ingredients I mentioned earlier, that makes perfect sense.

The thing about the lottery is that you have to pay to play the game. As such, it’s set up so that the odds are so remote that the math is just never on your side. It’s how Las Vegas makes its money and how the lottery is a $70 billion industry. With most other forms of success, there’s no ticket to buy. It’s free to keep playing.

That’s the key to some extent. If something is free to play, then the math is suddenly on your side, no matter how remote the odds are. Play an unlimited amount of times and eventually, the most unlikely outcome will occur. This isn’t always possible for fields like acting, modeling, or basket weaving. However, it does help balance out the depressing outlook.

With publishing, the odds are against me. I don’t deny that. However, it’s another one of those games that’s free to play. Sure, it comes with a lot of rejection, but you can make the law of averages work for you.

Other writers have done just that. The book, Twilight, was rejected by 14 publishers before it got picked up. The hit show “Breaking Bad” was rejected by multiple networks, including HBO and FX, before getting picked up by AMC. Ironically, it seems as though there’s a lot of failure that goes into success.

I didn’t keep track of how many times I got rejected. I’d rather not sift through that many emails. However, I don’t use this as an excuse to get discouraged. I use this as an incentive to get better. That’s something else that teachers and after school specials never taught us as kids. We have to keep improving.

It kind of clashes with the whole message that, “You’re so great, no matter what anyone else says!” The truth is that we are all a work-in-progress. If we don’t keep improving at whatever we do, be it writing erotica/romance or learning to deep-fry a turkey, we’re not going to find success. We’re only going to fall into the same pit as those who think they have a chance at winning the lottery.

For the record, though, I do buy lottery tickets. I don’t buy many. I never spend more than pocket change on them, but again, the odds of playing are better than zero, which are the only odds you get if you don’t play.

Success is an unpredictable force and one that not everybody achieves in life. However, it is possible to put yourself in a position to experience it. It often takes more than your teachers and favorite movie stars ever told you, but it’s something worth pursuing. We only have one life to live, after all. Why not make the most of it?

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