Today when talking on discord someone mentioned their approval for Khan Academy, stating that it was what allowed them to pass their class. I believe education is a human right, and I thought I would see what I could do to contribute. I was alarmed to discover the lack of ways to do so.
I voiced my thoughts in a brief way in discord, and was quickly attacked by nearly everyone there. People seem to all love khan, holding it as the savior of education, and in some ways, it is. Khan was the first platform I could find to offer easily accessible k-12-beyond learning for anyone, for free. It provides a central place with “trusted” content, but ultimately khan academy solves no issues in our education system, while getting all the support of the internet.
I write this “rant” to be the first person on the internet to say khan is not so great.
There is no public information on khan academy’s power structure, aside from the fact that it has executives. There is no way to vote in leaders, and no real way to hold them accountable other than abstaining from donation. This leads to near unlimited power. Sal has networth in the millions alone, and due to its structure, a hostile takeover to broadcast information on a “trusted” site like khan is possible - as we saw in Freenode. This power structure ultimately leaves not only the people but the teachers powerless, leaving for issues like the traditional school board.
The website itself is closed source, but the curriculum is technically open source. I say technically because no archives are provided, making the curriculum functionally closed source. This means if misinformation is spread on the site, we are unable to easily maintain a “correct” mirror. If the site goes down, so does the learning. For similar issues, offline users in low income countries especially are barred.
While khan material is under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US, it’s near impossible to effectively copy without using web crawlers.
Finally, Khan contributors are always employees. This means we are relient on bug reports to fix issues, and who knows when or if it will be fixed. Additionally, raised issues are viewable only to khan staff, removing even more accountability.
Want to write more new content for khan for free because you love learning? You can’t without giving up your job for a paid position @ Khan.
I struggled to find citations for anything asserted on their site. This is especially needed in the sciences and social studies, where misinformation is rampant.
We can do better
I dream of a curriculum where we are free. Free to and easy to clone, redistribute, and to modify. Where there is a Democratic Government, so a hostile takeover is near impossible. Where changes are made in the open so that we hold those that make them more accountable. A curriculum that is modern and interactive, with a smaller focus on lectures.
I don’t think this exists today, but for a true radicle education platform something must change, to avoid all the issues we face today with the world’s education in an online platform.
At the very least, the community must rid of the “Khan will change the world” mentality.
Sorry if my thoughts are slightly raw, wrote this in a hurry
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