“I like to imagine a world where no matter where you are born, any village, any school, anywhere, you’re able to tap into your potential improvement.”– Sal Khan
This quote exemplifies Sal’s goal to provide free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere. He is achieving this goal through his nonprofit organization Khan Academy, which contains high-quality videos for various subjects.
The individual I chose for my Eminent Person Project is Sal Khan because he has profoundly affected the education system with his views about the learning process and access to information.
Sal’s eminence is displayed in the work he has done as an educator. He is the founder of the nonprofit organization Khan Academy, whose mission is to “provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.” Khan Academy is shaking up the education industry by using a learning model that encourages mistakes and reinforces mastery. Sal’s vision is to have students learn at their own pace, and his mastery-based approach to learning shows promising results. The traditional learning model is flawed because students are lectured and then tested on subjects, and even if some learners score poorly on tests, the entire class continues to the next subject. This method leaves gaps in learners’ understanding, which become apparent as they continue to increasingly complex subjects. In contrast, Sal’s mastery-based approach to learning helps learners master concepts before moving to the next, allowing them to learn at their own pace. This method also provides opportunities for learners to build deep understanding instead of surface perception. Sal also believes that access to learning is a human right, so he set Khan Academy as a nonprofit. He wants his content to be accessible to everyone for generations, and he does not think a for-profit would stay true to its mission. Sal’s mission and beliefs make him stand out as an innovative and forward-thinking educator. However, Sal’s success did not come without struggle. He forced himself to suppress his dream of developing Khan Academy because it was too risky to quit his hedge funds job when he did not own a house, had a baby on the way and still needed to pay his wife’s outstanding student loans. Due to his circumstances, when Sal started Khan Academy, he protected it by saying, “This is a hobby. This is a passion. This is fun.” as it developed. He became further demotivated when the dot-com bubble burst when he was a part of it, making him believe entrepreneurship was not for him. Luckily, Sal’s old boss thought it was valuable for employees to have their own lives, which allowed Khan Academy to blossom. When Sal finally quit his old job in 2009, he already had over 100 000 users, appeared on CNN, and talked to philanthropists, so he was at minimal risk.
Sal’s desire to gain a deep understanding and challenge himself, growth mindset and humbleness make him worth researching. I also possess some of these attributes. I try to emulate his humbleness and outstanding ability to receive and act upon criticism, and he motivates me to pursue my passion and take agency over my learning. In school I faced similar challenges to Sal. For example, as a gifted learner, Sal faced many of the same obstacles as me, such as not receiving opportunities to discover beyond the curriculum or study topics of our interest. Sal and I were extremely fond of our gifted classes because they allowed us to explore our passions and learn in ways that differed from traditional means of learning. As a TALON, I admire Sal because he wants schools to begin shifting towards allowing learners to become autonomous and self-directed. There is an increasing demand for autonomous individuals that take agency over their learning in the workplace, which the traditional schooling model does not produce. Another similarity that Sal and I share is we are both brown-skinned and have a heritage in India. Even though I am a Sikh and Sal is Muslim, we were still raised with similar values and exposed to Indian culture. Also, as a racial minority in North America, we are forced to battle against stereotyping and unfair opportunities. In summary, our similar upbringing allows me to empathize and connect with Sal’s challenges as he continues to revolutionize education. Sal Khan’s eminence is clearly displayed in his journey and achievements. His goals and experiences are closely related to my own, and his methodology for teaching will have a profound effect on learners for many generations.
For the next phase of my research, my goal is to continue researching Sal Khan’s life and acquire a deeper understanding of the inspiration behind the development of Khan Academy. I will also attempt to contact Sal for an interview.