Sal Khan: The education establishment is “in violent agreement with us”

In a recent interview with Slate, Khan Academy founder Salman Khan is asked how he gets the education establishment to go along with his vision (and the vision of many others) of using technology to better customize learning. His answer doesn’t include the term “seat time,” but he suggests most of “the establishment” (he uses air quotes, too) already agrees the practice is obsolete. Here’s his response in full:

I actually think the majority, almost everyone we talk to who are part of the establishment, are in violent agreement with us. And if anything, they’ve been frustrated, because they’re all well meaning, intelligent, talented people who care about kids. But they’ve, they’ve – sometimes not even been able to articulate it – but they’ve felt hampered. They say, yeah, I see that kid does not understand basic multiplication, but I need to forward them. In the existing system, it kind of was what they had to do. So I think a lot of them view this as a chance almost to get liberated. I think the stuff that – I wouldn’t even say threatens – I think the stuff that the infrastructure that will go away is this whole infrastructure around what is, what has to happen on Day 18 in the seventh grade in California? Or Day 28 in the sixth grade in Louisiana? That whole kind of scaffolding of state mandated curricula, I think that’s probably – I think will go away. And really, I haven’t seen anybody really defend that.

Also in the Slate interview (there are two other short videos), Khan mentions his company’s partnership with public schools in the Los Altos school district – and the incredible impact its approach is having on student achievement. Khan Academy also has a partnership with Step Up For Students, involving 10 private schools in the Tampa area that serve low-income students with tax credit scholarships. More about that here. More about the erosion of seat time here.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at