Assembly meant to educate misses the point


Soumya Kurnool

Our faces tell the story of an excruciating forty minutes of boredom. Sal Khan’s Jan. 6 presentation failed to address the student body, leading to yawns and dazed stares galore. Photo by Margaret Lin
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Quite frankly, Khan Academy’s Sal Khan is better on YouTube.
His presentation had no point. Remedial students failed to catch Khan’s message, students who already knew the history of the organization were bored, overachievers could not relate to his stories, and students who never went on Khan Academy were brushed aside by Khan, who never stopped to ask, “How many of you don’t know about Khan Academy?” or even “Do you guys understand how the site works?” Everyone was apathetic about his presentation’s content.

The highly anticipated speech by Sal Khan, a quasi-celebrity in our academically cultured school, strayed far from its predecessors in both purpose and execution. What students expected to be a motivational speech ended up being a forty minute ode to the Khan Academy by the Harvard and three-time MIT grad.

With even fewer jokes and even more uninteresting parts than previous speakers, Khan’s speech was a summary of everything that could be found online. Little reached through to the MVHS audience or made the presentation any different from the ones he claimed he recycled for so many different organizations. It was just very impersonal.

There were a few golden nuggets, however: aspects of the presentation that Khan could easily have employed to his purpose to connect to the student body. He’d say the remedial kids in Los Altos could excel, that his cousin Nadia could overcome her math troubles, but never us. He never directly addressed MVHS. Perhaps he incorrectly assumed that there were barely any remedial students in the school, along with his assumption that he’d look mediocre if he went here.

The point is that Khan’s speech had the potential to greatly motivate students in our own school by encouraging them to persevere in studies despite failure. I was sitting next to a group of Special Education students. Glancing occasionally at them, I noticed that Khan’s message, one that was so relevant to them, was lost on them.

They were victims of Khan’s beating around the bush. We all were. Those forty minutes were of polite disinterest as Khan rambled about the meetings he had with Bill Gates, Google, and Ann Doerr, his lady benefactor. We might have saved a few hundred yawns if we had just  stayed in class.