God Bless Ameri Khans

What are the odds of there being two men named Khan who, in the same week, did amazing things to teach millions of people lessons about American history and government? And I’m not talking metaphorically. I’m talking actual history like the kind that is taught in lessons and books.

Here are the two Khans I’m talking about.

Sal Kahn, founder of Khan Academy

Sal_and_Kim_DSC8089_Cropped_small_qow09e-1

In this photo, Sal and Kim Kutz, U.S. history fellow at Khan Academy, are celebrating the successful completion of an Indigogo project to raise funds for American government and politics resources. The project closed last week, raising $569,341 and crushing their goal of $300,000.

Here’s what is being funded by the project:

$300,000 | To create government and politics resources for high school students.
$200,000 | To fund Social Studies content for middle schoolers
$68,341 | To expand our content library to include more new topics.

“Together, we’ve raised funds to help us bring free resources on these critical topics to millions of learners. We truly couldn’t have done it without you,” Khan said on the Indigogo project page.

If you don’t know about Sal Khan and Khan Academy, the story is an amazing testament to the reason America is blessed to be a magnet for people from around the globe who yearn to breathe free in a land that promises opportunity. Khan is a second-generation American, born in Metairie, Louisiana. His father, Dr. Fakhrul Amin Khan, is from Barisal, Bangladesh, and his mother, Masuda Khan, is from Murshidabad, West Bengal, India. Sal and his elder sister were raised by his mother.

Khan attended MIT, graduating with degrees in mathematics, electrical engineering and computer science–Oh, and he was class president his senior year. Later, Khan earned MS degrees in electrical engineering and computer science and worked in an MBA from Harvard Business School during his spare time.

Khizr Khan. father of the late U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan

Amazon_Best_Sellers__Best_BooksMr. Khan not only spoke eloquently and with great impact, about the supreme sacrifice his son made in service to his country, Mr. Khan inspired a run on the sale of pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution. For nearly a week, the Constitution has been the #2 best selling book of any type on Amazon.com — second only to a Harry Potter release.

 

 

Tony Schwartz Could Have Saved Civilization

trump-shadeJane Mayer’s New Yorker magazine piece about Tony Schwartz, ghost-writer of Trump’s book, Art of the Deal, is depressing.

While yes, it’s depressing to learn what Schwartz is revealing–that his 18 months of being embedded with Trump convinced him that Trump is a “sociopath”–that’s not what I’m talking about. Even his fans would probably admit he’s, well, “different,” when it comes to his personality. And, frankly, the word “sociopath” is not really a clinical term these days, if my TV crime-show training is correct. I think the “politically correct” term is antisocial personality disorder. But then, we know that Trump is not a fan of the politically correct.

Here’s what’s depressing: That Schwartz waited so long.

To Mayer, he admitted, “I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is. I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

I don’t care that Schwartz now says he’s donated to charities his percentage of the proceeds from the books sold (a 50% cut) since Trump announced he was running for President.

I don’t care that Schwartz now says he hasn’t been able to sleep since then, as well.

I care that he has waited until Trump is one of only two people who will be our next President…and it has taken him over a year to share his unique insight with the rest of us, “that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

I’m sorry, but if someone thinks there is an “excellent possibility” that “the end of civilization” will occur if people don’t know what he knows, that person doesn’t have the liberty of sitting on such information for over a year–or several decades if one goes back to the original publishing date..

It may have meant something during all those rallies when Trump held up the book and claimed it was the best book ever written (except when he discovered the evangelical vote, he changed that to “second best after the Bible”).

Now it’s a little too late for Schwartz to ask for a Martin Niemöller-esque mulligan on saving civilization. You said nothing when it mattered most.

No, Mr. Schwartz, you were the boy with his finger in the dike.

You waited too long.

You could have saved civilization, but you blew it.

As I’ve written before, Trump backers won’t care.

They won’t believe Schwartz, now.

Even Trump knows he could take a gun out on 5th Avenue and start shooting people and his backers won’t care.

That’s why it’s depressing.

Voting Night Coverage Streaming Via the Beeb

Last night, I watched the BBC’s streaming coverage of the UK “leave/remain” referendum.

Some observations:

The vote is similar to what is happening in the U.S. Presidential election: a vote less about party or even traditional viewpoints of conservative vs. liberal. It’s all about big-city vs. little village. (Or “provincial” as they’d call it in the U.K.) As a coping mechanism, I’ve refused to believe that Donald Trump can actually be elected President, but watching the coverage last night gave me pause.

Not having commercials during election coverage is worth whatever tax the UK citizens pay that allows me to watch their coverage for free. Thank you, UK taxpayers.

The ridiculously over-blown 3-D visualization graphic they have developed is a lesson that should teach you: just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.

Fences, Walls & The Boy in Striped Pajamas

He’s making the country great again.

The 2008 film, Boy in Striped Pajamas, is a poignant but difficult movie to watch. When I saw it via Netflix recently, I was struck by how the imagery and message of the film evokes the imagery and message of the current presidential campaign of Donald Trump.*

The film is a fable (the implausible plot on which the film is based has been the subject of much debate) about two eight-year-old boys on opposite sides of a fence that surrounds a Nazi extermination camp (implied to be Auschwitz).

Bruno, the boy on the outside of the fence, is the son of the SS officer in command of the camp. With the innocence of an eight year old, Bruno believes the death camp is a farm where Shmuel, the boy on the inside of the fence, lives.

Building walls, making them pay

Read more “Fences, Walls & The Boy in Striped Pajamas”

The Lobotomy

In education, business, politics, sports, you name it, when mired in the deepest mess, the strategy that will be successful most consistently is the lobotomy.

titans-saintsChapter 1

NPR’s All Things Considered recently ran a story about what has worked and not worked with the educational reform program called No Child Left Behind. Short version: When nothing else works, a school must develop a restructuring strategy. The most common strategy — and the one that most consistently works — is called by education pundits, “the lobotomy.” It means, simply, firing the person in charge. With school, it’s the principal.

Why is the lobotomy the only thing that consistently works? It’s hard to say.

Tom Ahn, a University of Kentucky professor and leading researcher of No Child Left Behind Ahn points out that, to be forced into restructuring, a school had to be considered failing for six years. “There’s something seriously wrong with the way the school has been run,” Ahn says.

This doesn’t necessarily the principal is bad or incompetent.

Says Ahn, “When leadership change occurs, basically there’s a sea change.”

Not only is there an improvement in student performance, but also in teacher satisfaction surveys.

Chapter 2

I’ve thought of “the lobotomy” several times since hearing about it in that story. But I’ve been thinking about it being appliedcin other contexts than No Child Left Behind.

John Boehner
NFL Coaches Joe Philbin (Miami) and Ken Whisenhut (Tennessee)
Tim Wolfe, University of Missouri President
A Parade of Executives at Volkswagen
And-on-and-on

Moral of this story

In education, business, politics, sports, you name it, when you want a sea change, a lobotomy may not always work, but it’s more likely to work consistently than other choices.