Starting next fall, Idaho students could have the option of taking math, history and other online classes provided by the Khan Academy, the online content nonprofit that provides courses free to anyone, anytime and anywhere.
Eric Kellerer, a spokesman for Northwest Nazarene University (NNU), tried to downplay the implications:
Primarily we have a group of faculty that are educators, from the education department that will be looking at the curriculum that (teachers) are already using and see how Khan can support that. Khan is not a curriculum. It’s one more tool into the mix so they can help students have better achievement scores.
But what if those scores prove that Khan works? The implications are huge. Gary North nails it:
It means that a state has tentatively accepted the idea that online education that is provided by a legally independent third party who is not in any way under control of the state’s educational establishment may be as good as classroom education.
This means that the state has officially admitted publicly that a tuition-free digital education may be equal academically to a campus-based education that costs on average $11,000 a year in the United States.
This means that a teacher with no certification by an education department in any college may be equal to a certified teacher.
This means that the teachers’ union may not be academically indispensable.
This means that homeschooling may be as good as state-certified, tax-funded, campus-based education.
This is a pass/fail test for public education.
I have long been a fan of home schooling for lots of reasons. Although my children attended public schools, we also exposed them to summer camps run by The John Birch Society and classes taught at Summit Ministries in Manitou Springs, Colorado. My son and his wife are home-schooling their five children – my grandchildren – and I must say, they are turning out OK.
I think, as North does, that Idaho’s experiment will prove to the first olive out of the bottle. The others will come more easily once the results are in.