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Has Khan Discovered the Future of Christian Education?

In last week’s edition of 60 Minutes the report revealed that Sal Khan is experimenting with flipping the education system on its head. (Watch the whole segment here)

To oversimplify, children often come to school and are taught largely in big class environment from their teachers, the skills put into practice with semi-supervised in-class work or homework. Khan’s theory is to reverse that. Children spend time on their own (either at home or in school) watching short instructional videos and work with their teachers in trying to put it together.

It’s a radical demarkation from the way many of us were taught. But early experiments are showing, at least in math and the sciences, that this can be a great way for people of all ages to learn.

As you’d expect this has those in professional education a bit worried, annoyed even. They claim it’s not that revolutionary of a concept and it’s really just a way to eliminate teacher jobs. (The Khan Academy’s mission is to make a world class education FREE. I can see how that would ruffle feathers.) While those in education might not like it the numbers are clear. Kahn’s YouTube channel has nearly 300,000 subscribers and his channel has more than 129,000,000 views.

What about youth ministry?

As I watched this segment I couldn’t help wondering about the potential impact this could have in youth ministry? After all, we often find ourselves scratching our heads and saying… “I’m teaching the best I know how. Are they getting it?” And maybe there really is something to this style of teaching that could alter the style we teach?

In particular, I have a bunch of friends who teach confirmation classes. For them their confirmation class is often the closest thing that they get to a traditional classroom setting in their ministry. Is it fools gold to believe that they could flip this style of teaching where students would do the primary chunks of learning on their own and come to confirmation class to work out the applications of what they learned?

Q’s for Discussion

  • What is your primary teaching style? Like, what’s your sweet spot?
  • What are some different teaching methods you’ve tried?
  • Do you think this Kahn Academy concept has any merit in Christian ed?
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Does Same-Sex Education Reinforce Gender Stereotypes?

“The bottom line is that there is not good scientific evidence for the academic advantages of single-sex schooling. But there is strong evidence for negative consequences of segregating by sex — the collateral damage of segregating by sex.”

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Are boys and girls neurologically different? Do they learn differently? Are their mental capacities the same? What are the positives and negatives of separating students by gender?

These are all legitimate questions for the academic world to wrestle with. But they certainly have important implications to youth ministry, as well. Like so many other things in youth ministry many of us segment small groups and even Sunday school across gender lines. Chances are good that you either have your own theory as to why that is done or it has just always been done and that’s the way it is.

The quote I pulled above takes the question to a different level– one that may even be applied beyond gender boundaries and into other contemporary issues. “Does segmentation by gender foster the creation of positive/negative stereotypes?” (Of course, the philosophical question to explore as well, could be “Are gender stereotypes inherently positive/negative or are they simply a natural occurring phenomenon in social structures?)

What are your thoughts? When it comes to your ministry when/why do you segment your group by gender?