In an undistinguished ranch house off the main freeway of Silicon Valley, in a converted walk-in closet filled with a few hundred dollars' worth of video equipment and bookshelves and his toddler's red Elmo underfoot, is the epicenter of the educational earthquake that has captivated Gates and others. It is here that Salman Khan produces online lessons on math, science, and a range of other subjects that have made him a web sensation.
Like so many entrepreneurial epiphanies, Khan's came by accident. Born and raised in New Orleans -- the son of immigrants from India and what's now Bangladesh -- Khan was long an academic star. With his MBA from Harvard, he has three degrees from MIT: a BS in math and a BS and a master's in electrical engineering and computer science. He also was the president of his MIT class and did volunteer teaching in nearby Brookline for talented children, as well as developed software to teach children with ADHD. What he doesn't know he picks up from endless reading and cogitation: His gift, like that of many teachers, is being able to reduce the complex. "Part of the beauty of what he does is his consistency," says Gates. Of Khan's capacity to teach, Gates, who says he spends considerable time trying to help his three kids learn the basics of math and science, tells Fortune, "I kind of envy him."
Micah & I are thoroughly enjoying Sal's pedagogy. He makes the basics crystal clear. In any field, gaining a deeply intuitive feel for the fundamentals is everything - the complexities are only impossibly or confusingly complex when the fundamentals aren't really understood. And teaching the basics well is very difficult - I myself haven't the patience or ability. And so, I'm incredibly grateful for Sal.
Micah says: this is simply not fair - he's making school-stuff exciting and fun!