Nonprofit Educators with Ideas at the Aspen Ideas Festival

July 1, 2011; Source: genConnect | Who were the nonprofit educators with ideas innovative and creative enough to warrant roles at the Aspen Ideas Festival? GenConnect interviewed several “pioneers” at the Festival.

One such educator is Salman Khan, who created the eponymous nonprofit Khan Academy, with the mission of improving education by providing a free world-class education to anyone, anywhere . . . now consist(ing) of self-paced software, and with over 1 million unique students per month, [ranking it] the most-used educational video repository on the Internet.” 

According to GenConnect, “Khan envisions his academy as eventually providing a whole software platform where anyone can access any subject and lessons – from basic arithmetic, to biology, to advanced calculus – for free, and in multiple languages.”  Other speakers included Vincent Dotoli, the founder and head of the much-lauded Harlem Academy, which aims to break the negative stereotypes of inner city kids and to help them deal with the rigors of high school. 

But it was a for-profit ideas entrepreneur who raised the most interesting and perhaps disturbing idea. Lynda Resnick, the for-profit owner of POM Wonderful and FIJI Water, “is looking into the development of technical charter schools that can serve as an alternative high school for those who don’t want, or need, to go to college, but who need advanced skills and training for certain career fields – such as farming, the solar power industry, and oil drilling.”  

Her theory is that in certain parts of the country  higher populations of students are opting for the job force rather than college, according to GenConnect.  “Maybe high schools have to be – in certain areas of the country – more of a tech school and maybe include college courses, or tech college courses, as well as college courses,” she added. 

Farming, solar power, oil drilling.  One wonders if there is a negative stereotype there of young people in rural communities whose interest in education is so limited.—Rick Cohen