“Hu­man teach­ers will be­come far more valu­able in the fu­ture.”

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room,” in which stu­dents take in­struc­tion on­line out­side of class and do their “home­work” in the class­room. He also ques­tions Western ortho­dox­ies, such as how many years we at­tend school, at what age we be­gin, and why we think it rea­son­able to move past a unit of study with any­thing less than to­tal mas­tery of it.

Ac­cord­ing to Khan, “the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion is that this whole pro­ject is some­how a way to re­place hu­man teach­ers.” But, he says, “hu­man teach­ers will be­come far more valu­able in the fu­ture be­cause [the class­room] will be a more in­ter­ac­tive place and they are go­ing to be do­ing the things com­put­ers can­not do, which is form bonds, mo­ti­vate, men­tor, di­ag­nose.”

“If you take the point of view that this is a tremen­dous aid to teach­ers in the class­room, then you get where we’re com­ing from,” agrees Sub­barayan. “It’s stu­dent-cen­tric learn­ing, so … the teacher can be more of an or­ches­tra­tor and guide their stu­dents into learn­ing … The teacher’s value in­creases.”

It is late at night when I leave Los Al­tos. Af­ter about ten min­utes of mu­tu­ally agree­able si­lence, my cab driver sud­denly an­nounces we are pass­ing the NASA Re­search Cen­tre.

In a com­mu­nity rich with in­no­va­tion, some­thing about this par­tic­u­lar achieve­ment, the ex­plo­ration of an­other planet, seems to have pow­er­fully cap­tured the imag­i­na­tions of the lo­cals. It brings to mind the book­shelves in Khan’s of­fice, filled with science-fic­tion books by the likes of Isaac Asi­mov and Ur­sula Le Guin.

“Just as com­puter science is miss­ing from our school sys­tem, so is science fic­tion,” he says.

“Yet it’s so im­por­tant be­cause it’s about dream­ing. I mean, I love Vic­to­rian nov­els, the way they cap­ture the nu­ances of the hu­man con­di­tion. But you have to dream, too, and that is miss­ing right now.”

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