Linda Clark-Borre

No Excuses: The Kahn Plan

01/02/2012 12:58

I started out self-educated, the result of a more or less impoverished childhood. I took my first major career step without benefit of a college degree, and advanced well into the corporate culture until I finally got official credentials to be a player.  How did I get so far on so little formal education? As my nice ex-husband, a traditional college grad, once said, he read a lot of books because he had to. I read a lot of books because I wanted to, and I still do.

I have long loved The Teaching Company. They supply DVDs, tapes, and CDs by which the Great Courses in Literature, Physics, Math etc. are taught by the Great Professors of the United States. They are wonderful, but cost money. (BTW if you are a professor who is great, let me know and I will recommend you for an audition as I did for one of the University of Chicago folks, if you’re interested. It’s a neat way to share what you know nationally with motivated adult learners).

Getting ready for work used to take me about half an hour every day; for years I’d pop a TC tape in and listen to a half hour lecture on a number of topics while I got myself ready. By this means, I learned a lot about things I never formally studied, such as how to listen to and understand the operatic works of the ages.  They each go back a long, long way, and each offers a glimpse into creativity, life and society on a number of levels, as Shakespeare does.

I will always be a satisfied TC customer as I search for meaning and a more coherent, integrated and effective being-in-the-world in my spare time. (I am only half-joking). But I wanted to be sure you all know about two sources for free education that I plan to take greater advantage of in the year ahead.

Here’s a link to the Kahn Academy: which is great for you-tube type reviews on technical topics. They are supposedly expanding their offerings soon.

Free MIT offerings at are new. Their press release was recently circulated around the University at Chico without comment. In my opinion, these are no threat to any institution of higher learning and represent phenomenal public service. I only looked briefly into some of the courses; at first glance these seem to be more complex than the Kahn offerings, and beneficial to self-learners able to wrap their heads around topics for extended periods of time.

Desire is everything when it comes to learning.  I don’t always see that spark as a college lecturer, though it is something I know we who teach always hope to inspire in our students. It’s key to note that none of the free stuff Ihave mentioned  represents wholly passive learning. It’s all best augmented through discussions and participation with “those who know.” But gee, at least there is no excuse anymore to be stupid about things like basic math, even if you were sick a lot when Sister Renee was teaching the fundamentals.

The eternal caveat is that it doesn’t do any of us any good to confuse information with wisdom. We live in the age of intelligence, but wisdom, alas, is more elusive. Formal types of educational offerings, combined with the practical experience the maturational process affords (aka lessons from the school of hard knocks), represent a boon to ourselves and to society when we use - and act on the basis of -our knowledge. I hope everyone who is able to keep on learning, Kahn and will. (Sorry, so very sorry…)