(McKinsey, Pearson, Gates and ALEC colonizing the K-12 to college arena)


Kahn Academy is the darling of education “reformers” and entrepreneurs, spearheading the movement to provide online instruction in lieu of bodied and interactive learning, to the tune of millions of dollars.

Hailed by Forbes and others as the public face of the “flipped learning” movement, Salman Kahn believes that basic learning should be done by video before a pupil arrives in class. “Khan envisages pupils being taught in ‘super-classes’ of 100 with three or four teachers, and has called for the abolition of separate subjects and even the summer holiday break   (Here’s) the man Gates has described as a ‘true education pioneer’”.

Kahn’s vision is not without his criticisms. Former Kahn employee Karim Kai Ani suggests, “Officials might see them as a cheap replacement for teachers.” He says, “It reminds me of tackling the obesity epidemic. We need to exercise and eat better but instead people go on the Atkins diet. This is the educational equivalent of the Atkins diet.”

But it’s financial success is no surprise considering that Salman Kahn who was a senior analyst for venture capitalist firms before created Kahn Academy, knows how to game a system for financial gain. From 2003-08 he was a Senior analyst for Wohl Capital Management; from 2008-09 he was a Senior analyst for Connective Capital Management and from 1998-99 he was a Senior product manager for Oracle Corporation.

And he’s had help from Bill Gates, himself a self-proclaimed educational expert who believes (in his non-existent knowledge of developmental and pedagogical theories) that 100 children seated in front of computers qualifies as meaningful learning.

Khan Academy received large grants from Google ($2 million) and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation ($1.5 million) to help with his latest “venture”- public education.

David Coleman announced that College Board would revising the existing SAT’s and partner with Kahn Academy to provide delivery/training/support for the new and “improved” version of the SAT’s. It’s simply an extended version of Common Core. For more “nonsense” on the SAT “reboot” itself read Paul Thomas.

Privatization is on the move.

McKinsey strikes again

The global consulting firm McKinsey and Co has had a deep hand in the direction that education reform has taken over the last several years. A mere handful of their connections with predatory reformers in public education include:

Louis Gerstner (co-chair of Achieve-the group that helped sponsor Nation Common Core), Rajat Gupta (financial backer of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Marshall Lux (on the Board of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Andrés Satizábal (Harlem Charter School), Michael Stone (Chief External Relations Officer at New Schools for New Orleans),  Terrence McDonough (English Teacher and Department Chair at Edward W. Brooke Charter School  and 5th Grade Teacher at Teach for America), Luis de la Fuente (with the Broad Foundation, who develops and manages a portfolio of grants to school districts, charter management organizations, and innovative non-profits), Shantanu Sinha (COO of Kahn Academies), and Jerry Hauser ( who served as the Chief Operating Officer at Teach For America). This list could go on ad infinitum.  But one final player of note is Bobby Jindal, former McKinsey consultant, and now Governor of Louisiana. He is forming policies to privatize public education for the entire state of Louisiana.

For a full report see my McKinsey research:

But suffice to say, David Coleman, leader in the Common Core initiative, Sir Michael Barber, CEO of Pearson (now delivering PARCC and Common Core materials), and Lou Gerstner the co-creator and CEO of Achieve all hailed from McKinsey and Company. Indeed, the stars are aligned now that Kahn Academy will have a hand in the tests that will replace SAT and ACT. And Salman Kahn’s right-hand man, Shantanu Sinha, formerly an Associate Principal for McKinsey & Company, is now President & COO of Kahn Academy. Shantanu and Sal were former high-school math competitors in New Orleans, freshman-year roommates at MIT, and long-time friends.

Many of the other current leaders in Kahn Academy also worked for McKinsey.

It’s worth noting too that the Head of Finance for Kahn Academy served as the CFO for New Schools Venture Fund.

What a tidy little web, considering that our new Undersecretary for the the U.S. Department of Education will be Ted Mitchell who was formerly the CEO for New Schools Venture. BFF’s!!!

According to The Nation: “Mitchell’s NewSchool Venture Fund also reportedly partners with Pearson, the education mega-corporation that owns a number of testing and textbook companies, along with one prominent for-profit virtual charter school,Connections Academy.”

Coleman makes it all sound so “nice.” You know, free access to test prep materials and free college applications for “poor kids.”  But….Phillip Morris can make the Marlborough Man look pretty hot too. According to the CNN report: “To prepare students for the test, the College Board will partner for the first time with Khan Academy to provide free test preparation materials, starting in spring 2015. Afterward, income-eligible students will receive fee waivers to apply to four colleges for free.”

Question: Did we really need Kahn Academy to make test prep and college applications freely available to poor kids?  Never mind the wealth of documentation out there that has rightly challenged and debunked Kahn’s myth of success. It’s kind of like “the Texas Miracle” 2.0

Never mind about the facts. It certainly fits the agenda for Ted Mitchell who some predict will, “advocate for more federal promotion of online learning, ‘blended’ models of instruction, ‘adaptive learning’ systems, and public-private partnerships involving education technology.”

This plan fits nicely into ALEC’s scheme as well, with their “Course Choice Program Act”, which allows third-party private companies (i.e. Connections Academy and Kahn Academy) to be paid to “deliver” educational materials online IN SCHOOLS:

“The Course Choice Program created by this Act would allow students in public schools and public charter schools to enroll in online, blended, and face-to-face courses not offered by the student’s school, and would allow a portion of that student’s funding to flow to the course provider.

WHO are the course providers to be? Hmmm..what a mystery!

The Act adds: “Course Provider shall mean “an entity that offers individual courses in person or online, including but not limited to online or virtual education providers, public or private elementary and secondary education institutions, education service agencies, private or nonprofit providers, postsecondary education institutions, and vocational or technical course providers, and have been authorized to provide such courses by the State Department of Education.”

Kahn Academy itself has sat at the ALEC table of bribery and secrecy itself. As part of the “2011 Philanthropy Roundtable” where many of ALEC’s funding foundations, think tanks and others including Kahn Academy met to discuss philanthropic activities for 2012. 

Bob Sloan reflects:

Consider that ALEC’s corporate members include companies manufacturing and selling the software for long distance learning, companies that provide internet access services, computer companies and companies involved in privatizing public transportation.  Each one has an interest in increasing sales and profits, and otherwise benefitting from a “front” organization such as the Khan academy.

Hell, if we can’t close ALL the schools and make them come to charters, then gosh darn it we will come to them!


Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.


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