The Post Tag Named: Khan Echo Syndrome

Khan-Academy-LogoThe post tag named: Khan Echo Syndrome is named to give thanks to Salmon Khan and his educational website Khan Academy.  This tag is appropriate for this website because a significant portion of the posts to come on this site are just rehashes of what you can see on Khan’s website.  Let me back up a little and explain how I heard of the site and the profound effect it has had on me and so many millions of others.

My friend Prathiba and I were talking about our kids’ education.  Her kids are little bit older than mine and she was talking about how well they’re doing in math.  She asked “have you heard of khanacademy.org?” to which I replied “no”.  “Oh” she said, “you should check it out.” and she preceded to explain a little bit about it and how her kids were using the site and really enjoyed the math exercises.

I checked it out and was astonished to see how many courses there were.  Every type of math you could imagine, but that wasn’t all.  There are courses on:  biology, chemistry, astronomy, economics, the housing crisis, US Treasury plans, history, &c.  I couldn’t believe how busy Sal had been making these videos.  My first thought was “what should I check out first?”

Having just read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, I was into learning more about economics.  Wealth of Nations was a real eye opener with regard to economics and it led me to check Khan’s videos on banking first.   I was amazed.  All this talk about mortgage backed securities and collateralized debt obligations on the radio and I just didn’t quite understand how all this stuff really worked.   Needless to say, now I do.  Which is why I’m writing this post right now.  Because that’s what the site does, it gives anyone with internet access a chance to get educated on a wide array of topics.

One of the things I really look forward to learning is calculus.  I never qualified for it in highschool and only rated high enough for pre-calculus at University.  And, even if I did qualify by then, I couldn’t afford to take a class I wanted to because I only had enough money to take classes that I “needed” for my degree.  That’s the real blessing about the site for someone like me, I can learn calculus now on my own terms at 39 years old!   I don’t need permission, or money, or to have someone tell me I’m not smart enough to study that, I can study it and learn it in spite of all those roadblocks from my youth.  I’m truly thankful to Sal for that.

After watching the videos on Collateralized Debt Obligations, I watched the housing crisis videos, the economics videos, the currency exchange videos, the astronomy videos, the trigonometry videos, and now I’m rewatching the housing crisis videos.  Wow!  What spectacular work and what an amazing mind.  It’s pretty obvious that I’m hooked.  I can’t tell you how many hours in aggregate I’ve spent watching those videos.

So many of the topics that I want to cover on this website have already been covered by Khan.  So my goal with this post is to give credit to Sal Khan and include this post tag everytime I’m rehashing something I learned from Sal.

Maybe by teaching something back that I learned from Khan I’ll be able to learn it a little better myself.  Maybe I’ll add a little angle or color to something that helps someone else along the way.  Maybe I’ll point someone toward Khan’s website and they’ll be better off it.

They say that practice makes perfect.  They say that repitition sinks things into your memory.  They say that immitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  If anything here with the post tag: Khan Echo Syndrome can help even one person further educate themselves, it will be worth it.

So, thank you very much Sal Khan, my hat is off to you.  Any post on this site with the post tag Khan Echo Syndrome is a tribute to your hard work and philanthropy.

Persian Letter Series: Letter 117 – Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice

This is the twenty first post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters. Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion. The following is an excerpt from Letter 117:

Protestant countries ought to be, and are in reality, more populous than Catholic ones.  It follows, first, that revenue from taxes is higher, because it increases proportionately to the number of taxpayers; second that the land is better cultivated; third, that business is in a more flourishing state, because there are more people with their fortunes to make, and because, although their needs are greater, there are also more resources.  When the number of people is only enough for the cultivation of the land, trade inevitably collapses, and when there are only enough for the maintenance of trade, agriculture is inevitably ruined; which means that both decay together, since a man cannot engage in one except at the expense of another.

As for the Catholic countries, not only has agriculture been abandoned, but industriousness itself is harmful: it consists only in learning five or six words of a dead language.  As soon as a man has equipped himself in this way, he no longer needs to trouble about his career; in a monastery, he can have a quiet life which he would have sweated and labored to achieve in the outside world.

This is not all.  The dervishes have almost all the wealth of the nation in their hands.  They form a society of miser, constantly acquiring and never giving  back; they accumulate income all the time so as to build up capital.  All this wealth becomes paralyzed; it no longer circulates, and there is no more commercial, cultural or industrial activity.

There is not a single Protestant ruler who does not raise more taxes from his people than the pope from his subjects; yet the latter are poor, while the former live in opulence.  With them, commerce brings everything to life, while with the others monasticism carries death with it everywhere.

Comments on the excerpt above:

Montesquieu uses Catholicism and Protestantism to draw contrast between two starkly different socio-economic groups existing in 1718; roughly 200 years after the Reformation had begun.  At first glance, it might seem the author is implying religion itself is the sole reason for these socio-economic differences.  This is not, however, entirely true.  Montesquieu was the first to use structuralism, comparative models, and ideal types in his sociological analysis.  This means that he’s always making comparisons between things by taking *all things* into account.  A true sociologist, anthropologist, or economist will never look at things in black in white, he’ll try to, holistically, see *all things* in their full color and take into account the entire complexity of the situation.  Also, Montesquieu was a Catholic and he married a Protestant, so please don’t incorrectly assume he’s picking on Catholicism; he’s just making honest and objective observations of the world around him.

The reason one society has a flourishing economy and one society is failing has religion only as one component of a bigger equation.  The Catholic Church is not necessarily at fault for the socio-economic decay across their demesne, but the socio-economic dynamic across the Catholic demesne around the Mediterranean countries (Southern France, Spain, and Italy) does offer a well defined example of what happens when the society’s wealth is trapped by a few misers in power.  The bishops and deacons of the church had acquired such a disproportionate amount of wealth and power over the last fifteen centuries they had become corrupt.  The corruption of their actions was harder and harder to conceal.

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