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In The Mind of the Beholder

Many people have seen the slide show Did You Know? created by Karl Fisch or the version edited by Scott McLeod. There are also many other variations on the same theme all over the web.

The concept is a simple but powerful series of slides containing nothing but text statements that Karl designed to get the staff at his school thinking about how our society, and that of their students, is rapidly changing.

I’ve seen the video many times, both as part of the audience and as the person showing it. Karl reports that it was shown this past week to the opening session of the National School Boards Association conference.

While the content of the slide show never fails to produce a variety of reactions from the audience, I’ve never heard this one before.
One person in a group viewing the show here last week complained that the presentation is racist.

Since I wasn’t at the session I’m not sure exactly why they feel that way. But I gather it stems from a few slides at the beginning comparing the US to China and India.

Slides containing statements like:

  • The 25% of the population in China with the highest IQ’s… Is greater than the total population of North America.
  • Translation for teacher: They [China and India] have more honors kids than we have kids.
  • If you took every single job in the US today and shipped it to China… China would still have a labor surplus.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see anything racist in the slides. Or about factually comparing the US to two countries that are major economic competitors.

Would anyone else like to point out the errors in my perception?

did you know, karl fisch, racism


  1. Karl Fisch

    You’ve seen it many times? You poor man.

    Lots of reactions – definitely.

    Lots of criticism – some of it brutal – and much of it valid (or at least worthy of further discussion) – yes.

    But this is the first I’ve heard “racist” as well. I was concered about how my staff would react (never dreamed that it would spread like this) – and that it might be interpreted too much as “us versus them.” That was not my intent – see this post for more on intent.

    But I sure hope most folks don’t see it as racist. It certainly is U.S. – centric, and I wish somebody had the time and energy and knowledge to make it more of a global “shift happens” concept for all students, not just U.S. ones – I think that would help a lot. Because I truly do want education to improve for students everywhere, it’s just that my original audience was just my staff in one school in one state in the U.S. – and I wasn’t writing it for the huge, global audience that eventually ended up seeing it.

    If you ever have the opportunity to talk to that person, please convey that that was not the intent – although if many folks perceive it that way, then maybe intent isn’t good enough. Truth often is in the eye of the beholder . . . at least truth for that beholder.

    Audience is becoming a much trickier concept these days, isn’t it?

  2. Tom

    It was interesting to me to read all the comments on the google video version. A majority of them are garbage (IMO) but it does give you some insight into how certain segments of our world think. It gave me a lot to think about.

    I don’t see the presentation as racist. You can’t really if you know America’s cultural make up includes lots of people of Chinese and Indian descent. It is nationalistic and that didn’t bother me initially (I am someone who copied Mr. Fisch after all and I think the way the presentation has spread proves that it really speaks to a need we have to understand what’s going on right now). It has started to worry me now. I don’t want to motivate people through fear and that is often how this video is interpreted.

    Audience certainly has changed.


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