Art (and basketball) from Khan Academy

I’m planning to use Khan Academy as a supplement to some math tutoring I’m doing this summer. It’s a phenomenal resource. While I was checking out the Khan Academy website, I decided to look at some of the non-math offerings.  Specifically, I checked out the various offerings in Art History.

This 7-minute lesson about the painting The Death of Socrates from 1787 is quite good. When I taught about Socrates as part of my world history survey class, I would regularly show students this image, because it’s the one that shows up when you do an image search for Socrates’ death:

I’d then tell my students the story of how Socrates chose to drink poison rather than renounce his views. Depending on the year, I’d go into more or less depth.

So I knew the picture, but I didn’t have the context. One big thing that I didn’t know until just now is that the figure on the left edge of the painting is Socrates’ star pupil, Plato.

The folks in the video (art historians who work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) point out that the only figure in the painting who seems to accept Socrates’ decision is Plato, and when you flesh out the relationship between Socrates and Plato, that makes sense.

The video narration also does a nice job of pointing out that this painting was made in 1787, just two years before the French Revolution began.  Also, this painting can be seen as a re-working of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, but with Socrates substituting for Jesus:

The whole seven minutes is worth watching (though I found it a little annoying that the two commentators talk over one another a bit).

Also, here’s a fun probability math video I saw last night — with an introduction by NBA great LeBron James, who asks what the odds are that he will make 10 free throws in a row. Sal Khan takes it from there…


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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