The super-star phenomena seems to happen in any field where the marginal cost of distribution is very low. I think teaching could be that way just as much as acting or playing basketball - at least as far as educational content delivery. And many other aspects of teaching can be automated or in some way taken care of without the need of a teacher.

I think khan academy is one example of the super-star phenomena in the teaching field.

But for the number of kids (and even adults) in school, it seems like a super-star would have happened earlier, or that there would be more than one super-star, or that the teaching field would mirror the musician or professional athlete or acting fields more closely. (Maybe Barney was a super-star in teaching? Or some other educational kids TV show star? Bill Nye?) Maybe not so much as far as hype goes, but at least as far as competitiveness at the top, and how far ahead the top few are from the rest in income.

So my question is, why doesn't it? Am I missing some point about the super-star phenomena? Or am I overlooking some super-stars in teaching? Etc?

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    $\begingroup$ I think you have to specify what you mean by teaching. Is examination part of the process? (I would argue it is not but traditionally it is.) Is a teacher required to interact with the students and answer their questions? (I would argue that the ideal teacher should.) These and similar aspects make teaching non-scaleable or at least difficultly so. That might explain why superstars who usually arise in scaleable industries (most notably one-way entertainment) are infrequent in teaching. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Apr 19, 2016 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ In my question, I'm more focusing on educational content delivery. So testing, Q & A, aren't really part of it. I am making the assumption that those type of things can be automated or resolved without a teacher. But if that's too bold an assumption, @denesp I would take your comment as an answer. $\endgroup$
    – user4207
    Apr 19, 2016 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ You can make whatever assumptions you wish, just make them clear to all. Perhaps edit the question to show that you mean "educational content delivery"? Though then I think you'll find that there are quite a few superstars. (Sagan, Nye, etc.) $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Apr 19, 2016 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ My guess is that the answer is some mixture between there are a few superstars already and that the number of people in school is blown up by the fact that school is more about signaling than learning. In other words, the market for formal education is greater than the market for educational content delivery for the sake of learning itself, and thus the super-star phenomena might seem dimmed if you are using the number of kids in school as a proxy for the market size. $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2019 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ I think @Kent Shikama is spot on. Most schooling is mainly signaling. It's the top rated universities that really matter. Once you work, it's mainly networking (uni helps again) and actual knowledge. There are countless great content providers. Even just studying Wikipedia is brilliant. What really matters to excel in my opinion/experience is interaction with the teacher and other students to exchange ideas and knowledge. On the other hand, have a look at udemy and search for python and other popular topics. Plenty of "super-stars". Same with textbooks; Hamilton, Hayashi, Varian, Krugman, ... $\endgroup$
    – AKdemy
    Aug 28, 2021 at 20:25


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