Khotso Khabele, founder of the Khabele School, and Michael Strong, a long time educator who promotes social entrepreneurship and the importance of Socratic discussions, have teamed up to bring a new type of school to Austin. The Khabele + Strong Incubator will open for grades 6 – 12 for the 2014 – 2015 school year at Casa de Luz. The incubator will help kids ace their SAT’s while they complete Advanced Placement courses and hone in on what makes them amazing!


With two simple principles in place, the Incubator is designed to help kids succeed in a college of their choice. By preparing them for college admissions and teaching them how to live an entrepreneurial life, Khabele + Strong students will come out ahead and ready for any college education or post-graduation path they pursue.

A typical day at Khabele + Strong will look like this:

  • 9 – 9:30 am -> Khotso Khabele will hold a morning meeting in which students and teachers will get focused and motivated to have a productive day. Any issues will be discussed so that everyone can be at their very best.
  • 9:30 am – noon -> Independent work period in which faculty will be available to help students  with their core academics. Students will have individual academic goals in math, writing, history and so forth. Sometimes, they’ll work toward these goals in small groups, but mostly they will work independently.
  • 12 – 1 pm -> Lunch
  • 1 – 2 pm -> Socratic discussions
  • 2 – 3 pm -> Social entrepreneurship
  • 3 – 6 pm -> Electives including 3D printing, Capoeira Martial Arts, yoga, theatre, improv, Spanish and other interesting opportunities.

We had a chance to talk with one of the founders of the school, Michael Strong, and asked him a few questions about this new endeavor. Here is what he had to say.


Michael Strong and Khotso Khabele, image via Khabele + Strong's Facebook

Michael Strong and Khotso Khabele, image via Khabele + Strong’s Facebook

Do512 Family: Give us the basic rundown of the Khabele + Strong Incubator and a few of its principles.

Michael Strong: Khotso (Khabele) and I designed this school because we believed that conventional schooling doesn’t prepare children well for the 21st century.

There are two destinations that we believe every 18-year-old should have available to them. One is college admissions – the option is to apply to as many colleges as possible. The other is what I call an entrepreneurial life. They should be ready to live as an entrepreneur based on their own skills and abilities, even if they work for other people.

With respect to the college admissions, we’re very focused on the essential aspects of getting into college which is a three-fold. One is SAT, they need to be well prepared to do very well on the SAT’s. The other is they need to be capable of passing two or three Advanced Placement (AP) courses. And the third is to be amazing.

When I went to Harvard, there was a student who had been elected Mayor of his small town in Michigan at the age of 18 and he had the lowest SAT scores of anybody in my class. The fact is, if you can get yourself elected Mayor of a small town by the age of 18, SAT scores are less important. There are some students who have developed their own software companies, students who have written novels, students who have started their own bands and performed… there are a lot of different ways to be amazing.

Our program is designed so that students can pursue their passions and become excellent at something while developing very high SAT scores, preparing for AP tests, and packaging themselves as an entrepreneurial person who can do things in the world and add value to companies and projects.

How do you plan on helping them find their amazing, or hone in on their amazing-ness?

Two general strategies.

One is through Socratic discussions. My specialty as an educator is Socratic discussion, where we read and think about ideas across the disciplines.

The other is social entrepreneurship. For the last 10 years, I have led a non profit (FLOW) that I co-founded with John Mackey of Whole Foods that promotes entrepreneurial solutions to world problems. I have one of the best networks of social entrepreneurs in the world, and we will actually expose kids to diverse projects, mostly in developing countries. Students will see how a social entrepreneur either helped raise funds for education in the Congo, or helped women in Guatemala wash their clothes without electricity, or my wife’s Senegalese company that produces skincare products based on indigenous Senegalese recipes.

In various ways the kids will learn about and start working on these to see what a real world social entrepreneur does and how they do it. We believe that this kind of exposure will stimulate many of them to try, or actually create, their own company over time where they can start solving a problem in a way that they think is most effective.

It doesn’t have to be a social entrepreneurship project in which they’re amazing, but we want to encourage that kind of thinking where they take whatever skills or talents they have and apply it to making the world a better place.

We’ll have a steady stream of entrepreneurs coming in presenting their ideas and explaining how their companies work. For projects that are local we’ll go on field trips. If students are interested in a potential project then they can intern on one of the local social entrepreneur’s projects

Why do you feel the Socratic discussions are so important?

The Socratic discussion does several things simultaneously. If you look at the verbal SAT it’s largely college level reading with nuanced questions about  that reading. In the Socratic discussions, teens will read college level material and discuss it.

It also develops the teen’s writing because if one spends a lot of time discussing ideas, it becomes very natural to know how to defend their ideas. We can use that to teach analytical writing, or essay writing, which in some ways is the most important kind of writing for college.

We want them to become powerful independent thinkers where they develop their own beliefs about who they are, what’s important to them, what their moral beliefs and values are and that they learn to stand up for themselves and stand up for what they believe in. Within the one integrated activity of Socratic dialogue, students can develop a variety of personal and academic skills.

Anything you’d like to add?

Austin is THE BEST place for this school at this time in history. Many of our parents are entrepreneurs or creative professionals. This demographic really understands why we need to take this leap in education.


Michael Strong will be conducting a series of free talks at Casa de Luz covering a spectrum of topics entitled Reshaping Education to Serve Teens. All talks will be held in the auditorium at Casa de Luz from 6:30 – 7:30 pm and are free to attend.


  • Tuesday, July 8 -> Empowering Teens. How Socratic Education empowers kids to think for themselves and ace the SAT verbal.
  • Tuesday, July 22 -> Aligning school to match personal passions so kids strive for excellence without getting stressed.
  • Tuesday, July 29 -> Cultivating confidence in teens so they can find meaning and purpose.
  • Tuesday, August 5 -> Which 21st century skills does your child need to develop to be happy, fulfilled and successful?
  • Tuesday, August 12 -> Creating a teen culture that reflects the wisdom and traditions of indigenous cultures.
  • Tuesday, August 19 -> Does your child need medication, or a school that engages their heart and mind?

The Khabele + Strong Incubator plans on staying at Casa de Luz for the next year or two before growing into their own, centrally-located facility.

If you are interested in sending your child to the new school, fill out this contact form and get ready for a face-to-face meeting with one of the founders so that you can have all of your questions answered.

You can find more info on the Khabele + Strong Incubator website or by following Khabele + Strong on Facebook. You can also check out Michael Strong’s talks on TEDx Talks here, here and here.

— J Jett