It's sad to watch a once smart and talented man go mad right before our eyes. There needs to be an intervention for Bill Gates. I fear that he has taken leave of his senses and finally jumped the shark.
I have written about Bill Gates and his interest in "school reform" for years, beginning with An Open Letter to Bill Gates, published in 2006 when I had little reason to question his motives or desire to improve public schools. Since then I wrote the School Wars: Who's Trying to Control Your Public Schools? (2008) cover story for Good Magazine in which I urged citizens to be weary of billionaire bullies trying to privatize public education. I mocked Gates' inept attempt to influence the 2008 presidential campaign with his ED in '08 organization in the article, Bill Gates and Eli Broad Go Gangsta.
I sat back stunned when Gates shared the remarkable ephipany that we should find out what effective teachers do and share those ideas with others as if such a patronizing revelation had never occurred to educators. In his incredibly condescending TED Talk, Gates went on to suggest that we film excellent teaching and share it with others; another long-established practice he thinks he invented to rescue children from all of the awful teachers consciously suppressing standardized test scores. Gates doesn't offer to film the classrooms his children attend, but rather the obedience schools like KIPP he prescribes for poor children. In the world of Bill Gates his children deserve one quality of educational experience and other people's children should receive a joyless diet of remediation, testing, deprivation, compliance and shame.
Since when do philanthropists call for the deprivation of children?
I didn't write an article when Gates complained that teachers should not be compensated for post-graduate education, not even when his puppet, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan amplified his ridiculous argument against educators being educated. I blogged that Bill Gates was investing in Khan Academy because it deskills teachers and reduces the cost of education when public schools can be replaced by a hobbyist's YouTube videos. I didn't gloat when the "School of the Future" Microsoft built in Philadelphia and based on absurd corporate fantasies proved to be a predictable failure
I remained quiet when Bill Gates, a monopolist whose company has a record of labor violations here and abroad, when he attacked teacher seniority and pensions. His affection for Teach for America and other gimmicks to recruit cheaper less qualified and more compliant teachers is predictable. Trickling down on the little guy is what American corporate bigwigs do.
I shrugged when the Obama Administration's Department of Education was flooded with former Gates Foundation employees. I was unamused when Microsoft's business partner, NBC News, had my FaceBook access blocked for criticizing their shameless publicity on behalf ot the Gates-financed propaganda film, Waiting for Superman. I tweeted in horror when I learned that the Gates Foundation was funding a scheme to put earpieces in teachers so they may be controlled while teaching.
You would think that nothing else could surprise me, but now, Bill Gates has descended into the delusional world of Charlie Sheen. Gates told the nation's governors (they seem to speak with Bill more than their caddies) that the critical cuts to public schools could actually improve education if class sizes were increased so that we can "get more students in front of the very best teachers." That's right, Bill Gates is now advocating for larger class size! Since when do philanthropists call for the deprivation of children?
Gates' crazy plan to raise class sizes FOR THE CHILDREN is one thing, but his desire to get more students "in front of the very best teachers" reveals his ignorance on how learning occurs. Learning is an active process constructed by each learner. It is not simply the immediate result of being taught.
Who elected Bill Gates and gave him control of a national treasure, our public schools? Would someone please suggest that he return to the corporate world and refocus his energies on the technological triumph that is the Zune?
Follow Gary Stager on Twitter: www.twitter.com/garystager