THE BLOG
12/09/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Let's Get Creative: Why Not Ask Bill Gates to be Secretary of Education?

OK, I know, Bill Gates is a college dropout.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's richest, is heavily involved in improving America's high schools. Bill Gates has retired from Microsoft to devote himself to the philanthropic work of the Foundation. He speaks often and eloquently to politicians and education experts on the issues and potential solutions to the challenges of providing an effective world-class education to our children.

If Gates were asked to be Secretary of Education, I do not believe he would simply do what the rest of us would do--find it very difficult to turn down a request from the President of the United States to help him help the country succeed. Bill Gates is in a unique position of having the financial and institutional strength to have an impact without joining an Administration, plus the added freedom from constraints that any government position imposes.

So, I would expect him to analyze whether he could, in that position, have an even greater impact on education than his philanthropic work alone, and would only accept the offer if he concluded that the answer were a resounding "yes". [And so, whatever his answer, it would be very telling].

With Gates as Secretary, the Department of Education would never be the same. He could get Congress and the President to accept reforms that others could not because of the unique position he occupies in our society. He is not considered partisan nor ideological nor beholden to any interest group, so it would difficult to deny his proposals by raising suspicions on any of those grounds. Who could be more effective than Gates at removing red-tape?

And, if so many roadblocks were erected to keep him from being effective, he could happily resign and return to a very rewarding and effective philanthropic life. The world's easiest political job would then be campaign manager for the opponent of the Senator or Congressman whose intransigence triggered Bill Gates' resignation.

Gates would recruit top people to work with him. The Department of Education would become among the more exciting places to be. And, when he retired, he would leave behind a cadre of people who knew how to do things more effectively.

He could dovetail his Foundation's efforts with the Department's. For example, if the Foundation funded a pilot, he could get committed follow-on support from Congress so long as the outcomes warranted it.

I cannot think of anyone who would be more effective at bringing the "change we need" in education. Would Gates consider it? One never knows until he is asked.

Yes, Mr. Gates is a college dropout; but, perhaps that might be worth overlooking.

After all, it's only our children's future.