THE BLOG
10/24/2014 08:19 am ET Updated Dec 24, 2014

Will Bill Gates Read Anthony Cody's The Educator and the Oligarch ?

Image Source via Getty Images

I should start my review of Anthony Cody's The Educator and the Oligarch by acknowledging that I blog for Anthony and we've had many, often extended, editorial discussions. There has been a clear pattern with our discussions/debates. My first thoughts on corporate reform have been consistently more moderate than Anthony's. When we've disagreed, Anthony has typically persuaded me to move toward his approach. There are two reasons for this; coming from the conservative state of Oklahoma, I've taken a more local and short term position, focusing on avoiding defeat in the war on teachers. Also, Anthony has had the better evidence on his side.

The Educator and the Oligarch, ironically, explains why risk adverse educators like me should come to grips with the worst case scenarios that could result from the Gates Foundation's reckless experimentation.

I am not alone in losing debates with Anthony. For instance, in 2012, he engaged in a five-part exchange with representatives of the Gates Foundation. I suspect that any objective observer would say that Cody swept the series, but that wasn't completely unexpected. A teacher/blogger going up against the Gates Foundation has far more motivation to put together the best case. The Gates participants, not surprisingly, largely repeated their same old talking points.

So, it was a shock when the Gates debaters closed the series with a temper tantrum. At the time, I figured that the Gates honchos had worked their original game plan, tossing out their standard soundbites, but then they became embarrassed by the extent of their defeat. They probably didn't expect a mere teacher to assemble and concisely present such an overwhelming case against their policies. But, who knows?, perhaps they were completely unaware of the vast body of social science that Cody drew upon, and they blamed the messenger for the education research he brought to the table.

The Educator and the Oligarch explains how the failed Gates reforms could create an education dystopia. Cody recalls the discredited 1950's behaviorism of B.F. Skinner, and shows the frightening similarities between his operant conditioning and today's "Personalized" online instruction.

Cody reviews "Computerized Business Systems" (CBSs) which are "amalgams of different technologies that are pulled together to perform highly complex tasks in the control and monitoring of businesses, including their employees." Businesses assemble "data warehouses," storing the millions of daily transactions by tens of thousands employees. This creates a "very powerful system of workplace control."

Just as CBS allows management to design "rules that govern interactions between the different parts of a process - even when those parts are actually human beings," the Gates prescriptions would open the door to reducing teachers to cogs in such an inhuman machine. Common Core and its assessments could be a component of that Brave New World. It would provide the common set of measurable learning objectives, providing the prerequisite metrics.

Since Bill Gates, more than any other person, is responsible for the absurd evaluations that are now being imposed on teachers, Cody wonders if Gates' practice as a philanthropist should be evaluated. If so, what would it look like? Cody makes a strong case that in the tradition of the Danielson and Marzano teacher evaluation frameworks, an abbreviated version of his evaluation would look like the following:

Standard 1: Awareness of the Social Conditions Targeted by Philanthropy

Rating: Below Standard

... Actions and statements by him and his representatives indicate ignorance of the pervasive effects of poverty, and the overwhelming research that indicates the need to address these effects directly.

Recommendation for Professional Growth:

We recommend Bill Gates take a year off from his work as a philanthropist, and work as a high school instructor in an urban setting. ...

Standard 2: Understanding of how Learning is Measured

Rating: Below Standard

Recommendations for Professional Growth:

Bill Gates should first read Stephen Jay Gould's Mismeasure of Man for an understanding of the history of testing. He should read also Daniel Koretz' book, Measuring Up. What Educational Testing Really Tells Us. ...

Standard 3: Understanding of How Teaching is Evaluated

Rating: Below Standard

Recommendations for Professional Growth:

Bill Gates should spend a week shadowing PAR consulting teachers ... He should review the research on various forms of effective evaluation practices.

Standard 4: Understanding of Effective Instruction

Rating: Below Standard

Recommendations for Professional Growth:

... In the year he teaches, he should be assigned at least one class no larger than 15, and another no smaller than 38, and reflect on the learning conditions in these two environments.

Summary of Evaluation Results and Recommendations:

... His philanthropic activities should be suspended immediately pending his completion of recommended professional growth activities.

Cody then calls for a panel of expert reviewers composed of students, parents, and educators to review Gates' reflections on his philanthropic practice, and to review and approve the re-application of his philanthropic projects.

I would add that Gates should read and reflect on The Educator and the Oligarch.