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05.24.10

Boston Globe Writes About Gates’ Dangerous Influence on US Education, Memphis Provides New Example

Posted in Bill Gates, Microsoft at 4:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Namibian students

Summary: Ravitch is in the press again, the Washington Post turns a semi-blind eye, and the Gates Foundation asks schools to change in order to receive money

THE Boston Globe has some new coverage about Bill Gates’ hijack of the United States education system. This helps Gates and Microsoft too (children raised only with Windows in sight). The paper cites Ravitch’s new book, which we previously wrote about in [1, 2, 3]. To quote from the Boston Globe:

Bill Gates’s risky adventure

[...]

But in “The Death and Life of the Great American School System’’ Ravitch writes that Gates and other so-called venture philanthropists, including Eli Broad, are experimenting thoughtlessly. There is no proof, she writes, that Gates is on the right track now any more than he was from 2000-2008, when he pumped about $2 billion into a campaign to restructure large American high schools into smaller schools. That effort, writes Ravitch, was marginal at best.

Ravitch argues that high-flying, unaccountable philanthropists are dictating the country’s public school agenda through their grant-making instead of listening to the field. The “current obsession with making our schools work like a business,’’ writes Ravitch, “threatens to destroy public education.’’

Gates may be innovation-happy, but he is hardly laying waste to the nation’s public education system. If anything, he is seeding it for future success in ways similar to his funding of biotechnology research to improve the yields of crops in developing nations. Of course, his agricultural effort has its share of critics, too.

As for his limitless power, Gates says his charter school work is possible only in states where the public and lawmakers are willing to support experimentation. His home state of Washington, he adds, has blocked the creation of charter schools.

“The education system is always decided politically,’’ said Gates. “If she (Ravitch) thinks foundations are dictating, I don’t see it.’’

It’s not quite so simple. The pressure is mounting on school systems to conform to the foundations’ visions, especially when the current trend is to fund projects with measurable outcomes, not discretionary grants. And pushing back against the big foundations, or modifying their requirements based on local knowledge, was a lot easier a decade ago when the foundations were smaller and less bureaucratic.

The Gates Foundation is in a state of denial. We have provided evidence of its harmful influence on education for well over a year and Ravitch is far from a lone critic (the issue extends beyond the United States too). We cited many other people whose position on Gates’ intervention in schools was similar if not identical. To deny this is simply to be closed-minded or deluded by PR (the previous post hopefully helped show how far PR goes).

There is some more here in the Washington Post (about Ravitch and Meier), but interestingly enough it mostly leaves out Ravitch’s criticism of the Gates Foundation. Could this have something to with the Gates family ties to the Washington Post‘s board? The Washington Post hardly ever criticises Gates and/or his foundation, unlike other publications; the same goes for the Seattle Times, which knowingly ignores confirmed stories that disagree with its agenda.

Anyway, here is a brand new example of Gates funds for education with strings attached.

In the story, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen is cited as pushing legislation that made student test scores 50 percent of annual teacher evaluations, something critical for Race to the Top.

“Bredesen points to an earlier development in his state, that, he says, had ‘broken the ice.’ In 2009, the Gates foundation provided a $90 million grant to the Memphis school system — the state’s largest — on the condition that teachers there allow 35 percent of their performance ratings to be based on student test scores.”

The message is clear: change the agenda or be left out. We have shown many examples like this before. We also explained how the foundation’s influence can be converted into profit.

“Education and training: Target both developer and knowledge worker environment; Money and resources for curriculum development; Money and resources for teacher training; Subsidized certification on MS products”

Confidential Microsoft document [PDF]

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