06.07.10

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US Education Steps Aside for Bill

Posted in Bill Gates, Finance, Intellectual Monopoly at 6:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

US Department of Education seal

Summary: How the Gates family continues to gain power over the operation of public services, education included

THE Gates Foundation is widely known as a charity even though it operates as though it’s a company with people inside panels and conference representatives (the Gates Foundation has a keynote position in the STEM summit). In our previous post we showed that staff which left the Gates Foundation proceeded to serving a similar agenda. It’s called “revolving doors” when it comes to companies such as Monsanto.

Last month we wrote many posts about the new book from Diane Ravitch — one where she criticises the Gates Foundation for interference in public education [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Watch what happens in Minnesota, which sold out to Microsoft two weeks ago. The head of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is heading towards the Gates helm.

The MnSCU vice chancellor who’s had her hands full with the system’s credit-transfer issues — a sore subject for students and some legislators — is taking a job at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Linda Baer, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, will become a senior officer with the Gates Foundation’s Post-Secondary Success Initiative. The Gates Foundation has been spending a lot of money on college readiness and post-secondary efforts across the country — unlike the budget-slashing in public higher education — so it stands to reason such a job would be attractive.

Baer is already being replaced by Olson [1, 2], but mysteries remain about Baer’s motives. The Gates Foundation monopolises/colonises education and its latest hire will probably be invaluable. How about this new one?

Sacramento, California – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced the appointment of Dan Schnur as chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).

[...]

Schnur has served as an advisor to the William & Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Broad Education Foundation, James Irvine Foundation and Stuart Foundation on a variety of K-12 education, college and workforce preparedness, governance and political reform efforts.

“K-12 education,” eh? Gates agenda may be served here, as usual.

Larry Ferlazzo writes about “neocolonialism” this month and he names Gates too. Specifically, he refers to Ravitch who warned about the Gates Foundation directing national educational policy:

I often felt frustrated, however, by how most (though not all) foundations who sought public policy change would decide that they knew what the problem was; they knew how it should be fixed; and they knew how long it should take to fix it. Community groups, desperate for funding, would then often tailor their priorities around the funders’ agenda and the funders would become the groups de facto constituency. The groups’ genuine constituency — low and moderate income residents — would then be “brought along”….sometimes, and often for the short-term.

Of course, this strategy is contrary to how many major policy changes have often been made. In many instances, people who are most affected by the problem take a primary role in developing a solution and the political power to make it a reality (I’ll write more about this history in a future post). The foundation-driven strategy is the antithesis of how long-term effective community organizing works.

But many well-meaning foundations just don’t seem to see this.

[...]

We feel that the best way to respond to the research findings in this report that highlight how poverty issues affect student academic achievement is by helping parents, schools, and other community residents participate more in public life and develop the self-confidence and life skills to do so effectively. Funders should support schools and community groups who want to engage residents and local institutions like religious congregations, business groups, neighborhood associations in conversations about how these problems affect their local communities and what they think should be done about it. Funders should support those schools and community groups who want to listen and work with residents as partners. Funders should leverage the relationships they have with public and corporate officials so these community groups can develop their own relationships with them.

[...]

In the education field (and I’m sure in other areas, too), I’d suggest that there are a sizable group of funders who go further, and who can be even more damaging to the long-term public good. This is how Diane Ravitch describes them:

“The Billionaires Boys Club” is a discussion of how we’re in a new era of the foundations and their relation to education. We have never in the history of the United States had foundations with the wealth of the Gates Foundation and some of the other billionaire foundations—the Walton Family Foundation, The Broad Foundation. And these three foundations—Gates, Broad and Walton—are committed now to charter schools and to evaluating teachers by test scores. And that’s now the policy of the US Department of Education. We have never seen anything like this, where foundations had the ambition to direct national educational policy, and in fact are succeeding.

I’d characterize their attitude as being closer to neocolonialism, which a dictionary describes as “dominance by economic and cultural influence.”

Many might say that I’m overstating the case. But it seems to me that Eli Broad doesn’t hide that perspective when he tells the Wall Street Journal:

…he is enthusiastic about all the change that is possible when urban school districts go bankrupt—as Oakland, Calif., did a few years ago—”or what happened in New Orleans, which is the equivalent of bankruptcy.”

What do you think? Am I being too harsh?

There is no doubt about it. The Gates Foundation is changing policy in public schools. We gave a lot of examples and here is a new example from the news:

But it was Hillsborough’s reforms with the Gates Foundation that prompted the largest number of comments from the crowd. Superintendent Elia said her district hopes to pave the way for similar changes across Florida and the nation.

Strings are being attached.

Here is another new example where the Gates Foundation is leaving them to compete by changing themselves according to the paymaster.

August: Only one day into the school year, district officials learned they lost their bid for the Gates grant to improve teacher effectiveness and a system where fewer than 25 percent of high school graduates were deemed ready for higher education.

The Gates Foundation is showing up whenever policies can be tweaked, essentially replacing government function, i.e. privatising it. To wit:

Third, foundation resources—and this will sound almost sanctimonious—are a uniquely precious resource for society at large. Not, in general, by dint of their size, because most philanthropies are not of the Bill Gates or Ford Foundation scale—they tend to be quite small in terms of assets. Nor can they be seen as a replacement for the federal purse in paying for social programs. Their enormous value lies in the versatility and adaptability of their use.

“Gates Foundation support” to make policies can also be found in last week’s news, not to mention another article about Diane Ravitch. The article is titled “In the Thrall of the Billionaire Boys Club”:

I’m no expert on public education either, but I know an expert when I see one. Diane Ravitch has been the nation’s preeminent historian of education since her book The Troubled Crusade: American Education 1945-1980 appeared in 1983. She served as assistant secretary of education under George H. W. Bush. For forty years she has pondered each new proposal for restructuring schools as it has come along, often with considerable sympathy: vouchers, charter schools, curriculum reform, standardized testing, punitive teacher accountability.

In her new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, Ravitch describes the evidence that has changed her views of strategies that once seemed promising to her. (Her title’s echo of Jane Jacobs’ great 1961 book on urban life is intentional: she began her career in Manhattan in 1968, at a time when Jacobs was leading her epic battle against highway-planner Robert Moses.) The nostrums that school districts, Congress, and federal officials are pursuing, that mega-rich foundations are supporting, that editorial boards are applauding, are mistaken, she says, fundamentally flawed because they are built on a market metaphor. Schools don’t work like businesses, she says Public education should be preserved “because it is so intimately connected to our concepts of citizenship and democracy and to the promise of American life.” To that end she offers a series of prescriptions:

[...]

Ravitch is especially good on the influence of what she calls the “Billionaire Boy’s Club” – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (the Microsoft fortune), the Walton Family Foundation (Wal-Mart), and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation (home-building and finance) – that have eclipsed the older foundations long associated with education policy (Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie and Annenberg) as the powerful big givers. Sometimes described as “venture philanthropies” or exponents of “philanthrocapitalism,” meaning their methods are borrowed from start-up finance and management, the Gates, Walton and Broad foundations see their grants as investments, designed to produce measurable results. And though they preach accountability to teachers, they receive relatively little scrutiny themselves – or even much dissent, given the power of their interlocking grants to exclude critics. All that money buys a lot of silence, Ravitch says, not to mention admiring friends. The Teach for America program, with its youthful cadre of 24,000 veterans, in one of the fruits of philanthrocapitalism; the Race to the Top is another.

These are investments, not donations. Here is more recent information on "philanthrocapitalism". There is a new article titled “Michael Green interview. On Philanthrocapitalism, Thatcher and why globalisation is a good thing.” One has to be careful when there is expansion of US rich lists for national power with national support. It benefits very few people, certainly not the public at large.

Watch who’s working with Gates (the clique of rich families shows up again):

Napa Valley Community Foundation has published the results of a confidential donor survey conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, an independent nonprofit research organization that provides assessment and analysis tools to clients like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Here is more evidence of the Gates Foundation taking control of education. It’s just days old and it’s critical:

Education conversation and the Gates Foundation

[...]

Meanwhile, Professors, Learned Societies & commercial schools, and some painfully self-serving non-profit foundations and Universities never even address the need for solid pedagogic content. The current crop of in-charge “Leaders” dangerously resembles the Investment Bankers who remain in charge of the economic systems that they nearly bankrupted. A leveraged operation like a major newspaper, teacher organization or more ideally the US Department of Education should hold an ongoing “convention” of the nation’s leading educators to consider and endorse a covenant of principles and more importantly prescriptive practices. This should be done on a website that transparently allows entries to be challenged, tweaked and further specified for different age-grade-situational conditions. Sadly there is no free market in which monitored packaged bids & buys help to identify the best ideas and practices (Sound familiar?).

The Gates Foundation also wants to control public libraries, as we demonstrated in older posts. A bunch of self-serving ‘studies’ is how it’s done. Don’t publications see the conflicts of interest? It’s not as though these studies are independent.

The study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Thanks to an excellent Web site that we never saw before (it’s partly in French), we are beginning to see more evidence supporting Gates’ vision of ‘DRM’ (in the scarcity sense) in books. And to make matters worse, watch how the Gates Foundation impedes criticism:

Bill Gates Foundation: no link without permission, and the 10 issues

According to the Terms of Use of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Web site [1] concerning “Your Links to Our Site” (point #11) :

You are not permitted to link or shortcut to our Site from your Web site, blog or similar application, without obtaining prior written permission from us. (source: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/Pages/terms-of-use.aspx, link created)

Pamela Jones wrote about it: “Bill Gates never did grok the Internet, which, when you think about it, has value *only* because people link to each other, but look at this section:

Much of the Content on the Site is not available for downloading, such as our copyrighted works that we do not distribute or works of others that we are not permitted to distribute. However, we also have a significant amount of Content that we have designated as Content that may be downloaded by you pursuant to these Terms (“Available Content”). YOU MAY REVIEW, DOWNLOAD, COPY, DISTRIBUTE AND USE THE AVAILABLE CONTENT SOLELY FOR THE PURPOSE OF FURTHERING YOUR MISSION IN THE ORDINARY COURSE OF YOUR GOVERNMENTAL OR CHARITABLE PURPOSE AND ATTENDANT OPERATIONS. YOU MAY NOT SELL THE AVAILABLE CONTENT OR OTHERWISE DISTRIBUTE IT FOR A FEE. YOU WILL NOT USE OR DISCLOSE IT OR THE SITE TO ANY THIRD PARTIES EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY PERMITTED BY THESE TERMS.

“Now, I’m a paralegal, and I have no idea which is which. What can I download and what can’t I? And is there no fair use in Gatesland? And did I read this correctly, that we can’t disclose the site to third parties? I guess I’m breaking their law then, by telling you about this. Happily, I am a US citizen, and I get to rely on the laws of my country, not the edicts of Gates or his foundation. But if I was glad before that Gates was unable to capture the Internet, think of my enhanced joy on reading these terms of us. If the entire Internet was like this, I’d stop it and get off. This is how his Internet would look, I suppose, and if you read the terms carefully, it’s all rights to them (they get to use and distribute your words, I notice, without you getting to delineate what you do or don’t want them to use) and none to you other than what they specifically grant. Formats-Ouverts links to Tim Berners-Lee on linking and free speech: “The ability to refer to a document (or a person or any thing else) is in general a fundamental right of free speech to the same extent that speech is free. Making the reference with a hypertext link is more efficient but changes nothing else.””

Glyn Moody writes:

Does the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Get the Web?

[...]

Bill Gates’s decision to move away from day-to-day running of Microsoft was doubly shrewd. First, because it allowed him to leave when his company was at its apogee, and to avoid association with its current – inevitable – decline (notice how the meme that Microsoft is irrelevant is becoming widespread?) And secondly, it enabled him to help Microsoft extend its reach – especially in developing countries – by other means, while earning plaudits for his charitable work.

Unpicking the complex weft and weave of philanthropy and self-interest at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would require an entire book (and no, don’t worry, I won’t be writing it). Rather than plunging into that maelstrom, I wanted to pick up an extraordinary aspect of the Foundation’s site, spotted by Thierry Stoehr.

It’s rather telling that the Terms of Use for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation run to no less than *seven* pages when printed out (who knew that using the Web was such a complicated and risky operation?).

Wildeboer from Red Hat puts it another way: “with linux you are not allowed to interact with Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. Win/Mac only”

As usual, the Gates Foundation is trying to control the message with its massive PR teams. Here are the latest prominent examples of PR in the big press, ranging from glorification/PR for Melinda to CNN PR (Larry King) that acts as book promotion for Bill and his father. We saw that last year as well.

Microsoft boosters are all over this, not to mentioned the mainstream/trade press [1, 2, 3], which goes well beyond that to glorify Bill Gates [1, 2].

Bill’s known problems of megalomania are being brought up again:

Bill Gates and his dad, Bill Gates Sr., admitted to a soldout audience Wednesday night that the future founder of Microsoft was such a discipline problem as a young teen that he and his parents went into family therapy for two years.

That’s right. Bill has always been a problematic person. The late Ed Roberts, Gates’ employer at MITS in the early days of the PC, said that Bill Gates “acted like a spoiled kid, which is what he was.” He still is. This PR exercise is just part of his character; it’s glorification as opposed to truism. Here in the UK Gates has just scored another self-glorifying piece.

But it is not just the corridors of power that Gates is attempting to influence. Three weeks ago, in India, he was involved in a round-table discussion with “all the big banks, the big cellphone companies and the regulators” to try to reach an agreement on delivering mobile phone banking to India’s poorest.

And in the US there is USA Today to glorify Gates (with responses in other self-serving outlets).

Reuters covered this public appearance of the Gates family, summarising it as: “Bill Gates Sr says wealth is ‘not having to worry’” (easy for him to say).

It is not the first time that we see this pair, namely Bill Gates working together with his father, whose role in monopolisation and lobbying we routinely show here (more recently when it comes to tax evasion). The public is a lot more complacent and calm if the oppressor is portrayed as a national hero to be revered.

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