“Mind Control: To control mental output you have to control mental input.”
–Microsoft, internal document
Summary: How software tyrants pose a danger to more than just computing and sometimes to people’s entire way of life
OUR last post about the Gates Foundation hijacking US education was centred around TFA (there is a Spanish translation too), which is one among several invariable names of operations used to disguise their funders and agenda. For those who believe it’s only a US problem, it’s not. These is already expansion of it into Canada and sooner or later the rest of America. TFA stands for Teach For America and many franchises that are created in the US want to spread further and enhance their impact. Our valued reader Toby (he is Canadian) showed us a very long article this morning. It does a terrific job explaining what Bill Gates and some fellow plutocrats have been doing to public education in the US, usually by insulting the system with misinformation they paid to manufacture and then offering to ‘rescue’ the system which they label “troubled”. It is similar to the tactics used to increase quotas of foreign workers' visas and sometimes go further by taking over Haiti or Africa. It’s all about control, given the appropriate pretext. To quote some portions from the excellent new article:
The cost of K–12 public schooling in the United States comes to well over $500 billion per year. So, how much influence could anyone in the private sector exert by controlling just a few billion dollars of that immense sum? Decisive influence, it turns out. A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed to define the national debate on education; sustain a crusade for a set of mostly ill-conceived reforms; and determine public policy at the local, state, and national levels. In the domain of venture philanthropy—where donors decide what social transformation they want to engineer and then design and fund projects to implement their vision—investing in education yields great bang for the buck.
Hundreds of private philanthropies together spend almost $4 billion annually to support or transform K–12 education, most of it directed to schools that serve low-income children (only religious organizations receive more money). But three funders—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad (rhymes with road) Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation—working in sync, command the field. Whatever nuances differentiate the motivations of the Big Three, their market-based goals for overhauling public education coincide: choice, competition, deregulation, accountability, and data-based decision-making. And they fund the same vehicles to achieve their goals: charter schools, high-stakes standardized testing for students, merit pay for teachers whose students improve their test scores, firing teachers and closing schools when scores don’t rise adequately, and longitudinal data collection on the performance of every student and teacher. Other foundations—Ford, Hewlett, Annenberg, Milken, to name just a few—often join in funding one project or another, but the education reform movement’s success so far has depended on the size and clout of the Gates-Broad-Walton triumvirate.
The smallest of the Big Three,* the Broad Foundation, gets its largest return on education investments from its two training projects. The mission of both is to move professionals from their current careers in business, the military, law, government, and so on into jobs as superintendents and upper-level managers of urban public school districts. In their new jobs, they can implement the foundation’s agenda. One project, the Broad Superintendents Academy, pays all tuition and travel costs for top executives in their fields to go through a course of six extended weekend sessions, assignments, and site visits. Broad then helps to place them in superintendent jobs. The academy is thriving. According to the Web site, “graduates of the program currently work as superintendents or school district executives in fifty-three cities across twenty-eight states. In 2009, 43 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates.”
Philanthropists Are Royalty
On September 8, 2010, the Broad Foundation announced a twist on the usual funding scenario: the Broad Residency had received a $3.6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. According to Broad’s press release, the money would go “to recruit and train as many as eighteen Broad Residents over the next four years to provide management support to school districts and charter management organizations addressing the issue of teacher effectiveness.” Apparently Broad needs Gates in order to expand one of its core projects. The truth is that the Gates Foundation could fully subsidize all of Broad’s grant-giving in education, as well as that of the Walton Family Foundation. Easily—it’s that outsized. Since Warren Buffett gave his assets to Gates, the latter is more than six times bigger than the next largest foundation in the United States, Ford, with $10.2 billion in assets.
Investing for Political Leverage
The day before the first Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in 2007, Gates and Broad announced they were jointly funding a $60 million campaign to get both political parties to address the foundations’ version of education reform. It was one of the most expensive single issue efforts ever; it dwarfed the $22.4 million offensive that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth mounted against John Kerry in 2004 or the $7.8 million that AARP spent on advocacy for older citizens that same year (New York Times, April 25, 2007). The Gates-Broad money paid off: the major candidates took stands on specific reforms, including merit pay for teachers. But nothing the foundations did in that election cycle (or could have done) advanced their agenda as much as Barack Obama’s choice of Arne Duncan to head the Department of Education (DOE).
Ventures in Media
On October 7 and 8, 2010, the Columbia Journalism Review ran a two-part investigation by Robert Fortner into “the implications of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s increasingly large and complex web of media partnerships.” The report focused on the foundation’s grants to the PBS Newshour, ABC News, and the British newspaper the Guardian for reporting on global health. Of course, all three grantees claim to have “complete editorial independence,” but the ubiquity of Gates funding makes the claim disingenuous. As Fortner observes, “It is the largest charitable foundation in the world, and its influence in the media is growing so vast there is reason to worry about the media’s ability to do its job.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, too, questioned the foundation’s bankrolling of for-profit news organizations and its “growing involvement with journalism” (October 11, 2010). Neither publication mentioned that Gates is also developing partnerships with news and entertainment media to promote its education agenda.
Both Gates and Broad funded “NBC News Education Nation,” a week of public events and programming on education reform that began on September 27, 2010. The programs aired on NBC News shows such as “Nightly News” and “Today” and on the MSNBC, CNBC, and Telemundo TV networks. During the planning stages, the producers of Education Nation dismissed persistent criticism that the programming was being heavily weighted in favor of the Duncan-foundation reform agenda. Judging by the schedule of panels and interviews, Education Nation certainly looked like a foundation project. The one panel I watched—”Good Apples: How do we keep good teachers, throw out bad ones, and put a new shine on the profession?”—was “moderated” by Steven Brill, a hardline opponent of teachers’ unions and promoter of charter schools. The panel did not belong on a news show.
Gates and Broad also sponsored the documentary film Waiting for Superman, which is by far the ed reform movement’s greatest media coup. With few exceptions, film critics loved it (“a powerful and alarming documentary about America’s failing public school system,” New York Times, September 23, 2010). Critics of the reform agenda found the film one-sided, heavy-handed, and superficial.
Can anything stop the foundation enablers? After five or ten more years, the mess they’re making in public schooling might be so undeniable that they’ll say, “Oops, that didn’t work” and step aside. But the damage might be irreparable: thousands of closed schools, worse conditions in those left open, an extreme degree of “teaching to the test,” demoralized teachers, rampant corruption by private management companies, thousands of failed charter schools, and more low-income kids without a good education. Who could possibly clean up the mess?
All children should have access to a good public school. And public schools should be run by officials who answer to the voters. Gates, Broad, and Walton answer to no one. Tax payers still fund more than 99 percent of the cost of K–12 education. Private foundations should not be setting public policy for them. Private money should not be producing what amounts to false advertising for a faulty product. The imperious overreaching of the Big Three undermines democracy just as surely as it damages public education.
A long discussion about it was started in the “
boycottnovell-social” IRC channel and the key point is that Gates et al. are once again deciding for other people what to do and leaving a trail of destruction so that they can make a profit and use teachers, for example, as taxpayers-funded agents of indoctrination.
“Deciding for other countries what is right for them is the theme we see as analogous to what’s done by the wealth of the nation to public education in the US.”The situation in schools mirrors some other situations where Bill Gates and ultra-rich men of his class exploit even entire continents. To give just one example, consider David Rockefeller, who is a partner of Gates, e.g. in Africa’s “Green Revolution” initiatives that make African farmers dependent on American companies with patents on seeds. Deciding for other countries what is right for them is the theme we see as analogous to what’s done by the wealth of the nation to public education in the US. It is about what serves power structures and keeps those in power safe and moreover revered; it’s not about objectivity. People who understand that the population is being manipulated and deceived are rightly angry, but they are not sure what to do. Here for example is a famous video that comes with a strong language warning (Flash version). It shows David Rockefeller confronted at a Chilean Airport during vacations.
What the video does not say is what exactly the Rockefellers have been doing to foreign nations, including gory wars. As long as the likes of Gates are buying the press which teachers are reading (he pays them millions of dollars) and spend billions taking control of schools, most adolescent will never be told the true story behind the war on south America, for example. Lies by omission or deception by curriculum characterise a generally ill education system which strives to train rather than inform. It is almost like lobbying the children, but the children are not aware that this is happening (public education is free of charge for a reason, just like many newspapers are disseminated for free).
As a side note, earlier in the afternoon we found this article from the Economist (generally Free software-hostile paper) which advertises a book whose authors say the same thing Microsoft lobbyists are saying about “open source”. Not too surprisingly we found out that just like Microsoft and Gates ‘studies’ that are funded by them to deceive the public and warp consensus, this one too was written with Microsoft funding by Josh Lerner and Mark Schankerman. “Much conventional wisdom about programs written by volunteers is wrong” it says at the top and there are revealing paragraphs such as: [via Harish Pillay]
With “The Comingled Code”, Josh Lerner and Mark Schankerman, professors at the Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics respectively, are aiming to fill this gap. They have done a good job—although its academic tone makes it unlikely that the book will fly off the shelves, even in areas with a lot of hackers (who are sure to take offence at the fact that the authors took money for research from Microsoft, long the arch- enemy of the open-source movement— although they assure readers that the funds came with no strings attached).
Given the complex picture, they dismiss the argument that open source can solve the conundrum of innovation policy as being “too optimistic”. They do not believe that governments should intervene in favour of open-source software, as many have done through subsidies or public procurement. Instead governments should make sure that the two forms of software compete on a level playing field and can comingle efficiently.
Here again is the “choice” spin. It’s the same choice that was offered to anti-war “hippies” in order to give them an illusion of freedom (the fashion industry adapted/co-opted them). The above is not really choice, it’s the same old excuse for keeping things the way they are, i.e. predominantly proprietary. When the authors say “no strings attached” this does not mean no bias accompanies the writing. Of course, if they want to get funding in the future, being favourable to Microsoft would help. This is not the first example where Microsoft funds “Open Source” events and think tanks to get things done its own way and in the case of Ken Brown, Linux libel too gets spread with Microsoft cash in the back pocket.
The point of this whole post is basically to point out that rich people and rich companies control the channels of communication (literature, schools, consortia) so as to perpetuate and increase their own power. █
“Gates’ gimmick of becoming a philanthropist repeats the Rockefeller scam almost one to one a century later.”