"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Alan Singer on Bill Gates

In a column that resembles an old Bracey gem, Alan Singer takes Bill Gates to school regarding the billionaire's decision to abandon small schools in favor of the market-friendly (and anti-union) charter schools that are set to expand across the country. No, these aren't the mom and pop variety that were originally envisioned as rough experiments in alternative forms of education that regular public schools could learn from - we're talking the Wal-Martization of public schools looking to replace our public education system.
Additionally, Gates will try to find the best teachers and then spread their abilities amongst the masses through digital lectures, which neglects to recognize that students and teachers have, uh, a connection between each other that's more than digital: it's a human connection, when done correctly, and recognizes students are not (and should not be) passive consumers of information but active participants engaged in dialogue and construction of knowledge both with their teachers and peers. Technotwits like Gates and his philanthro-capitalist pals do not understand this concept.
Here's a snippet from the essay, which is a must-read:

[The Gates Foundation's] "new strategy focuses on learning why some teachers are so much more effective than others and how best practices can be spread throughout the education system so that the average quality goes up." His plan is to have "the best teachers ... put their lectures online as a model for other teachers."

I need to repeat that last line. Gates thinks he is going to change schools by having the best teachers put their lectures online. Bill Gates, if you really believe that the major social problems that affect education in the United States will be solved in this way, not only are you fool, but you are cheap fool at that.


All of these business oriented "educational reformers" and their allies in government and the media equate student scores on standardized tests with quality education, much as they equate corporate profit with the broader social good -- and they cook the books when necessary to win public support. Bernie Madoff, once a prominent business colleague of the mega-wealthy, is now in prison for running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors out of billions of dollars. Maybe he can keep a bed warm there for Bill Gates, who admitted he was wrong, but sees no reason to stop promoting his bogus educational schemes.

Full article available here.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:15 AM

    If anyone watched the Howard Zinn program "The People Speak" on the History channel last night, it is crystal clear we will never be able to rely on those in power in Washington or the business leaders to put an end to the miseducation of our children, especially the poorest, the most oppressed and the most vulnerable. The system they have created over the past three decades is way too profitable for the few and the powerful. It is up to the people to demand it through civil disobedience. It's the same with health care, gay rights, etc. Until the teachers, parents and students put down their number 2 pencils, refuse to take and/or administer the tests, stand up against the dismantling of a free and quality public education, demand respect for teachers and educators, nothing will change. It's time to rally the troops and protest in front of the Department of Education, on the Mall in DC, and all across the country. Howard Zinn's program couldn't have come at a better time. Hopefully, those who watched will be inspired to do something.
    Zinn's masterpiece should be a requirement for every history and social studies class across the country. Keeping the faith.