Gates Foundation. Good Charity or Bad Charity? Final Thoughts

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David Tyack and  Larry Cuban’s book Tinkering toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform is one of my favorite books.  They chronicle how Americans have viewed public education as a means to building a better society.  From one-room schoolhouses in the 1800s to the influx of immigrants in the early 1900s to the response to Sputnik in the 1950s, Americans have shaped the purpose of public education.  Americans – not just one person. Not a foundation.

When did we, as a society, give up our responsibility to determine the purpose of public education?  I can remember back in 1985 when the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) went hat-in-hand to the Illinois legislature (again) for a bigger budget and the response was, “If you want more money, you’re going to have to show us that you’re worth it.”  State-wide student testing began shortly thereafter.  The purpose of education then became, “Earn your keep by showing me how good your schools and teachers are” which was not a societal need but an economic one.  Building a better society using public education doesn’t exist in the American consciousness today – and as we know, nature abhors a vacuum.

So if we are unwilling to fill the vacuum of societal purpose for public education, who will?  Bill and Melinda Gates along with Warren Buffett.  They said “College Ready” is American’s societal need and they have defined for public education how to meet that need:

  • Create a standardized “American” curriculum
  • Provide professional development to teachers to ensure they teach to that standard curriculum correctly
  • Evaluate teachers to see if they are teaching the standard curriculum correctly, and if they don’t, remove them from the classroom
  • Use technology to implement the standard curriculum

America didn’t set this agenda.  Recognizing this, the Gates Foundation hedged their bet that American public schools might not want to accomplish their agenda so they support charter schools and alternative schools to demonstrate how it should be done.  They pour money into national professional organizations and to the Council of Chief State Officers to get the Foundation’s agenda done.

“College Ready” is America’s need?  Those kids in Naperville and Winnetka were born “College Ready”.  What a frickin’ joke to the kids in Chicago who are just hoping to survive long enough to make it to the safety of their school tomorrow.

Why did we allow them to control the conversation about the educational needs of America?  How did it come about that the Gates Foundation is telling us, the education professionals, how to do our business?  The sad part is, we let them do this to us because we wouldn’t do it ourselves.  We, as a profession, have been reluctant to get involved in politics, to write the newspapers about what schools need, to stand up and tell someone outside of the teacher’s lounge what our kids need.  Until we, as a profession, are willing to tell everybody what America’s kids need, the billionaires and their foundations will fill the void.

Next time: Vision 2020 tries to fill the void

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6 thoughts on “Gates Foundation. Good Charity or Bad Charity? Final Thoughts

  1. What does college readiness really mean? I’ll tel you and if I had the chance to meet with all of the misguided and ignorant sociopaths and narcissist oligarchs, I’d tell them the same thing as long as I had about a half dozen hardcore U.S. Marines standing around the walls to help me make sure the oligarchs paid attention.

    It’s obvious to me that what Bill Gates and the other billionaire oligarchs think about college readiness is all wrong.

    Instead of those standardized bubble tests that test to see what children remember based on a list of standards that were created by Pearson and other test takers that want to make a profit, the real key to college readiness is literacy, and if we want our children to be highly literate, then we must be capable of identifying those children who will not be introduced to books at an early age and implement a national early childhood education program—kept under the supervision of the public schools and not the corporate profiteers—-that starts as early as age two to foster a love of reading books in children.

    I know that instilling a love of reading books in a child at an early age works, because it worked for me. By the time I barely graduated from high school, I was reading two paperbacks a day. I was a horrible student and didn’t do well on tests of any kind but I read a lot of books for most of my youth and by the time I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines in 1968, I was mature enough to realize that college would help me improve the quality of my life.

    I graduated from high school with a 0.95 GPA and didn’t want to go to college, but by the time I was 23 and battle hardened from fighting in Vietnam, I had changed my mind and the only thing that helped me be college ready was all those books I read for fun from elementary school through high school.

    The non readers ended up what was called bone head English in college, but when I was given a test to determine my literacy level, I scored in the top and was scheduled into classes with no need of bone head English.

    College readiness equals a high level of literacy and a love of learning—nothing else is needed. I didn’t take any college prep classes in high school. Because of my sever dyslexia, it’s obvious that I was not prepped for college in high school. I was tracked into basic classes where I ignored most of the work and read paperbacks instead—-a few hundred annually. When I started college at the age of 23, I had to work harder to catch up and was required to take many classes that college prepped students had already taken in high school. That added an extra year toward my BA but that didn’t stop me. In 1973, I earned my BA in journalism with a GPA in my major that was close to a 4.0, and I graduated on the Deans list (or whatever they called it).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your insight about “College Ready.” I agree that literacy is key but for many, so is a safe home, supportive parents, and a healthy lifestyle. The Gates Foundation made “College Ready” the cure-all. We, as educators, need to help everyone understand that in order to become “College Ready”, good schools are only one piece of the puzzle.

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      • Gates has linked college ready to standardized test results that have a programmed cut score, and when 100% of the children don’t earn that score that only 30% are allowed to earn from the bubble test that says they are college ready, then teachers will be ranked and some will be fired along with public schools being closed.

        Failure is programmed and guaranteed because the tests have a cut score set to fail at least 70% of the children who take the bubble tests no matter how literate or ready they are for college—-70% have to fail and no one can ever see the actual results that belong to Pearson UK.

        Liked by 1 person

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