Archives for category: Bill Gates

This is a must-read article by Linsey McGoey in Jacobin magazine about the big foundations–especially Gates–and how they use their alms for for-profit companies and start-ups.


McGoey of the University of Essex has written a book on the influence wielded by Gates and other big philanthropies. It’s title: “No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy”  (Verso).


“In 2010, the Gates Foundation offered $1.5 million to ABC News and a little over $1.1 million to NBC in 2011 “to support the national education summit.” The following year, the Gates Foundation gave another million to NBC, this time for the more vague purpose of “inform[ing] and engag[ing] communities.” Other for-profit media companies receiving Gates Foundation money in 2012 included Univision — a Spanish language broadcaster whose parent company, Univision Communications pulled in revenues of $2.6 billion in 2014.


“Traditionally, philanthropic grants to for-profits were rare, but this is no longer the case. The Gates Foundation has offered dozens of grants to for-profit companies around the world, including beneficiaries poised to profit from the Common Core standards…


“Indeed, the Gates Foundation makes similar donations all the time. Scholastic, a company that, like Pearson, is a for-profit education publisher, has received over $6 million in grant money from the foundation. A November 2011 grant of $4,463,541 was designed to support “teachers’ implementation of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.”


“What’s not clear is why this counts as charity. Doesn’t Scholastic stand to gain from the expansion of textbook and testing materials accompanying the Common Core standards?”


She goes on to describe other for-profits that Gates has supported, such as


“Indeed, numerous for-profit education start-ups are indebted to the foundation. Another example, BetterLesson Inc., billed as the “Facebook for educators,” circulates free online lesson plans to teachers but charges schools a service fee. It has received over $3.5 million in grant money from the Gates Foundation. BetterLesson may well prove to be a useful tool for teachers.


“But it also charges a premium for that service — a cost borne by taxpayer-funded public education institutions. At a time of growing anger over dwindling educational resources in public schools, at a time when extreme poverty is on the rise in the United States — does yet another tech start-up deserve Gates’ charity?….


“Contrary to the conventional wealth-creation narrative, large multinationals are increasingly assuming less financial risk when it comes to investing their own capital — even as they reap excessive financial rewards by exploiting subsidies from the public sector and philanthropic foundations. Companies like Mastercard are just as bullish and self-satisfied about the charity they receive as the charity they give away.


“But challenging the new corporate charity claimants will not, alone, mitigate the unrivalled power of large philanthropic funders to frame the terms of debate in the fields of education, health and global poverty or shape the policies of institutions such as the WHO.


“Over a century ago, when Andrew Carnegie published his first “Wealth” essay suggesting that private philanthropy would solve the problem of rich and poor, he was met with fierce rebuke. “I can conceive of no greater mistake,” commented William Jewett Tucker, a theologian who went on to become president of Dartmouth College, “than that of trying to make charity do the work of justice.”


“Today’s philanthrocrats share Carnegie’s gospel of wealth. To take back the mantle of justice and equality, the Left must delegitimize private foundations and refute the centrality of charity in solving the world’s most pressing problems.”

Think of it: the richest man in the world poured over $2 billion into the creation of national standards, and he is out on the media-power trail, fighting for their survival. Gates is worried about the pushback against the standards and the testing in a score of states. In some states, the very term “Common Core” has become so toxic that they are called something else, rebranded.

And don’t forget that Gates said not long ago that it would take at least ten years to know whether “this stuff” works. Some people wonder if it is a good idea to turn the nation’s schools upside down while we wait those ten years.

Susan Ohanian here tracks his efforts to save his foundering pet project of the moment. She notes his numerous media appearances and joins it with a speech in which he raised doubts about raising the minimum wage. Why raise the minimum wage when we could have CCSS to solve all problems? Why, once everyone is on the same page, thanks to Bill Gates, everyone will learn the same things at the same rate, and the achievement gap will close. And think of the savings when everyone takes the same tests, online of course, and teachers’ evaluations are firmly anchored to student test scores. That is when schools can fire the weakest teachers, raise the salaries of those that remain, increase class sizes, repeat again next year and every year, and watch for wondrous improvements.

Imagine that: having bought off the U.S. Department of Education, having given millions to almost every “think tank” and advocacy group in DC, he is now on the defensive about his big bet. Why? Because he didn’t buy everyone. He can’t understand why the nation is not singing his praises. Certainly the media fights for his time and presence. And on March 13, he dined with 80 of 100 Senators. Is there anyone other than a head of state who would get this reception? Certainly not a Nobel-prize winner or a celebrated poet.

Gates can’t understand why parents and locals are not fawning over him like everyone else. Why the pushback? He and Arne think it must be the Tea Party. They can’t understand why people like Anthony Cody, Carol Burris, Stephen Krashen, and Susan Ohanian are not on board. He ignores them.

Gates knows he can count on Arne and the President. He knows he can count on Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence, Rick Scott, and the other hard-right governors. They are on his side. He can count on the media to repeat his claim that only the Tea Party opposes CCSS, without wondering why so many hard-right governors are fighting for them. He can count on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. Who knew these corporate titans cared so much about children when they have outsourced so many of their parents’ jobs overseas. Oh, yes, they want the children to be global competitors. Can they really be global competitors with countries that pay workers $5 a day? $20 a day?

Maybe the pushback comes from people who don’t understand that the Common Core is like a standardized electric plug, as Bill Gates told the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards last week. Maybe those parents (they are not billionaires, why does anyone listen to them?) don’t see their children as “human capital” that must be standardized and upgraded. Maybe the opposition comes from people who don’t understand how the federal government took charge of state and local education, thanks to Bush and Obama. Maybe it comes from teachers who think that fiction is no less valuable than informational text. Maybe from kindergarten teachers who think children need play more than math.


Susan Ohanian thinks he is running scared. He is. This is still a democracy. Gates can buy the governors. He can buy organizations. He can buy the Beltway crowd. But he can’t buy the people.

Consider this historical satire. It was written by Paul Horton, who teaches history at the University of Chicago Lab School.


A Modest Proposal for the Gang of Four

(Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush)

Your plan for defeating the yellow dogs of reaction has not been effective. You need to get serious. Because you know very little about the history of revolutionary progress (Mr. Duncan, you were fed the phrase “Potemkin Village” by someone with a reactionary history degree) you need some motivation. If you cannot make this happen within two years, you will not benefit from a future in the Foundation Politburo, you will not be granted a passport, and you will not be allowed to shop in party stores.


To continue the Cultural Revolution in Education we need to break the spirit of the reactionary teachers who insist that there might be value in teaching literary and philosophical classics, languages, culture, and what some describe as the “Humanities.” The Humanities are nothing but selfish, evil Bourgeois reaction that slows the creation of “21st Century Skills” acquisition. All else is pretense: we need 21st century workers and we need them ready for community colleges that will feed our factory dormitories with skilled workers.


We will achieve the global VAM (value added measurement) threshold in four years. Reactionary teachers all over the world will be pitted against each other and resistance will be crushed.


Until then, we need to “Clamp-down” harder (The Clash) to create fear so that the reactionary house of cards will fall very easily.


Strategic Plan:


Year One: Invite criticism from teacher’s unions and compile a list of members of teacher’s unions.


–selectively quote teacher union criticisms of revolutionary reform in revolutionary (corporate) media outlets


–target all union members in appearances on major talking heads show segments


–create “forums” at major universities, Chambers of Commerce, and civic organizations to explain the voluntary nature of all reform efforts


–instruct Red Guard (Teach for America) to receive ideological instruction at Foundation Politburo School


–hire Red Guard into the College Board, Pearson Education, Educational Testing Service, state and local superintendent jobs

–elect Red Guard into jobs on state school boards, into state legislatures and senates


–cozy Red Guard up to Congressmen and Senators, especially those who sit on Education and Budget Committees


–Red Guard will coordinate with ALEC to sponsor “parent trigger legislation” to create more charters and jobs for Red Guard


–pay for Red Guard as Education policy staff for all elected officials


–pay Red Guard to attack, spit on, and humiliate commenters to reactionary blog posts


–hire Red Guard as public and charter school administrators to attack the reactionary yellow dogs who speak of “democratic process,” “progressive education,” and “laboratories for democracy.”


–instruct Red Guard administrators to create intentional “hostile workplace” to intimidate reactionary teachers. All union members should see their files thicken and be exposed to frequent “shake-downs.” The older, more depressed teachers should be further intimidated by frequent negative observations and assessments. At assessment conferences, the sentence “we have viewed your e-mail messages over the past five years and we strongly encourage you to resign” should be shared at the end of negative evaluation.


–pay Red Guard Administrators a bonus for every experienced teacher who resigns or retires



Year Two: Learning from the New York Experience


–have state superintendents “cut” scores so that only those in impoverished neighborhood schools fail


–use “low student attendance” and “overcrowding” to close public schools in underserved areas. This is often a two-step process: close schools for low attendance, then consolidate to create overcrowding to justify opening more charters


–use sticks and carrots to coopt local and national political officials


–congressmen in suburban districts will be told: “if you go with the program we have campaign funds from potential investors for you, if not, you are political toast.”


–corporate leaders will speak often at meetings in well funded suburban districts to gain the support of upper income parents and opinion leaders


–have all revolutionary (corporate) media outlets supplied with talking points that repeat “higher standards,” “21st century skills,” “low test scores mean higher standards,” “voluntary,” “state driven,” “charters are innovative,” and “teachers are lazy reactionaries” every day.


–block all revolutionary media access to reactionaries


–pay for astroturf (disguised Red Guard) protests in favor of new charters at school board and city-council meetings



Year Three: Reeducation Camp: Rat Islands (The Aleutians)


–the Red Guard will be instructed to eliminate all complainers


–reactionaries will be deported to work camp


–reactionaries will be instructed to respect data and will be forced to write programs for educational video games for “Turn it Up” corporation


–Are you a reactionary?



Think about it!



The Friendly Foundation Politburo (Comrade Narrow)

The Los Angeles Times became notorious in 2010 when it commissioned its own ratings of thousands of teachers in the LAUSD and published them. The newspaper was condemned widely by educators and researchers. Even some who supported such ratings said it was wrong to publish them. The LA Times strongly defended its decision to create the ratings and to make them public.

Now the LA Times is expressing doubts about the overuse of test scores to evaluate teachers. It even scoffs at some of the more absurd practices now flourishing in some states.

Why the turnaround? Bill Gates says that test scores matter too much. He has changed his mind. Many states, following his earlier views about testing, are emphasizing test scores too much.

I guess we have to wait for his next op-ed to find out what the nation should do next.

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry tore into New York City Mayor Bloomberg for his latest tactic: blaming teen pregnancy for causing poverty.

Harris-Perry knows that poverty is caused by the economic structure of society, by a society that allows one man–like Michael Bloomberg or Bill Gates or Eli Broad–to accumulate many billions of dollars while millions are trapped in miserable living conditions with low wages or no jobs.

Harris-Perry knows that the 1% blame the poor for their poverty.

They also blame teachers and public schools for causing poverty.

Thanks, Melissa, for nailing it.

A reader posts the following comment.

Thought you might be interested in Gates latest “Request for Proposal: Literacy Courseware Challenge.” More teacher-less, computerized learning to support his Common Core [National] Standards. “Adaptive digital learning tools” are his robo-teachers, because apparently the standards [read: curriculum, no matter how many people say that the CC are not a curriculum] are teacher-proof. Just create a huge quonset hut, or even better, a stadium, full of computer cubicles, sit the kids down, and, voila! A perfect Gates-ian school. Disgusting.

Gary Rubinstein, the brilliant math teacher at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, has done it again.

He has dissected the Gates MET study–the one that says test scores are better at determining teacher quality than observations–and he says that the data in the study don’t make the point that has been widely reported.

Gene Glass, Research Professor at the University of Colorado, takes apart the MET study, and like Gary, says that the $50 million was a waste.

I wonder when Gates will abandon his mission to find the perfect metric to measure teacher quality. It isn’t working anywhere; it has perverse incentives; it is inaccurate and unreliable.  How long will he stick with this failed idea?

Just think how many musical instruments that $50 million would have bought, how many librarians could have been rehired, how many after-school programs might have been funded.




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