Archives for category: Gates Foundation, Bill Gates

Readers of this blog understand the corporate assault on public education. With few exceptions, you know of Bill Gates’ belief that metrics can solve all the world’s problems. You are aware from the events in your state or district that corporate raiders look at the public schools as a way to get rich with their sales pitch for a charter school, a charter chain, a cyberschool, a professional development gig, or new technology.

 

Again and again, the question arises: How do we get the story to the mainstream media when media giants are cashing in on testing and technology? How can we make the voices of parents and teachers heard?

 

Here it is. Bob Herbert, who was a columnist for the New York Times, tells the story in his new book, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America (Doubleday).

 

Herbert’ explains “The Plot Against Public Education: How Millionaires and Billionaires Are Ruining Our Schools” in politico.com.

 

 

Here is Bob Herbert on the reformers’ favorite reform:

 

“This hit-or-miss attitude—let’s try this, let’s try that—has been a hallmark of school reform efforts in recent years. The experiments trotted out by the big-money crowd have been all over the map. But if there is one broad approach (in addition to the importance of testing) that the corporate-style reformers and privatization advocates have united around, it’s the efficacy of charter schools. Charter schools were supposed to prove beyond a doubt that poverty didn’t matter, that all you had to do was free up schools from the rigidities of the traditional public system and the kids would flourish, no matter how poor they were or how chaotic their home environments.

 

“Corporate leaders, hedge fund managers and foundations with fabulous sums of money at their disposal lined up in support of charter schools, and politicians were quick to follow. They argued that charters would not only boost test scores and close achievement gaps but also make headway on the vexing problem of racial isolation in schools.

 

“None of it was true. Charters never came close to living up to the hype. After several years of experimentation and the expenditure of billions of dollars, charter schools and their teachers proved, on the whole, to be no more effective than traditional schools. In many cases, the charters produced worse outcomes. And the levels of racial segregation and isolation in charter schools were often scandalous. While originally conceived a way for teachers to seek new ways to reach the kids who were having the most difficult time, the charter school system instead ended up leaving behind the most disadvantaged youngsters.”

 

This is a lucid and compelling account of the corporate-driven effort to replace public education–a basic democratic institution–with a market-based, data-driven system of choice and metrics. Herbert sees through the subterfuge s and the double talk. This is an article you should read and a book I plan to order right now.

Peter Greene knows, unlike Bill Gates, that children are not like toasters that Ned to be plugged into an electrical outlet that is everywhere the same. But then Gates brings in the metaphor of a railroad gauge. Ah! A fresh metaphor! New writer? Who knows?

Greene explains why it is a bad metaphor that has nothing to do with students or teaching. And he asks the $64 question: if standardization and uniformity are so great, why does Gates love charter schools?

And now the big question: what metaphor will Gates use next to make the case for standardization of learning?

As we noted previously, Bill Gates compares the Common Core to standardization of electrical plugs and outlets, and to the gauge of railroad tracks. This is not a new metaphor from him. He used it several months ago when he explained the need for Common Core to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The question of the day, therefore, is this: is your child an electrical outlet, an electrical plug, or an electrical appliance? Is she a toaster or a lamp?

Here is the standard I want for my grandchildren and your children: the standards at Lakeside Academy in Seattle, where Bill sends his children. The school has small classes, experienced teachers, a beautiful campus, a wonderful arts program, foreign languages, a fabulous gymnasium, a well-stocked library, the latest technology. That’s where I want our children educated. Not as toasters but as human beings.

Denny Taylor, a professor emerita of literacy studies at Hofstra University, here comments on the recent exchanges among Marc Tucker, Anthony Cody, and Yong Zhao about high-stakes testing and education reform. The key issue, she believes, is not so much about policy as it is about money, power, and control. When big money takes control of public policy, what is at risk is not only children’s lives and their education, but democracy itself.

Taylor has written a scorching analysis of Marc Tucker’s finances and his role in education reform.

She writes:

“I have read with interest the dialogue between Marc Tucker, Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody, and Yong Zhao on the establishment of an American test-based public education accountability system. Forty years of research on the impact of political structures on social systems,[1], [2] in particular public education,[3] leads me to categorize Marc Tucker’s rhetoric as nothing more than political cant to protect the lucrative profits of poverty “non-profit” industry that is bent to the will of the powerful rich donor groups that are dominating education policy in the US and UK.

“It is the PR discourse of big money that shapes the lives of teachers and children in public schools, and confounds the lives of families with young children struggling with the grimness of developmentally inappropriate instruction in public schools – instruction that rejects all that we have learned as a society about child development, how children learn language, become literate, and engage in math and science projects to both discover and solve problems. Knowledge gained from the sciences and the lived knowledge of human experience, the very essence of our human story, no longer counts.

“Tucker’s view of education is economic. Children in, workers out, could be the mantra of National Center on Education and the Economy. The NCEE website toots the familiar horn of the rich non-profit educational organization stating that: “Since 1988, NCEE has been researching the world’s best performing education systems to unlock their secrets.” Nonsense, of course. What NCEE has actually been doing is making money.

“In 2012 the total assets of NCEE were $93,708,833, with total liabilities of $1,572,013, and net assets of $92,136,820.[4] This highly lucrative “non-profit” fiefdom receives substantial funding from a long list of “donors” including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Broad, Walton, and Walmart Foundations. NCEE has also received substantial funding from the US Federal Government…..

“NCEE was the majority shareholder of America’s Choice, Inc. (ACI), which was established in November 2004 as a taxable for-profit subsidiary of NCEE. NCEE reorganized its internal America’s Choice program as a separate subsidiary to attract the capital investment and management talent to expand the implementation of the America’s Choice comprehensive school design program and related offerings for struggling schools. [6]

“In addition to his lucrative salary [$819,109 in 2012], Tucker was awarded stock options in ACI. In the 2010 Federal tax return for NCEE it further states:

“While any growth in the value of ACI would benefit these optionees, it was anticipated that such growth would also benefit NCEE’s charitable mission.

“NCEE then sold off ACI to Pearson. Here’s what is written on the next page of the 2010 federal tax return:

“The work of NCEE going forward will be funded in large part by the $65.9 million in proceeds that NCEE received as a result of the sale of ACI to Pearson…”

Taylor writes:

“Local control has been eviscerated through the enactment of laws and policies that have ensconced the Common Core in the new business driven public education system, which is centrally controlled through mandatory, highly lucrative, commercial accountability systems, that drain the coffers of local communities and diverts funds from essential programs and services that are no longer available for children in public schools.

“The new report on the American accountability system is just another example of big money writing private policy and sugar coating it to make it palatable. Zhao took the plan apart piece by piece, and Tucker might indeed counter Zhao’s arguments, but there is another problem, a little known fact, that cannot be explained away, not by the educational non-profits serving the needs of the big money backers who make public policy, or by the federal government that benefits.

“The basic research on which the economic system of public education was founded has no scientific legitimacy. This is not unsupported opinion; it is fact.

“At the beginning of the 1990’s, a well-orchestrated effort in state-corporate cooperation was initiated to disenfranchise the growing influence of teachers at the local level across the US, who were creating and using developmentally appropriate teaching-learning materials and activities in public schools that limited the influence of corporate curriculum producers. [19]

“School districts were spending money on real books instead of artificial, commercially produced programs, and there was concern about the growing rejection of commercial text-book producers, including McGraw-Hill, in the five big adoption states – Texas, California, Michigan, Florida, and New York.

“Billions in revenues and profits were at stake. Profits dropped. Not a whole lot, but even a slight dip could be counted in the hundreds of millions. Worse, the growing teacher-led democratic movement was taking hold, causing concern about displacement of the powerful elites in government and big business. From studying the teacher movements of that time, I can write that teachers really believed that through the ways in which they were teaching children in school, society could become more equitable.[20]….”

After a lengthy analysis of the power of big money to capture education policy at the federal and state levels, Taylor writes,

“Again, to ensure that this is not seen as unsupported opinion or that NCEE is an aberrant anomaly, one of the platforms on which big money is falsifying facts is the National Council on Teacher Quality, which has an Advisory Board that includes Pearson International, The Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and Murdoch’s News Corporation. The assessment of the syllabi of reading courses in US schools of education by private groups with a commercial agenda is not only political, it is predatory. The assault on faculty and students in colleges of education by NCTQ is also an aggressive act against teachers and children in K-12 public schools that impacts the academic development of the nation’s children, and also their health and well-being.

“When an ideological elite joins with the economic and political forces that control what human beings do, it is important that we confront our illusions and expose the myths about what is happening in K-12 public education. The very existence of NCTQ is a clear indication that we live at a time when the pressures on educators and children in K-12 public schools are reaching a tipping point.

“It is the nightmare scenario that so many of us dread, when the escalation of the causes and conditions that have such a negative effect on the lives of teachers, children and their families become self-perpetuating, and reach a point beyond which there is no return from total disequilibrium. When this happens, at our peril, this nation will no longer have the smallest hope of becoming democratic. Self-aggrandizing private groups with corporate power will overwhelm the system and our struggle for democracy will flounder.

“But there is more than democracy at stake. Once again, to quote Eisenhower:

“Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
What Tucker or many of his contemporaries don’t seem to get is that there is no time left for big money to mess around. The problem is that the redesign of our public education system based on “meeting today’s economic needs” is getting in the way of the transformation of schools which is urgently required to meet the real needs of our children tomorrow. The assessment system that he is pushing on teachers and children is designed to prepare children to work for the corporations that are using up Earth’s resources, contaminating the planet, causing the climate system to adversely change, and making Earth an unsafe place for our kids to be.”

“….. In public education we need big money to change everything. Tucker must alter course, save face before it is too late, and help get his contemporaries – the men with money, power, and privilege – to acknowledge that under their leadership the public education system has floundered, and that if, we are going to prepare today for tomorrow, we need to support the courageous teachers who were and are making a difference for children and society before big money got in the way. [26], [27]”

Anthony Cody writes that the corporate reformers have decided that it’s time to shift the narrative. Having spent the past few years ginning up a crisis climate about our “failing schools” and the need to fire “bad” teachers, the reformers realize the public is tuning them out. There’s an old line about npt wanting to listen to a broken record but there aren’t too many people left who remember what a record is (you know, the vinyl discs that were either 78, 45, or 33 rpm; if they got a scratch, the needle would get stuck in a groove, and the same notes would play over and over, to the point of tedium).

Cody says that Gates is now funding “success” stories. We all love success stories. But what we really need is honest, objective reporting about how testing and choice are working and how they affect children and the quality of education.

Cody writes:

“In 2010, a stark image was broadcast around the nation. It showed a child seated at a school desk surrounded by absolute devastation and ruin. That image was used promote the movie, “Waiting For Superman.” The movie was boosted with a $2 million advertising grant from the Gates Foundation, and was further promoted on Oprah and NBC’s Education Nation – also underwritten by the Gates Foundation. The clarion call was “public schools are broken and bad teachers cannot be fired

“But that is not what we hear now, for some reason. Now, we have stories of success popping up in the media – strangely sponsored by some of the same people who were shouting warnings of calamity just a few years ago.

“How and why has the prevailing story advanced by sponsors of education reform shifted over the past four years from one of failure and doom to one of success? And how is our media cooperating with the crafting of these dominant narratives?”

Well, it is not all happy talk. We still have the Vergara attack on teachers’ due process; we still have loopy efforts to judge teachers by test scores; we still have Pearson buying up every organization that measures American education; we still have Arne Duncan with his snide comments about parents, students, and schools.

I would settle for objective reporting about our schools, better informed and more of it.

Anthony Cody noted a very interesting exchange of comments about the Gates Foundation on Mercedes Schneider’s blog. Schneider wrote about a perceived conflict of interest when the Gates Foundation funds media and even meets with their representatives.

One of her examples was a grant to establish the “Education Lab” at the Seattle Times. The Lab is supposed to report on “success” stories. Focusing on “success” is itself a form of bias , Schneider said. Cody added, “What would stories have looked like in the 1960s if reporters covering the Vietnam War were supported with grants that encouraged them to “focus on success”?”

Then followed, on Schneider’s blog, an exchange between Wayne Au, a professor at the University of Washington, and Claudia Rowe, a reporter for Education Lab.

My bet: Education Lab will never write an article that questions the role of the Gates Foundation in steering American education to satisfy the whims of Bill Gates. A free press must be free of its sponsors.

Mercedes Schneider wrote a book about the origins of the Common Core this past summer, and she continues to keep a close watch on Bill Gates’ investment in the purchase of American education. In this post, she recounts Bill’s infatuation with the idea of standardizing every classroom, because he believes in the glories of standardization. And if he believes in it, so should everyone else.

You know how Arne Duncan and his echo chamber say again and again that the Common Core is not a curriculum? Mercedes says that the Gates Foundation made a grant to “hardwire” the CCSS curriculum. Oops! They didn’t mean to use that word! Maybe by the time this post goes public, they will change the word and call it “standards,” not “curriculum.”

But what’s with the “hardwiring”? Does the Gates Foundation really believe they can hardwire every school to the standards or curriculum of their choosing? This is America. We believe that our states are “laboratories of innovation.” A top-down set of standards, written in D.C., imposed by the lure of federal dollars? Never gonna happen. Ten years from now, maybe sooner, some states will stick with them, others won’t. Whatever they are, they will not be national standards. Americans don’t like to take orders. We don’t want to be hard-wired. We dissent. We debate. We question authority. We march to our own drummers. Or at least enough of us do to make trouble for anyone who wants to standardize us and hardwire us. Bill Gates will have to find a new plaything.

Bill Gates was on the treadmill one day, watched a video about history that he liked, and invited the professor to meet with him to talk about growing his approach into something that everyone could see. Now as this story in the New York Times explains, Bill Gates’ favorite way of teaching world history has been turned into a course that is being marketed to high schools across the country.

“As Gates was working his way through the series, he stumbled upon a set of DVDs titled “Big History” — an unusual college course taught by a jovial, gesticulating professor from Australia named David Christian. Unlike the previous DVDs, “Big History” did not confine itself to any particular topic, or even to a single academic discipline. Instead, it put forward a synthesis of history, biology, chemistry, astronomy and other disparate fields, which Christian wove together into nothing less than a unifying narrative of life on earth. Standing inside a small “Mr. Rogers”-style set, flanked by an imitation ivy-covered brick wall, Christian explained to the camera that he was influenced by the Annales School, a group of early-20th-century French historians who insisted that history be explored on multiple scales of time and space. Christian had subsequently divided the history of the world into eight separate “thresholds,” beginning with the Big Bang, 13 billion years ago (Threshold 1), moving through to the origin of Homo sapiens (Threshold 6), the appearance of agriculture (Threshold 7) and, finally, the forces that gave birth to our modern world (Threshold 8).”

This is my favorite line in the article: “As Gates sweated away on his treadmill, he found himself marveling at the class’s ability to connect complex concepts. “I just loved it,” he said. “It was very clarifying for me. I thought, God, everybody should watch this thing!”

Yes, if Gates loved it, why shouldn’t everybody “watch this thing!”

Now, let me say up front that the course may indeed be wonderful, engaging, provocative, and informative. I have not seen “Big History” and cannot judge its quality.

But there is something unseemly about a history course sponsored by the richest man in America. This is akin to research on cigarettes and cancer sponsored by tobacco company.

I am quoted in the article asking whether the course will discuss or even mention the robber barons or the problem of income inequality. How will it treat the rise–and decline–of labor unions? I can think of many topics that would make the sponsor uncomfortable.

Please read the comments, especially the readers’ picks. Many share my concerns.

On this point, read Mercedes Schneider’s latest post, wherein she reports that the Gates Foundation funds mainstream media outlets and Gates himself regularly meets with representatives of the media he gives money to. I don’t know, it doesn’t sound right to me. If he is giving millions to major news outlets, won’t that affect their coverage of the Gates Foundation and Gates himself. Will they dare criticize their sponsor? This has a bad smell.

I recently saw photographs of John F. Kennedy giving a Labor Day speech in New York City during his Presidential campaign in 1960. He spoke in the center of the Garment District, on the west side of Manhattan. He spoke to tens of thousands of garment workers. Today, the Garment District has been replaced by luxury high-rise residences. Following NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), the garment industry went to low-wage, non-union countries. The garment industry has few workers and no political power. The number of union members across the nation has dropped precipitously. The largest unions are public sector workers–especially, teachers–and they are under attack, as rightwing foundations, billionaires, and their favorite think tanks hammer away at their very existence.

What hope is there? Anthony Cody says there is plenty. He foresees the rise of “the teacher class.”

Here are a few quotes from a powerful statement. Read it all.

“The teaching class consists of educators from pre-school through college. This group is facing the brute force of a class-based assault on their professional and economic status. The assault is being led by the wealthiest people in the world – Bill and Melinda Gates, via their vast foundation, the Walton family, and their foundation, and Eli Broad, and his foundation. And a host of second tier billionaires and entrepreneurs have joined in the drive. These individuals have poured billions of dollars into advancing a “reform” movement that is resulting in the rapid expansion of semi-private and private alternatives to public education, and the destruction of unions and due process rights for educators.”

“As the latest report from Yong Zhao and ASCD illustrates, there is absolutely zero connection between the productivity of our economy and test scores. There may be some minimum level of academic achievement below which our nation’s economy might suffer, but our students are far, far above that threshold. So the entire economic rationale for our obsession with test scores and “higher standards” has been obliterated…”

Even liberal rationales for education reform are falling away. We have heard for the past decade that employers need students who can think critically and creatively, that everyone must be prepared for college. These arguments have been used to promote progressive models of education, along with the Common Core. The economic assumption here is that the middle class will grow as more students are prepared for middle class jobs. But the number of such jobs are shrinking, not growing. The supposed shortage of people prepared for STEM careers is a hoax, as we see with the layoff of 18,000 such workers by Microsoft. In fact, one economic projection suggests that in the next 20 years, 47% of the jobs of today will be gone as a result of technological advances and what Bill Gates terms “software substitution.” (see the full report here.)….”

“Teachers are paying attention. Study after study provides evidence that the central planks of corporate education reform not only fail to work, but are undermining the education of our students. This project that was supposed to be driven by data is collapsing, and would be long gone if our politicians were not being legally bribed to look the other way. Corporate education reform is a fraud, a hoax perpetrated on the public, with the active complicity of media outlets like NBC, which allows the Gates Foundation to dictate the very “facts” that guide their coverage of education issues….”

“Corporate reformers have diabolically targeted teachers where we were most vulnerable, by accusing us of placing our own interests above those of our students. Every element of corporate reform has been leveraged on this point. No Child Left Behind accused teachers of holding students back through our “soft bigotry of low expectations.” Due process has been undermined or destroyed because it supposedly provides shelter for the “bad teachers” responsible for low test scores.

“But this point of vulnerability is also our greatest latent strength going forward. Because teachers are deeply motivated by concern for their students, they are attuned to the devastating effects reform is having on them. Teachers are seeing what happens in communities when schools are closed – usually in poor African American and Latino neighborhoods. Teachers are seeing how technologically based “innovations” funnel both scarce funds along with student data to profit-seeking corporations. We have had more than a decade of test-driven reform, and teachers know better than anyone what a sham approach this has been. Teachers have seen and responded to the Michael Brown shooting, and though there are still difficult conversations ahead about race, teachers have a head start, because of our work with young people who are, like Michael Brown, vulnerable to racial profiling and the school to prison pipeline.

“Teachers have some important pieces of the puzzle, but we have not built the whole picture yet. There is a growing awareness of the discriminatory way laws are enforced, leading to huge numbers of African Americans and Latinos behind bars. But there is still a weak understanding of how this fits into a system that keeps communities of color economically and politically disempowered. School closures are a part of this disenfranchisement, as they rob communities of stable centers of learning. The disproportionate layoffs and terminations of African American teachers are a part of this pattern as well. We need a new civil rights coalition that brings these interests into sharp focus, and establishes alliances between teachers, students, parents and community members.

“When teachers bring a deep understanding of how our work has been hijacked and disrupted to bear on broader social issues, we find similar patterns elsewhere. We can see how profiteers are trying to sideline the US Postal Service, even though the level of service for the public will suffer. We see how the prison industry has turned into an enormous machine that sustains itself through vigorous lobbying, to the great disservice of many Americans. We see how laws governing debt are written to give tremendous advantage to financiers, while binding our students into a new form of indentured servitude. We see how leading Democratic Party politicians have taken campaign contributions in the millions from the sworn enemies of public education, and have become their servants….”

“The term “teacher leadership” has been used to describe a narrow range of activities often related to “getting a seat at the table,” or taking charge of professional development or Common Core implementation. But the real potential for teacher leadership arises when we take the lessons we have learned from a decade of being the targets of phony corporate reforms, and recognize our kinship with others who have been disenfranchised. The number of wealthy individuals who have sponsored this decade of fraudulent reform could fit in a small movie theater. Teachers number in the millions — our students and allies are in the hundreds of millions. The only thing that can beat the power of money is the power of people. But the people must be informed and organized. That sounds like work teachers ought to be able to handle.”

Mike Klonsky of Chicago recently posted this item. Bill Gates said it was easier to solve the problems of public health than to fix American education.

“Reader Rufus responds to Bill Gates with a comment on my Schooling in the Ownership Society Blog. This one is too good to leave in the comments section.

“Rufus August 6, 2014

“Gates claims it’s easier to find cures for malaria and other diseases than to “fix” American education.
Neither of those things are as difficult as Gates makes them sound. Just look in Bill and Melinda’s neighborhood. No malaria and great schools. Problem solved.”

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