With $36 billion, the Gates Foundation has too much money, too much power, and not enough common sense nor willingness to listen to those who warn that they are doing harm to basic social institutions.

Now the foundation has decided to destroy the civilizing and humanizing mission of higher education, and turn it into a process for acquiring job skills and degrees.

Read this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Just as it has done in K-12 education, the foundation has bought the research, bought the evaluations, bought the advocacy groups, and even bought the media that reports on what the foundation is doing.

But as the article reveals, good journalists have a tendency to tell the full story, even if their employer is on the Gates’ dole.

The story is shocking. It describes an experimental online degree program with no traditional professors or courses. “Instead, students progress by showing mastery of 120 “competencies,” such as “can use logic, reasoning, and analysis to address a business problem.”

The Gates Foundation has spent nearly half a billion dollars to remake higher education. Its goal: “competency-based education”…The foundation wants nothing less than to overhaul higher education, changing how it is delivered, financed, and regulated. To that end, Gates has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into getting more students to and through college, in an effort to lift more Americans out of poverty.”

And more:

“Gates’s rise occurs as an unusual consensus has formed among the Obama White House, other private foundations, state lawmakers, and a range of policy advocates, all of whom have coalesced around the goal of graduating more students, more quickly, and at a lower cost, with little discussion of the alternatives. Gates hasn’t just jumped on the bandwagon; it has worked to build that bandwagon, in ways that are not always obvious. To keep its reform goals on the national agenda, Gates has also supported news-media organizations that cover higher education. (Disclosure: The Chronicle has received money from the Gates foundation.)

“The effect is an echo chamber of like-minded ideas, arising from research commissioned by Gates and advocated by staff members who move between the government and the foundation world.

“Higher-education analysts who aren’t on board, forced to compete with the din of Gates-financed advocacy and journalism, find themselves shut out of the conversation. Academic researchers who have spent years studying higher education see their expertise bypassed as Gates moves aggressively to develop strategies for reform.

“Some experts have complained that the Gates foundation approaches higher education as an engineering problem to be solved.

“Most important, some leaders and analysts are uneasy about the future that Gates is buying: a system of education designed for maximum measurability, delivered increasingly through technology, and—these critics say—narrowly focused on equipping students for short-term employability.”

There is only one thing wrong with the Gates plan to remake higher education. It will turn higher education into job training and ruin the institution that has elevated the intellect, imagination, aspirations, and creativity of millions of Americans.

As usual, Gates begins his restructuring program by claiming that higher education is “broken” and he knows best how to fix it.

“”The education we’re currently providing, or the way we’re providing it, just isn’t sustainable,” Mr. Gates told the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities last year. “Instead we have to ask, ‘How can we use technology as a tool to recreate the entire college experience? How can we provide a better education to more people for less money?”

And as he did in K-12, he buys up everyone and engineers the appearance of a consensus:

“In the nation’s capital, the flow of Gates money indicates a desire to reroute another economic artery of higher education: federal financial aid. The foundation has paid millions to an array of groups that argue that the $188-billion-a-year federal aid system is broken, that it should accommodate experimental programs like Southern New Hampshire’s, and—most controversially—that it should be restructured to foster college completion.”

And more:

“”They start with the assumption that something is broken,” says Patricia A. McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, which serves low-income women in the District of Columbia. “Then they take the next step of deciding what the fix is before they really understand the problem.” Skeptics say such confidence is dangerous when dealing with complex social phenomena like education.

“What’s striking about these concerns is how rarely they are voiced in public. In elementary and secondary education, where Gates has a longer track record, the foundation’s activities generate growing criticism. It comes from liberals (who say Gates is trying to privatize education and is attacking unions) as well as conservatives (who say Gates and President Obama are in cahoots to federalize education through the Common Core learning standards).

“In higher education, many leaders and faculty members voice concerns about the Gates foundation’s growing and disproportionate impact. Many private-college presidents, in particular, feel shut out of discussions about reform. Yet few of those critics speak out in public, and some higher-education leaders, researchers, and lobbyists were reluctant to talk on the record for this article. The reason? They didn’t want to scotch their chances of winning Gates grants.

“The silence extends to research. Mr. Thomas edits The Journal of Higher Education, one of the field’s leading periodicals. During his two years as editor, he has yet to receive a well-developed manuscript on the role of philanthropy in academe—even as Gates and its allies wager enormous sums to alter the fundamentals of higher education.”

Can anyone speak honestly to Bill Gates before he turns American higher education into a giant industry committed to building skills and competencies instead of fostering intelligence, ambition, and innovation? Does he have any idea of what he is doing? How can a democracy function when one man with $36 billion assumes the right and the power to reshape key institutions?