What is it about billionaires that makes them either fascinating or punching bags or both? For some, it may be envy; it may be admiration; it may be a sense of injustice that life is so unfair. At the present moment, several billionaires have set themselves up as objects of ridicule because of their presumptuous belief that they have the wisdom to reform public education. Some among them, such as Eli Broad, the Waktins, and Bill Gates have decided that privately managed schools are superior to democratically controlled schools. They feel no compunction about pushing privatization of what belongs to the public.

 

The most tempting target for ridicule is Bill Gates, because he thinks he knows how to fix teaching and he pays states and districts to support privatization. He actually knows nothing about teaching, having never taught; and he knows little or nothing about public schools, having never been a student or a parent in one.

 

He recently visited South Carolina to pontificate on subjects about which he is misinformed. This gave Paul Thomas, who taught in the public schools of that state for many years and is now a professor at Furman University, an opportunity to reflect on Bill Gates’ shortcomings. He concluded that the much esteemed Mr. Gates is delusional. Maybe there are more diplomatic adjectives: misinformed, ignorant, uninformed, arrogant. I guess if people bow and scrape because you are rich, it makes you think you know it all.

 

Thomas cites four of Bill Gates’ delusions about reforming education. The first is his delusion that he is doing something new, when in fact he is perpetuating the same failed accountability policies of the past 25 years or so. The second delusion is that school choice solves any problems worth solving. The third delusion is that ever-higher standards and more rigorous tests lead to education improvement. Read the piece to see what the fourth delusion is!