Education psychologist Gerald Coles reports that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg plan to fund neurological research to find out why poor children’s brains aren’t working well enough to produce higher test scores.

Coles writes:

“Why are many poor children not learning and succeeding in school? For billionaire Bill Gates, who funded the start-up of the failed Common Core Curriculum Standards, and has been bankrolling the failing charter schools movement, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, it’s time to look for another answer, this one at the neurological level. Poor children’s malfunctioning brains, particularly their brains’ “executive functioning”–that is, the brain’s working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control–must be the reason why their academic performance isn’t better.

“Proposing to fund research on the issue, the billionaires reason that not only can executive malfunctioning cause substantial classroom learning problems and school failure, it also can adversely affect socio-economic status, physical health, drug problems, and criminal convictions in adulthood. Consequently, if teachers of poor students know how to improve executive function, their students will do well academically and reap future “real-world benefits.” For Gates, who is always looking for “the next big thing,” this can be it in education.

“Most people looking at this reasoning would likely think, “If executive functioning is poorer in poor children, why not eliminate the apparent cause of the deficiency, i.e., poverty?” Not so for the billionaires. For them, the “adverse life situations” of poor students are the can’t-be-changed-givens. Neither can instructional conditions that cost more money provide an answer. For example, considerable research on small class size teaching has demonstrated its substantially positive academic benefits, especially for poor children, from grammar school through high school and college. Gates claims to know about this instructional reform, but money-minded as he is, he insists these findings amount to nothing more than a “belief” whose worst impact has been to drive “school budget increases for more than 50 years.”

“Cash–rather, the lack of it–that’s the issue: “You can’t fund reforms without money and there is no more money,” he insists. Of course, nowhere in Gates’ rebuke of excessive school spending does he mention corporate tax dodging of state income taxes, which robs schools of billions of dollars. Microsoft, for example, in which Gates continues to play a prominent role as “founder and technology advisor” on the company’s Board of Directors would provide almost $29.6 billion in taxes that could fund schools were its billions stashed offshore repatriated.

“In a detailed example of Microsoft’s calculated tax scheming and dodging that would provide material for a good classroom geography lesson, Seattle Times reporter, Matt Day, outlined one of the transcontinental routes taken by a dollar spent for a Microsoft product in Seattle. Immediately after the purchase, the dollar takes a short trip to Microsoft’s company headquarters in nearby Redmond, Washington, after which it moves to a Microsoft sales subsidiary in Nevada. Following a brief rest, the dollar breathlessly zigzags from one offshore tax haven to another, finally arriving in sunny Bermuda where it joins $108 billion of Microsoft’s other dollars. Zuckerberg’s Facebook has similarly kept its earnings away from U.S. school budgets.”