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Has Bill Gates Seen The Light on School Improvement? His “Squishy Idea” Might Be a Sign He HAS….

September 6, 2018

I just finished reading a post from Diane Ravitch that takes Bill Gates to task for his latest effort at reforming public education. Diane Ravitch and many of the bloggers she draws from and many of her commenters have a deep antipathy for Bill Gates, who they (perhaps rightfully) view as the paradigmatic “clueless reformer”. Mr. Gates, like his antecedents in the Gilded Age, sees himself as one who can cut through the complicated problems of the world. He holds this view because he believes he is necessarily wise because he has made a fortune for himself thanks to his acumen.

Here’s a quote from The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie I read recently:
“The man of wealth should consider himself the mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, brining to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer”.

As anyone who’s read Callahan’s Education and the Cult of Efficiency realizes, the factory school model in place today is the result of the “superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer” Mr. Carnegie brought to public schools… a model Gates previously used as the basis for his “reforms”. The problem with THAT model is that it led to the conclusion that “fixing schools” was a COMPLICATED problem that could be achieved by applying engineering skills.

I am heartened that Mr. Gates is now advocating a “very squishy” means of improving schools… it might be an indication that he realizes “fixing schools” is a COMPLEX problem that will require the engagement of human beings and may elude the simplistic metrics that are the basis for the factory school model. Standardized tests are anything but squishy… but they are also anything but helpful in determining “success”. Caring teachers, nurturing parents, and a sense of well being on the part of all students are all “squishy”… but they are far more important than high test scores.

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