Bob Dean

Bill Gates: Don't Monetize my Students!

There is nothing more dangerous than a billionaire with too much time on his hands. Bill Gates admits he knows nothing about teaching but that hasn’t stopped him from causing havoc in our nation’s schools.

It started out with his small school initiative. He was convinced that kids in smaller schools could learn better than those in our “so called” monstrous high schools of 2000 students or more. No matter that every college or university that has a population of less than 4000 stresses their advantage of a small and intimate campus. Unfortunately, when a billionaire talks people listen; even worse they think he knows what he is talking about. That is far from the truth.

Gates infused millions into his small school initiative but in less than a year he admitted he was wrong and went off in new directions. That didn’t stop what he had already put in motion however. Schools all over the country spent millions on redesigning facilities around the small school initiative that has now been abandoned. This waste and misdirection has been extremely harmful but Gates has moved on to new experiments.

Most people don’t know that it has been Bill Gates’ money that has been the prime mover behind the Common Core standards. His money has given legs to the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of State School Officers (CCSSO) and he has even given funds to the Fordham Institute that did an evaluation of the Common Core standards. Let me see, he supplied money to help get the CCSS developed and he supplied money to the organization that evaluated them. Can you spell conflict of interest? Almost all of the states have jumped on the CCSS band wagon. Even Massachusetts, who had some of the top rated standards in the nation, discarded all of their success in favor of the experimental Common Core Standards. When Bill Gates talks, people listen: Even when it doesn’t make any sense.

Now one of his big pushes is merit pay for teachers. Teachers would be paid more if their students performed better on standardized tests and be evaluated poorly or maybe even fired if their students did not perform well on these often defectively designed exams. In Gate’s cutthroat monetary thinking mind this would cause teachers to perform better: Wrong! This would cause a huge divide between teachers and their students.

Students would no longer be children who teachers attempted to help no matter what their circumstances were, but they would become a commodity that made the difference in how a teacher was paid and evaluated. How do you think teachers would respond if their very livelihood was threatened by working with poor and unwilling students? I will tell you. They would do everything they could to not work with that type of student and when that type of student was put in their class they would do everything they could to get rid of them.

It appears that Bill Gates wants to craft the US education system into his image. What do you think that would look like? If I taught my classes the way Bill Gates built his business then this is what I would do. First, all students would enter my classes under probation. Anyone who couldn’t cut the mustard would be history. Then, I would outsource. I would go get the best students from India and China to be in my classes. Every chance I got I would be out speaking and promoting my classes and my methods. I would also do everything I could to make my competitors (other schools) look bad. I would end up being the ”king” of merit pay. I would make lots of money and everyone would think I knew everything about everything. In the meanwhile, all the struggling kids and our education system would continue to suffer.

Teachers in the top performing countries are treated with a lot more respect than what they are getting in the United States these days. But even more importantly, students are held accountable and take personal responsibility for what they accomplish or don’t accomplish in school. Parents don’t blame teachers for their child’s failures, they make sure their child is doing all of their work and get them extra help if they need it.

Fifty percent of new teachers leave the education field within the first five years. The Gates plan is going to make sure that increases to a new high. Bill Gates has already done substantial damage to the education system in the United States. We would all be a lot better off if he stuck to the things that he knows something about.

Bob Dean

Math Teacher Singer/songwriter

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