Terry Crosgrove, who works in an Ohio plant that makes Slim Jims, is studying for an associate degree through Southern New Hampshire U.'s competency-based program, which was begun with money from Gates.
Bill Gates whose K-12 reforms have largely failed has now trained his sights on higher education. What's ironic is that he is a "college dropout."
That's not to suggest he's dumb, he clearly isn't. But to have the hubris to think minus any long term experience as a student or classroom professor in a university that somehow he's qualified to know how to "fix" higher ed, assuming it needs a "fix" is to say the least mind boggling.
When one looks under the hood at his ideas as described in the Chronicle of Education article (above) it's clear to me Bill Gates is "clueless in Seattle."
Just because he has a big bank wad of money to throw around doesn't make his ideas good ones, it simply means as the article examines he has the ability to get eyeballs by fellow enterpreneurs, education bureaucrats and big time politicians. It's the "Trump effect" all over again, if you spin a line time and time again, eventually the "alt fact" becomes golden.
The question that needs to be asked does he have a "lived" experience aside from his one year at Harvard in higher education? No. Has he taught at the university level? No! Has he been a higher ed administrator? No! If the answer is "none of the above" what's the foundation of his so-called expertise?
As the son of privilege he grew up in Seattle attending a private academy. No doubt he got a good education, the best money can buy. But does that give him the necessary credentials to be considered an educational guru? No way in hell.
If one tracks national trends in educational reform other than John Dewey ('30s) most of the "reformers" have come from the political class - Gen. Hyman Rickover ('50s), Ronald Reagan ('80s) followed by his successors Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama. The best reforms came via Brown vs. Board and LBJ with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Acts which focused on funding K-12 not micro managing it.
Don't forget Title IX in the Carter years. It opened doors for women but it didn't change the rules and metrics of school or college sports.
As one reads the Chronicle article Gates et al reduce education to "competency" based metrics which on their own have nothing to do with educating one for being a citizen but for working in a global economy.
We've heard this tune before - performance based learning and high stakes testing. Now we're going to dumb the curriculum down to showing mastery of 120 "competencies" via online learning. Socrates would be flummoxed.
I have no problem with making education at all levels accountable but the key question is what is the measuring stick - fitting square pegs in round holes or teaching students the values of life long learning and what it means to live in a democratic society?
As the common core of our civil society is shattered, surely there is more to a post secondary education than proving you have the skill set to fit into a job slot. I've seen high school grads fit in that mold in my eye doc's clinic! But where will future citizens in this Brave New World learn the skills of citizenship and our history?
As one educational guru quoted in the Chronicle article posed – what if the focus is misguided? "College completion may be the wrong goal," says Stanley N. Katz, who directs the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at Princeton University and has written critically about foundations.
"There is too much emphasis on getting people through the system, processing them," he says. "That needs to be seen in relation to what students are in fact learning. It's a big problem, and it's getting very little discussion."
Unlike Bill Gates, I attended public schools in Seattle (grade 1-4), in Palo Alto (5) and Roseburg (6-12). I then attended Whitman College ('60-64) and then a great land grant university, the University of Minnesota ('64-69). I then had a 42 year college teaching career (see the About Me section of my blog for more details).
In my time at Pacific I was the originator and director of two major grants, in both cases I had to bend myself like a pretzel to accommodate the agenda of the grantor but I managed to keep the integrity of each grant's mission. But there were times I just wanted to say "forget it, keep yout damn money."
But in dealing with the likes of Bill Gates you are like a minnow swimming with the sharks. Glad I'm retired and don't have to play those games anymore...
I have no issue with acquiring job skills in high school, community college or a four year university. Apprenticeships and internships are often seminal educational experiences but they don't replace the ability to think critically, to act ethically and to understand a citizen's role in our democracy.
Gates et al are offering us a half a loaf not a whole loaf while skirting their responsibility to pay their fare share in local, state and federal taxes to sustain the most important education foundation of our society - which is the envy of the world - our system of higher education.
A final thought: Funding K-12 or higher ed via philanthropy these days is the consequence of diminished public investment in education across the board. State legislatures and voters have blindly followed the little brick road of the "tax revolter". The conventional wisdom used to be "taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society."
In the age of Trumpism those days are over until we discover the errors of our ways - decades from now while sacrificing the next generation or more on the altar of "no new taxes" or bogus scheme of "reform" from those with no history as educators.