What is Bill Gates Doing Back in School?

If you want to know how to run good schools, ask someone who's built a giant corporation. That seems to be the message this week, as Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, and New York's Mayor Bloomberg weigh in on how to make our kids number one in the highly competitive global marketplace.

Mayor Bloomberg appointed Cathie Black to the position of Chancellor of New York City Schools despite her complete lack of experience in education. Neither a teacher, nor administrator, nor active community member in schools, she has a reputation as a definitive business leader. She has been the Chairwoman of Hearst Magazines and lost the title of President there in the summer of 2010. Mayor Bloomberg announced the appointment to the surprise of some of his staff. According to NY State law, the chancellor must have adequate credentials, which Black does not. Today it was declared that her appointment would clear due to a deal in which a special adviser, someone with experience, would be her No. 2. Anyone who has worked with Black, however, seems doubtful that she will regard her role as being part of a team.

Bill Gates told the Council of Chief State School Officers recently that restructuring pay scale for teachers would be a good way to improve schools. He suggests doing away with compensation for getting a masters degree and severely trimming pensions as sensible ways to keep America's schools in business.

Why is a high-school dropout like Gates being asked to comment on how to make schools more successful? Because Secretary Duncan and President Obama have asked for his advice.

Just prior to this, Duncan announced that President Obama has set a goal of bringing the US into the number one position of college graduates by 2020--how we can afford to pay for the tuition is of course another matter. And who will teach the people bound for college, knowing their pensions will be cut and they themselves will not receive a bonus for continuing their own education?

How has it come to this, that a business mogul who has never taught a class of elementary, middle school, or high school students has the ear of the President and Secretary of Education? And how is it that the point of education has become making US students number one in the global market, rather than wondering how can we best serve children so there are no losers?

It all seems to be too heavily valuing the dollar and completely forgetting any other measure of value. It also seems to take us further from the actual concern of schools, which ought to be guided by what provides the best education for our children.


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