I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The "Passionate" Bill Gates

Jiminy Christmas...
A passionate believer in education reform, Bill reviews Steven Brill’s book, Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools, a well-written account of the people, politics, and policies involved in the effort to improve teaching and learning.
Well, if he's "passionate," he must be right...
Brill clearly took the time to learn about some complex issues, like how charter schools compare and what the federal No Child Left Behind program did to the education system in the U.S.
What Brill did was oversell charters in contradiction to the actual research.
The book is over 400 pages, so it is not for anyone who just wants a quick skip through the status quo and a few debating points.
Do I really have to point out how condescending it is to those of us down in the trenches that a CEO can read 400 pages and think that he has paid a huge price to become informed about what we do?
There are some surprising facts too. One of the things that amazed me was the high proportion of people pushing for education reform who had spent time at Teach For America, the non-profit group that trains and places teachers in schools in low-income communities.
Yes, we all need to get behind more "white people... destroy and leave." 
I was impressed by the key role that the group Democrats for Education Reform has played in encouraging Democrats to be willing to make changes that the teachers union resists. Brill doesn’t cover the challenges in getting Republican politicians to get behind reform as well as he does the Democrats though.
You know why, Bill? Because Whitney Tilson knew Republicans were already on board for these policies that won't work (h/t Leonie Haimson - who else?). The entire plot has been about co-opting the Cuomos and the Obamas and Duncans. Speaking of whom...
President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan come across very well in speaking up passionately for a system that has to do better for the children.
Does anyone really give a crap anymore about how "passionately" anyone in power "speaks up" for the children? Haven't we all figured out by now that "speaking up" for the children is what cynical, self-serving political and business figures do when they don't want to be called to account for the absolute failure of America politics and business?
The person that Brill spent the most time talking to in preparing the book is Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union. Overall, he shows sympathy for the position she is in as a union leader, but he does highlight some places where she presents the union in a more reasonable light than their actual behavior would justify.
Let's just throw that little snipe at teachers and their unions out their and let it fester a while, shall we? Makes all the oligarchs feels better about themselves...
The book suggests that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg backed off from pushing for as much change as Klein, chancellor of the city’s Department of Education for eight years, was asking for and that his pension generosity was a mistake. If someone like Bloomberg – who is far braver and more committed to change than most politicians – shies away from the toughest part of changing the work rules and personnel system, then it shows how hard it is going to be.
Yes, and we all know Joel Klein is in it for the kids, not the $2 million or more he's getting from Rupert Murdoch. And it's not like Gates and Klein and Murdoch see a huge business opportunity in American education (h/t again to Leonie - she's relentless).
Overall, this book gives a real sense of the challenges that lay ahead for us in improving education in this country and it’s an important one for anyone who cares about an issue which ultimately affects us all.
I can't argue with that: the fact that Gates is pushing this ridiculous screed is all the proof you need that people who really care about public education - teachers, parents, education researchers - have a daunting fight ahead.

We're just going to have to be as "passionate" as Mr. Gates, who I wish would show some passion for making a computer that doesn't crash every five minutes...
I'm all about the passion...

3 comments:

Jason V. said...

After this glowing Gates review, I'll predict that the next big move for this Brill piece of shill 'journalism' is to make the Oprah Book Club or something equivalent that will thrust it into the mainstream in order to further muddy the waters of popular perception.

And this sentence is brilliant:

"Haven't we all figured out by now that 'speaking up' for the children is what cynical, self-serving political and business figures do when they don't want to be called to account for the absolute failure of America politics and business?"

Amen to that!

jcg said...

"Does anyone really give a crap anymore about how "passionately" anyone in power "speaks up" for the children? Haven't we all figured out by now that "speaking up" for the children is what cynical, self-serving political and business figures do when they don't want to be called to account for the absolute failure of America politics and business?"

Can we hear an AMEN? AMEN!

Teacher Mom said...

I'm going to give Bloomberg the benefit of the doubt and say after 8 years, he realized what they were doing wasn't working so they stopped doing it. How about he shied away from some of the current trendy reforms because they suck and they don't work and the kids actually got worse instead of better. Am I off base here, or is Gates an idiot in this regard?