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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why Is Bill Gates Allowed To Make Policy?

I just finished reading Anthony Cody's brilliant rejoinder to the Gates Foundation over their support of market-driven education policy. Read the whole thing - it's well worth your time. I'd just add one thought to what Cody says here:
The Gates Foundation funds a tremendous amount of activity in the education sector, and I am not suggesting that every project, or every person who takes funding from the Gates Foundation is a partisan in this campaign. The Gates Foundation has funded many organizations that have done good work - but to be clear, there is no real "balance" here. Even though the Gates Foundation occasionally gives grants to the teacher unions, it is to fund projects aligned with the Common Core standards, or efforts to support "collaboration" with administrators. It is never - as far as I know - to fund efforts to de-emphasize standardized tests, or defend due process for teachers. [emphasis mine]
Bill and Melinda Gates are, of course, allowed to believe whatever they want about education, or any other policy issue. If they want to prop up the Common Core, that's their business. But when the extraordinary pile of money they've accumulated allows them to actually set policy, we've left the realm of democracy. No one person should wield as much power over any aspect of American life as Bill Gates now does over education.

I'm frankly starting to get sick of hearing over and over about how much "good" Bill Gates has done with his money. Sure, it's terrific that he plans on giving away most of his fortune, but he and he alone gets to decide where it goes. If Gates was taxed at Eisenhower Era marginal rates (or even if we just stopped the highly questionable practice of treating capitol gains differently from income), much of the money he amassed - and amassed only because he lives in a society that allows him to do so - would instead be used to implement policies subject to the wills of our democratically elected representatives.

Of course, Gates would have to content himself with just a few billion dollars, rather than $61 billion. But I think that's more than enough to dough to motivate any "job creator," don't you?

And if he wanted to "reform" education in his own image, fine: but he'd have to do so by making a case for it before the American people, rather than just spreading money around to make things go his way. He'd have to win on his ideas, and not just because he's the richest man on the planet.

Wealthy people have always run the world. But part of the American experiment was to see if maybe this country could change that a bit. At the very least, let's have the wealthy limit their influence to the business world; leave public policy to the public sphere.

Would you let this man run your kid's school?


reality-based educator said...

People in the food and agriculture world are beginning to awaken to Gates' destructive philanthropy too:


In education, in agriculture, in disease eradication (take what he's selling or else!), in the fight against global warming (Gates is pushing "cloud whitening" as a way to combat climate change, though he has no idea if this will make things better or worse) - on all of these issues, Gates is doing as much harm as good because he has to have things his way and only his way...Gates knows best!

Unknown said...

He's very rich, so that's apparently enough to make him a dominant social policy maker for the rest of us. What you've said is well said.