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Bill Gates' Common Core Megalomania
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Thomas Piketty is worried that the rich will get ever richer because they won’t give their money away; but perhaps we should also worry about what happens when the rich do give their money away.

Lyndsey Layton offers a solid article in the Washington Post on how Bill Gates bought off all credible expertish opposition to the not-unintelligent Common Core school standards.

The essential problem with the Common Core is simply megalomania. The foremost author of the Common Core, David Coleman, is a smart guy, but his assumption that he can sit down and write a set of instructions for turning every student into American into the kind of close-reader he likes to point out he proved himself to be during his Bar Mitzvah speech, is, uh, probably over-confident.

Similarly, Bill Gates’ decision to not let Coleman’s Common Core be tried out first in one willing guinea pig state like Kentucky, but to try to hustle almost every state in the Union into adopting this untested system is megalomaniacal.

Why in the world are we betting the country on Coleman’s and Gates’ un-proven brainstorm?

Well, because Gates bribed more or less all of respectable opinion.

So, when you hear denigrations of opponents of Common Core as “angry,” well, of course they are angrier than the “experts,” since the experts are all fat and happy on the Gates Foundation Gravy Train.

How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates is taking heat from education groups, which say the Gates Foundation’s philanthropic support comes with strings attached. Here, he responds to his critics in an interview with The Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton.

WRITTEN BY Lyndsey Layton SATURDAY, JUNE 7, 4:25 PM E-mail the writer

The pair of education advocates had a big idea, a new approach to transform every public-school classroom in America. By early 2008, many of the nation’s top politicians and education leaders had lined up in support.

But that wasn’t enough. The duo needed money — tens of millions of dollars, at least — and they needed a champion who could overcome the politics that had thwarted every previous attempt to institute national standards.

So they turned to the richest man in the world.

On a summer day in 2008, Gene Wilhoit, director of a national group of state school chiefs, and David Coleman, an emerging evangelist for the standards movement, spent hours in Bill Gates’s sleek headquarters near Seattle, trying to convince him and his wife, Melinda, to turn their idea into reality.

Coleman and Wilhoit told the Gateses that academic standards varied so wildly between states that high school diplomas had lost all meaning, that as many as 40 percent of college freshmen needed remedial classes and that U.S. students were falling behind their foreign competitors.

The pair also argued that a fragmented education system stifled innovation because textbook publishers and software developers were catering to a large number of small markets instead of exploring breakthrough products. That seemed to resonate with the man who led the creation of the world’s dominant computer operating system.

I.e., the guy who became the richest man in the world off a monopoly.

Is Common Core going to be the Windows Vista of education? Maybe, maybe not? But shouldn’t we run a few studies first?

… After the meeting, weeks passed with no word. Then Wilhoit got a call: Gates was in.

What followed was one of the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, convincing state governments to make systemic and costly changes.

Bill Gates was de facto organizer, providing the money and structure for states to work together on common standards in a way that avoided the usual collision between states’ rights and national interests that had undercut every previous effort, dating to the Eisenhower administration.

The Gates Foundation spread money across the political spectrum, to entities including the big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — groups that have clashed in the past but became vocal backers of the standards.

Money flowed to policy groups on the right and left, funding research by scholars of varying political persuasions who promoted the idea of common standards. Liberals at the Center for American Progress and conservatives affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council who routinely disagree on nearly every issue accepted Gates money and found common ground on the Common Core.

One 2009 study, conducted by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute with a $959,116 Gates grant, described the proposed standards as being “very, very strong” and “clearly superior” to many existing state standards.

Gates money went to state and local groups, as well, to help influence policymakers and civic leaders. And the idea found a major booster in President Obama, whose new administration was populated by former Gates Foundation staffers and associates. The administration designed a special contest using economic stimulus funds to reward states that accepted the standards.

The result was astounding: within just two years of the 2008 Seattle meeting, 45 states and the District of Columbia had fully adopted the Common Core State Standards.

… The standards have become so pervasive that they also quickly spread through private Catholic schools. About 100 of 176 Catholic dioceses have adopted the standards because it is increasingly difficult to buy classroom materials and send teachers to professional development programs that are not influenced by the Common Core, Catholic educators said.

And yet, because of the way education policy is generally decided, the Common Core was instituted in many states without a single vote taken by an elected lawmaker. Kentucky even adopted the standards before the final draft had been made public.

States were responding to a “common belief system supported by widespread investments,” according to one former Gates employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing the foundation.

The movement grew so quickly and with so little public notice that opposition was initially almost nonexistent. That started to change last summer, when local tea party groups began protesting what they viewed as the latest intrusion by an overreaching federal government — even though the impetus had come from the states. … Some liberals are angry, too, with a few teacher groups questioning Gates’s influence and motives.

… “The country as a whole has a huge problem that low-income kids get less good education than suburban kids get,” Gates said. “There’s a lot of work that’s gone into making these [standards] good,” Gates continued. … “I wish there was a lot of competition, in terms of [other] people who put tens of millions of dollars into how reading and writing could be improved, how math could be improved.”

Gates made sure there wasn’t any competition, as I pointed out in 2010 in my VDARE review of a Diane Ravitch book in which she noted, “Never before was there a foundation that gave grants to almost every major think tank and advocacy group in the field of education, leaving almost no one willing to criticize its vast power and unchecked influence.”

…Whether the Common Core will deliver on its promise is an open question.

Tom Loveless, a former sixth-grade teacher who is an education policy expert at the Brookings Institution, said the Common Core was “built on a shaky theory.” He said he has found no correlation between quality standards and higher student achievement.

“Everyone who developed standards in the past has had a theory that standards will raise achievement, and that’s not happened,” Loveless said.

Jay P. Greene, head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, says the Gates Foundation’s overall dominance in education policy has subtly muffled dissent.

“Really rich guys can come up with ideas that they think are great, but there is a danger that everyone will tell them they’re great, even if they’re not,” Greene said.

Read the whole article there: it’s quite good.

It’s an interesting question whether American intellectual life is becoming more corrupt. Maybe I was just naive about how things worked in the past, but it seems like more and more that everybody is desperate not to get cast out of the circle of respectability, with the lifestyle diminishment that would entail.

That makes fields drowned in political correctness like education sitting ducks for sharp operators like Bill Gates.

 
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  1. Luke Lea says:

    A good common core may not close the gap, but it could still be good for good students in poor schools across the country.

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  2. Why not have a go at the Common Core nationwide?

    The alternative is to do it in stages, which only takes more time to fail beyond dispute.

    Let it all fail in one huge embarrassment.

    That way we can quickly move on to the next embarrassment.

    As for Gates, well, a credulous fool and his money are soon parted.

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  3. Dahlia says:

    Conservatives and their rich white whales buying up intellectuals:
    Ron Unz versus the elite and their cheap labor labor lobby
    William F. Buckley versus Hugh Hefner
    Steve Sailer versus….Bill Gates?

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  4. It goes to show how quickly one multi-billionaire dedicated to good instead of evil could make a serious change to the conventional wisdom. I doubt we’ll ever see such a billionaire, but it’s nice to know it’s possible.

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  5. anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Jeremy Yoder identifies as a gay man, but isn’t this dangerous speculation? How does he know he’s gay? Has he found the mechanism for it? No, so he’s speculating.

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  6. My heart despairs when I think of the real good that could be accomplished by people as rich as Gates and Zuckerberg if they actually “got it.”

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  7. countenance says: • Website

    Gates should have taken the Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer route and bought an NBA team.

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  8. e says:

    “A good common core may not close the gap, but it could still be good for good students in poor schools across the country.”

    The lack of a common core is NOT the problem.

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  9. Wilkey says:

    “Bill and Melinda Gates, Obama and Arne Duncan are parents of school-age children, although none of those children attend schools that use the Common Core standards. The Gates and Obama children attend private schools…”

    Got that? Gates and Obama love Common Core so much that they don’t send their own kids to schools that implement it. I bet Melinda Gates helped design Common Core using her experience designing Microsoft Bob.

    Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum to put it on and I shall move the world.”

    My state alone, a smallish one, spends more than twice as much annually on education – $4.8 billion – as the Gates Foundation spends on all causes combined (~$2 billion). Yet with grants that were an extremely small fraction of overall US education spending, Gates & Co. have managed to rewrite the curriculum in almost every state in the US. The bribes provided by the Obama Administration for the “Race to the Top” didn’t hurt, nor did the fact – not mentioned in the article – that the designer of Common Core now runs the College Board, which produces the SAT, and has used his control of SAT standards to force public and private schools to adopt Common Core.

    Gates has shown how a tiny, rich, cliquish, motivated minority can use its power and influence to control a much larger but disorganized majority.

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  10. Whiskey says: • Website

    As Common Core fails like Vista and Windows 8 and Microsoft Bob, exect home schooling to explode. And cheap, fast online credentials for stuff like accounting to explode.

    Say you graduate at age 16 from home schooling, at age 20 from online Stanford or MIT with an accounting degree and no debt. Yes its online but its Stanford or MIT. You can underbid debt free a guy from State U who is age 23. You earn money 3 years earlier and have again no debt.

    The person that model benefits is the higher iq, more disciplined person. Admittedly nt many, but as schools turn into metal detector hell, expect more of this as common core predictably fails to impose a pc straighjacket.

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  11. robot says:

    We Boomers believed for decades that we could take wild chances on our careers and would eventually be karmically rewarded. It’s turned out instead that kissing insiders’ asses is still the surest route to security, and risk-takers have mostly suffered humiliating poverty.

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  12. 5371 says:

    If Henry Ford had tried to bribe people to let him design the US education system, everyone would have laughed at him.

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  13. The bribes provided by the Obama Administration for the “Race to the Top” didn’t hurt

    I was always intrigued by the name-switch from “No Child Left Behind” to “Race to the Top,” as the latter can be read two ways:

    [Let's all] race to the top [of achievement]!
    [The least educable] race to the top [of our priorities]!

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  14. KFS says:

    “My state alone, a smallish one, spends more than twice as much annually on education – $4.8 billion – as the Gates Foundation spends on all causes combined (~$2 billion). ” – Wilkey

    Newark schools get $1 billion every year, 75% of which is extorted from the state taxpayers as a result of state Supreme Court decisions. When Mark Zuckerberg teamed up with Oprah Winfrey and former Newark Mayor Cory Booker to announce a $100 million gift to Newark schools that would be multi-year, it was national news. They were going to transform education in Newark, NJ.

    On its face, it doesn’t make sense. If $1 billion a year doesn’t produce good results, a multi-year $100 million isn’t going to make a difference. It would be, what, an extra 2% a year for 5 years. Its 5 years now and the money is gone but the state taxpayers are still putting in 75% of $1 billion a year and we get no gratitude from Newark parents and school children for it. Would that the money could go to education in other parts of the state, stay in our own towns and counties, or, best of all, stay in our own homes via lower taxes.

    On a side note, Cory Booker is a US Senator now. He was such a heavily promoted “rock star” politician. I still haven’t seen a national news story or a story in the New York Times about Booker’s cronies looting the Newark Watershed Authority , including the law firm that continued to give him secret payments while he was mayor http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2014/02/comptroller_newark_watershed_director_took_care_of_herself_and_her_friends_at_expense_of_taxpayers.html

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  15. countenance says: • Website

    I’ve been SMH trying to figure out why TPTB are so thrown in religion/cult style into Commune Core. To me, Core is just the latest flash in the pan pie in the sky snake oil education scheme that will be disposed forgotten and unmissed in five years, one will be able to go to any convenient dumpster and find Core paper documents, above the documents for Race to the Bottom, Outhouse Based Education, Duh-genda 2000, and so on.

    So why this cult like devotion to Core when there was not this obsession with the previous schemes?

    When I crowdsource that question, (I couldn’t come up with any theories myself), the best theory was that Core has a lot of big data/data mining provisions that big corporations and big government salivate over. And that’s probably part of it.

    But now that I read this, it’s probably no more complicated, Occam’s Razor like, than the fact that Bully Gates has bought off just about everyone important. He’s paying people to worship Core. Then again, back in his days doing business at MSFT, that was his stock in trade, passing money around for biased and goosed studies and benchmarks.

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  16. slumber_j says:

    It occurs to me that the person I’ve known who most reminded me of David Coleman has just been named Sec’y of HHS: Sylvia Matthews, who is now Sylvia Matthews Burwell ever since getting hitched at the buzzer a few years back. A Rhodes Scholar like Coleman, she’s similarly smart, genial and generally very pleasant, but with the requisite pool of Lust-for-Glory seething just under the surface. They’re both totally on the make at all times, in what they obviously hope is the most inoffensive way possible.

    What makes this interesting to me is that Sylvia Matthews used to be maybe the number two non-Gates-surnamed person at the Gates Foundation, and there’s no way in hell those two don’t know each other. I wonder what role she had in all this.

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  17. “That makes fields drowned in political correctness like education sitting ducks for sharp operators like Bill Gates.”

    I wouldn’t call it sharp at all. It’s more of the brute force approach to breaking passwords: throw an overwhelming force of computer cycles to test every permutation. Gates used an overwhelming bank account to write checks to every interest group.

    Perhaps the only “sharp” thing about it was keeping his name from being directly associated with the effort until it was practically too late to matter. This contrasts with Zuckerberg’s approach both in the education realm by donating massive 10 figure amounts to individual districts, and in the political realm by baldly donating to the campaigns of open border politicians in both parties.

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  18. “It goes to show how quickly one multi-billionaire dedicated to good instead of evil could make a serious change to the conventional wisdom. I doubt we’ll ever see such a billionaire, but it’s nice to know it’s possible.”

    I think it depends on what they are up against. An issue with dispersed incumbency that doesn’t stand to lose much personally, sure. A concentrated, well-funded incumbency that would lose considerably in a zero-sum trade-off not so much.

    Did Ross Perot change the debate on corporate arbitrage of wage differential from unskilled poor people in developing countries (both outsourcing manufacturing plants and insourcing labor for services that have to be done locally)? Not so much, and not for long.

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  19. anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    The Boomers are going to go down in history as a version of the Children’s Crusade.

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  20. anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    History will likely remember the Boomers in the same category as the Children’s Crusade. Like the Crusade, the whole thing will seem more than a bit confused and a lot of the details unclear.

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  21. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says:

    Maybe Gates is really just trying to impress his wife.

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  22. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    One wonders sincerely if Gates ever read “The Pit” (by Frank Norris) and if so, what he thought about it. Hubris is an ugly thing.

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  23. ColRebSez says: • Website

    The real problem with Common Core and other standards is that it assumes that all children should learn at an equal pace. They don’t, and they shouldn’t.

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  24. @5371 – Henry Ford did create his own education system. Look up Ford’s Edison Institute.

    It probably doesn’t need to be said that the curriculum of the Edison Institutes were substantially different from Common Core. Ever the capitalist, Ford had students out on farms testing new products like his Fordson and later Ford tractors in development.

    Ford’s schools were private, but replaced the public schools in the communities he chose (mainly rural SE Michigan plus Dearborn HQ which morphed into Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village).

    The Edison Institute today would be mercilessly blasted as sexist and anti-Semitic of course. I know several graduates whose high school diplomas bear the signature of Henry and later Edsel as “Principal”.

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  25. 5371 says:

    Gates should have started with his own museum and school in Seattle. But why bother when he could get the whole country for the same price.

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  26. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Something has definitely changed in American education. And it’s tutoring services, mostly notably Kumon. Kumon is the self paced learning system in which students travel to a clean, orderly well lite study in the local strip mall to learn mostly math, although they appear to have a generic verbal type course also. For a substantial number of Asian Americans education is Kumon with public school being a kind of baby sitting service.

    Common Core is probably the best thing that could have happened to Kumon. Kumon with its Japanese branding is everything Asian parents want for their kids, while Common Core has a has-been underachieving white American education fad quality to it being designed by has-been underachieving white American education experts. Basically Kumon is educational Toyota, Common Core is educational GM.

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