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.
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.