US mayors went to Washington DC the other day to talk about education issues with Bill Gates—the richest man in the world. Struggling to fiscally keep their cities alive, mayors will do anything to draw in the Gates’ dollars. And you wonder why he is in charge of education in America.
It’s like Leprechauns finding gold at the end of the rainbow. Did your mayor get some of the pot? I think it is important for you to check on the mayor of your own hometown. See what the Gates meeting meant to them and how it will affect your public schools and your children. Feel free to let me know what you find.
Gates spoke to the National Board Certified Teachers in DC too, where he compared Common Core and standardization to electrical sockets. He said, “If you have 50 different plug types, appliances wouldn’t be available and would be very expensive. But once an electric outlet becomes standardized, many companies can design appliances and competition ensues, creating variety and better prices for consumers.”
I do not see how his industrialization analogy fits individual children. I don’t understand how forcing all children to learn the same standards, even students with disabilities, will bring out the best in everyone. But a lot has been written about the teachers’ meeting. Here is one example.
I chose to focus on the mayoral get-together because much of what happens to America’s schools now has to do with the money Gates, and other billionaires, dole out to mayors. Teachers get told what to do with the money through their mayors. So this kind of funding determines what is done to public schools and what children are taught.
I scanned through local news articles about mayoral reactions and it was interesting how each mayor seemed to come away with something different from their meeting with Gates. Akron, Ohio’s Mayor Don Plusquellic claimed they discussed “opportunities to champion education by supporting high academic standards and great teachers.” Mayor Plusquellic, sounding like a teacher instead of a mayor, said, “This is a great opportunity for mayors to share ideas, discover new resources and learn from each other.”
Jacksonville’s Mayor Alvin Brown got a beaming picture taken of himself with Gates. The Jacksonville write-up is all about the “fireside chat” Gates gave, stressing how business leaders needed to work with mayors on education for the 21st century jobs. “Education,” Gates told everyone, should improve “quality of life and income,” but Gates didn’t think spending (on schools) had an effect.
This makes me wonder if Gates ever visited any overcrowded schools. Here is one example. Perhaps he also hasn’t heard how $200 billion is needed to fix school facilities. And then there are all the teachers who, with their own meager salaries, personally shell out hundreds of dollars every year to meet the academic needs of their students. I could go on….
Shreveport’s mayor Cedric Glover planned to attend the meeting and discuss implementation of Common Core State Standards. Mayor A.C. Wharton of Memphis most likely talked with Gates about this too, although it might have been awkward. Memphis received a $90 million grant from Gates a few years back, and now the State of Tennessee put a hold on the Common Core State Standards until 2016. I’m guessing these two men did some strategizing.
Mayor Byron Brown seemed to have some trepidation about meeting with Gates. Perhaps he was concerned about the news in his city of Buffalo, because two high schools Martin Luther King School and Bennett High School were closing due to low performance. I’m not entirely sure if he was upset about the two schools closing, or because there weren’t more schools closing. More than likely charter schools will move in and Gates likes those, so it probably was the latter scenario. But I am guessing.
Albuquerque mayor Richard J. Berry was said to be invited to the meeting because of initiatives there like Mission: Graduate and Running Start for Careers, “which gives students hands on experience in a number of growth based industries such as construction and healthcare.” I’m all for introducing students to the kinds of jobs that are out there, but lately they do seem streamlined into a certain prototype. What about doctors, lawyers, advanced scientists and dare I say—future career teachers?
And Twitter went wild about the mayors meeting with Gates:
Sacramento’s Mayor Kevin Johnson, hubby of Michelle Rhee, got a picture with “the man himself” and talked about “getting it right for all kids!” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said “We need to learn from those great teachers.” He also bragged about visiting classrooms. I actually was impressed with this. Teachers, how many times has your mayor visited you in your classroom?
Almost every city had a mayor thrilled to have been able to sit and take school notes from not only the richest man in the world but the person whom they revere as the most knowledgeable educator ever. They could care less that he never taught school, got a college degree himself, or ever even attended a public school. He never earned a degree in education or child development. He never worked with children. At the very best, we can laud Bill Gates for doing well on his own, extremely well, for Windows and Microsoft, but this alone hardly makes him an expert on education issues.
It makes no sense to me. Gates never voted for these folks. And it always raises the question—if Bill Gates weren’t so rich, would anyone care to build America’s education system around his ideas?
In a participatory government, these same mayors would be meeting more with the parents and teachers within their communities to find out their concerns with what is happening to their public schools. If only Gates himself would have sought the help of mayoral constituents in remodeling schools and done it in a more democratic fashion.
Surely you would think the mayors must notice the discontent among the voters when it comes to education policy. But instead they follow Gates lead and have opened the doors of their cities to Gates-backed groups like Stand for Children, Teach for America, The New Teachers Project and many other organizations. It is the gold at the end of the rainbow that drives them.
They also push the Common Core State Standards onto the backs of every child in the country. There is a lot of gold there too. These mayors are not interested in what the rest of us think. They most likely pay no attention to social media either. You can twitter your day away and they won’t notice. Gates has the dough. They know it and he knows it and that is all that matters when it comes to education.
So be sure and find out what your mayor learned at the most recent Gates conference.
And before you become discouraged remember, mayors come and go. If the parents and educators I see on social media have anything to say about it, in future elections education will matter more than ever before. The reality is Gates may eventually face a whole lot of elected officials who don’t care if they have their picture taken with him.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!