Many fear that the Gates Foundation is using this pandemic to end public education once and for all. De-professionalizing schools is an excellent way to do it. Covid-19 has made it easier for venture philanthropists to de-professionalize public education.
Great public schools require staffing with professionals who attend real universities and study the profession they practice. Public schools are not charities. They must not rely on young people who look at temporarily serving schools like joining the Peace Corps.
During this pandemic, it’s not a good move for schools to use online novices to replace professionals, but this is becoming a worrisome trend.
Bill Gates argues that high school students need college and career advisement during this difficult time. To his and his foundation’s credit, they’ve provided students with college scholarships. But his foundation is not supportive of public education, as most know.
Mr. Gates is now using the college message to fund nonprofits that will provide an influx of temporary online tutors and student success coaches during a looming crisis, a loss of teachers and counselors during Covid-19.
College Advising Corps
High school students might benefit from hearing about the college experience from college graduates, but they need counselors to help advise them on how to get accepted into college.
Gates looks to be supporting groups that will replace these professionals with temporary full-time advisors who are young college graduates, paid less with little experience.
It’s like Counselors for America only; instead, they are called the College Advising Corps.
Criticizing counselors isn’t new for Gates. In 2009, the Gates-funded Public Agenda published the report, With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them: Myths and Realities About Why So Many Students Fail to Finish College. They blamed counselors for doing a poor to fair job of preparing students for college (p.11).
Gates’s education projects are known to fail, so why trust his reports? But the Public Agenda story spawned more negative rumors about counselors around the country.
Look at some of the titles stemming from the one Public Agenda report (Bailey, 2013, p.106).
- Survey Finds Few Have Fond Memories of Their High School Guidance Counselors by The Choice blog of The New York Times, March 3, 2010;
- Bad Advice, No Advice, Inside Higher Ed., March 3, 2010;
- High School Counselors: The Weakest Link, CBS Money Watch.com, March 3, 2010;
- High School Counselors Get Low Marks From Students On College Advice, School Buyers Online, March 10, 2010
The Columbia Journalism Review recently described in “Journalism’s Gates Keepers” Gates’s connection to many of the news reports we read.
Gates funds a nonprofit group called City Year to get young people to be student success coaches. They are supposed to look for problematic indicators in student behavior and work with students on academic and social and emotional skills.
It’s noble for young people to want to work in this capacity, but they lack training. Children in underserved schools deserve the same professionals found in wealthy schools.
Real counselors and teachers are critical at this time to work with students and check on kids and families to ensure their well-being.
Math tutors can be helpful to students, the purpose of Saga Education, another Gates funding recipient. But they can never replace teachers.
…large class sizes have made it impossible for teachers to offer these students the individual instruction they need to catch up, or better yet, thrive.
Remember when The Atlantic reported Bill Gates’ Big Idea to Fix U.S. Education: Bigger Classes.
Schools, especially with Covid-19 should be working to lower class sizes. Social distancing demands it, and teachers using remote learning can better manage smaller classes.
With so many tutors descending upon schools with teacher and counselor shortages, one wonders if there’s a push to replace teachers and counselors.
Tutors do not command the salaries of teachers; they’re sometimes volunteers.
Tutors work best with teacher guidance. Teachers know the overall strengths and weaknesses of their students and their development. Without teachers, instruction is fragmented and incomplete.
These nonprofits are connected to Americorps, as Gates says. There’s another group from Americorps called Teach for America.
Teach for America is aggressively pushing its organization during Covid-19. See the recent donor list for Teach for America (scroll).
They do crash course training online. But students need teachers and counselors with better preparation.
The Gates Foundation could help with the current school crisis instead of diminishing school professionalism. With his knowledge about diseases, including the coronavirus, it would be nice if he put money into providing more nurses for schools. The nurse shortage is stunningly apparent as schools try to reopen.
America can and must invest in a public school system open to all children. If we want students to thrive and go on to college and satisfying careers, they need professionals to work with them, who are fully prepared to handle their jobs.
We need to recruit individuals to study counseling and teaching, who will make these jobs permanent careers.
If teachers and counselors leave due to Covid-19, because they don’t feel safe, if there’s an underlying plan to end public education and hand it over to a revolving door of novices, the college/career goal will be out of reach for most students in the future.
Bailey, N.E. (2013) Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
Thompson, D. (2011, February). Bill Gates’ Big Idea to Fix U.S. Education: Bigger Classes. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/02/bill-gates-big-idea-to-fix-us-education-bigger-classes/71797/