Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Gates: Not Much To Show For $5B Spent On Education

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the i-feel-dumber dept.

Education 496

theodp writes "Since 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has poured some $5 billion into education grants and scholarships. Ten years into his record-breaking philanthropic push for school reform, the WSJ reports that Bill Gates is sober about the investment and willing to admit some missteps. 'I applaud people for coming into this space,' said Gates, 'but unfortunately it hasn't led to significant improvements.' This understanding of just how little influence seemingly large donations can have has led the foundation to rethink its focus in recent years. Instead of trying to buy systemic reform with school-level investments, a new goal is to leverage private money in a way that redirects how public education dollars are spent. Despite the good intentions, some are expressing concerns about how billionaires and the Gates Foundation rule our schools, including the lack of transparency and spotty track record of the wealthy would-be reformers. Perhaps Gates should consider funding a skunkworks educational project for retired Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie, who was working on networked, self-paced computer assisted instruction in 1974 — 36 years before Bill and Google discovered Khan Academy!"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

$5B spent on education "reform" (4, Interesting)

jfruhlinger (470035) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870534)

My understanding that much of Gates' donations have been spent on organizations trying to reform public education along "market-based" lines -- i.e., public schools run by private companies, which supposedly makes them more accountable. Maybe he's discovering this isn't the panacea that the reformers have sold?

Re:$5B spent on education "reform" (4, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870832)

It seems like the vast majority of people think that education and job training are the same thing or at least should be the same thing. My opinion has been that this is actually the root of the problem. If this actually is true then making schools "accountable" actually makes the problem worse.

I know talking with those older than me that companies didn't used to expect people to know everything before they could be hired. Now companies don't want to hire except when the person is perfect. It's not only education that has changed.

Re:$5B spent on education "reform" (5, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870954)

Now companies don't want to hire except when the person is perfect.

That's a symptom of oversupply of labor, not a structural change. With unemployment so high, if I'm looking to hire someone, why would I hire someone who needs training if I there are 10 people in a line with high experience who are competing for the same job? When demand outstrips supply, you'll see this trend reverse, as it did during the dot-com boom of the 90s, where any fool was being hired as a "web developer".

Re:$5B spent on education "reform" (0)

arpad1 (458649) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871042)

Your understanding is incorrect.

Gates has been guided for some time by the conventional wisdom about what constitutes innovation like small classes and small schools. I think there were a couple of other self-serving prescriptions adopted by Gates that are on the wish list of people who are quite happy with the public education status quo.

As you'd expect from an organization that's been unaccountable to parents since its inception those prescriptions did nothing but funnel large sums of money from the Gates Foundation, ultimately, into the pockets of the professionals and suppliers who enjoy a parasitic relationship with the public education system. Not that any other sort is possible but that's immaterial.

The basic fact is the public education system, as it's currently constituted, is beyond reform. I don't know if Gates has come to that realization yet although he seems to be headed in that direction with his enthusiasm for Khan Academy and the change of focus to the politics of public education. There seems to be a gradually building national consensus in favor of the view that the public education system is beyond redemption which is what's propelled charter school law adoption in forty states and, more recently, a burst of legislation to enact vouchers, tax credits, trim tenure and increase accountability. All those are the sorts of substantive changes that erode the foundation of the monopoly the public education system enjoys and as the catastrophes predicted by the supporters of the status quo fail to emerge they'll be the encouragement for more such law.

As for Ray Ozzie's work on the use of computers in education, sorry, the utility of the technology for any particular purpose is based on more then feasibility or even successful execution.

Costs, seemingly unimportant technical factors, the readiness of the prospective market to embrace the technology all play into when the technology makes its mark. Ozzie was too early so he gets a footnote. The same may yet happen to Sal Kahn although right now it's looking like he's going to revolutionize education. We can revisit the question in five years by which time it ought to be clear whether Khan Academy is a flash in the pan or a water-shed. I'd give small odds right now that it's the latter but education is very much an area of development now that it's finally starting to escape the deadening hand of government.

Goes to prove the point . . . (4, Informative)

Espresso2xshot (2416248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870554)

Proves the point that we knew all along, throwing money at the educational system does not fix it! Just look at the govt track record. Time to dump the institutional model? I'm sure this article will spark the ever repeating slashdot argument about what's wrong with America's school system.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (0, Flamebait)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870582)

Two words: teacher's unions.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (5, Informative)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870630)

One word: Parents.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (4, Insightful)

jdpars (1480913) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870672)

When is ANY difficult answer like this able to be addressed in one or two words? Yes, teachers' unions are often roadblocks in reform, but without them, teachers would be downtrodden and unwilling to enter the profession. Yet uninvolved parents can stop a good teacher from showing what he or she is capable of. But I know some people who would say that a really good teacher can manage around parents who don't care or even actively work against the education. We do know that "throwing money at it" doesn't work. Money has to be specifically targeted, and it must have a plan that all parties are willing to follow, even if they don't all agree. "A bad plan followed well is better than a good plan followed poorly."

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (3, Interesting)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870694)

When is ANY difficult answer like this able to be addressed in one or two words?

One word : Americans.

Why? Because everywhere else in the civilized world, that sort of investment in the school system shows immediate results.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (3, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870920)

What you have to understand is that large areas of American cities are not part of the civilized world.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (5, Insightful)

cjcela (1539859) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870946)

It is an American cultural problem as well. There is a reason why if you go for a graduate degree in sciences or engineering the majority of people are foreign nationals. Money or teachers alone will not solve this issue. If in a kid's mind studying, reading, and learning would be cool, instead of having the latest gizmos, being 'popular', or making 'tons of money', the outcome would be different. This comes from their homes. Walk into any American home and count how many books are there, how many parents discuss sciences with their kids, or how many parents read instead of watching TV, and you will see clearly the root of the issue. But then everybody want to go to the best schools. There are expectations of great rewards with no effort.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871102)

Oh please... The number of books in one's home is not a determining factor. You sound like you work for a publishing or printing company. A person can be well educated by simply borrowing the books they need at a particular time in their study and return or sell said book when they are done. It doesn't matter if I've kept all my books from college if I retained the information. To me, you sound like the typical "push blame onto the television" crowd.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36871028)

The public system in America ranges from 'seriously why are you trying', to 'whoa thats actually pretty good'. I graduated out of a private system where my parents paid for it (on top of the taxes they already paid). I got an excellent education for the most part. In some ways I was deficient in others well ahead.

What however floors me is people who graduate not even being able to write and read. I have met a few dozen like this. How is that even possible?

Then there is the new 'teach to the test' mantra that the whole system has taken up recently.

Part of the issue is the school system itself. Yes you can add money into it. But for the most part they already have all the supplies money can buy. Sure there are some that dont but most of the time they get it. They do not need the latest version of every book to learn. Some of the books I used when in private school were nearly 15 years old and well used. I moved over to a public school setting for a few years. They always had brand new books that maybe 2 people ever used and they were being tossed out the next year. I have seen over the years warehouses for some public school systems they have many tons of books they will never use again.

Teaching someone is not a matter of money. It is a matter of time and quality.

It really is just bad planning. My mother decided to become a public school teacher. She goes in 3 weeks beforehand to start prepping for her first day. No desks are allocated, no books, no curriculum, nothing, not even a room. The administration was doing nothing to help her, after 7 weeks having ordered the books (mind you class has already started) no books have still show up (any day now). She was able to find some desks and get them moved in on the second day of class (had to cancel day one). Finally she did the sensible thing and just canceled the class altogether, and told the Principal find another teacher or make it a study hall. This was after daily talks to the principal for help. She couldnt even plan for a class as she didnt even have the teachers edition of the book. Another teacher did but would not loan it to her (many teachers do not help each other). I have heard this story many times from many teachers. The support system that is there does not work at all. The teachers end up doing all the work anyway. So there is no coordination between groups, nothing. So there is huge amounts of waste in the system. Most of the system is setup as giant baby sitter not a learning environment.

Out of the 95 cents spent on every public school system student about 5 cents actually reaches something the student touches. It is *THAT* bad.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (5, Insightful)

Unoriginal_Nickname (1248894) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871034)

There is definitely a cultural aspect to this problem. Consider the 2011 Intel STS, for example: 60% of the finalists were children whose parents entered on an H-1B visa, even though former and present H-1B holders make up less than 1% of the US population (source [] .) These children are American citizens, and educated in American schools, but for some reason being born to non-American parents gives them a significant advantage in STEM subjects even when controlling for their parents' education and socioeconomic status.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870916)

Nonsense. If you want good staff in a field, you pay decent wages. Over time, the dross will be replaced by decent skilled staff. Teachers should not need unions to hide behind, that's for low level mundane working environments. Teachers are supposed to be well education.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (3, Insightful)

kbolino (920292) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870956)

Unions are not necessary for filling the ranks of teachers; there are numerous professions without any unionization that have no trouble being filled.

Furthermore, while parental apathy is certainly a problem, parental antipathy is far worse! Nowadays, many of the "involved" parents are actually doing more harm than if they did nothing at all.

"My little Johnny is just being creative when he breaks all the crayons and throws them at other students."
"My little Susie is a genius and is not being challenged enough, that's why she fails all her tests and doesn't do her homework."

Or my favorite: "My children are your responsibility while they're at school" shortly thereafter followed by "You can't discipline my children, you're not their parent."

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870806)

They don't have to be unionized to be fundamentally broken.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (2)

rednip (186217) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870986)

Two words: teacher's unions.

The reactionary media have done such a good job at smearing 'teachers unions' that right wingers will use that very name as reference to a belief structure claiming that America is better off with teachers who live in poverty. Without unions, there would not be a blue collar middle class.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

redemtionboy (890616) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871026)

More or less. The reality is, because we have unions that have awarded teachers with undeserving tenure (automatically earned within 2-3 years as opposed to difficultly earned in 7 years in college) and equal pay regardless of performance, we pay good teachers less money than they deserve. If you look at GRE scores of teachers, they're among the bottom, but the salary they receive is reflective of that. However, we already spend more per student than anywhere else in the world (tied for first), so we can't really afford to pay for more. If we want to attract more high profile individuals to the classroom, we need to up the pay, and the only way we can afford to do that is to get rid of the bad teachers. I would much rather have a class with 40 students and a great teacher than a 2 classes with 20 students and one great teacher and one bad teacher. A bad teacher makes a much more serious negative impact on a student than most realize. Once you fall behind, it's a game of catch up, and in a troubled system, good luck. Good teachers deserve $100,000+ a year. Bad teachers need to find a new job.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (5, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870614)

Throwing money at the wrong thing will never fix a problem.

You can spend all the money you want on your plumbing, if you gaskets are salvaged from a junk yard, and can't make solid seals, you are going to have leaks.

The problem with the modern education system is parental apathy. Observe the better school districts, you'll have more parents that care, but not necessarily better teachers or equipment (though usually at least better equipment). Now, look within a school district, and compare students who do well, vs. those who do poorly (excluding those with learning disabilities), the better students, in general will have parents who have more concern with their kids education, and play a more active role.

Parental education is a better place to start with reform. Getting them to care about their kids future, and teaching them that their kids have more than just McDonalds and WalMart in their employment future is what is needed.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1, Insightful)

jdpars (1480913) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870700)

I wish you were right, that parents were the sole variable in a student's success. But parental involvement is only a piece of the puzzle. Teacher training and effectiveness, school funding, and a lot of other factors also come into play.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870892)

True, but it can be a critical role.

Note: I know this isn't all cases, but it at least shows an important one
I went between two school districts when I was younger. The first had EXCELLENT teachers, but parents who didn't care. It ended up being a very low rating school district. Most of the parents simply thought of the place as a free daycare, most actually discouraged their kids from learning. Those who wanted to learn, however, got pushed to think, encouraged to be creative, helped when they needed it, etc. The few of us who actually had parents who cared, and put some effort in, did quite well.

The second district had parents who cared. They wanted their kids to be successful like they were. The teachers however, were there for a 8 to 4 job, and didn't give a damn if the students learned or not.

This side of the equation is so often overlooked. So much in our society, it is comfort and console the parent, and blame everyone else for the parent's failures. Yes, there are plenty of other issues, but this one really needs to be stepped up as a priority.

And? (1, Insightful)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871032)

The second district had parents who cared. They wanted their kids to be successful like they were. The teachers however, were there for a 8 to 4 job, and didn't give a damn if the students learned or not.

Where is the rest of the story/comparison with the first district?

Did the kids in the second district get better education/better grades?
Or did they win the basketball game with the help of a crazy inventor/a teenage werewolf?
You can't just leave us hanging there.

Re:And? (2)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871152)

I think, you can deduce from the nature of the story, that the second had much better standardized test scores and college acceptance.

But hey, if you needed it spelled out, that deduction is correct.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

Miaomiao (618330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870772)

It's more than just parents, it is a factor, but it isn't a big thing.

What would help more than anything would be simply to hire more teachers. Classes are overcrowded, and you have ratios of 50~70 students to one teacher.

In the past, students who fell behind could be caught and individually helped by teachers, right now, there's just too many students per teacher to be able to catch up, so students who don't get help at home don't have a chance. Add onto that kids today having to pick up more than their parents did, and you end up with even willing parents who can't help.

Money spent on building classrooms and hiring more teachers would go worlds beyond investing in laptops and other things. The ideal ratio is about 1 teacher for every 7 students, that isn't practical, but if we could get it to where it was 20 years ago (1 teacher for every 30 students) it would be an improvement.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870824)

It's more than just parents, it is a factor, but it isn't a big thing.

No it is the biggest thing.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (3, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870970)

I'd agree with the other reply, it's probably the biggest factor, although I'd put classroom size as #2.

I've been between multiple school districts, and it seems the more parents cared, the better the district, regardless of all other factors.

Yeah, it's anecdotal, but it's rather hard for a teacher to convince a student an education is important, when his/her parents have convinced him/her that the maximum that can be achieved is working at McDonalds, dealing drugs, or collecting welfare/disability checks, and that school is just a government funded daycare.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870910)

The problem with the modern education system is parental apathy.

If only it were that simple.

Let's say you have a school district which is incredibly poor, but has a highly motivated but not unusually smart set of parents (Such districts aren't hard to find - they exist in most US cities and more isolated rural areas). Because they are poor, they are facing these problems:
* outdated textbooks
* a facility that gives their kids respiratory problems
* teachers without a strong background in either teaching or their subject matter (because smart and capable teachers prefer districts that can pay them well)

To give our highly motivated parents the benefit of the doubt, we'll assume they've:
* Ensured that their kids can read, count, and possibly add or subtract 1-digit numbers before entering first grade.
* Make sure their kids do their homework and study for exams.
* Do some teaching of the kids at home based on their own knowledge and experience.

The thing is, it doesn't matter how motivated our parents are if the poorly educated teachers using outdated textbooks are teaching them things that are flat wrong. For example, in US history, many people are taught that Columbus proved the world was round even though everyone thought it was flat (invented by Washington Irving), George Washington cut down his dad's cherry tree (also invented by Washington Irving), and that Paul Revere said "The British are coming!" (invented by Henry Longfellow).

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871058)

those who do poorly (excluding those with learning disabilities)

I had two relatives in the biz, one got out, the other is trying to escape before the system completely implodes. Which, frankly, is probably not too much longer. There's already a lost generation where virtually all teachers between 22 and 40-something have been laid off per union seniority rules, and all the boomers are starting to retire, so rather suddenly the average age, salary, and competence level of school teachers is about to collapse once the last boomer leaves the building and they hire all fresh grads.

My understanding is the special ed teachers are in high demand and as such demand high salaries.

Poor districts can't afford them. So they don't have them. Coincidentally, they have not identified their LD students as LD; to do so would open them to firing for providing inadequate services. On the other hand, if they happen to not have LD kids, then they are not in trouble for not providing services to the kids that don't exist. In some areas, on a percentage basis, there are more LD kids in the well fed rich, well taken care of districts, than in the poor crack and alcohol infested once a day and only junk food meals districts, which is the reverse of what you'd expect. They'll try to tell you it's because in the poor areas, the dumber kids drop out of high school, until you point out this applies to 1st graders. Oddly enough this results in much lower average achievement in poor districts vs rich districts amongst children not identified as LD. I have heard about this systemically, and also experienced it first hand... in a sorta-rich area, where they brag about the schools, any below median kid is LD and receives special services. In the poor areas, they just mainstream the kids and blame the parents, society, etc for lack of achievement.

Aside from straight up special ed classroom teachers, this also applies to teachers aides, speech and language development teachers, specialists in reading and math, specially-designed-phy-ed, etc. My kids "rich-ish" school has a dedicated speech teacher and a librarian with a reading specialization degree... the poor kids school, eh, not so much. Maybe one per district instead of one per school.

The signalling is not completely a waste, in that rich districts really do provide better service for the kids at the low end. However, the signalling fails in that a truly average human kid would not do as poorly in a poor district as the numbers imply. Yes, they would do considerably worse, but not as bad as expected. Also explains why forced integration didn't really help the school test scores very much, because the poor school still can't afford to provide services to failing rich kids.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871066)

You just can't say that though. It's so Un-PC of a thing to say. No politician would never in a million-bajillion years point the finger toward their voters as the source of the problem. Oh no, it could never be a cultural issue. But we sure could improve our teen daycare system if we only had more money. Not to worry parents, we have the problem solved. Just vote for us, that's all you need to do. Sorry to trouble you for your precious time.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870714)

Come to my school district. One of the richest in the state and tops academically in the state. So yes money helps alot.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (4, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870928)

I"d argue that's a correlation and not a cause.

People who have money will tend to value knowledge, because it's how they got the money. They'll tend to pass it on to their kids, and even if they don't agree with the education system as it is, they will encourage their kids to learn, which will help them in school.

It's not the money, it's what got the money, that helped those kids.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870944)

One of the richest in the state, eh? It would be interesting to see your ethnic mix.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870732)

You don't need more books, you need better teachers.

How you attract good teachers to schools full of self-entitled bratz and/or gang-bangers is another matter. It has to be one of the most unrewarding jobs ever. Some things can't be paid for with money.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870768)

Money might be a good start. Even in schools where this $5 Billion reaches, they still expect to pay teachers poverty wages.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871176)

Money might be a good start. Even in schools where this $5 Billion reaches, they still expect to pay teachers poverty wages.

The social contract was you pay them poverty wages at age 22 right outta college then every year they get inflation adjusted PLUS 5% more. So rather suddenly they find themselves middle class, and by the time the gray hair arrives, they're doing pretty darn well.

This is completely different from the private industry model, where you hire at 22, pay pretty good wages, fire at 35 due to ageism, and after that they ... I donno what we/they do.

The problem is we're having a second great depression, and the hiring has stopped, and the laying off has begun. So they no longer hire at 22, they hire at, say, 35. Not so easy to get 40 years in if you're not hired for your real job until 35. So the social contract has gone from "you'll start out young and poor, and retire rich" to "you'll work as a day care worker and/or bartender until middle aged, then be dirt poor, and maybe with luck retire as almost middle class".

The other problem is the union busting government wants to change the social contract to the private industry model, yet not modify salaries to match. So they wanna hire them at 22, tell them they'll get 5% wages until they retire, then fire them at 35 once they get too expensive relative to a new grad who will hear the same old lie about starting out in poverty but you'll get 5% raises until you retire (forgetting to mention they'll be forcibly retired at 35 now instead of 65)

The only solution is to let it completely blow up and self destruct, then start over with something new.

The problem is refusing to teach (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870782)

beginning in preschool "Education" has a small number of goals

1 teach a kids that they can learn (and should do so)
2 teach them how to get knowledge
3 teach them how to "fill in the edges of the map" (if "there be dragons" beyond this point find out what kind and how many are there)

everything else is just drum beating (and providing resources)

Re:The problem is refusing to teach (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870858)

4 teach them word and excel because every corporation uses it.

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870974)

We spend half as much per student as we did in 1990. "Throwing money" at it would help a lot!

Re:Goes to prove the point . . . (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871108)

That's like saying the incident in Japan proves we shouldn't use nuclear power. The only point it proves is Gates' specific implementation had flaws. It doesn't throw out the idea of having govt run education. There's this horribly flawed idea in American politics that "throwing money" at education is a fallacy, when the argument itself is corrupt. Given the sorry state of education funding in much of the country, "throwing money at" is just a conservative way of saying "attempting to properly fund". Perhaps the issue lies with going for "market-based" reforms ( Perhaps Gates' issue was his attempt to "modernize" education without looking at the wealth of studies showing where help is actually needed. Do kids in a poor school district need better teacher/student ratios, or a way to learn online? (And if you say the latter, check your geek privilege at the door and ask about their Internet access). Point is, money spent correctly could help our education system. Starving it of money in order to save it makes as much sense as improving scientific research by cutting funding, or spurring innovation at a company by cutting salaries.

Nice Citation. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870556)

billionaires and the Gates Foundation rule our schools,

Well, it was printed in a blog by none other than "gatekeeper1", so it must be true!

WSJ Fights back against the middle and lower class (1, Insightful)

BlackTriangle (581416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870568)

This article is class warfare against unions and the little guy. Don't be fooled by the way Gates' money is used to dress the piece.

Money is the wrong solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870574)

The problem is that people who care about ideas (and those are exactly the sort of people that you'd want in education) don't care much about money.

Re:Money is the wrong solution (2)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870818)

Money is like air. You need enough to survive, too much and and you're blown away. If you don't have enough air, throwing more air at the problem seems like the right solution.

The trick is figuring out where the actual problem is. If you don't have enough money to hire a great Principle or Teacher for your school, you might settle for Nth best. Then after the school is filled with dysfunctional admins and teachers, giving those people more money certainly won't fix the problem.

Re:Money is the wrong solution (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870898)

...and they certainly don't care for sitting in the average classroom day-in, day-out shouting at people who simply won't behave.

GASP! (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870578)

What? Throwing money at a problem does not automagically fix things? The deuce you say!

What, no one size fits all solution? (5, Insightful)

kmdrtako (1971832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870584)

If I learned anything from my teacher wife*, it's that there are dozens of ways that children (and adults) learn, and you have to tailor the learning experience for each of them.

Some children may do very well with things like the Khan Academy. Others will not.

Anyone who tries to shoehorn all children into the same learning solution is likely to leave a large percentage of them behind.

* and my own experience in contrast to my brother, and my own two childrens' very different learning experiences in public schools.

Re:What, no one size fits all solution? (1)

jdpars (1480913) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870726)

You are exactly right, and teacher training programs are catching up to that idea quickly. Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't exactly address why some students do well with things like Khan and other don't. A new model is needed!

Re:What, no one size fits all solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870738)

If I learned anything from my teacher wife*, it's that there are dozens of ways that children (and adults) learn, and you have to tailor the learning experience for each of them.

Which is why a free market system is the be way to deal with this. Each parent will make the best decision they can and send their kids to what the deem to be the best school for their children, considering all the factors, family budget (time and money) and the children's learning style, interests etc.

As rich as the philanthropists are, they cannot outweigh the effect that letting parents keep their own money and send it to the school of their choice would have.

The pseudo-free-market we have to day brings me almost every food I want, gives me almost exactly the car I want, gives me a decent house (which I had to bought in great part to get into a decent school district), gives me almost exactly the electronic gadgets I want. All this in spite of state apparatus tinkering with it all.

Where there is massive government intervention, I am greatly disappointed. Healthcare sucks, and schools suck.

Re:What, no one size fits all solution? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870932)

However do you want a system where only the rich can get good healthcare and schooling?

In a basic way I agree with your point, but in the U.S. every system is dominated by corporate power that keeps pushing outcomes to their own ends. Do you really want corporate schools because that is what would happen. The corporate-dominated sector of healthcare is just as bad as the government sector.

Re:What, no one size fits all solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870756)

I agree, I could have been much better educated if it were tailored differently. Instead I trudged through the schooling system, hating every minute of it, (well I did like lunch and study-hall, jk). Dumping kids to one unit and telling them to learn will only work for a percentage of them.

Nonetheless, I applaud Bill Gates and his wife for their efforts in trying to make the world a better place. I wish I could say the same for most of society.

Re:What, no one size fits all solution? (3, Insightful)

d0nju4n (807508) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870914)

Exactly. There is no magic bullet; My brother and I both went to a Montessori elementary school. The educational model worked really well for me, but my brother needed more structure (and he will freely admit this), and didn't do all that well. Once my parents noticed this, and sent him to a more traditional school, he did much better.

Re:What, no one size fits all solution? (2)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870938)

"No child left behind" just drags everybody down to the lowest common denominator.

One of the problems with the USA is that everybody is constantly being told they're amazing. Sometimes a kid needs to be told "you're never going to be a professional singer/dancer/whatever, try something else ..."

Re:What, no one size fits all solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36871136)

> Sometimes a kid needs to be told "you're never going to be a professional singer/dancer/whatever, try something else ..."

Who are you to tell a kid not to strive for their dreams? If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again. Kids are amazing, it's just that not everyone learns the same way. It's the kids who don't take advice from people like you are the ones who succeed.

Re:What, no one size fits all solution? (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871122)

You are sort of right, and sort of wrong. You're right that not all kids learn the same way, and much more importantly at the same rate.

However, there are ways to teach kids that can work for most (as in 90%* of them). Those remaining 10% won't learn, either because they are too stupid or they don't want to... but I repeat myself. Trouble is, we teach the 90% as if they were the 10%, since "we can't leave any child behind!". And of course, you can't really discipline them either, since the parents won't let you (their child is, of course, a "special precious flower". News flash: no, he/she isn't. He/she is an idiotic teenager.) The result: no one ends up learning. The 10% won't, and the 89% are too held back by the 10%. The remaining 1% are self-motivated enough to learn on their own. Of course, advanced classes and the like can alleviate this problem... until the parents of the kids who aren't in the advanced classes demand equality and that their kid be let into it, ruining it for everyone.

I'm serious about this. The American educational system has been ruined by the bottom layer of society, and a cultural meme that we have to educate everyone equally. Simple fact: not everyone is intelligent enough or motivated enough to succeed in society. No amount of money will change that. Things like the Kahn Academy are cool, since they allow at least a few children to move past this retarded and retarding idea, but what is needed is a ground up acceptance of the fact that not all kids are equally smart. Broadly speaking, most are smart enough, and it is them we need to teach, with special advanced (actually advanced) courses for the cream of the crop. The bottom layer? Leave them in class with the rest. It isn't worth spending the extra time and money on them to give them special classes, since they are highly unlikely to benefit anyways. They'll pick up a little, hopefully enough to at least get by. You can't give them much more, since they simply won't or can't accept it.

*all percentages are completely made up simply as illustrative points. If you prefer, you can replace them with "a majority" and "a minority". The point is still valid. All these opinions are formed from recent first and second hand experience of the receiving end of the education system.

Obviously. (-1, Troll)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870594)

Charities do not create working systems and they cannot create working markets, where is the question?

Charities can dole out money, like the way bail out and stimulus money is doled out, but they cannot at all fix the underlying economic problems, and the underlying problems are always economic ones.

The only way to fix the education system is exactly the same that is needed to fix the health insurance/care systems, the same that's needed to fix the economy, the manufacturing, financial sectors, telecommunications, energy, food, mining, every single thing, there is a need for more freedoms in the economy, freedoms from government intervention, government subsidies, taxes, regulations. That's the only real way to have real fixes to these problems.

I am actually amazed at Gates, which part of this is not clear to him?

His energy would have been much better spent (if he wanted to fix the system) by setting up investment funds but they would have to be outside of USA, USA is not a market system anymore until it gets rid of most of its government that it acquired over the last 100 years.

If there was actual demand for actual real education in USA, it would have been covered by the market, but there is no demand, it's because of business regulations and taxes that push businesses outside of USA, but if businesses leave, then who needs the educated workforce? The government system is set up in such a way, as to promote monopolies and destroy competition, to print money and drive savings capital away, forcing businesses to leave, forcing capital flight. In such an environment who needs your educated work force? What would be be educated for? For what purpose? Instead of market demand, the education system is also bogged down with government regulations. That's what Gates really needs to stop if he wants people to be more educated - stop government regulations that destroy business, drive it out of the country and thus destroy the demand for more educated people.

Re:Obviously. (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870718)

there is a need for more freedoms in the economy, freedoms from government intervention, government subsidies, taxes, regulations.

If this is the goal, education is starting at ground zero. One of the fundamental tenants of the public education in the U.S. is that it is provided free of charge, paid for by tax dollars. If you turn that on its head and make parents pay for their children's education, there will be a vast class of uneducated children - who are themselves much less likely to be any kind of asset to the country, unless you think we're heading for a Soylent Green future?

Re:Obviously. (0)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870842)

there will be a vast class of uneducated children

- and it's different from now.... how?

If this is the goal, education is starting at ground zero.

- yeah. The entire US economy will have to restart from ground zero, unfortunately. It blew away the wealth accumulated prior to creation of the Fed/IRS and the culture of dependency (bread and circuses voter).

fundamental tenants of the public education in the U.S. is that it is provided free of charge

- yeah, it's wrong. It just seems to be free of charge, but the payment is the economy ruined by the political system that provides this so called 'free or charge education', as if education is somehow not covered by the fundamental laws of economics, the same way anybody is covered by fundamental laws of nature, such as gravity.

parents pay for their children's education

- they are paying for their children's education with the economic future of those children being destroyed.

The parents, grand parents and great grandparents of those very children didn't have a problem voting for politicians who promoted the agenda of social obligations, which transfer wealth from the old generations to the new ones, as for example SS taxes do, with 17 trillion being already transfered and gone from the future generations to the past ones.

who are themselves much less likely to be any kind of asset to the country

- no, with government out of the picture those very kids would actually have a better economic future with a working economy, where they could be trained at work without having to get into an impossible debt to get a worthless degree, with it's value inflated away by pointless government mandates.

unless you think we're heading for a Soylent Green future?

- figuratively speaking that's what the future holds for those kids, as their future has already been eaten by their great grandparents and grandparents and parents, who voted themselves a system, that promoted bread and circuses, income transfer from the young and unborn to the old and the dead.

Re:Obviously. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36871090)

Of-course, this is /., but how is the parent comment 'off-topic', when it's replying to a question posed by another commenter in the thread, and the reply is about the education system?


Re:Obviously. (2)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870788)

I am actually amazed at Gates, which part of this is not clear to him?

This point seems the most salient. While I have huge admiration for Gates's philanthropy, it seems he doesn't quite have the hang of it. In fact his willingness to cede control over his wealth (throw it away, so to speak) instead of managing it wisely seems foolish and irresponsible. The proper way to administer a trust fund can't be beyond him. Or have I missed his point? The very fact that such a successful capitalist would support an antithetical method of socialism (or is it totalitarianism?) is mindless. His same investment applied to founding a college of programming and computer science would ensure his goals for the next century at least.

Re:Obviously. (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870836)

You honestly believe that this recession was caused by *OVER* regulation? HAHAHAHAHA

Re:Obviously. (0)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870874)

Of-course, absolutely, 100% government fault.

From FDIC and IRS and Fed to labor regulations, all of the social obligations and mandates, starting with public works of the Great Depression, that the government created by inflating the USD to prop up UK debt and to all other regulations, all of the government departments, FDA, FAA, EPA, CIA, etc.etc., all of them.

Once you get government into business, you get that specific business to be your government, and that's the end of the economy and the republic.

This is easy, the problem with our schools... (2)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870616)

The problem with our education system is simple; it's run by politicians. Education should not be run by people who a) don't have a solid grasp of the material they are mandating and b) are more interested in reelection.

The only way we'll get meaningful reform is by pushing control ( ie: money ) down to the county level and letting them figure it out.

not surprising. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870620)

I did a Master of Arts in Teaching in the early 90's. What I think I learned from my History of Eduction Reforms was this: 1) kids will learn given half a chance, 2) most (if not all) education reforms have had AT BEST marginal impacts, 3) so you can do something good or screw up and it doesn't matter all that much. Education and the drive to become educated starts at home.

Seemingly large donations... (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870648)

One major problem with education is that is is big - really really big, like healthcare and military spending. $5B over 10 years is something like 5 cents per student per day.

So, while an impressive feat for a single man to accomplish, approaching every student in the U.S. every morning for 10 years and saying "hey kid, here's a nickel, try to do a better job in school today," is apparently about as effective as you would imagine it to be.

And, the real problem, while Bill was giving kids a nickel, the local taxing authorities were cutting back by dimes, quarters and dollars - if you don't get a lid on that behavior, you'll never make positive progress.

Re:Seemingly large donations... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870908)

It's not about money, it's about parental involvement and student motivation. The large urban school district in the area where I'm from spends about 30% more per student to achieve MUCH worse results than either the school system I attended or the one my children attend. The difference is that when either of those suburban school district have an open house they have to lay out a strict schedule for meetings with teachers because there is too much demand on their time, while in the urban district a typical turnout is five of thirty parents (according to my aunt who teaches in the district).

we've tried this (4, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870656)

here in california with 'charter schools' which have turned out to be little more than money laundering operations for major corporations, business elite, and a handful of food service vendors. Corporations are also granted another platform to showcase to the public a model of business sans union.

businesses are dismally suited toward the task of education. Their mandate, a legal one at that, is to maintain and grow shareholder earnings and profit.children are complex and perform differently. as such they are a poor if not dangerously unpredictable revenue generator for shareholders. So, instead of measuring childrens success in education by plausible means like college enrollment rates or hireability in the workplace, businesses running education tend to emphasize performance based on standardized testing batteries and total number of students enrolled; a sort of quantity over quality model

i surmise when bill says 'education reform' what hes tacitly implying is nothing less than what was implied when charter schools were created.

cynical about corporate donations? (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870658)

Two big problems with Deep Pocket donations:

        1) No audit trail for where/how the donation was spent
        2) No evidence the donation was ever *actually* made

I apologize if this sounds cynical, but I have very, very little faith in any corporation/monopoly in the US right now. It's far too easy for companies to game tax breaks with large wads of cash. Sure, maybe you donated 5 billion to a school, but in return did you get a 8 billion tax credit from taxpayers?

Re:cynical about corporate donations? (1)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870790)

... but in return did you get a 8 billion tax credit from taxpayers?

This is completely fucking irrelevant and a separate point entirely if you want to say the U.S. tax codes are broken.

Re:cynical about corporate donations? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870942)

What? This is Gates giving away his personal fortune! This has NOTHING to do with corporations so keep your anti-corporate rants to yourself please. Gates has a goal of giving away 99% of his personal wealth, he isn't looking for tax credits, he's looking for ways to better the human condition.

Self-paced computer assisted instruction - yeah! (3, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870664)

It's true. If $5B went into developing a full and open instructional curriculum online, we'd be done by now and the whole world would be a better place. I'm not saying that this would fix all of our problems in education, but at least it would give kids who are ready and able to learn the access to an education. Most money in our educational system goes to kids who are either not ready or not able to learn. It's no wonder that with them, progress will be hard to see. I'd much rather see more money spent on educating girls in the third world, or at least those who are motivated to learn. I think they are much more important to the future of our planet than the unmotivated children of US rednecks and methheads.

Kids do as well as their parents... (4, Interesting)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870670)

I had a friend who was an education Ed.D. candidate. She did a lot of studies of studies and for the most part found that any new education initiative could have a large positive impact, but it was all the Hawthorne Effect. [] Young, idealistic, teachers could make any new program work, but once it was filtered down to regular schools, there was no difference in student achievement. Study, after study, and basically the kids do as well in school and after as their parents did.

Putting money to redirect "how public education dollars are spent", isn't going to help, if we don't know how to do better.

You'd probably do better to judge a school based on how happy the students and parents are. If the S&P's are unhappy, fire the principle and try a new one until the "customers" are happy. Frankly, if the students are happy with school, and actually going, then learning will happen. You have to actively beat down a human to keep it from learning, but that's exactly what many schools do.

Re:Kids do as well as their parents... (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870982)

You are funny.
"You'd probably do better to judge a school based on how happy the students and parents are."
When I was in High School a million years ago I asked a teacher this question.
"Why do the teachers get better food and better parking spaces at the high school?"
I was told it was because they worked at the school.
So I said, "Well at the mall and most stores the people that work their part far away and give the best parking to the customers, since it is the teachers job to teach us the students that makes us the customers and the teachers are working for us."
I got sent to the deans office for being disrespectful.
I hope your friend can find a job outside of education.

Re:Kids do as well as their parents... (2)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871174)

I don't buy the argument that teachers unions cause all the problems since this problem is so complex and there as so many factors, but one my earliest observations I had of the school system as a child was that everything was being run for the good of the administrators first and the teacher's second. For instance the school year kept starting earlier in buildings that were not built to be usable during summer heat. Kids were always in classrooms that would bake while teachers could go to a cooled lounge and administrators worked their entire day in cooled offices, and that's just a trivial example.

I question his real intentions (3, Interesting)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870678)

I get suspicious when people like Gates "leverage private money in a way that redirects how public education dollars are spent." Like those who believe schools should operate how they want schools to operate instead of how they should operate. There was a time when someone completes high school they have reasonable education to be an adult, though trade school or college will help. Instead these "big donors" are trying to form school kids into what they want to function at their companies. Though not necessarily a bad thing if done for the right reasons. Yes, corporations need intelligent employees but people should have a right and ability to pursue a career they have a personal interest instead of having to work $9/hr in IT.

Everyone has all kinds of ideas for school reform, but what did schools do before they became so "bad?" What was their methods of teaching? I wonder if some of these old people forgot what methods were used to make them successful. Or did they simply grow up in neighborhoods that had good schools and not experienced growing up in neighborhoods with bad schools. There is a huge difference in Palo Alto, CA school district (where many parents have college degrees) when compared to east San Jose school districts (where many parents are poor working class). For you that say, "tango sierra, they'll just have to work harder!" Be careful because poor uneducated can easily be recruited into gang activity, and that can lead to bigger problems.

My big gripe is they increase spending on prisons, TSA, etc. and decrease spending on schools so it should not be a surprise we'll have more young people going to jails instead of schools.

Re:I question his real intentions (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870826)

How much of his donation was Lowered prices on MS products?

Schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36871038)

Back in the day before businesses wanted worker bees, the school system tried to make thinking
individuals who were a benefit to society. This was the informed electorate theory. This fell by the
wayside and business interests took over. I have always disagreed with this mentality. I may be wrong,
but I think not. There was this thought that a well rounded individual would be fair and not swayed
by the popular myth. This has been proven wrong on so many levels!!! Changing this trend will be
almost impossible, since so many people are bound by the status quo. Everyone wants their share
of the graft this thinking encourages.

Sorry, but we education spending has increased (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871086)

but I will give you a hint, the same problem that exist with the prison system exists for the school systems. The unions.

Unions love three strikes and your out. They love long prison sentences. Just like they love testing without accountability and "tenure" and seniority.

You can go read up on the horrors on California prison and you can read up on the latest big education scandal, the Atlanta Public School cheating problem.

The APS cheating scandal shows exactly what is wrong with the system. They have evidence on nearly 200 teachers and administrators. They asked for resignations. They got, last I heard, less than a dozen. Quite a few are going to hide behind their union (and the union is going to help those who are innocent - which apparently is most of them). All of it comes down to the same thing, the school systems cater to the teachers and administrators. They are not accountable to students or parents. Those are somewhere on the list below the copiers I think.

There are many many good teachers in our systems. Yet we have rules which allow the fail teachers to keep their jobs, we have rules to protect those who cheat. Hell, NYC has rules to protect molesters.

APS spends a third to half more per student than the surrounding suburban counties do for results far far lower than then. So its not a matter of money, its a matter of responsibility.

Testing like NCLB should be done by independent groups where the tests and testing rooms are never occupied by people other than the testing organization and the students. The tests should never be out of their control. There should be NO UNIONS in public education. We already have enough laws to protect from abuses, all the union is doing is protecting the abuse of our children.

So what has gone wrong, simple, we cater to the lowest common denominator and it isn't the students. Schools serve the unions who in turn serve the politicians who use the power of the unions to keep their jobs.

Re:I question his real intentions (1)

black soap (2201626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871142)

They focused resources on teaching the brightest prospects, and didn't force children to stay beyond their learning capacity. Future janitors didn't have to take 3 years of math in High School. Sure there were some problems with discrimination and one of the key requirements for getting an education was your parents being rich/educated, but still...

(one of) The problem(s) with our education system now is that it is aimed at bringing all students up to some minimum standard acceptable level, on the pretense that all people are equally educable. In effect, the minimum educational standard gets reduced so that more students can reach it, and it ends up dragging down anyone who could have gone faster. Not to mention, every special interest group wants their pet subject added to core curriculum/minimum standards, and there are protests from parents/communities when teachers get into unusual/controversial teaching methods. Then standardizing education is of course measured by standardized tests, the material gets further dumbed down so that it can be tested in a standard manner.

News Flash: Look at Parents (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870742)

I live near one of the worst urban areas in America: Camden, NJ. It gets plenty of money per pupil. You just can't link money to a good education.

What we have is a correlation. People who have money generally take a strong interest in their kids education. It really comes down to the parents.

But if you think you can fix a problem with money (or just money), you are in for a rude awakening.

Re:News Flash: Look at Parents (2)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871132)

But if you think you can fix a problem with money (or just money), you are in for a rude awakening.

Tell that to the New Jersey State Legislature about Abbott Districts like the one you referred to.

Billionaires ruling public schools... nothing new? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870766)

If certain sources are to be believed, the entire American public school system was the nefarious brainchild of 19th Century "billionaires", conceived as a means of mass-producing humans conditioned to be ideal top-to-bottom factory workers. If that conspiratorial tale is true, then Bill Gates meddling in the school system to achieve goals that benefit the tech industry would just be more of the same, wouldn't it?

Re:Billionaires ruling public schools... nothing n (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871192)

Or maybe they just wanted to copy what already worked in other countries.

"Historically, the Lutheran denomination had a strong influence on German culture, including its education. Martin Luther advocated compulsory schooling so that all people would independently be able to read and interpret the Bible. This concept became a model for schools throughout Germany.
During the 18th century, the Kingdom of Prussia was among the first countries in the world to introduce free and generally compulsory primary education, consisting of an eight-year course of basic education, Volksschule. " []

"Aware of the inadequacy of bureaucracy in Austria and, in order to improve it, Maria Theresa reformed education in 1775. In a new school system based on the Prussian one, all children of both genders from the ages of six to twelve had to attend school. Education reform was met with hostility from many villages; Maria Theresa crushed the dissent by ordering the arrest of all those opposed. Although the idea had merit, the reforms were not as successful as they were expected to be; in some parts of Austria, half of the population was illiterate well into the 19th century.[116][137]
The empress permitted non-Catholics to attend university and allowed the introduction of secular subjects (such as law), which influenced the decline of theology as the main foundation of university education." []

Ahead of his time (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870784)

Perhaps Gates should consider funding a skunkworks educational project for retired Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie, who was working on networked, self-paced computer assisted instruction in 1974 â" 36 years before Bill and Google discovered Khan Academy!"

To paraphrase Heinlein, who was paraphrasing someone else, "when it's time to railroad, people will build railroads" and the corollary "you can't railroad until it's time to railroad."

Networked computer instruction was a great idea back in the 70's, but the infrastructure wasn't really there to support it. Right now it's entirely possible and it's only entrenched notions about education that are holding it back. A couple decades more and in retrospect it will seem both obvious and inevitable.

Schools arent the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870808)

Idiots raising idiot babies are the problem.

privatize the school system (0)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870814)

by privatizing the school system and busting up the teachers unions, it allows for competition in the school system, then parents can choose which school to send their kids based on the curriculum and the better schools wins the most students,

Admit it, this is what you're thinking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36870846)


(With a fist pumping in the air...)

The problem... (1, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870854)

Schools are ran like a corporation.

Administrators that are worthless getting paid 20X-30X of what the teachers get paid. Sorry, that will not cut it.

Teachers MEDIAN pay range needs to be 20% higher than the MEDIAN pay range in that area to attract good teachers.

Administrators need to have a PAY cut to no more than 8X more than the MEDIAN pay of their school or district.

Finally, expenses need to be realistic, teachers and kids using computers from more than 4 years ago is a waste of resources. IT budgets need to be changed. The school building needs to be maintained right, sorry but that 120 year old building is a LIABILITY not an advantage... tear it down and replace it with a efficient modern structure that will not rob the school of funds every month.

He's on a Roll! (2, Interesting)

random coward (527722) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870866)

Bill Gates has been doing pretty good lately. If I owned MS stock I'd be pissed he wasn't still there putting this level of effort into my investment.

He's done some excellent work with vaccines and malaria. He started an initiative on sanitation that likely could be transformative in poverty struck areas, and now he may have the resources to turn the goliath that is public education towards a direction that helps students instead of the current path that aims at creating unthinking easily controlled sheep.

He is on the path to becoming the most influential philanthropist in a hundred years.

It's not money, or teachers unions, or parents (3, Interesting)

realmolo (574068) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870872)

Or the kids that are the problem. It's the school boards and administration in most cities that is the problem. The administrations is full of failed middle-management idiots, that have transferred their complete lack of skills into D-level politics.

And the school board is usually nothing but lunatics just trying to draw a paycheck, and hoping to somehow jumpstart a political career.

And, of course, there are kickbacks and deals at every level.

Basically, every school district in the country is representative of the absolute WORST aspects of government corruption and incompetence. And it's not the system, it's the people.

VOTE IN YOUR SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS! Throw the idiots out. Run for the board yourself. That's the only way.

The real reform... (1)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870934)

should have come in using that money to dismantle the teachers' unions. We are protecting the incompetent and complacent while rewarding the thugs at the top of the food chain. Better yet, maybe he should have used it to make a foundation that provides tuition assistance to move more kids to private schooling.

From my perspective (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 3 years ago | (#36870968)

a lot of the blame goes to the parents. If they let their kids sit in front of the TV all the time and play video games all the time and provide them no models of discipline and interest in ideas, they will raise retards and cannon fodder.

Parents that show interest in their kids learning, sit and help them with homework, direct them at a young age to appreciate culture and to be engaged in problem solving and a creative pursuit that requires discipline, then I have found the kids may still not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they are much more capable, confident, and competent individuals that the tweakers stuck to the screen.


Khan is great but... (1)

fhuglegads (1334505) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871018)

Khan is great but the problem is motivation. I love to learn and they have all kinds of topics there that I don't know anything about. In general, most people aren't motivated to learn new things when surfing the web. They would rather look at lolcats or check their farmville plants. I don't think any of my friends or family even know Khan Academy exists let alone visit the site.

The US is full of apathy. Sure there are exceptions but there are too many people who are happy being average or are oblivious to the fact that they are.

Serious Games (1)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871022)

These have gotten a bit of a bad rap, but I believe the right balance between entertainment and education can still be found. Kids will play video games 24 hours straight if you let them, because they become so absorbed. When they're on a console, the house could catch on fire and they wouldn't notice.

The risk/reward mechanic of modern video games produces a neurochemical response that can be quite addictive.

So if you can insinuate education into that experience such that at the end of completing a mission or game they suddenly speak a new language or have a solid grasp of organic chemistry, then you'll permanently solve all of our problems with the educational system.

Formula for success (3, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871044)

The problem with the United States is that people are deluded by the belief that throwing money at a problem will fix it. The thing is that the US already spends way more per student than any other developed nation. Teachers and school administrators are certainly part of the equation, but the true source of the problem are the parents and popular culture. American culture glorifies the celebrity and the athlete. It creates the expectation that a person can get rich overnight and that everyone will be fabulously wealthy. When isn't there some celebrity dipshit on television flaunting their wealth? There's no idolization of the hard working individual, of the person who studies hard in school. American parents care more about having a child who is popular than they are having one who's studious. The mindset that is endlessly perpetuated is that you should do something you love, because it's fun.

Look at Asian kids going through the same exact school system. They consistently excel. Not because they're innately smarter than anyone else. Live in Asia any length of time and you'll be cured of that misconception. Asians excel because from birth their parents are pushing them to work hard and do well in school. As a friend explained to me, your average American parent is happy with a child getting B's in school whereas an Asian parent will tolerate nothing less than straight A's. So from the start a child is learning that good enough is all they need to do to satisfy people.

Every single thing they do is aimed at ensuring their kids not only do well but can get into a good university. This means everything from no computers or televisions in the bedroom to no socializing during the school year. And the parents are always aware of what their kids are doing. Too many American parents are too concerned with giving their kids freedom, with being their buddies.

And this has nothing to do with the academic system in Asia because most of these Asians kids were born in the States and are growing up here. For a while I considered moving back to Asia and for a variety of reasons stayed here. One of those reasons was the school system here versus in Asia. The thing with the American system is that it's problems can be easily countered with parental involvement. In Asia, on the other hand, there is little that can be done to address the problems there. Asian schools still suffer the problem of focusing on rote memorization, parroting the teacher, and a fixation on taking tests. Study schools are still huge there. After school kids go to these cram schools in the evening with the purpose of studying to pass tests more effectively. School there is a lot more oppressive. I suppose the upside to all that is that at least they're still very focused on academics.

And of course, the final piece here is that when Asians choose careers they consistently choose those which will ensure the greatest success. They're much less likely to choose a career that merely feels good. So this means that they get into finance, technology or healthcare. But even those who don't go that route, when they've had such a strong work ethic instilled in them ultimately find another path to success, even if they've started off in construction. Where your average individual will remain stuck working for someone else indefinitely, they'll find a way to grow to the point that they've got their own thriving business, as is the case with a good friend of mine. And the funny thing is that I've known Asians who've been fully Americanized, and they pretty much end up in the same situation as the average American; they've lost the formula for success.

The thing here is that these techniques are especially important for a child growing up in lower to middle-class environments. These are the kids who are less likely to be exposed to successful role models. A kid growing up in an upper-class neighborhood has little to worry about. The success of everyone around them will rub off on them, and if it doesn't, well, they're connected enough that they will probably land a decent opportunity anyway. That might not be fair, but that's how the world works. Whereas Americans piss and moan about entitlements they deserve and how the system isn't fair your average Asian family is working towards success.

My ultimate point is: you can have the most enthusiastic teacher in the world, backed by obscene amount of money; if the child's parents don't give a shit chances are better than not that the kid is not going to be a success in life.

And thus we learn about diminishing returns... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871072)

on both money AND technology, and as a culture we get a little closer to growing up.

Well, honesty is a good policy... (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871116)

a new goal is to leverage private money in a way that redirects how public education dollars are spent

It's good that they're being honest and upfront about trying subvert our education system with lobbyist money, but it's kinda shocking they're so blatant about it.

At least he isn't pushing for a voucher system and killing off public schools.

Wait a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36871124)

Is Slashdot saying that computers somehow were useful in the '70s and it had nothing to do with space? I find that hard to believe. Slashdot is where I learned that NASA invented the computer for Apollo, NASA invented Velcro and Teflon, NASA invented the chip, NASA invented the transistor because vacuum tubes are too fragile for rockets (even though proximity fuzes in WWII used tubes and shells accelerate at 20000Gs and spin at 24000RPM when they're fired).

Oh Slashdot, why have you lied to me!?

So basically he's going to be lobbying ... (1)

lysdexia (897) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871126)

'I applaud people for coming into this space,' said Gates, 'but unfortunately it hasn't led to significant improvements.' This understanding of just how little influence seemingly large donations can have has led the foundation to rethink its focus in recent years. Instead of trying to buy systemic reform with school-level investments, a new goal is to leverage private money in a way that redirects how public education dollars are spent"

Does anyone else feel very very cold all of a sudden?

Encourage Better Teaching (3, Interesting)

Lance Dearnis (1184983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871160)

School priorities are still screwed up. To put this in perspective: At my school, I was a member of the Quiz Bowl and Deabte teams both. And in terms of the attention we got from the school newspaper, announcements, and so forth, it was, quite literally, about 10% of the coverage that our sports teams got.

Education was clearly a second priority at times - teachers showing up baked, obsession with authority, and, of course, not much prize placed on student interaction with the lessons. School's a job for kids and it's always such a rare and special thing for a teacher who has kids that 'love to learn' - bloody hell! Maybe if we started treating the teachers well and clearly explaining their jobs, this would be [i]every[/i] class. They teach stuff that's interesting as hell! American History and Civics? You've got Franklin Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, FDR, JFK...Chemistry? Work more experiments in, kids like combining stuff, especially if it looks pretty, explosive, or shiny. English? Focus less on literary classics (You know, which let you not update your lesson plan for 20 years) and work in books that the kids will actually like to read and discuss them.

Teachers will half-ass it because their pay and direction are half-assed; they're treated more like bureaucrats then educators, so why are we surprised that throwing money at the problem without fixing the broken fundamentals has resulted in little improvement? The only reason that you see the H1-B discrepancy is the monumental difference in effort that comes from living in a harder life, having more pressure, but that's not the only way to succeed - good teachers can produce these results from all students. We just don't have, and don't encourage, good teaching.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?