Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bill Gates has the blues

Bill Gates is sober—and willing to admit some missteps. -- WSJ
In today's Wall Street Journal interview, power philanthropist Bill Gates complains that all of his brilliant school reform ideas have been "met with resistance" from unions and "a top-down government monopoly provider." Don't you love how Gates (who himself was found guilty of operating a monopoly) and WSJ have suddenly become anti-monopoly critics when it comes to public education?

In the interview, Gates admits that the investment he and other power philanthropists have made in corporate-style school reform, "hasn't led to significant improvements."

Actually, one of those reforms was showing significant improvement until Gates began investing in it. Gates money turned a promising small-schools movement into a charter school privatization initiative. The foundation pulled back on its investment when test scores and college rates failed to increase fast enough for Gates.
"But the overall impact of the intervention, particularly the measure we care most about—whether you go to college—it didn't move the needle much," he says. "Maybe 10% more kids, but it wasn't dramatic. . . . We didn't see a path to having a big impact, so we did a mea culpa on that." Still, he adds, "we think small schools were a better deal for the kids who went to them."
Today, we can only dream of a single reform that improves college success rates by 10% every few years. Dilettante Gates' mea culpas are getting a bit tiring.

If Bill had his druthers, he would favor privatization and charters, but he's afraid of even more resistance -- some innovator!
He praises the private school model for its efficiency vis-à-vis traditional public schools, noting that the "parochial school system, per dollar spent, is an excellent school system." But the politics, he says, are just too tough right now. "We haven't chosen to get behind [vouchers] in a big way, as we have with personnel systems or charters, because the negativity about them is very, very high."


  1. Parochial schools have one perk public schools don't. The priest in charge can bounce out any rebellious or otherwise problematic kid out whenever he feels like it. Public schools can, too, but the process is longer and more difficult.

  2. Catholic school alumAugust 2, 2011 at 3:00 AM

    Good point Carl. It also appears that priests can bugger their students without any consequences.

  3. There should be a regulation forbidding businesses from making contracts with or profiting from entities to which they have made "charitable" donations.