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The Arrogance Of Bill Gates — Part Three


It’s truly amazing to me that a person as smart as Bill Gates can be as clueless as he is about education. It appears that the Arrogance Of Bill Gates is going to be a running series in this blog. Today, he really out-did himself in The Washington Post.

My Teacher Leaders Network colleague Kenneth Bernstein has already offered an eloquent response, so I’m not going to write a lengthy post here. (Stephen Krashen has also posted a response).

I would, however, like to point out a few things.

One, in response to his praise of his foundation-funded teacher evaluation strategy of having thousands of teachers videotaped and having “experts” review them and tie them to test score improvement, he and others might want to read Why I’m Afraid The Gates Foundation Might Be Minimizing Great Tools For Helping Teachers Improve Their Craft, Videotaping teachers the right way (not the Gates way), and/or There Are Some Right Ways & Some Wrong Ways To Videotape Teachers — And This Is A Wrong Way.

Second, in response to his dismissing the value of class size reduction, he and others might want to read The Best Resources For Learning About How Class Size Does Matter.

And, third, in response to his advocacy of teacher merit pay, he and others might want to read The Best Resources For Learning Why Teacher Merit Pay Is A Bad Idea.

Additional responses to his column are welcome….

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Larry,

    Science and teaching don’t mix – trust me. There is no algorithm for what makes or will make a good teacher. It does not compute…

    Further, reminds me of W.H.Auden who once responded angrily to an interview about always being asked his opinion about politics – “I’m a poet, how’s a poet to know anything more than the next guy about politics”.


  2. Larry, interesting post. I think that Bill Gates has a very different vision to the rest of society on what happens inside of a classroom/school and that is understandable. Of course this is no criticism of Bill, he is a visionary/maverick and that is what makes him outstanding.

    If Bill truly wants to make a difference all he has to do is make one phone call to Mr Balmer and tell him that all Microsoft products are free to use in Education but come with no support/warranty.

    The additional available capital would enable an average school to employ an internal strategist to work with that specific schools teachers/pupils to create the future for their specific needs/environment.

  3. Perhaps Mr. Gates would like to be a guest teacher in my math class. I teach in an innercity school. Can Mr. Gates help to increase attendance rates? Does Mr. Gates understand all of the other factors that teachers have to deal with? It must be nice to look from the outside in and critisize.

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  5. As a teacher myself, I always considered it part of our job to encourage students to raise differing opinions and to allow them to see which ones will work out and which ones are merely blowing hot air.

    Apparently, that only works in theory. In practice, at least when it comes to public education, anyone who comes forward with any sort of change is shouted down as being an enemy of teachers, an ignoramus, or just plain evil.

    What is everyone so scared of? This country is sufficiently large to allow the marketplace to work a bit. There is no way that Bill Gates or Michelle Rhee or anyone else is going to have an impact on every single school. Let’s stop with the ad hominem attacks (like “the arrogance of Bill Gates”) and either offer some actual substantive responses to them, or perhaps wait and see the results of their ideas put into action. And of course, let’s be adult enough to realize that not every idea succeeds, but some that fail at first succeed eventually. Shouting down every attempt at change makes it sound like you are scared of something.

  6. Aaron,

    Actually, Aaron, especially with revolving door between the Gates Foundation and the Department of Education, it’s very safe to say that Bill Gates can have an impact on every school. I also think I and others have provided very substantive responses to his unhelpful ideas.

    I’m not interested in shouting down every attempt at change — only the bad ones that are clearly not in the interest of our students.


  7. As a teacher myself (albeit in a private school), I certainly appreciate the mindset that “outsiders” do not fully understand or appreciate what we do, and often they believe that they have the answers to problems that we feel they do not sufficiently understand.

    At the same time, I do know of cases where having an “outsider” has actually meant infusing a fresh perspective and outlook into a situation where those on the inside had become jaded or blinded to solutions outside of a certain range.

    While I have not read everything that you post (once in a while I need to leave my desk and actually teach a bit :)), my question is whether the responses to Gates, Rhee, et al have been speculative or grounded in fact. By that I mean are they responses showing that their reforms have actually not worked, or predicting that they will not work. Again, change takes time to show its effectiveness, and I do not fully believe that short-term results are a reason to either celebrate the success of or proclaim the failure of a particular plan.

    With regard to politicians, do you disagree with Chris Christie’s recent statement to firefighters asking him why they were booing the first governor to tell them the truth? If the only way to fund current pension and health plans is by raising taxes, then the system will collapse – and hopefully there are some math teachers out there who can explain this to the others. Labeling Scott Walker’s bill as an attack on unions may or may not be true with regard to his intents, but there is also room to say – a lot of room – that he is trying to keep his state solvent. I have not noticed too many posts in his favor in recent days on your blog. Then again, it is your blog and you are entitled to put forth your views – just trying to inject a little contrariness.

    (and since I am trying to steer clear of political issues on my own blog, I need to have an outlet somewhere)

    All that said, keep up the good work – I enjoy reading your blog and marvel at where you get the time to post as often and as substantively as you do.

  8. I have been surprised by Mr. Gates’ actions as well. After hearing him on NPR this week I was amazed at the little he had to provide in the way of solutions. He mentioned “Sal” of Khan Academy and sharing what was working among teachers but really it was nothing amazing.

    It amazes me that his foundation is becoming less and less innovative and just keeping up with the status quo.

  9. Pingback: To Bill Gates, Bigger isn’t Better | Scripted Spontaneity

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