Philip E. Kovacs & H.K. Christie: The Gates’ Foundation and the Future of U.S. Public Education

Philip E. Kovacs & H.K. Christie: The Gates’ Foundation and the Future of U.S. Public Education: A Call for Scholars to Counter Misinformation Campaigns
Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Volume 6, Number 2 (December 2008)

America‘s high schools are obsolete . . . By obsolete, I don‘t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded – though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they‘re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today . . . Training the workforce of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today‘s computers on a 50-year-old mainframe. It‘s the wrong tool for the times. Our high schools were designed fifty years ago to meet the needs of another age. Until we design them to meet the needs of the 21st century, we will keep limiting – even ruining – the lives of millions of Americans every year.

On February 26th, 2005 governors, policy makers, and business leaders from across the nation met to discuss ways of preventing American students from falling behind their international competitors. The "National Summit on High Schools", sponsored by Achieve Inc., marked the beginning of the conference, and Bill Gates was there to deliver the keynote address, where he made the above remarks. Since 1999 Achieve Inc. has received $10,921,771 from the Gates Foundation in order to "help states align secondary school math expectations with the demands of postsecondary education and work", as well as assistance for encouraging "specific states to adopt high school graduation requirements that align with college entry requirements".

Indeed the Gates Foundation has spent over three billion dollars influencing American public schools, and while the donations seem laudable on some fronts, especially in an era of increased federal demands coupled with reduced federal spending, his philanthropy remains problematic. When corporate leaders shape government institutions according to their needs, countries move away from democracy and toward corporatism, a relative of, and arguably a precursor to, fascism. This paper is no place for a complete analysis of American democracy and fascism writ large, and we believe scholars have made a compelling case for keeping corporate leaders out of our classrooms as, despite their "best" intentions, their ideology ultimately undermines the democracy our schools purportedly serve.3 Corporations are out for corporations, whereas democratic citizens, ideally, are out for each other.

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