Category Archives: A.L.E.C.

Going Down the Rabbit Hole: The Mad World of Bill Gates and Pearson Publishing

Mad World… getting madder every day…

“In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw round, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you ca’n’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be, said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” — Lewis Carroll

“Don’t let anyone tell you that standardized tests are not accurate measures.  The truth of the matter is they offer a remarkably precise method for gauging the size of the houses near the school where the test was administered. ”  ~  Alfie Kohn, Fighting the Tests, [2001] 

If you’re an educator, you’ll know that much has been written already about the madness of the “Pineapple Test Questions“.  

If you’re not an educator, the Pineapple Test fiasco relates to a very bizarre question that was included in a recent standardized test.  

The story and furor, known as Pineapplegate broke in New York when the test questions was leaked.  Subsequently, details of poorly worded or factually incorrect test questions have been leaked in California, leading MORE public education stakeholders to finally begin to critically question the purpose, integrity, and implications of high stakes testing.

Are you spinning madly trying to keep up , and feeling as though you are falling, like Alice, into the deep dark hole of  madness that is testing, Common Core, and edreform?


Who is leading America’s public school children down the rabbit hole of madness?

“It’s sad to watch a once smart and talented man go mad right before our eyes. There needs to be an intervention for Bill Gates. I fear that he has taken leave of his senses and finally jumped the shark…

I shrugged when the Obama Administration’s Department of Education was flooded with former Gates Foundation employees. I was unamused when Microsoft’s business partner, NBC News, had my FaceBook access blocked for criticizing their shameless publicity on behalf ot the Gates-financed propaganda film, Waiting for Superman. I tweeted in horror when I learned that the Gates Foundation was funding a scheme to put earpieces in teachers so they may be controlled while teaching.

You would think that nothing else could surprise me, but now, Bill Gates has descended into the delusional world of Charlie Sheen. Gates told the nation’s governors (they seem to speak with Bill more than their caddies) that the critical cuts to public schools could actually improve education ifclass sizes were increased so that we can “get more students in front of the very best teachers.”That’s right, Bill Gates is now advocating for larger class size! Since when do philanthropists call for the deprivation of children?

Gates’ crazy plan to raise class sizes FOR THE CHILDREN is one thing, but his desire to get more students “in front of the very best teachers” reveals his ignorance on how learning occurs. Learning is an active process constructed by each learner. It is not simply the immediate result of being taught.

Who elected Bill Gates and gave him control of a national treasure, our public schools? Would someone please suggest that he return to the corporate world and refocus his energies on the technological triumph that is the Zune?” ~  Gary Stager, “Who Elected Bill Gates?(2011)

How did the madness begin?  

All this testing madness started in Texas with Senator Kress, Bush, Pearson, and No Child Left Behind.    

“Enter Sandy Kress, whom George W. Bush plucked from the Dallas School Board to help him apply the “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” mantra to public schools. It perhaps did not occur to Gov. Bush or Kress that Texas, which ranked dead last in per-pupil spending, might need to put more money into public schools. By punishing and publicizing failure, they reasoned, teachers and administrators would do more with less. The test scores became the only measure of how schools performed, and administrators and teachers became adept at preparing their students to pass the test. Book reports, dioramas, and lab experiments became a thing of the past as consultants instructed children on how to pass reading tests without actually reading the text.

Everyone got very good at taking the test. Test scores rose, and in 2003, then-Pres. Bush had Kress help convince Congress to apply the Texas model to the rest of the country with No Child Left Behind. The late Sen. Edward Kennedy even called Kress the president’s “smooth talker.” NCLB became the law of the land, and state spending on standardized testing exploded 160% to $1.1 billion in 2008. ~  John Stanford, “Senator Kress’ STAAR Chamber, Education Equity, Politics & Policy in Texas” (2012)

The testing madness creates an environment where American children are abused and oppressed to the point of endangering their health and safety.

There was just one problem: It wasn’t working back in Texas. It wasn’t that the teachers and students weren’t trying. In fact, they were stressing themselves out over the tests. Nervous stomachs became so common that one test company included instructions for teachers on what to do if a student vomits on the test.” ~  John Stanford, “Senator Kress’ STAAR Chamber, Education Equity, Politics & Policy in Texas” (2012)

Senator Kress seems to have some personal reasons for his political positions on testing. Here’s a little scoop on but one of the shady lobbying recipients – Senator Kress of Texas, is paid by Pearson for lobbying.  I include this to get the reader to IMAGINE the context, the sheer corruption of how much money is involved in promoting the testing and Common Core agenda!

Senator Kress is feathering his nest via lobbying money.  

Keep in mind, Senator Kress’s pay-off is merely a drop in the bucket of lobby spending that occurs in the Pearson and Gates magic mushroom forest.

Senator Kress isn’t the only one feathering his nest with education lobbying.  So are many others through a mega-lobbying power called ALEC.

Lobbying through this organization called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) has come under high criticism.   

Through ALEC and other corporate lobbying, the corporations are creating a system of government where people have less control over their government than ever before through powerful lobbying.

Pearson is well connected to ALEC , but you have to dig deep to find their connections.  The Gates and Pearson lobbying have had a huge impact on the madness of the testing craze.

Bill Gates, and his company Microsoft are heavily involved as members of ALEC.  The Gates Foundation granted nearly $350,000 to ALEC to push their education reform agenda through ALEC lobbies as well.  

The Gates Foundation may have broken the law, as we see here from Seattle Weekly.

“In an interview with Seattle Weekly yesterday, Common Cause president and CEO Bob Edgar said he did not know what Microsoft might have worked on with ALEC. “I would guess they were more interested in bills on corporate rules and regulations,” Edgar said, promising to have his staff sift through documents in coming days for any further information. (Stay tuned.)

Microsoft offered no immediate elucidation. A spokesperson who pledged to look into the matter had no answers by the end of the day.

Perhaps Microsoft took a cue from chairman Bill Gates, whose foundation has also been involved with ALEC. Last year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave ALEC nearly $377,000, for education efforts–in particular, according to the foundation’s website, measures dealing with evaluating teachers, a favorite issue in reform circles.

Earlier this month, however, as ALEC started drawing criticism from liberal activists, the Gates Foundation announced that it would no longer make grants to the non-profit. Microsoft could not or would not say yesterday whether it has followed suit.

More is at stake than just company PR. Common Cause’s Edgar says that many companies have been writing off their ALEC membership dues–running from $7,000 to $25,000–as tax deductions. Those might not be valid if the IRS finds that ALEC abused its non-profit status. Corporations like Microsoft, Edgar says, could be liable for thousands of dollars in back taxes and fines.” ~ Nina Shapiro, “Microsoft Identified as Supporter of ALEC, Conservative Non-Profit Accused of Abusing Non-Profit”, Seattle Weekly, The Daily Weekly (2012)

The ALEC  Education Agenda comes with more and more testing.  And with more and more testing we have more and more madness. 

The testing madness of the “pineapple question” is only a small bite of the madness.  Testing errors are finally being made public.  The increase in testing is proving to come with a whole new set of problems that America does not  appear to be prepared to face.

According to R.L. Ratto, error after error appeared on the tests, yet King (NY) blames teachers for the problems just like the rest of the edreformers.  Who is really to blame?

“According to King, we have it all wrong, it’s not the tests, it’s the teachers! What can we expect from a charter school advocate, with no real public school experience.

So my questions are simple Commissioner King. Since our students have suffered  through 6 grueling days of tests, and many teachers are now struggling to accurately score this garbage, who is responsible for the poor scoring instructions?

Who is responsible for this?

Some extraneous sample responses have been inadvertently included in the scoring materials that have been provided on the CD for Grades 4, 5, 6, and 7. To restore a seamless alignment between the materials provided in the scoring leader training documents with those in the scorer training documents, it is necessary that these extraneous pages be crossed out, either prior to being distributed to scorers or shortly after they have been handed out.  (click to read more)

Or this..?

There is a correction in the possible exemplary responses for the scoring of Question 64
on the Grade 6 English Language Arts Test Book 3. ( click to read more)

Or this..?

There are typographical errors in the score and annotation provided for CAS Set 1 (for Question 63) on Page 1 in the Grade 7 Mathematics Test, 2012 Scoring Leader Training Materials, Volume 2, Practice Set and Consistency Assurance Set. Please make following corrections in all copies of this document.  ( click to read more)

How about this Commissioner?

This notice pertains to typographical errors in the Practice Set Answer Key on page 51 of the Practice Set portion of the Grade 8 Mathematics Test, 2012 Scoring Leader Training Materials, Volume 2, Practice Set and Consistency Assurance Set. Please make the following corrections in all copies of this document. (click to read more)

Here is a good one..

This notice pertains to Question 36 on the Spanish edition of the 2012 Grade 3
Mathematics Test Book 2, Form D only. Due to a typographical error, there is no
correct answer to Question 36 on this form. ( click for more)

Still more mistakes.. who’s fault?

This notice pertains to Question 23 on the Spanish edition only of the 2012
Grade 4 Mathematics Test Book 1, all forms (A, B, C, and D). Due to imprecision
in the transcription of this question, there is no correct answer.  (Click for more)

Let’s make it easy for you..

Who is a fault for the errors noted here http://www.p12.nysed.gov/apda/scoring/612ei/home.html  

NYS paid Pearson $32,000,000.00 for flawed tests, riddled with so called pilot questions that flustered and distracted children across the state. How much is Pearson going to compensate these children for their labor as test guinie pigs for Pearson’s corporate interests?  ~ R.L. Ratto, “I Guess the Buck Didn’t Stop There” (2012)

The Mad Hatter convinces them all to drink their magic potion.  

The magic potion of testing is sold to school districts through propaganda for a HUGE price, setting them up to fail.

Gates  and Pearson spin their propaganda, dizzying parents and politicos, convincing them of a necessary system of accountability, of a need for more standardized testing, and of a need for competition with other countries through a Race to the Top.  Preying on fear and competition, to take advantage of our children, the edreformers are successfully using the great strategy of divide and conquer.

The dizzying effect is maddening.  Most students, parents, teachers, and administrators are so seduced by the corporate education reformers and their consumer world of testing and materialism that has been set up for us, they don’t even realize what is happening all around us.

Is testing like dealing in drugs and cigarettes?  These dealings certainly have profit and abuse in common.  Texas Superintendent John Kuhn recently posted the truth about Pearson on Twitter:

“Drug dealers & Pearson sell harmful products with entirely manufactured need. But Pearson forces the end user to help produce their poisons.”  ~  John Kuhn

After reading a post in Republic Report, Texas Superintendent John Kuhn speaks out on Twitter to say:

“Pearson lobbying aimed at $-influenced legislators is as morally compromised as cigarette ads aimed at kids.”  

And just as nicotine addicts craving cigarettes, it seems America’s education policy makers are will never be satisfied until all of our children are being tested all the time – and the big winner in that is test-dealing Pearsons.

John wrote this in response after reading the provocative  and appalling table of information uncovered by education researcher, Ken Libby.

“Education researcher Ken Libby dug through the records and found that Pearson is spending big on lobbying in four critical states — New York, California, Texas, and Florida. Here’s a small table he made laying out the millions Pearson is spending:

As America confronts its addiction to high-stakes testing, it appears that the companies benefiting from it are willing to spend generously in order to keep taxpayer dollars flowing their way.” ~ Ziad Jilani, “Testing Company Pearson Spending Millions to Influence Schools”, Republic Report (2012)

Are Americans addicted to Pearson and Gates’ high stakes tests?

Testing has increased alarmingly since Kress, Bush, and Pearson decided there was money to be made in creating testing.   No Child Left Behind increased testing.  Race to the Top increased testing even more.  Now Pearson and Gates have partnered to create online curriculum for Common Core that brings about an increased amount of testing.

Corporate testing profits aren’t  enough for Gates and Pearson’s voracious appetites.

Pearson and Bill Gates partnered to create Common Core and Gates has stated he wants EVERY child to be learning from the SAME text book in EVERY subject.  Imagine the profits!

“Mr. Gates’s foundation strongly supports a uniform core curriculum for schools. “It’s ludicrous to think that multiplication in Alabama and multiplication in New York are really different,” he says. He also sees common standards as a money-saver at a time when many states are facing budget shortfalls. “In terms of mathematics textbooks, why can’t you have the scale of a national market? Right now, we have a Texas textbook that’s different from a California textbook that’s different from a Massachusetts textbook. That’s very expensive.”‘ ~ Jason L. Riley, Was the $5 Billion Worth It (2011)

No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and now Common Core are leading to increased testing and increased costs to public education.  Is the testing really doing any good?  Is the “race” really making any difference in America’s chances for reaching the top of anything  EXCEPT SPENDING?

“Following the passage of NCLB on Jan. 8, 2002, annual state spending on standardized tests rose from $423 million to almost $1.1 billion in 2008 (a 160% increase compared to a 19.22% increase in inflation over the same period), according to the Pew Center on the States. [42]

“The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) passed with bipartisan support (381-41 in the House of Representatives and 87-10 in the Senate) and was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Jan. 8, 2002.[143] The legislation, modeled on Bush’s education policy as Governor of Texas, mandated annual testing in reading and math (and later science) in Grades 3 through 8 and again in 10th Grade. [57] If schools did not show sufficient “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP), they faced sanctions and the possibility of being taken over by the state or closed.[82] [85] NCLB required that 100% of US students be “proficient” on state reading and math tests by 2014, which was regarded as an impossible target by many testing opponents. [83] [84] According to the Pew Center on the States, annual state spending on standardized tests rose from $423 million before NCLB to almost $1.1 billion in 2008 (a 160% increase compared to a 19.22% increase in inflation over the same period). [42] Combined state and federal government spending on education totals $600 billion per year, while all-time philanthropic contributions to US education total less than $10 billion, according to a 2011 statement by education philanthropist Bill Gates. [155]

On February 17, 2009, President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program was signed into law, inviting states to compete for $4.35 billion in extra funding based on the strength of their student test scores.” ~ Standardized Tests Pro-Con

Why are American’s tolerating all this testing?  Why aren’t they fighting back?  Why has over 10 years of increased testing and privatization slipped by the American people without a fight?  Are they being bullied?

Through the use of carrots and sticks  — punishments by No Child Left Behind and competitive grants through Race to the Top, public school stakeholders are bullied and bribed into high stakes testing while the test corporations become even bigger bullies.

 

Gates and his partner Rupert Murdoch (of news media phone hacking scandal fame) along with his other partner Pearson, have their doughy hands in every single aspect of public education from Pre-K through Higher Education.

  • They make money on children ESPECIALLY when they fail. Think about the grand scale of this for just one moment.
  • They’ve invested in Pre-K and Kindergarten assessments, lobbying states to enforce standardized testing on pre-schoolers and kindergartners.
  • They’ve cornered the market on high stakes standardized testing.
  • They have cornered the market on remediation of students who fail the tests.
  • They have cornered the market on retesting students and remediation/retesting a second, third, or fourth time — rinse, repeat.
  • If a child fails the test in high school and is unable to graduate, Pearson and Gates have a GED program for them ready to go.
  • They have SAT’s and other college assessments ready to profit from all aspects of testing in education.

“Pearson is just one part of the picture, albeit a part about the size of Mount Rushmore. Its lobbyists include the guy who served as the top White House liaison with Congress on drafting the No Child law. It has its own nonprofit foundation that sends state education commissioners on free trips overseas to contemplate school reform.

An American child could go to a public school run by Pearson, studying from books produced by Pearson, while his or her progress is evaluated by Pearson standardized tests. The only public participant in the show would be the taxpayer.

If all else fails, the kid could always drop out and try to get a diploma via the good old G.E.D. The General Educational Development test program used to be operated by the nonprofit American Council on Education, but last year the Council and Pearson announced that they were going into a partnership to redevelop the G.E.D. — a nationally used near-monopoly — as a profit-making enterprise.

“We’re a capitalist system, but this is worrisome,” said New York Education Commissioner King.” ~ Gail Collins, “A Very Pricey Pineapple”, The New York Times, (2012)

Winnie Hu shares the madness of money involved in this one contract alone in the same article.  People, seriously, this is the amount of a contract in ONE STATE alone, giving Pearson and Gates the power over public schools that is abusing children and teachers through Common Core and the coming 20-fold increase in testing!

“In New York, Pearson Education most recently won a five-year, $32 million contract to administer state tests, and it maintains a $1 million contract for testing services with the State Education Department, according to state records. The last contract was awarded after David M. Steiner, then the state education commissioner, attended a conference in London in June 2010 that was organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers and underwritten by the Pearson Foundation.” ~  Winnie Hu,  Testing Firm Faces Inquiry on Free Trips for Officials,  The New York Times 

What do Gates and Pearson stand to gain from the implementation of Common Core?  What will implementation cost school districts?  What is really behind the madness?


Everything’s bigger in Texas, especially Pearson and their profits.  

“It is testing time for Central Texas students required to pass the state’s new standardized test to assess their academic readiness. And a battle over the entire testing system is brewing between the state, educators, parents and students.

Rising costs surrounding state exams has been one of the big talking points among testing critics.

“This has become a moneymaker,” said Ken Zarifis, co-president of Education Austin.

You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out testing three million Texas students a year isn’t cheap.

“The overall cost is a large number. There’s no doubt about it,” said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

KXAN News has uncovered that the state is spending more than $89 million on testing for the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, this year alone. That amount has nearly doubled in the last 10 years.

Every penny goes to a company called Pearson, which develops the test questions, prints and distributes test booklets and scores the exams before sending them back to 8,000 schools.

The state’s five-year contract with Pearson, which covers the 2010 through 2015 school years, totals just over $468 million.

Based on figures provided by TEA, Texas taxpayers by 2015 will have paid Pearson nearly $1.2 billion for developing standardized tests and related materials dating back to the year 2000…

The annual cost goes up each year. In 2015, standardized testing will set the state back nearly $100 million.” ~ Erin CargileTests Pricetag $90 Million This YearKXAN Investigates (2012)

What will it cost to implement Common Core Standards and the 20 fold increase in testing that comes with it?  Who stands to gain?  Students?  Parents?  Teachers?  Society?  Remember, Common Core “State” Standards (CCSS) are NOT field tested!  

The Pioneer Institute has done a study about the CCSS implementations costs to districts.  Follow the money:

Note: Graphic recreated to represent the same figures provided by The Pioneer Institute in billions.

Executive Summary

• All but five (5) states have committed to adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts and mathematics and are participating in one of the federallysponsored consortia developing aligned assessments (see Figure 1). Few of the participants, however, have carefully analyzed the costs involved.

• Significant new costs are projected in three key areas of standardsbased reform: assessment, professional development, and textbooks and instructional materials. In addition, states and local communities are expected to face substantial new expenditures for technology infrastructure and support. 

• Over a typical standards time horizon of seven (7) years, we project Common Core implementation costs will total approximately $15.8 billion across participating states. This constitutes a “mid-range” estimate that only addresses the basic expenditures required for implementation of the new standards. It does not include the cost of additional expensive or controversial reforms that are sometimes recommended to help students meet high standards, such as performance-based compensation or reduced class sizes.

• Total, seven-year costs include the following additional expenses: $1.2 billion for the new assessments, $5.3 including increased assessment expense for some states as well as technology training and support.

• In years two and beyond, annual operational costs are projected to be $801 million higher, including increased assessment expense for some states and the ongoing cost of supporting the enhanced technology infrastructure required for online assessment.

• There is considerable uncertainty regarding future student testing costs. The two testing consortia, especially the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), also face considerable technical challenges to accomplish their goals.

• California, a state with highly rated academic standards and a challenging fiscal climate, illustrates some tough tradeoffs. The state, a member of the SBAC, is projected to incur significantly higher state assessment costs of approximately $35 million each year.

• States and communities should avoid trying to implement the Common Core, or any set of new standards, “on the cheap.” Inadequate training, instructional materials, or necessary infrastructure can lead to teachers and administrators disclaiming responsibility for failure because they did not receive adequate support. ~  The Pioneer Institute, “National Costs to Aligning the States and Localities to Common Core Standards” (2012)

 

As if this bullying and the consequences weren’t enough, Stephen Krashen warns us, “It’s going to get a whole lot worse.”

It’s going to get a lot worse. The US Department of Education is developing a massive new testing program, with far more testing than ever before, and they have made no secret about it.

More grade levels to be tested: The new plan will require, as was the case with NCLB, tests in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school, but there is serious discussion of extending the tests to higher and lower grades.

The US Department of Education also recently announced plans for:

    • More subjects to be tested: In addition, the US Department of Education is encouraging standards and testing not only in reading and math, but in other subjects as well as well, including science, social studies, foreign languages, and even “performance” measures for the arts.

This is at least a 20-fold increase in testing. There is zero evidence that it will do any good, and good evidence that it will not work. ~ Stephen Krashen, Testing and Teaching to the Test:  It’s Going to Get a  Whole Lot Worse, guest blogger on Anthony Cody’s “Living in Dialogue”, ( 2012)

So just who is responsible?   Is it just one half of the Gates couple?  Or is it the Queen, Melinda Gates?  How does she fit into Wonderland?

The Queen will appear soon on PBS News Hour to field questions on education reform.  Here’s what PBS has to say about the involvement of the Gates Foundation.  I wonder if this once progressive publicly run program will kowtow to one of its biggest sponsors?

“As the co-founder of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropic organization, Melinda Gates has spent decades looking at the challenges and potential solutions to the problems facing America’s education system.

The foundation controls over $30 billion, which its staff uses to pursue the goal of giving every child an equal opportunity to thrive. The majority of the money goes to reducing obstacles such as poor health and malnutrition in developing nations. But in the United States, the focus has been on identifying and supporting ways to fix the inequalities within a public school system, where schools in high-poverty areas fall far behind their more affluent counterparts and other countries in terms of graduation rates and academic achievement.

Since 1994, the foundation has spent over $6 billion in the United States, looking at data-proven ways to improve student achievement and often jumping into controversial policy debates such as smaller schools in New York City, charter schools, high-stakes testing and teacher evaluation systems around the country.

While the amount of money spent on education that comes from private foundations is small compared to what comes from local taxes, state and federal governments, the foundation’s research and advocacy has become integral to the passionate debates about the future of the American education system.

Next week, Melinda Gates will sit down with PBS NewsHour CorrespondentHari Sreenivasan to talk about the Gates Foundation’s work in the field of education and we’d like to hear your suggestions.

Do you have a question for Melinda Gates about the projects they’ve funded, lessons learned, their priorities and where they plan to focus their funding in the future? Send us your questions in the comments below or tweet them to@newshouramgrad.

For the record, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is an underwriter of the NewsHour and the American Graduate project.”  ~ Newsdesk, PBS News Hour,  “Ask Melinda Gates Your Question About Education Reform”

The introduction is clearly misleading already, leaving the reader to actually believe that Melinda Gates really IS an expert about education.  Clearly the Queen does not listen to the leading experts in education and has never spent a day teaching in one of our classrooms of poverty, now has she?  Readers agree!  Check out the comments on the PBS News Hour site here.  Here is one response sample:

“PBS performs a great service to all Americans. I have a question for Hari Sreenivasan in preparation for this interview.
Does PBS feel any constraints in asking hard questions of Melinda Gates as they are generously underwrite the NewsHour and the American Graduate Project?

To the following questions which I have already asked, I will add this question: Should private non-profit foundations, especially those derived from corporate entities, have the ability to influence public policy through donations and grants to quasi-governmental entities? Isn’t this a form of under-the-radar lobbying?
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mis… should the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other immensely wealthy private non-profit foundations have so much influence on education reforms? How are we assured that there are no conflicts of interest? Are national standards, curriculum, assessments and databases that promulgate “career and college readiness” a disservice if the wealthiest Americans and corporations don’t support living wage jobs, fair taxation and regulations that assure a healthy society? What do you think about the lawsuit, EPIC versus the US Dept. of Education? (The U.S. Department of Education must respond TODAY.) In the 21st Century Knowledge Economy, who earns the return on investment of human capital?  Is the Gates Foundation helping create a higher education bubble economy?”  ~  Kris Alman, comment to PBS News Hour

I question Melinda Gates about the Gates Foundation  “looking at data-proven ways”… for an example, the Common Core State Standards that the Gates have invested heavily in by partnering with Pearson have not been field tested at all, and yet they are being swallowed whole by the entire country under the pretense that this is not a federal take over to appease the GOP.

As long as they are keeping the fat cats happy, does it matter?

Some are beginning to fight back against the abuse, fight back against the fat cats…

The maddening test landscape may be changing before our eyes.  

Over 419 districts in Texas have passed a resolution against high stakes testing.  One of these leaders in Texas is Superintendent John Kuhn.  John is appalled at the damages done to children for a killing — pure profit for Pearson and Gates.

It isn’t just Texas that has had enough of high stakes testing.  It isn’t just teachers who have had enough of high stakes testing.  School board members feel enough is enough. Students are stressed and speaking out.  Watch “stop the madness” Anti-FCAT video here:

“The video produced in Freedom’s television production studio also features School Board member Rick Roach, who wants to “stop the madness” of Florida’s high-stakes testing program. He proposed the video after visiting a Freedom remedial reading class filled with students who had failed FCAT.

Roach thinks the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — a series of exams in math, reading, science and writing taken by nearly 2 million students each year — doesn’t accurately measure academic abilities, particularly reading.

“It’s all about beating the test maker,” he said.”  ~ Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel, “Anti-FCAT Video Stars Orange County School Board Member, Students” (2012)

Susan Ohanian has had enough of the madness also.  She says today that “With Bill Gates Money, David Coleman Takes Over the World”.  What exactly is Gates’ money to Coleman going to do to increase the madness you might ask?  One might ask why we are trusting these Pineapple Heads when it comes to the future of our children!

“You can find Close Reading Exemplars at Achieve the Core, the site founded by David Coleman and Partners in the enterprise Student Achievement Partners, which recently received $18 million from the GE Foundation “to assist states nationwide in implementing the Common Core State Standards.” 

According to Education Week the Partners’ aim is to “build a storehouse of instructional resources in support of the new learning goals.” [Student Achievement Partners also has three contracts with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, worth $4.1 million total, to do Common Core-related work.] 

In a statement to Philanthropy News Digest Student Achievement Partners founding partner David Colemen modestly said, “This is a great day for the education reform movement and specifically for the momentum behind the Common Core State Standards.” He said the GE Foundation “commitment to improving public education for all students is exactly what it is going to take to seed real and lasting change, especially during these tough economic times.” 

Exactly what it is going to take. 

There you have it: David Coleman knows the answers. As it happens, he knows the exact answers. 

This must be true. Surely, if he didn’t have the exact answers, then NCTE, IRA, NCTM, ASCD, the PTA, the National School Boards Association, the NEA, the AFT, and a host of other organizations organized to educate children would protest. 

Since there’s not a word of dissent coming out of these organizations, then David Coleman and Partners must have the goods–exactly what teachers and students need. 

A word on David Coleman: Apparently, he achieved his expertise about exactly what schoolchildren need from tutoring students while attending Yale, taking some courses in English Literature at Oxford and Cambridge, and working for five years at McKinsey and Company. 

Ah, McKinsey, put it in a ‘search’ on this website and you will find 76 not-so-laudatory hits. For starters,read Frank Coffield’s Journal of Education Policy assessment. And don’t miss Michael Martin’s review.” ~  Susan Ohanian, “With Bill Gates Money, David Coleman Takes Over the World”, (2012)

Parents Across America has had enough of high stakes testing.  In fact it was PAA Co-founder Leonie Haimson who broke the story of the “Pineapple Question” madness:

“I’ve broken some stories that I consider pretty important, had some pretty big headlines, but never anything like this,” Leonie said.

It’s easy to laugh at the absurdity of it all. But it’s dead serious. Now that stakes on standardized tests have grown so high, the fate of students, educators and schools rests on the answers to questions like these.”  ~  Leonie Haimson, via Pam Grundy, “PAA Leader Leonie Haimson Sparks Pineapplegate”, (2012)

Just tell me!  Why are we trusting  Bill Gates and these non-experts who are acting as experts again?  

With the leaders in Texas and other states, there may be hope to escape Pearson and Gates’ Edreform Wonderland yet, as the cracks in the monopoly are beginning to form. New York’s attorney general is investigating Pearson for free trips they are offering.

“New York State’s attorney general is investigating whether the Pearson Foundation, the nonprofit arm of one of the nation’s largest educational publishers, acted improperly to influence state education officials by paying for overseas trips and other perks.

The office of the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, issued subpoenas this week to the foundation and to Pearson Education seeking documents and information related to their activities with state education officials, including at least four education conferences — in London, Helsinki, Singapore and Rio de Janeiro — since 2008, according to people familiar with the investigation.

At issue is whether the activities of the tax-exempt Pearson Foundation, which is prohibited by state law from engaging in undisclosed lobbying, were used to benefit Pearson Education, a for-profit company, according to these people. Pearson sells standardized tests, packaged curriculums and Prentice Hall textbooks.

Specifically, the attorney general’s investigation is looking at whether foundation employees improperly sought to influence state officials or procurement processes to obtain lucrative state contracts, and whether the employees failed to disclose lobbying activities in annual filings with the attorney general’s office. The inquiry follows twocolumns about the conferences by Michael Winerip in The New York Times this fall.”  ~ Winnie Hu, Testing Firm Faces Inquiry on Free Trips for Officials,  The New York Times 


Are states and the Federal Department of Education breaking the law with Common Core?  

“A new report by former U.S. Education Department officials questions the legality of federal support for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a set of education standards which critics say will lead to a national curriculum and tests.

The report, “The Road to a National Curriculum,” concludes the Obama administration “has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden to do.”

“The concern is that the assessments developed by the two Race to the Top-funded consortia will end up illegally directing the course of elementary and secondary curriculum across the nation,” said report coauthor Kent Talbert.

The report from the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research carries weight because of its authors. Talbert is former general counsel for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and chief legal advisor to former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, and Bob Eitel is a former deputy general counsel for the agency. Bill Evers, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and now a Hoover Institution scholar, also contributed.

“The paper establishes how, through the Race to the Top fund, the RTTT Assessment Program, and federal waivers of No Child Left Behind, the USDOE is pushing states to adopt standards and assessments that are favored by the Department,” said Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios.

States, Feds Breaking Federal Laws
Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core, which currently consists of grade-level math and language arts requirements. The Obama administration required applicants for Race to the Top grants and for waivers of No Child Left Behind’s most punitive provisions to adopt the standards. The report alleges tying these strings to federal favors shows significant federal involvement in implementing the Core nationwide.

The organizations developing the Core and related tests are funded by the DOE. This consortium is also “‘helping’ states move to national standards and assessments, as well as developing ‘curriculum frameworks’ and ‘instructional modules,’” Stergios said. 

These actions, the authors argue, break three laws that prohibit federal involvement in curriculum: the General Education Provisions Act, the Department of Education Organization Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“I hate to be so blunt, but the U.S. Department of Education is violating three federal laws,” Stergios said. “And the fact is that state and local officials who are part of the national standards and assessment efforts are compliant in the breaking of these federal laws.” (emphasis added)

Education Secretary Condemns Critics
Education Secretary Arne Duncan in February condemned such criticisms in his first direct statement on the controversy.

“The idea that the Common Core standards are nationally imposed is a conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy,” he said. “The Common Core academic standards were both developed and adopted by the states, and they have widespread bipartisan support.” 

The report’s authors flatly disagreed, citing federal law and the department’s actions contrary to Duncan’s statements.

“Our greatest concern arises from the Department’s decision to cement the use of the Common Core State Standards and these assessment consortia through conditional NCLB waivers. It doesn’t have statutory authority to impose these conditions,” Eitel said.

‘Nationalizing Education’
The Obama administration’s push for the Core effectively nationalizes the content taught in local schools, said Lance Izumi, senior education director at the Pacific Research Institute.

“Strong-arming states to adopt national standards, national tests, and, very likely, national curricula goes against the Constitution’s intent that education policymaking reside at the state and local levels and goes beyond even NCLB, which still allowed states to develop their own standards and tests,” Izumi said.

Izumi said studies on the Core show they are no better than existing state standards and are, “in a number of cases, significantly weaker.”

The Core is also likely to stamp out diversity within education, Evers said.

“This uniformity in curriculum will stifle innovation and prevent states from competing with each other to have the best and most solid curriculum,” he concluded.

“Instead of nationalizing education as the president wants to do, the better solution is to decentralize education,” Izumi said. “Empowering parents is the revolution that America truly needs.”  ~  Lindsey Burke, “Report:  Common Core Poses Legal Questions”, The Heartland

Lindsey is an education policy analyst from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative foundation that promotes privatization of public schools via vouchers.

While I typically HIGHLY DISAGREE with The Heritage Foundation, the law is the law.  As a special education teacher, the high stakes and price children pay for standardization takes a toll too heavy for our nation to bear.

How do we begin to escape from Gates’ and Pearson’s Wonderland?

We must stop the madness. If that means we must use the law to end high stakes testing and Common Core, then let’s use it.

After all…

“Every empirical investigation of this question has found that socioeconomic status (SES) in all its particulars accounts for an overwhelming proportion of the variance in test scores when different schools, towns, or states are compared.(1)  Thus ignorance would be the most charitable explanation for why charts are published that rank schools (or towns or states) by these scores — or why anyone would use those rankings to draw conclusions about classroom quality.” ~  Alfie Kohn, Fighting the Tests, [2001]

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Dead Poets Society: Contact Microsoft or the Gates Foundation for Free One-Time Membership

Truth like-like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold.

Y-Y-You push it, stretch it, it’ll never be enough.

You kick at it, beat it, it’ll never cover any of us.

From the moment we enter crying t-to the moment we leave dying,

it’ll just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream.

~ Todd Anderson, The Dead Poets Society, IMBd quotes

Melinda and Bill Gates have attempted to cover the cold hard feet of truth with their blanket of propaganda in order to maintain their status as the richest couple in the world.

However, like in the poem from The Dead Poets Society, the cold feet of truth are always left exposed at some point, in this case for the people of the working class.  This exposure falls too late for some, however in the past weeks, two incidents have been uncovered that have impacted the worlds of real people, both in China and in the United States.

Both of these true stories are connected directly to Melinda and Bill Gates,  one to Microsoft, and one to the Gates Foundation’s control over public education.  Both are related to horrible working conditions caused directly by the Gates’.

Both stories end in desperation and finally in the loss of real human lives – lives precious to the families and co-workers of real human beings not as privileged as the Gates family, but valuable nevertheless.

**Warning- like the movie, the topic and photos are dark and graphic, as the truth is sometimes, and even more often as the Gates take more control over our world.

One such story involves the desperate working conditions, a 300 person suicide threat in protest, and the deaths of 16 workers by suicide at Foxconn – Microsoft’s X-Box manufacturers in China.

The second story, closer to home, involves the deplorable working conditions in a public school – ending in the suicide of a teacher, Mary Thorson, who was a 32-year-old physical education teacher at Cottage Grove Upper Grade Center in Ford Heights, Illinois, who ended her own life on November 24, 2011, citing horrible working conditions as her reason.  These horrible public school working conditions can be traced directly to the education reform and bullying of teachers via demonization of our profession started by none other than Melinda and Bill Gates.

The Gates family has more than any human needs – when it comes to money – and they use it to control the main stream media in their attempt at blanketing the truth with pure propaganda.

Here’s the propaganda and spin created by Microsoft and Gates via the media:

“Microsoft takes working conditions in the factories that manufacture its products very seriously, and we are currently investigating this issue,” the statement said.

“The welfare of our employees is our top priority and we are committed to ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and that their rights are fully protected,” the company statement said. ~ CNN, “Microsoft Probes Mass Suicide Threat at China Plant”

And here’s more propaganda by Gates:

“Microsoft is one of many companies that contracts with Foxconn to manufacture hardware. Upon learning of the labor protest in Wuhan, we immediately conducted an independent investigation of this issue,” starts the statement that comes from a Microsoft spokesperson.

Source: The Inquirer (http://s.tt/15csh)

And more propaganda by Microsoft:

“After the incident, Microsoft gave Kotaku’s Brian Ashcraft the following statement. 

Foxconn has been an important partner of ours and remains an important partner. I trust them as a responsible company to continue to evolve their process and work relationships. That is something we remain committed to—the safe and ethical treatment of people who build our products. That’s a core value of our company.”

~ Rebecca Greenfield, “Foxconn Is Still a Hard Place to Work”, The Atlantic Wire

Workers at Foxconn morn the suicide deaths of their co-workers

due to Microsoft’s poor working conditions.

This graphic is part of the Swiss-based Public Eye campaign to elect the world’s worst corporation. Foxconn is a 2011 nominee.  ~ Greenpeace

But here are the cold hard facts, the feet of truth sticking out under the blanket of the Gates propaganda about China’s Microsoft X-Box workers:

“Last year a startling 18 Chinese migrant workers attempted suicide at Foxconn production facilities located in Guangdong, Jiangsu and Hebei Provinces. Fourteen died, while four survived with critical injuries. All were between 17 and 25 years old. Why did they, in the prime of youth, give up on their lives?

According to a woman working on the soldering line attaching speakers to MP3- and MP4-format digital audio players: ‘After work, all of us – more than 100 persons – are made to stay behind. It happens whenever workers get punished. A girl is forced to stand at attention to read aloud a statement of self-criticism. She must be loud enough to be heard. Our line leader would ask if the worker at the far end of the workshop could hear clearly the mistake she has made. Oftentimes girls feel like they are losing face. It’s very embarrassing. Her tears drop. Her voice becomes very small.’” ~ Jenny Chan, iSlave New Internationalist Magazine

‘I am just a speck of dust’…

Does that statement give you the same message as the Gates Foundation regarding the equal value [see below, straight from the Gates Foundation website] of every human life?  I think not!

Death at Foxconn: Ma Zishan mourns his son Ma Xiangqian, the tenth protest suicide against draconian management at the south China electronics firm. The suicides continue. Joe Tan / Reuters

“As American consumers ogle over shiny new gadgets at this week’s Consumer Electronic’s Show, the workers that make those products are threatening mass suicide for the horrid working conditions at Foxconn. 300 employees who worked making the Xbox 360 stood at the edge of the factory building, about to jump, after their boss reneged on promised compensation, reports English news site Want China Times. It’s not like this is the first time working conditions at Foxconn have made news outside China. But iPhone and Xbox sales surely haven’t lagged in the wake of those revelations and neither Apple nor Microsoft has done much of anything to fix things. 

Instead of the raise they requested, these workers were given the following ultimatum: quit with compensation, or keep their jobs with no pay increase. Most quit and never got the money. That’s when the mass suicide threat came in. The incident actually caused a factory wide shutdown, reports Record China. 

Sympathetic corporate statements aside, the conditions haven’t much improved. Beyond this threat — the mayor eventually talked the angry workers down — suicides persist. Apple has given similar responses, saying it ensures safe working conditions and fair employee treatment. 

That translates to making employees sign “no suicide” pacts and letting 13 year-olds work half-day long shifts, as Mike Daisey, a self-proclaimed Apple fanboy, detail in this week’s This American Life. Daisey goes to Shenzhen, China, where Foxconn employs over 400,000 workers. He talks to both factory workers and businessmen, gathering chilling information about the situation at the factory, discovering suicide nets, 36-hour shifts, 27-year-old burn outs with dismembered limbs and underage workers.”

~ Rebecca Greenfield, “Foxconn Is Still a Hard Place to Work”, The Atlantic Wire

As I write this blog, I am chilled by the last statement by Daisey and the confirmed suicides of 16 Foxconn workers.  These deaths are due to the horrible working conditions minimized by Melinda and Bill Gates, who fool Americans about their caring philanthropy by more propaganda via media spin.

“Over the last two years, at least 16 Foxconn employees have committed suicide in the company’s Shenzhen, China factory. Three other workers attempted to kill themselves at the factory. Those deaths have prompted the company to say that it will install “suicide nets” around the factory to discourage employees from jumping from buildings. Foxconn has also offered some workers a 20 percent wage increase to improve morale.” ~ Don Reisinger, “Foxconn Settles With Workers Who Threaten Mass Suicide”, C-Net

But how could Melinda and Bill Gates possibly be responsible for the suicide death of a public school teacher due to working conditions? After all, the Gates don’t “own” and “operate” public schools!  Or do they?

Let’s look at the story about Mary Thorson and the Cottage Grove Upper Grade Center in Chicago, IL., starting with the propaganda by the Gates’ own views on how their influence impacts public education.

Gates  and Gates Foundation Propaganda:

“In most workplaces, there is an implicit bargain: Employees get the support they need to excel at their jobs, and employers build a system to evaluate their performance. The evaluations yield information that employees use to improve—and that employers use to hold employees accountable for results.

At Microsoft, we believed in giving our employees the best chance to succeed, and then we insisted on success. We measured excellence, rewarded those who achieved it and were candid with those who did not. Teachers don’t work in anything like this kind of environment, and they want a new bargain.

We know this because they told us so in a recent survey that our foundation undertook with Scholastic. It turns out that teachers don’t like their no-support/low-expectations working conditions any better than we do.”Grading the Teachers” ~  Schools have a lot to learn from buisness say Melinda and Bill Gates.

How does this statement straight from the Gates Foundation settle with you

after reading a statement from a Chinese worker about being a mere speck of dust?

Truth:

One might say that ALL lives have equal value to Melinda and Bill Gates – EXCEPT for anyone not wealthy enough to be in upper management, not wealthy enough to go to private charter schools promoted by Melinda and Bill Gates,or not wealthy enough to run in their social circles.  Some of these “LESS EQUAL” lives might be public school teachers, children and families who are poor, or those who work at Foxconn.  But do I have proof or evidence of that opinion?  I think the lives and words of Mary and the Chinese workers are evidence enough, but is there other evidence?

How do the Gates manage their employees here in Washington State at Microsoft, for example?  There is evidence that Melinda and Bill Gates treat their Microsoft employees in the exact same manner as they are treating US public school children, parents, and teachers – with a few ‘carrots’ and mostly ‘sticks’!

In fact, these ‘sticks’ of cold feet – the truth sticking out from their DeForming measures – are KILLING what they SAY the Gates say they are striving for in education reform –  that big word Melinda and Bill Gates throw around as Corporate EdDeFormers all the time – INNOVATION.  Another one of their trick words is “transformation”.  And another buzz word that they use to make working conditions for students, teachers, and factory workers is “accountability”.

This method of merit-pay-carrots and punitive-decentives kill collaboration, creating a competitive market driven, glory hogging, dog-eat-dog environment where bullies thrive, collaborators despair, and INNOVATION wilts away.  The onl”transformation” that takes place is the increasing stress under bullying that leads to despair.

These methods have also seen a rise in working condition suicides as reported by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, via Timesizing, Not Downsizing in their article entitled “Work Related Suicide, Death, and Violence”.

See how this same model Gates uses to destroy working conditions impacts employees and INNOVATION at Microsoft. as reported by Joe Wilcox on Beta News in his article, “Why Former Employees Say Microsoft Can’t Innovate”

One of the reasons – Gates doesn’t seem to even understand the concept and meaning of the word… “Innovation”… to him it means “status quo” per his employee, Rodriquez. Yet Gates makes many comments against teachers and teachers’ unions demonizing them for “protecting the status quo!”

Incentives that Discourage Risk, Innovation

“Related to gut-bulging middle management: some HR review and compensation processes discourage many employees from taking the kinds of risks necessary for Microsoft to regain its competitive edge and, quite frankly, to innovate in truly meaningful ways. Microsoft’s definition of innovation, for most of its product groups, is anything that preserves the status quo — meaning extending Office and Windows and increasingly server software like SharePoint and Windows Server. Risk is a dirty word for many employees looking to advance at Microsoft.

A former employee whom I’ll call Rodriguez said of the HR review process: “Microsoft has become too ‘scorecard’ heavy and highly litigated to the point it kills an employee’s spirit of free thinking and creativity, since everything a person does is closely judged by management.” Among the former Microsofties I communicated with over the last couple of months, Rodriguez was the harshest critic of Microsoft’s review process, which he observed is going on right now; fiscal year ends on June 30 and reviews occur midway.

Several former and existing employees tried to explain Microsoft’s seemingly complicated review and compensation process. People are hired at a certain level and can advance up levels, which have corresponding salary ranges. During reviews process, employees are graded with such designations as ‘exceed,’ ‘achieved’ and ‘underperformed’ commitment ratings. These are based on numerous criteria, which include management assessment of performance and achieving goals set during the previous review process. Other criteria include “contribution rankings.” Problem: These criteria sometimes work cross-purposes to performance. Fred explained:

Processes became more bureaucratic and individuals were less empowered to take action.  In fact, oftentimes the incentive structure encouraged individual contributors not to do the right thing, but just to do what they committed to in their review the year prior. In other words, if you committed to include Feature A in Windows, and halfway through the year you realized that was a bad thing for Windows and Microsoft customers, the incentive structure actively discouraged you from trying to kill the feature, because then you wouldn’t have achieved your commitments.

Barry also made similar complaints about the “decentives” to doing a good job. “The metrics are too complex,” he said. “We were evaluated also on a client’s satisfaction with our work.” The client could range from a reporter for Microsofties working in PR to developers for employees doing product development or for anyone to other groups within Microsoft.

Several current and former employees wanting to do better or escape from stifling management situations would request transfers. However, many managers wanted to keep their staff in part “because it would reflect badly on them,” Barry said.

“I was put in ‘performance detention’ due to wanting to expand to another part of the company and ended up in the ‘crapper’ list,” said another former employee, whom I’ll call Mickey”. ~ Joe Wilcox, Beta News, “Why Former Employees Say Microsoft Can’t Innovate”

I and many others have already blogged and written about the Gates’ control over public education reform.  The policies of our US Department of Education are controlled almost entirely by Melinda and Bill Gates.  In fact, Fareed Zakaria on CNN’s “Fixing Education” recently introduced Gates as being “more powerful” than Secretary Arne Duncan of the Department of Education.

Philanthropy vs. Billanthropy:

First and foremost, the Gates Foundation promote themselves as philanthropists.  By the Webster definition, I would highly disagree and redefine  the correct term that describes Melinda and Bill Gates as “Billanthropists”, a term coined on a title of the Economist below.

Webster’s Dictionary definition of Philanthropy: “1: goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially: active effort to promote human welfare; 2: a: an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes b: an organization distributing or supported by funds set aside for humanitarian purposes.”

 A friend and I collaborated to write/edit a definition of Billanthropy:  1. Feigning goodwill, generosity and altruism in an effort to consolidate power and control; using propaganda and financial ‘incentives’ (grants, scholarships, gifts) to trick society into accepting changes in legislation and policies that promote the selfish interests and agendas of the elite billanthropists; influencing and controlling policy and legislative initiatives and attaching mechanisms to ensure profit and power for the elite. b. an organization that pretends an interest in the public good and uses indoctrination and brainwashing to encourage others to donate money.  The funds are then used to promote their own agendas, to make profits and create tax havens.   This process also creates a closed loop, whereby the elites maintain power and control over all institutions within the social-political-economic structure, locally and globally.  [see 1, term used to describe the behavior of Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation as well as many other US Billanthropists.]

Clearly, by the record of recent events, the Gates have invested in A.L.E.C. to control Ed Reform , controlling legislation. This has led to changes in laws surrounding philanthropy, allowing them to both control legislation, government, and education policy while profiting from the many arenas they claim to be ‘giving’ to, while in the meantime they also provide themselves with a fat-cat tax haven.

One of the main ways the Gates can no longer correctly use the term “philanthropy ” is because of recent legislation called PRI’s or Program Related Investments. PRI’s  [A PRI, broadly defined, is a foundation investment to support a charitable project or activity involving the potential return of capital within an established time frame., see NHI in link for more.] By legislating PRI’s for profit, the Gates have all but eliminated their claim to fame when it comes to being philanthropists and now fall into what urban dictionary may define as Billanthropy.

But what do the Gates have to do with the working conditions of public school teachers, you ask?  It all boils down to controlling the US Government and if you don’t believe me, follow the money.

How are the Gates involved in poor working conditions for teachers in public schools, you might ask?

It all started when Gates started the path to kill public schools by first demonizing and deprofessionalizing the teachers.

Here, Diane Ravitch schooled Bill Gates and talks about his demonization of public school teachers  in a response printed in the Washington Post by Valerie Strauss.

Gates:Is she [Ravitch] sticking up for decline?”

Ravitch: “Of course not! If we follow Bill Gates’ demand to judge teachers by test scores, we will see stagnation, and he will blame it on teachers. We will see stagnation because a relentless focus on test scores in reading and math will inevitably narrow the curriculum only to what is tested. This is not good education. “Last week, he said in a speech that teachers should not be paid more for experience and graduate degrees. I wonder why a man of his vast wealth spends so much time trying to figure out how to cut teachers’ pay. Does he truly believe that our nation’s schools will get better if we have teachers with less education and less experience? Who does he listen to? He needs to get himself a smarter set of advisers. “Of course, we need to make teaching a profession that attracts and retains wonderful teachers, but the current anti-teacher rhetoric emanating from him and his confreres demonizes and demoralizes even the best teachers. I have gotten letters from many teachers who tell me that they have had it, they have never felt such disrespect; and I have also met young people who tell me that the current poisonous atmosphere has persuaded them not to become teachers. Why doesn’t he make speeches thanking the people who work so hard day after day, educating our nation’s children, often in difficult working conditions, most of whom earn less than he pays his secretaries at Microsoft?”Diane Ravitch, Ravitch Answers Gates by Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

 

The crime is not Mary Thorson’s own suicide, but that of the Gates’ and all those complicit in intimidating her, and the entire public school system.  Mary is not alone in this feeling of intimidation and this will not be the last suicide caused by Melinda and Bill Gates.

But what about the working conditions for Mary Thorson? 

How could Melinda and Bill Gates possibly have influenced her choice to commit suicide? 

The real cause lies in taking away so much control over people through bullying.  This stripping of power instills fear and loss of self-respect.  Students, teachers, families, and all working class people need a sense of liberty — a sense of control over their own lives.  Just like Neil Perry in The Dead Poets Society, Bill and Melinda Gates take over our lives, telling us exactly how we must teach, how and when we have to test, and the high stakes attached blame us for ‘failures’, humiliating all of us publicly.

These draconian teaching methods were not settling well with Mary Thorson as she watched her students in high poverty respond.  These draconian teaching methods aren’t settling well with many teachers.  Draconian teaching conditions lead to horrible working conditions.  Horrible working conditions lead to horrible learning conditions for our neediest students, especially and Mary Thorson just couldn’t keep forcing these on her students.

In Mary and the people in China’s Foxconn factory, we see the results of such oppression.

Instead of helping Cottage Grove address the issues of poverty, the Chicago school system, highly influenced by Bill and Melinda Gates education policies, intimidated its teachers.  Through the nation’s policies of No Child Left Behind –  Cottage Grove was forced to become a SIG turnaround school [2010], labeling it forever as a failure and holding it up for public humiliation rather than helping it.  School Improvement Grants [SIG] are only offered to schools AFTER they are designated as “failures”.  Why can’t we give schools and children what they need WHEN they need it?  Before they fail?  Why don’t we honor true innovation and creativity like they do with such success in Finland?

The sticks of public humiliation used by Gates to brutalize Mary Thorson who gave so much to her students in poverty proved to be too much for her.

How many more teachers, students, workers do we have to lose before we stop the Gates from this bullying behavior?

Without the pressure of lobbying and earmark dollars, without the controls placed on both the Bush and Obama administrations by Melinda and Bill Gates — it is quite likely that the education reform policies would die away in their own suicidal death spiral.

But with the Gates funding used as the ultimate carrot and stick, they are truly driving the despair that Mary and millions of other teachers across America are feeling.   Students are suffering much of this despair as well. Most of this despair is due to bullying, starting at the top of our corporations, through government, down through districts, and into our schools.  Mental health experts can tell you about these direct cause and effect correlations.

Here in her article entitled, “Illinois teacher Commits Suicide Citing Working Conditions”  by Kristina Betinis, we find the very similar story line to the workers from Microsoft’s Foxconn in China – a story of being pushed and bullied by Melinda and Bill Gates to the point where life itself is not worth living – where the person feels their own life is NOT valued by the Gates at all, by their unions, districts, or schools –  much less equally.

This kind of Gates pressure -cooker of bullying teachers is taking over the country, as was written about here:

“At a December district school board meeting, it became clear Thorson was not alone in feeling threatened by the school administration. Teachers admitted that they are intimidated by school officials, afraid for their jobs and dare not speak openly about the conditions they face. More than one teacher spoke about being harassed for taking sick days. Another teacher noted the irony of having an anti-bullying campaign in the school while the teachers are being bullied.

At the meeting, school administrators pushed back, blaming teachers for not speaking up or citing specifics. School board President Joe Sherman said, “If you guys would have come and brought allegations and we didn’t address it, then you would have every right to say what you need to say.”

Intimidation is a tactic in a nationwide strategy to de-professionalize teaching, as a precondition for the dismantling of public education and the selling off or leasing of its related assets. The so-called educational reforms, begun under the Bush administration and expanded by President Obama, have largely been couched in the highly confrontational language of “accountability,” which implies that teachers are overpaid and undeserving of professional status. This has accompanied a frontal assault on the workplace gains teachers struggled to win throughout the 20th century.

The state of Illinois has led the implementation of these “reforms”, subjecting schools to extremely aggressive measures, including mass firings which force teachers and staff to re-apply for their jobs, buyouts, capricious and punitive academic testing measures, and regular school closures and consolidations, which force students to make their way to schools in other areas. These policies have inflamed the crisis in public schools and the communities they serve, contributing to higher drop-out rates, violence, overcrowding, and burn-out among teachers.

School boards routinely provide cash incentives to administrators to implement these changes on a school-by-school basis, extracting concessions from teachers in violation of their teaching contracts. Ratings and disciplinary measures are regularly used to meet pre-determined numbers of layoffs which administrators are required to carry out over a school year. Outspoken teachers identified by administrators as “troublesome,” and the better-compensated veteran teachers are typically targeted.

In the Chicago Public Schools system, recent “reforms” have included longer school days, where teachers and other staff are not compensated for an additional seven hours per week, and many have reported being threatened and intimidated by school administrators into voting in favor of the extended hours.

As these reactionary policies devastate schools, students and teachers, the state and local budget crises have intensified the negative impact of lower wages and fewer school resources.

It is deeply tragic that the miserable conditions in public schools could result in the suicide of a dedicated young teacher, but once the ruthless policies of the ruling class are seen in full light, such tragedies are all but inevitable. Last October, a longtime Los Angeles-area teacher took his own life after being labeled a “less effective teacher” by the Los Angeles Times. (See “Teacher ranked ‘less effective’ by the Los Angeles Times takes his own life”)

Mary Thorson’s parents have made a special effort to communicate their daughter’s intentions. Her mother said that the young teacher’s suicide was directly related to the pressures at Cottage Grove Upper Grade Center, emphasizing that Mary had no prior mental health issues and was never in a combat situation in the Army Reserve. Thorson’s father said, “Is the school responsible? Yes, the school is responsible.”

Is the school responsible?  Yes, the school is responsible. 

But by their actions – Melinda and Bill Gates have made themselves ‘the school’.  And they are responsible.   For by placing themselves into this position of power over our public schools – by their propaganda winning over the indoctrinated minds of the public to demonize and intimidate our nation’s children, parents, teachers, and schools until they have become even more powerful than our own Department of Education – now, Melinda and Bill Gates ARE the school and yes, they are responsible.

I grieve for the Thorson family, for Mary’s students and coworkers, and for all the family members/coworkers in China who cared deeply about the 16 workers who committed suicide there.  I know a nation of teachers grieves for the Thorson’s and as a nation of 99% working class people, America grieves with China as well.  Once we get past the most painful part of this grief, I believe something will shift.

Like in The Dead Poets Society, there is a tale of redemption. 

I believe that when enough people begin to feel their cold numbed feet of truth wake up, that indeed these lives in China and Illinois will serve a much higher purpose.

What happens under the pressure placed on us?  Do we conform to Bill and Melinda Gates’ standards?  Or do we walk to the beat of our own drummer with courage?

“I stand up here because I remind myself that I must always look at the world in a different way.”

~  John Keating, The Dead Poets Society

We as a nation need to follow the example of the teacher and students in The Dead Poets Society –  we need to stand up on our desks and dare to be our highest selves, dare to look at the world of working class people differently, dare to look at teaching and learning differently, dare to look at children of poverty differently, dare to defy the Gates dynasty and dare to defy the remainder of the Corporate EdDeFormers.  The time is now, before there are any more tragic deaths like Mary Thorson’s!

John Keating: “Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!” ~ The Dead Poets Society, IMDb quotes

Carpe’ Diem, my friends!  Seize the day and reclaim our public schools back from these tyrants! 

Neil Perry’s father, wants to control his life, his destiny,  his future – like Gates wants to control ours.  These aspects of our lives do not belong to Gates or any other man or woman just because they are wealthy.  We must not give this up to anyone.  This much I know, our lives and our schools are worth taking back from the bullies.  Like the narrowed curriculum and bubble tests of the Gates edreform, the bullying and controlling — they leave out the poetry, the marrow of our own lives.

John Keating: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer.

That you are here –

that life exists, and identity;

that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be?”