Bill Gates Prays for Better Schools
Will They Never Learn
Sara Gates, Linda Christas College, Class of '13
In January 2010, Bill Gates, to his credit, praised online education as the vehicle of the future.
Given Gates' background, one would have thought that he and his foundation would have, before now, recognized the potential of online schools.
Unfortunately, time after time, in approaching the Gates Foundation for funding, online schools have been turned away, as money continued to flow to the very schools in the US that have failed our children so badly.
Linda Christas Academy, and Linda Christas College have, to date, received zero dollars from foundations in the US, and also zero dollars from any tax favored granting source, or government source.
Of course, the reason why that is the case is that government has made it impossible to conduct innovative, student specific educational efforts with public or publicly favored (tax favored) money.
As soon as a school accepts its first dollar of public or publicly favored money, the coercion begins, influenced and controlled by the power of the United States Government which does not allow any kind of program unfettered by committee decisions made far away from the individual children to be served.
By and large, as well intentioned as public education has been in the US, it currently is a groggy old institution laboring under the Prussian military model of the 19th century, with its bells, whistles, group thinking and teaching, with every public school child beaten down by the psychology of the crowd.
In all ways, except in our public schools, we in the West encourage creativity and imagination, as well as the idea that the individual is important.
However, as with other things in life, it is behavior that is most important, and our behavior, both private foundation and governmental, is that money, and therefore the power in US society, is being pitted against innovative school performance.
We need look no further than the Rudolph Steiner schools to see the result of accepting tax or tax favored money.
In California, the Rudolph Steiner schools had been known for their philosophy of teaching to the individual student, allowing the student to approach each skill and knowledge unit as he or she was "ready" for it. Their programs for decades produced well-rounded, intelligent, non-traumatized, creative graduates. That is, until the schools, with parents laboring under the double taxation required to choose a better alternative for their children, were forced to accept public funds.
Immediately, the nameless threats began. Why of course one could not wait for a child to be ready. Why of course an untrained group of adults, untrained not by virtue of degrees, but untrained by virtue of not having any information regarding the individual children to be taught, would now be in charge of dictating when and what would be delivered to students at Steiner.
Why of course someone sitting as far away as possible from the individual classroom and individual child would be making the decisions regarding textbooks, student progress, and school environment. Isn't that the way the Prussian military did it in 1810-1890, and isn't that the way Americans have demanded their public schools be run?
Graduation, 1815 -- Graduation, 2009
It is interesting to go into any public elementary school in the United States, and ask a first grade class how many of them are artists. All the little hands will go up. However, just three years later, in fourth grade, if one were to visit the same class, and ask the same question, perhaps one or two hands will be raised. The rest of the heads will look around the room to see who dared to admit to being creative in that way.
Ironically, in a separate place, far away from the Rudolph Steiner schools, Wall Street, candidates for positions with Masters in Fine Arts are preferred in the hiring process over MBAs. Why? Well, because MFA's seem to be able to SEE what clients want much more quickly, and create imaginative solutions to problems. Isn't that remarkable. And, yet, we have 500 MBAs for every MFA now in our graduate population.
Congratulations on our ability to see how important individual creativity is. The Prussian military might have been excellent against Napoleon's forces. However, Prussian military training was not known for producing very imaginative creative trench thinking. (Perhaps I am trying to be too clever here.)
The bottom line for me is that the Gates Foundation still has a committee-like structure and award rules that would prevent dollar one from flowing to schools like Linda Christas Academy or College. All the foundations play the same tax game; that game means money will go where bureaucrats making judgments thousands of miles away from your child say it will go.
It's not hard to see the difference.
If a committee, name it what you will, sitting somewhere removed from a child is impacting that child's education; if plans are made for the experience of education before the children who will be taught are known; and if teachers are given the "curriculum" in advance of knowing what the learning style, interests and background of each child is, we have a formula for disaster. And, disaster is exactly what we have in the US.
Our typical high school valedictorian now knows less than the average student almost anywhere else in the world, a victim of teaching to the lowest common denominator in groups, even in many so-called AP classes. We cannot even staff our university graduate programs in science with American faces, having to recruit internationally for students who are at an appropriate academic level, since we have turned our Bachelors programs into water slide and athletic contest festivals, where a football coach is paid millions of tax money while top physicists, artists and historians are denied tenure at a wage that smacks of penury.
We did it to ourselves, and Bill Gates in January said something very smart because he is a smart man. He said that we need to teach to the individual student. Well isn't that a novel idea......
Sara Gates, Class of '13
Linda Christas College