Thursday, October 21, 2010

The rich man's burden

Wealthy philanthropists have found a new cause: public education. And as the old saying goes, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

So as blogger Valerie Strauss writes here, the course of school reform is now being charted by billionaires who can afford to impose their preferences on cash-strapped and desperate schools. Even if their ideas don't work.
That none of their projects is grounded in any research seems not to be a
hindrance to these big donors. And they never try to explain why it is
acceptable for them to donate to other causes -- the arts, medicine, etc. --
without telling doctors and artists what to do with the money. Only educators do
they tell what to do.

Billionaire dilettantes have the capacity to dump huge sums on their quirky plans, then walk away from failure and still be welcomed when their fancy and cash stream turns to yet another school improvement scheme.

Thus, as Strauss reports, Bill Gates can spend $2 billion on an airy confection, the idea that simply building smaller schools can cure the dropout problem, bag the project when it doesn't work, and still be welcomed in the education community when he shows up with a new conceit and a sack of gold.

Meanwhile, schools trying to build success on research-based strategies that can work have to hold bake sales and other fund raisers to buy paper for their copiers.

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