Have you ever wondered how Common Core went from a twinkle in a liberal’s eye to widespread destruction throughout America’s schools in only a few short years? Well, all it took was money, lots of it.
In 2008 Gene Wilhoit and David Coleman were looking to bring national standards to American education, which until then had been fragmented between the states, but they knew it would cost millions. So they went to see the man whose name is synonymous with wealth, Bill Gates.
Gates was known for his meddling with American education, and failing miserably at it. He had invested millions to bring smaller school size to the inner city with the idea that closer relationships between the students and school would promote better outcomes, but after spending $650 million and finding little measurable improvement in student performance, the project was abandoned.
Undeterred by his previous failures and with a penchant for recklessly throwing money at charity, and not really caring about the results, Gates embraced the Common Core plan to remake America’s schools.
Gates began by funding a vast number of activist groups and government agencies that would play a key role in the development and implementation of Common Core. Recipients of Gates’ money, with the expressed purpose of pushing Common Core standards nationwide, included teachers unions (American Federation of Teachers - $5.4 mil, National Education Association - $4.0 mil), think tanks (American Enterprise Institute - $1.0 mil, Thomas B. Fordham Institute - $2.0 mil) and government (National Governors Association - $2.1 mil).
The total amount that Gates poured into springing Common Core upon an unsuspecting nation is at least $200 mil, but it could be much more. Since 1999 the Gates Foundation has spent $3.4 billion on “improving” public education.
The economic downturn played a huge role in allowing Gates to purchase the support of the states on the cheap. “You had dozens of states adopting before the standards even existed, with little or no discussion, coverage or controversy,” said Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, which has received $4 million from the Gates Foundation since 2007 to study education policy, including the Common Core.
“People weren’t paying attention. We were in the middle of an economic meltdown and the health-care fight, and states saw a chance to have a crack at a couple of million bucks if they made some promises,” said Hess.
With all the money Gates funneled towards Common Core, how much did he spend on investigating whether or not the program actually helped children learn? It turns out almost nothing.
Education activist Mercedes Schneider found that in 2010 Gates donated $100,000 to the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS) to begin development of a program that would test Common Core in selected cites. One year later Gates gave almost $5 mil to CGCS to go full bore on implementing Common Core throughout the nation, skipping the testing part all together.
The reckless methods that Gates used to implement Common Core rankled one educator. “The decision by the Gates Foundation to simultaneously pay for the standards and their promotion is a departure from the way philanthropies typically operate”, said Sarah Reckhow, an expert in philanthropy and education policy at Michigan State University.
“Usually, there’s a pilot test — something is tried on a small scale, outside researchers see if it works, and then it’s promoted on a broader scale,” Reckhow said. “That didn’t happen with the Common Core. Instead, they aligned the research with the advocacy.”
There is one reason why Gates may have neglected to investigate Common Core before putting it into practice, likely because of the appallingly unscientific manner in which it had been developed. Of the 29 individuals credited by the National Governors Association with developing Common Core, 27 were associated with education companies.
After investigating Common Core Diane Ravitch, Professor of Education at New York University, discovered “The writers of the standards included no early childhood educators, no educators of children with disabilities, no experienced classroom teachers; indeed, the largest contingent of the drafting committee were representatives of the testing industry. No attempt was made to have pilot testing of the standards in real classrooms with real teachers and students. The standards do not permit any means to challenge, correct, or revise them.”
So what about all those voices we hear saying that Common Core will help with the education of our nation’s children? According to Ravitch they were bought off by Gates: “Dozens of groups have been paid millions of dollars by the Gates Foundation to claim that they are absolutely vital for our economic future, based on no evidence whatever.” If children aren’t going to benefit from Gates’ meddling in our educational system, who does? Microsoft.
Ravitch explains “at a time when many schools have fiscal problems and are laying off teachers, nurses, and counselors, and eliminating arts programs, the nation’s schools will be forced to spend billions of dollars on Common Core materials, testing, hardware, and software … Microsoft, Pearson, and other corporations and entrepreneurs will reap the rewards of this new marketplace.”
In response to his reckless and dangerous experimentation with the American educational system, Gates was unapologetic. “These are not political things. These are where people are trying to apply expertise to say, ‘Is this a way of making education better?’”, a defensive Gates said in an interview with the Washington Post.
“This is about giving money away. This is philanthropy. This is trying to make sure students have the kind of opportunity I had . . . and it’s almost outrageous to say otherwise, in my view,” continued Gates.
Only a self-absorbed billionaire would believe that giving away a whole lot of money to meddle with the American educational system on a grand scale should make him immune to criticism, as though his wealth were a shield. Like a typical leftist, Gates feels that having the best of intentions is all that matters, not the end results.
Gates spent hundreds of millions to get unions, businesses, think tanks and states on board with Common Core standards developed by people who have no business being involved with the education of children. Without Gates’ money Common Core would never have been forced on our nation. While Gates cries piety, children suffer because of his hubris.
Gates thinks he can walk away from his responsibility saying “I only meant the best”, expecting Americans to forgive him. His insensitivity to the harm he has caused is astounding, but I guess it’s not so surprising. Gates is still very rich and his children are safely ensconced away in a private school that isn’t beholden to Common Core, so why should he care that the rest of America is subjected to the deplorable educational standards that he paid for?
Fred Dardick got a BS in Biology at Boston University and MS in Biology at Stanford University before deciding that science bored him. He now runs a staffing company in Chicago where he is much happier now.
You can find Fred’s political commentaries on his website Political Kryptonite.
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