The Gates Effect

Marc Parry, Kelly Field, Beckie Supiano, How-to-Geek, Jul 15, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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Interesting long article on the impact of the Gates Foundation on the U.S. higher education system. As the author notes, "The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent $472-million (so far) on higher education," but this money has been directed as much toward lobbying to reshape the foundation of the system (in favour of market-based and compentency-based self-study programs and their ilk) as it is toward developing better systems and technologies. It doesn't help that the Gates think-tank is headed by the reprehensible Kevin Carey, an economist who made a name attacking the professoriate and advocating market-driven reforms.

I'm in the middle here - I agree with the Foundation that the system is broken; education should be more accessible and less expensive. But I don't agree with the orientation toward "a system of education designed for maximum measurability, delivered increasingly through technology, and... narrowly focused on equipping students for short-term employability." I think this is a mistake, and the objective should be to develop capacity rather than credentials. Not that there's any chance I'll ever get any Gates money to develop this alternative. And that's probably the most telling criticism of the Gates effort - the Foundation's steadfast beleif that it has the right answer, and will lobby into submission any other point of view. That approach has never worked.

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