Saturday, August 15, 2009

The propaganda of Bill Gates

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has partnered with Viacom to take over several youth-oriented channels on September 8th. The Gates couple has a message they want to send about their newest 5 year initiative to manipulate education to their advantage ("Get Schooled").

The brief video on the Get Schooled website opens with "Your teachers can't teach you."

During the video blurb, a male voice edging on harpy--no doubt selected after hours of test audiences-- ends by announcing "The one thing you'll never learn in school is how important school is."

This is, of course, horse hockey.

The program is funded by the foundation created by a man who did not complete college.

Kelly Clarkson and LeBron James host the program. Both are successful in their respective worlds, both have oodles of fame and money. Neither went to college. Both had full scholarship offers, Kelly for her voice, Lebron for his basketball skills.

I'm not of the school that everyone needs or should go to college, but I find it ironic hypocritical that Bill, Kelly, and LeBron feel qualified to spout that very message.

From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:
Get Schooled is a national platform that connects, inspires and mobilizes people - from policymakers and corporate leaders to communities and kids - to find effective solutions to the problems facing our education system.

I guess Mr. Gates would argue that the show is not hypocritical, because it's not about Kelly or LeBron--it's about their support personnel. Maybe the message is that if you want to touch the mighty, get a degree.

The opening attack on teachers, however, is unconscionable.

Go look at the video. Ask yourself how much is good information, how much is propaganda.

I'm not busting my butt to produce careerists. I am not busting my butt to produce a generation of children who define success by how much they make, or how far they rise in a corporate structure.

I am busting my butt to help produce a thoughtful citizenry that can see beyond the dangerous dogma promoted by Bill Gates and others with far more power than sense.

School's Matter, where I first learned about the above, also reports that the same foundation is gaming the "Race to the Top" grants.
I could have compared Bill Gates to Joseph Goebbels, but that would have been a cheap shot.


Charlie Roy said...

Love your thoughts on the coming video. Perhaps James and Clarkson will announce their decision to leave their careers and return to school.

Our own local community is touting a new charter school focused on creating students ready for careers in science and engineering. Low in behold we are in the shadow of CAT world headquarters. I proposed to an engineer friend the other day that perhaps the end all be all of life is not being an engineer but rather a person who thinks critically, lives humanely, and leads effectively.

He stared at me with utter disbelief that pigeonholing all bright children into engineering fields might just be short sighted.

At least the whole "event" will hopefully bring up the core question of "What are schools for?". Do we teach competition or cooperation?

John Spencer said...

I once heard a speech by Bill Gates where he mentioned the need to teach computer literacy skills. He harped on the importance of teaching kids copyright law in order to develop their voice and help avoid plagiarizing. He awkwardly explained the need to be creative in the "New Economy." (We had to view it in my master's class and I can't seem to find it anywhere)

Last time I checked the entire MS-DOS was plagiarized and stolen. Or perhaps by copyright law, he meant "take something that is essentially open source, find a way to copyright it and then enforce that." Moreover, there is nothing creative in the approach of Microsoft. Show me one program that they actually developed from the outset. Even now, the newest features to Vista looks surprisingly similar to OS X.

Joel said...

Isn't this a bit like judging a book by its cover? I agree that the opening statement was a bit over the top. But we haven't even seen one episode of the program yet. There actually ARE some things that you can't learn in a classroom (but I'm doubtful that those things can be learned by a cable TV show instead).

All I'm saying is, let's not make hasty judgments about things we haven't even seen yet.

Also, most of your arguments are totally ad hominem - attacking the messenger and not the message.

doyle said...

Dear Charlie,

There's a great article in the newest Harper's by Mark Slouka ("Dehumanized: When Math and Science Rule the School")--I don't agree with some of it (what fun would it be if I did?), but it focuses on the value of the humanities, and returns to the question we should be asking, what is the purpose of education?

(My biggest quibble is his conflating profit-driven BigSci Tech with natural science driven by curiosity.)

Keep us posted on your site--it is stunning (to me, anyway) that policy makers assume without discussion that the primary purpose of school is to produce careers, not people.

Dear John,

It's amazing how money and power make nonsense sound sensible.

To be fair to Microsoft, they did come up with the catchy name Windows--isn't it all about presentation?

(Yes, tongue in cheek...)

Dear Joel,

I am careful with my words (despite a wobbly frontal lobe); I re-read what I wrote, and hope you might do the same.

First, my post is specifically about the promo--I'm sure I'll have plenty to say if I see the half-hour show, too, but the promo opens with a cheap shot at teachers, one I believe Bill Gates has internalized. (His TED talk is revealing, where he lumps AIDS, malaria, and teachers.)

Now, go watch the promo--I watched it over and over again to make sure I grasped the meaning. I went through the grammar carefully. The opening does not say that there are some things you cannot learn in a classroom--a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.

It says "Your teachers can't teach you." It is slick, it is effective,it is propaganda, and it is a lie.

I've made no judgment about the actual show.

As for most of my arguments being "totally ad hominem," a couple of things.

1)Ad hominem refers to attacks against a person that do nothing to forward the argument. (There are several types of ad hominem, but that's not relevant now.)

My post is specifically addressing the behavior of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and I lump Bill Gates in with that, not unreasonably, I think, given that the Gates' couple named the foundation after themselves and support it with their money.

2) The last tiny bit in small letters pointing out that I did not compare Gates to Goebbels is, of course, an example of guilt by association, a type of ad hominem attack, so I'll give you that one. I almost did not include it, but now glad I did, since it serves to distinguish my valid points from what could be fairly considered ad hominem.

3) This is another example of ad hominem--you cut your teeth on Microsoft early in your career, therefore you are sticking up for Gates because of your early work with his company: ad hominem circumstantial. I don't believe this, of course, and it would be a bad argument to use even if I did.

At any rate, commenting here on a show that's going to be shown simultaneously on over 20 networks bought by Gates' dollars is like trying to empty the Atlantic with a toy bucket.

Read critically, analyze thoughtfully, and don't kid yourself--a lot of people got paid a lot of money to craft a message.

This old fart is going to challenge nonsense no matter who spews it.