Kindly Wrong

Earlier this week, I wrote about an interview that Gwen Ifill conducted with Bill and Melinda Gates on the PBS NewsHour. She did another interview the same day with Bill and Melinda Gates at the Gates Foundation Education Forum. At both interviews, Bill and Melinda Gates said much of the same thing with much of the same attitudes.

I would like to share with you three reader/viewer comments about those interviews.

  1. Peter Greene, a teacher from Pennsylvania, wrote a biting satire about the interview at the Gates Foundation. He begins by writing…….

   “It’s been fifteen years since we started trying to beat public education into submission with giant stacks of money, and it turns out that it’s a hell of a lot harder than curing major diseases. Turns out teachers are not nearly as compliant as bacteria. Who knew? ”   Continue reading at his blog called Curmudgucation. 

2. Jackie, an English teacher from Connecticut, commented about the PBS NewsHour interview. She summed up Bill Gates in two words, two words that make me smile about the power of words because her choice of words to describe Bill Gates is so perfect. Jackie wrote:  “Bill Gates seemed kindly wrong. Melinda Gates was flagrantly misinforming and arrogant. Gah.”

3. Steven Singer, another teacher from Pennsylvania,  wrote the following comment about the Bill and Melinda Gates interview at the Gates Foundation:

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

These three responses to the interviews reminded me, once again, why I love being a teacher and a teacher of teachers:  I get to hang around with the best people. Most of the teachers I have worked with for my whole professional life are bright, funny, well-read, caring about kids, sophisticatedly literate, and living on the highest plane of dedication. They are critical thinkers. They love ideas.  They love being engaged with other people, especially the students they teach. They inspire me. They make me walk taller.

Too bad that Bill and Melinda Gates and Arnie Duncan and David Coleman and the president I campaigned for didn’t bring the teachers I know or any of the millions of good teachers around the country into the discussion of what makes a good education. If they had, we would have standards and ways to approach learning that we could speak about with pride.

Instead, we have standards and testing that harm kids. And we have disrespect for who we teachers are and what we do.

At worst, it is a unified attempt to destroy public education by those who can profit from doing so. At best, it is all kindly wrong.

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