On February 26th, Bill Gates gave a speech to governors, policy makers, and business leaders from across the nation to discuss the problems with education. During that speech, Bill Gates gave a keynote address where he called American public schools "obsolete." This statement made by one of the most powerful and influential men in the world could destroy the education systems of the United States let alone destroy the education systems of the world.
Gates has spent almost a billion dollars influencing American public schools, and while his donations seem admirable on some fronts, especially in an era of increased federal demands coupled with reduced federal spending, his generosity remains problematic. When corporate leaders shape government institutions according to their needs, we move away from democracy and toward corporatism, a relative of, and arguably a indicator to, fascism. While this essay is no place for a complete analysis of American democracy and fascism, I believe a compelling case can be made for keeping corporate leaders out of our classrooms as, despite their "best" intentions, their ideology ultimately undermines the democracy our schools supposedly serve. Corporations are out for corporations, whereas democratic citizens, are out for each other.
While I agree with Gates that there is indeed a crisis in our schools, it should not be confused with any perceived crisis over achievement. Schools in wealthy neighborhood are consistently considered to be able to be better than schools in less wealthy neighborhoods. The real crisis in our schools reflects the most serious crisis in our democracy: diverse peoples with multiple voices and needs have little say in the major decisions shaping their lives. The school is but one place where this is the case.
John Dewey, an American philosopher, defined democracy as a system of associated living where individuals participate in the institutions governing them. (www.Philosophypages.com) In a...
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