Through the Education Lens

Bill Gates On "The Learning Ethic" & Charter Schools

CJW, August 9, 2010 8:14 PM


"Thank God for charters . . .there's no room for innovation in the
standard (public school education) system."*
- Bill Gates

On-Line Vs. School-Based Learning

By CJ Westerberg

At the recent Techonomy Conference, Bill Gates answered a question about on-line learning and digressed to a host of related topics in this short #1 video below. 

After ruminating about how "K-12 is partly about babysitting the kids," which would eliminate any real threat of on-line learning overshadowing the place-based reality of school during those years, Gates talked of the need and success of the "best charter schools," such as KIPP, specifically in inner-city areas, where the mission is to "completely immerse the kid in the learning ethic".  He elaborated on this "full immersion" model where "80% of their (students') waking hours are devoted to this thing."

While painful to admit, he does have a point about the babysitting aspect for some families . . . and we wholeheartedly lament for more of a learning culture in American society.  The influence of many forces -- most overtly the obsession with high stakes standardized testing and our popular culture -- have sadly contributed to a more cynical view of the love of learning, often replacing it with achievement at any price.  Whether Gates conflates the two, learning and achievement, is subject for another debate, as is the role of philanthropy's influence in education.

Gates further illuminates how technology will bring down the cost of college, especially those not in a position to pay the $50,000. per year bill, which these days, isn't exactly a do-able or necessarily rewarding route for many families.   Proclaiming "college needs to be less place-based" he also qualified the kinds of students who will take to on-line learning:  "The self-motivated learner will be on the Web".   See related The Daily Riff post, "7 Reasons To Say
'No College' To Your Kids

Anti-charter advocates will be all over his comments on this subject, no surprise here.  Our stand on this one is that not all charters are created equal: many initiatives are gateways for positive innovation and brilliance, many are havens for greedy opportunists, and scalability is always an issue.

Video #2 is about for-profit vs. non-profit and we thought the most interesting angle, aside from his "the for-profit world is a mess" money quote,  was his comment about scalability prospect of the 10,000 pilot projects out there - do check it out below:

Update:  * (public school education) added by TDR in quote leading post


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