Friday, July 22

How Bill Gates is overhauling High Schools

Over the past few years I have read several articles about the US$30B (that's right, thirty billion) Gates Foundation set up by Bill Gates to fund several key initiatives including improving education and global health. Of course you can do a lot of good with that kind of money and though I have read articles on the foundation it always seem to be more PR oriented than talking about end results. With regard to education Bill is probably best known for his recent speech that contained the quote "America’s high schools are obsolete". However I came across today a very interesting article that specifically talks about how the Foundation is giving out large grants to encourage changes in high schools and uses one high school as a concrete example.

Bill Gates' Guinea Pigs
The Gates Foundation wants to remake American education, and ground zero for their billion-dollar experiment is Mountlake Terrace High School. Results so far? It's been a learning experience.

This notion of creating smaller specialized communities within a high school I think is a very interesting concept (my high school had over 3,000 students) and I wonder what implications it could have for corporate learning and adult education. We keep hearing about how learning is more informal and less formal but high schools struggle with the same sort of challenges we face - high drop out rates, low test scores, one-size-fits-all mentality etc.

How do we balance the notion that for communities "smaller is better" with "the bigger, the better" (see the recent BusinessWeek article The Power Of Us - Mass collaboration on the Internet). How much does it matter anymore what we know versus who we know? Is knowledge disposable? (like water; after learning how to drink you just dip into the well when you need it).

What do you think?
Is the foundation just wasting it's money?
Who cares - this has nothing to do with adult learning!
This is the next generation of workers so we better pay attention

Hit the Comments link below and tell us your thoughts!


Harold Jarche said...

Public education is a huge area for commentary. My own thoughts include this post. I have also collected these interesting commentaries on public education and placed them for public

jay said...

Ben, thanks for bringing up an...perhaps the...important topic. When Gates made his annoucement of the grant, he said the school system was broken beyond repair. I'm glad he's giving it a whirl. It's a tough journey. I'll admit that I threw in the towel: life's too short; corporations I can change but schools are too entrenched.

Rather than criticize Bill on this, I think we ought to give him a helping hand.

Clark Aldrich said...

I agree with Jay that violenty supporting almost every new approach is a philosophy that will serve us all better in the long run.

Clark Aldrich said...

I agree with Jay that violently supporting almost every new approach is a philosophy that will serve us all better in the long run.