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The Gates Foundation Engages Its Critics 216

Posted by Soulskill
from the almost-as-easy-as-just-buying-them-out dept.
sam_handelman writes "The Gates Foundation responded to the critiques of its policies (previously discussed here) by inviting its critics at Education Week Teacher to a dialog on its own site. Edweek blogger Anthony Cody answered the challenge. The two sides negotiated a five-part series of post and counterpost, which can be viewed on both sites. Previous exchanges include Cody's question, Can Schools Defeat Poverty by Ignoring It?, and an answer from the Gates Foundation's Global Press Secretary, Chris Williams, Poverty Does Matter — But It Is Not Destiny. The final round of the dialog has begun, and is available for comment on the Gates Foundation's own blog. Slashdot readers may not know about Gates' sponsorship of specific edutech industry partners, such as Rupert Murdoch's Wireless Generation, and Pearson Education. Cody poses tough questions, including, 'Can the Gates Foundation reconsider and reexamine its own underlying assumptions, and change its agenda in response to the consequences we are seeing?' According to the agreement, the Gates Foundation will answer in the coming week, concluding the series."
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The Gates Foundation Engages Its Critics

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  • by 1000101 (584896) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @06:43PM (#41229385)
    F-you. Comments like these are so, so easy from arm-chair quarterbacks who look at the world through a pin-hole lens. The Gates Foundation [] might not donate to causes that you believe in, and it might provide tax shelters for some individuals (based on current U.S. Tax Law I might add), but I'd rather see the kind of work that they do and the funds they provide than nothing at all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @06:47PM (#41229415)

    OF COURSE their corporate investments are larger than their givings. this is how foundations without a steady stream of new income work.
    they do their charitable work using their investment incomes.

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @06:54PM (#41229477)
    Did I read that wrong or did you just day that you became a conservative because you were tired of liberals telling you you were smart? If so, you're still not doing any of your own thinking.
  • Re:charity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @07:00PM (#41229497) Homepage

    Economics scientifically proven!?! HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA that's a knee slapper!

  • Re:charity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @07:05PM (#41229553)

    Not say, a proven scientific theory with decades of incredibly complex research to back it up as a model of how wealth flows and is generated.

    A theory on how wealth flows - interesting. It's an interesting theory - wealth flows up - the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The rich fuck the poor and middle class to get richer. The rich got rich by lieing and cheating. Hard work? Everyone works hard! To get rich you have to fuck thy neighbor - up the ass.

    Is Capitalism evil? Yes. Is it the worst system on Earth? No.

    It's the best economic system we bald apes have. Which is fucking pathetic. After all these centuries, Capitalism is the best we can come up with?

    We humans are stupid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @09:13PM (#41230491)

    Two flaws in your premise. The first is that NYC is firing teachers based of statistically irrelevant results. The truth is that they've finally got an excuse to finally fire misdemeanor level bad teachers. Felonies were, until this, the only way to get rid of a teacher, short of the completely unfair harass until they quit approach.

    The second is that you have proposed no measurable way to determine if the students have learned anything. Standardized tests are bad, in the same way democracies are bad. There just hasn't been any better way demonstrated. I'd love to ditch the stress of standardized testing. However, I've got nothing else to measure, in any objective way, student learning. Essays? Standardized tests that measure vocabulary (parental income) and attention span. Orals? Not at all objective. Give me something to use.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @09:56PM (#41230785) Homepage Journal

    Sometimes central planning works, sometimes it doesn't.

    In medicine, doctors use a lot of drugs, but don't know whether they work, or whether they're actually harmful. The best way to find out is with a randomized, controlled trial. For the most part, these trials are funded by government agencies. They collect the best experts in the country (or the world), figure out how to design and run the trial, and do it. In other words, they create a central authority to collect all the evidence and report their recommendations. They found out that a lot of drugs were actually killing more people than they were helping. []

    Then after they find out that the drug is killing people, there are still a lot of doctors who just want to continue using it, either out of habit, or because they make a lot of money out of it, or because they really believe in it. If you want to stop doctors from prescribing drugs that kill people, the first thing to do is to have a central authority, like a medical association or government agency, recommend against it. When you leave it to doctors to decide by themselves, you're more likely to die. When you leave it to patients to choose for themselves, they really don't know what they're doing. There have been good studies of this. Most patients can't make good medical decisions. Those who do know how to make decisions follow the recommendations of the central authority.

    I'm using medicine as an example because I know more about medicine than education, and because in medicine, where peoples' lives are at stake and they have lots of money, they do very rigorous studies.

    There are good central authorities and bad central authorities. If you have a central authority that makes their decisions on the basis of the scientific evidence, they can do a good job. If you have a central authority that ignores the scientific evidence and follows the politics, as the Obama and GWB administration did with Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, and firing teachers on the basis of test results, they're going to do a bad job (as they did).

    There's no simple way to make policy. You can't just say, "Central authorities are good" or "Central authorities are bad." It depends on whether the central authority is independent enough from politics to collect the best-informed experts and follow their advice.

    A lot of big science came from central authorities and probably wouldn't have been possible without a central authority. The Manhattan Project and NASA were highly centralized.

  • Re:charity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackpaw (240313) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @10:21PM (#41230965)

    Like Communism, its an ideology that isn't practiced in reality anywhere. Mainly because the pure forms of both are unworkable and inhumane.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @11:51PM (#41231471) Homepage Journal

    Let's take your drug idea. Here are a list of questions no central authority can answer:
    Is the rigor that is applied today is too strict or not strict enough?
    What is the optimal amount of rigor to benefit the most people?
    What conditions can be permitted to try riskier drugs with possible benefits?
    Is it more beneficial to have a long life or shorter more active one?

    The problem is all of the answer to these questions depend on the individual.

    If you read the New England Journal of Medicine (which you could call a central authority), you'd see lots of articles answering those very questions. Some of the authors that you can find with a Google search are Marcia Angell and Jeffrey Avorn. For many years, the FDA was under a lot of pressure to approve medical devices. Then they wound up with a few well-publicized disasters, like heart pacemakers where the electric leads got damaged and patients died. Now they're making specific changes in the standards they use for premarket testing. They approved drugs that produced improvements in secondary outcomes (like raising hemoglobin levels), but didn't improve primary outcomes (like death). They found out that more people died with the drug than without it, so the FDA went back to approving drugs based on primary outcomes like death.

    Science can only find out how a treatment works on a population level, not on an individual level. If they randomize 100 people to a drug, and 30 of them die, and 100 people to a placebo, and 10 of them die, I wouldn't want to take that drug under those circumstances.

    You may have a doctor who thinks he's smarter than everybody else in the world, and he believes that he can tell that the drug will work for you. You may have a gypsy fortune teller who believes that the drug will work for you. Go ahead and use it if you insist. The FDA won't stop you.

    Most people would play by the numbers. And the only place to get those numbers is from a central authority.

  • Re:charity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lennier (44736) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @12:38AM (#41231719) Homepage

    So where is the magic land that actually has a capitalistic system?

    Or is capitalism just impossible?

    Capitalism isn't strictly impossible, any more than jumping off a building is impossible. However, like jumping, it is inherently self-contradictory; it can't be sustained infinitely, and the results when the system crashes aren't pretty.

    Unfettered capitalism appears indistinguishable from feudalism: every initially free market rapidly devolves into one or two winners who become the equivalent of landlords. They own the land/property, everyone else becomes a serf who works and pays rent to the property-holder. This feudal situation with "late stage capitalism" of course ends up looking nothing like the early-stage "free market", but therein lies the self-contradiction. Then eventually the landlords overreach and you get a revolution or a disruptive technology, philosophy or outside invader, and this temporarily resets the game pieces. We see this happening in rapid acceleration in the intellectual property landscape in computing, but it looks much like the same forces that have been at work for thousands of years. Marx spotted this pattern but I think he was a bit off in his prescriptions on how to fix it; replacing capital with compulsion by force seems to do bad things for everyone involved.

    It would be nice if there were more intellectual alternatives to the Austrian School than Marxism. I tend towards E F Schumacher, who isn't easy to pigeonhole as "left" or "right".

  • Re:charity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dryeo (100693) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @12:50AM (#41231769)

    Yes, it is what the "free market" leads to. The free market says the most efficient players will do the best and it is always more efficient to pay the government for regulations then to innovate and create a better product.
    You just have to look at the amount of money being spent by "free enterprise" on the current American election with the most successful players spending money on both sides as whoever wins is a win for the capitalist.

  • Re:charity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Artifakt (700173) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @01:18AM (#41231871)

    If you look at what Adam Smith wrote about a Free Market, his theoretical perfect form of "Free" included everybody having full knowledge of the situation when buying or selling. That's a condition that can only be met if someone (like a government) compels full disclosure. Trade Secrets are anti-free market by that definition, as are all sorts of other things like ultra high speed stock trading. As it stands today, most people who claim to be Capitalists think Smith meant 'Free' as in Government keeps out of their way and lets them take advantage of any disparity in knowledge as much as they possibly can, even though that's the exact opposite of what Smith described. So of course, Capitalism is impossible, in the same way as Democracy is impossible if most of the people claiming to want it think it means noble families rule by inherited right, or Anarchy is impossible if most of the people calling themselves Anarchists think it means the police have the right to detain people indefinitely without charges, or similar distortions of what people meant when they coined the words.

    Beyond that, people very soon after Smith published 'The Wealth of nations' were pointing out that, if you can't get a quite perfect free market, but only get pretty close, Smith hadn't proved that that meant you got petty close to the 'Greatest Good for the Greatest Number' or any sort of 'best economic system' in any particular way. Smith's theories left the possibility that 'close to perfectly free' would make a really lousy society and make the vast majority of people miserable. (Sort of like 99% of a perfect vacation flight to Hawaii could mean in the end you had to jump out of the plane 12 miles out to sea and swim for shore with no life vest). So capitalism may be just impossible in another sense unless you can prove that the particular areas where the market is less than perfectly free, even if they seem trivial, don't have a vast negative impact.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam