Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
×
Education

Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him? 363

theodp (442580) writes With his Big History Project, the NY Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin reports that Bill Gates wants to remake the way history is taught (intro video). Last month, the Univ. of California system announced that a version of the Big History Project course could be counted in place of a more traditional World History class, paving the way for the state's 1,300 high schools to offer it. Still, not everyone's keen on the idea. "Is this Bill Gates's history?" asks NYU's Diane Ravitch. "And should it be labeled 'Bill Gates's History'? Because Bill Gates's history would be very different from somebody else's who wasn't worth $50-60 billion." Of the opposition to Gates, Scott L. Thomas of Claremont Graduate University explains, 'Frankly, in the eyes of the critics, he's really not an expert. He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him?

Comments Filter:
  • In Soviet USA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MarcosYXY ( 3815135 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @08:39AM (#47840411)

    Oligarchs make history

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @08:44AM (#47840417)

    I think his "common core" plan has largely backfired because it was rolled out on a federal level and states were pretty much strong armed into it.

    I'd be more comfortable with these changes if they were OFFERED and not at gun point.

    Our education system could be improved in a lot of ways. But those improvements should be optional to the education systems and not compelled.

    Here some people will say "well we didn't force them to do the other thing." but that's often not true because they're often offered a lot of money to adopt new programs. the money they're offered comes from federal coffers. The money in federal coffers comes from everyone. So basically you lose money if you don't sign onto the program because the government will then take money from you and give it to someone else. The only way to get your money back is to adopt the program.

    So that's an issue. These cash payouts to states and cities for adopting federal programs needs to stop unless states and cities that do not adopt programs get a relative tax decrease. Such that if a given state didn't sign onto these things they didn't pay for them.

    Absent that they're being compelled and I do have a problem with that.

    • "Improvements" should be optional. Improvements should not be. The question is, how do we distinguish the former from the latter?
    • by dfenstrate ( 202098 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `etartsnefd'> on Saturday September 06, 2014 @09:14AM (#47840507)
      I really think school districts ought to start performing audits of the expenses associated with receiving federal money. Some districts have found, for example, that if they opt out of the federal school lunch guidelines championed by the first lady, the programs are quickly back in the black. Less wasted food, more purchases, and no time spent verifying compliance for grant money. The federal funds were insufficient to cover the losses associated with the mandates that came with the money.

      I suspect a lot of federal school mandates would end up the same way. Ditching federal money might allow for a number of compliance administrators to be cut from a school district, and give teachers more time to do their jobs.

      • I recently read a plan to fix this problem with a multi-step process:

        1) unify all the accounting for the funds given to the various state governments.
        2) give the money to the states as a single lump sum instead of as multiple sundry payments
        3) over a period of ~7 years, scale back the money given to the states to $0, giving them time to replace the money with their own taxes.
    • by supercrisp ( 936036 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @09:18AM (#47840521)
      Common Core as a set of curricular guidelines isn't bad at all. The problems I see are: 1), the "coercion" -- cash-strapped districts really do have to jump at any money, so they rush into implementation; 2) more high-stakes standardized testing; that shit has already dominated and f*cked-up education; 3) corporate domination; Pearson and others stand to make fat, fat stacks of cash on the tests and the materials, and that's why they all poured money into the campaigns. I've seen first-hand what the Person vertically-integrated education ecosystem is like. They sell you shit in development, shit that doesn't work, and shit that's just plain shit. I hate them. NB: college professor at an institution that had a contract to use only Pearson; spouse is in instructional tech and shares my opinion. The best thing we could do is hire more teachers, pay them a little better, and start doing something to reduce the stranglehold that corporations like Pearson have on the education system. Stuff like Kahn Academy is fine, but I don't think online education gives students what they need, which is contact with an educated, adult mentor/teacher. (And, yeah, I know, a lot of teachers we have now don't fit that bill, but that's what young people need.)
      • It is what some young people need, but it's very very expensive. If you teach 8 kids, the maximum (let's guess) you could actually give tutorial - mentor attention to over the course of 8 hours, how much does each family need to pony up to keep YOU happy?

        $9,000, not including any benefits, workman's comp, administrative overhead, just here's 9k cash in your hand and thanks for teaching my kid.

        Education is a loss leader for people who give it, that is, the state, the taxpayer. People just have to accept the

    • Absent that they're being compelled and I do have a problem with that.

      I do. 'Big History', to begin with, is so ugly a term and reminds one so much of Novlang that it is scary. World History is fine with me, or is too 'liberal'?

      Otherwise, your post is insightful. You point out how these ugly things are forced upon unwilling public institutions.

      • I do. 'Big History', to begin with, is so ugly a term

        Part of the problem, I think, is that this isn't really "history" in the traditional sense (at least not as the word was understood before the past few decades or so). I'm NOT saying it shouldn't be taught in schools, mind you, but this whole project is based somewhat on a false premise.

        "History," as the term traditionally means, has to do with a "story" (it's in the word, and in fact "history" and "story" used to basically mean the same thing in early English). That is, it's a narrative based on human

        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          The big problem with this is that it's spoon feeding people a narrative that they should be able to come up with by themselves. Students should be able to make these connections on their own. For that they need all of the relevant source material. Something like this is no substitute for the courses it seems to displace.

          As something extra, it's a nice idea for those with added interest. However, public schools have enough of a problem just handling the basics. Expecting them to take on something extra just

    • Common core was adopted at the state level. Your history is backwards.

    • by silfen ( 3720385 )

      Our education system could be improved in a lot of ways. But those improvements should be optional to the education systems and not compelled.

      Sure, after we get school choice and school vouchers that let parents take their kids to the school of their choice, a school that teaches their kids the way the parents like it, not the way politicians or teachers' unions want it.

      • by rbrander ( 73222 )

        Please don't apply that belief to ASTM standards for wiring. Poor states would have 50 house fires per day.

        It's funny, nobody suggests applying "local standards" to other professions. Yes, each state may have their own certification for accountants and engineers and so on, but the *standards and practices* are much more widespread. Nobody shops around for the doctor that meets local standards for appendectomies.

        I don't crap on people who believe this stuff, but MY private belief is that they want to en

        • by silfen ( 3720385 )

          Please don't apply that belief to ASTM standards for wiring. Poor states would have 50 house fires per day. It's funny, nobody suggests applying "local standards" to other professions.

          What are you talking about? Lots of people want mandatory building codes abolished. Nevertheless, there is an essential difference between building codes and history: at least for building codes, you can objectively determine what effects they have (at least in principle); for interpretations of history, you cannot.

          I don't cr

        • by silfen ( 3720385 )

          You know re-reading your response, I have to say: you really have to be a f*cking partisan moron to accuse people who favor school choice and school vouchers of "want[ing] to ensure that money from wealthier school districts never leaks over into poorer ones". Really, you deserve to be "crapped upon", using your words.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      It's time for an end to one-size-fits-all government education schemes.

    • Why do you have such a problem with the state compelling you to pay for something you might not like? That's the entire basis of the tax system. From what you've written it seems to follow that you're against all taxes.
    • I think his "common core" plan has largely backfired because it was rolled out on a federal level and states were pretty much strong armed into it.

      According to this article, he's been working with individual schools to help (convince) them to adopt the program, working from the grassroots up. So I guess he learned something from it.

      Frankly, after reading the article I'm surprised it has found any traction at all, because the way he wants history portrayed is so 'atheist', starting with the big bang, that I can't see the federal government ever trying to push it. There would be a huge backlash.

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      One problem with education is that is it 'consensual' For instance, no child left behind set standards, but then left the states to meet those standard. While some good was done with the non-consual bits, i.e. well qualified teachers, hundreds of billions of local tax dollars were wasted paying testing companies and writing curriculum that to some extent were significant duplications of effort.

      What needs to be left to local authorities, even down to the teacher, is the choice of how to teach material an

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 06, 2014 @08:44AM (#47840421)

    The first computers in the world were invented by Microsoft in 1981 to run the revolutionary MS-DOS operating system, before which humanity had no computers at all. In 1985 Microsoft invented the graphical user interface and the mouse. Microsoft Windows was the most secure operating system in the world, and also the easiest to use with the introduction of the revolutionary Microsoft Bob.

    Microsoft would go on to invent the Internet, graciously allowing rival companies to establish a presence on Microsoft's new network. Microsoft created the most loved user interface in the world with the exciting new Windows 8 Aero.

    You can purchase exciting new Microsoft products at the following participating retailers near you!

    • You misspelled 'Apple' in above paragraph.

      I am hoping, though, based on the rising buzz, that I've mentioned 'Apple' here for the last time they'll be mentioned on Slashdot for a week. There's a whole shitsludge avalanche of Apple hype sliding out this coming week that badly needs to be contained.

    • The first computers in the world were invented by Microsoft in 1981 to run the revolutionary MSDOS operating system, before which humanity had no computers at all.

      MS DOS was revolutionary because it sold to all comers at 1/5 the list price of CP/M 86.

      The PC built from modular components sold at mass market prices and which snap into place like LEGO blocks begins here.

      -----

      IBM introduced the IBM Personal Computer in 1981 and followed it with increasingly capable models: the XT in 1983 and the AT in 1984. The success of these computers cut deeply into the market for S-100 bus products.
      As the IBM PC products captured the low-end of the market, S-100 machines moved up-s

  • by emgarf ( 727623 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @08:44AM (#47840425)
    No, he's just somebody that at least occasionally tries to improve the world instead of just commenting on other people's efforts.
    • by suss ( 158993 )

      Mao thought he was improving the world and so were a lot of other people...

      • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
        Mao made the calls himself, with a complete lack of understanding of what the fuck he was doing. Gates largely funds projects he finds interesting; he doesn't have absolute control over the entire country's government and he doesn't actually run the stuff he doesn't understand.
      • by Nimey ( 114278 )

        Know who else thought he was improving the world? HITLER.

        Good trolls are less obvious. Try harder.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Kohath ( 38547 )

      He should stick to curing diseases like malaria. Schools are too mixed up with politics, money, and government control of peoples' lives.

      If he wants to help with education, he should fund scholarships so more parents could send their kids to a school of their choice.

    • by snsh ( 968808 )

      When it comes to history, experts are just people convinced their version of the facts is better than everyone else's versions.

  • Because Bill Gates's history would be very different from somebody else's who wasn't worth $50-60 billion.

    Huh? Why? Is this the "there are two Americas" crap again? Why would "his" history of America be different from that of any of the rest of us?

    "He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it."

    Ok, so he did not even devise the course himself — he just liked what he saw. I don't particularly like the guy — and do remember his c

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So why is his wealth being held against him?

      Because he chose to amass it, he chose the methods he used to amass it, he chose to keep much of it for himself, and he chooses how to invest the remainder.

      A person can be judged by their actions, you know. And the judgment will affect the context in which further actions by that person should be judged. Why don't we let foxes into hen-houses?

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        Because he chose to amass it

        Everybody "chooses" it — few people succeed.

        the methods he used to amass it

        His critics are perfectly ignorant of the anti-competitive practices in Microsoft's past. They would've been just as loud against Warren Buffet or, dare I mention their names, the Koch brothers.

        Why don't we let foxes into hen-houses?

        You are implying, Bill Gates is trying to rewrite history of the world somehow. How would he rewrite it, and what evidence to have of his plans to do it? According to wha

    • From TFA:

      Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University who has been a vocal critic of Gates, put even it more starkly: âoeWhen I think about history, I think about different perspectives, clashing points of view. I wonder how Bill Gates would treat the robber barons. I wonder how Bill Gates would deal with issues of extremes of wealth and poverty.â (The Big History Project doesnâ(TM)t mention robber barons, but it does briefly address unequal distribution of resources.) Ravitch continued: âoeIt begins to be a question of: Is this Bill Gatesâ(TM)s history? And should it be labeled âBill Gatesâ(TM)s Historyâ(TM)? Because Bill Gatesâ(TM)s history would be very different from somebody elseâ(TM)s who wasnâ(TM)t worth $50-60 billion.â (Gatesâ(TM)s estimated net worth is approximately $80 billion.)

      It's a case of the "Slashdot approach" to topic being discussed.
      Not reading TFA (TFC? TFH?) and complaining about something which may or may not be there, based on personal prejudice.

      I.e. Questioning how will "Gates History", which it is not, deal with sensitive issues regarding money and wealth acquisition, implying a conflict of interest.
      For no reason other than Bill Gates' involvement with the course.
      Because Bill Gates is apparently Scrooge McDuck even in the minds of highly educated people like

  • If not, then why would it matter that a rich guy decides to teach people history?
    • Jealousy trumps the concept of right and wrong.
      • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @10:20AM (#47840801)

        Nothing more so then in teaching history.

        When I was 15 I moved from one country to another in Europe with (almost obviously) overlapping history. It amazed me how differently the outcome of wars would be explained, depending on what side they wanted to let me learn.

        Even though all facts were correct, the emphesis on what happend was greatly different. Often it was more about battles and not so much wars.

        What it learned me was that I should ALWAYS doubt what is being said and get information from at least both sides.

        So much so that I wonder if the story of LotR is not so much that the winners wanted segregation (of hobbits, elves and other races) where the losers were fighting for unity and equality and were just represented in an evil way by the winners.

    • I watched the Big History TV series and was unimpressed. They attempt to make connections between items spanning billions of years eg. Kennedy was killed by a bullet, lead is formed in supernovas. It feels as if the episodes suffer from ADD. Not enough time is spent on a single subject.

      What exactly is wrong with the way history is teached? Or is old Bill trying to rewrite a few bits to fit his vision?

      • What exactly is wrong with the way history is teached?

        It is an attempt to use history as a narrative glue and a conduit for connection of other subjects taught in school, instead of teaching math and physics and chemistry and biology and languages as if there is no interconnection.
        Same goes for world cultures, geography, how technology and social trends influenced history etc.

        Hopefully, that would lead to kids coming out of high school or even elementary school realizing that global cultures are all part of a greater human culture.
        And that those same rules tha

        • by silfen ( 3720385 )

          how technology and social trends influenced history etc.

          Trouble is that nobody has valid scientific theories of "how technology and social trends influenced history"; all we have is ideologically and politically motivated storytelling.

          And that those same rules that work in elementary sciences also apply to EVERYTHING ELSE.

          Unfortunately, they don't. In the elementary sciences, you can verify the truth of many statements by direct, independent experimentation. You can't do that in history or many other fields

          • Trouble is that nobody has valid scientific theories of "how technology and social trends influenced history"

            No crusades or Jihad in your version of history?
            No millions dead due to brand spanking new killing toys of WWI and WWII?
            No Holocaust?
            How about agriculture, cities, steel, bronze, stone? None of that influenced history?
            Industrial revolution had no effect on history?
            How about the age of exploration? That needed some significant tech advancements to work as it did?
            Colonization? Nope?
            How about language? That's a big one among the techs. Shaped the fuck out of history. Thousands died even in the Bible (both tech

            • by silfen ( 3720385 )

              Are you so stupid that you don't understand the difference between statements of the form "millions of people died" and "millions of people died because of imperialism/fascism/communism/monarchy/..."?

              Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens

              Yes, which is why one shouldn't have debates with people like you.

    • If you made computer science a mandatory subject, and then required that the students be taught to type in, line-by-line, the source code for libreoffice, then what was taught in the course would not be incorrect. It wouldn't be computer science either.

      The counterargument here is that "Big HIstory" focuses on a grand narrative without approaching the methodologies used to construct such narratives. Historians try to teach methods, and specifically ways to approach texts and to construct arguments from them
      • In which parallel universe is it that PhDs bother with teaching at the high school level?

        • by DingerX ( 847589 )
          Uhh... Europe? I know quite a few humanities Ph.D.s who are teaching in high schools out here.

          Seriously, when I was in a public HS, we had high school teachers with Ph.D.s, in the STEM classes (well, okay, not the TE part). In the humanities, we had people with M.S. in education, and no clue what's going on. You want to know why history sucks in High School? The teachers were those students who got straight Cs in history at the university and an education degree.
  • Looking at the website this seems more like a product Gates should be selling rather than something useful for the classroom.

  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @09:20AM (#47840531)

    'Frankly, in the eyes of the critics, he's really not an expert. He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it."

    That is exactly and precisely why it is not a good idea to let billionaires run your country. Having had dealings with billionaires, I can also say that he left out one thing, that such a person is almost inevitably going to be surrounded by a bunch of people (including in the press) who think that any idea he has is worthy of adulation.

  • Big History is not really a branch of History, it's its own subject, which is interesting and rich and a worthwhile contribution to someone's education. Generally it studies trends, whether cosmological, evolutionary, economic, or political, that span times greater than a human lifespan. It's not the usual meaning of history, and it can't replace history.

    It's actually a good way to teach science, because a lot of science gets put into a historical narrative and tied to the real world.

  • Does Bill Gates have any credentials to show he is an expert in the field of teaching history?

  • Hell ya (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Saturday September 06, 2014 @09:30AM (#47840571)
    Anything is better than the way I was taught history. In high school it was nothing but names and dates. No context, no motivation, nothing.

    About 30 years ago there was a show called Our World on TV. It gave context, explained motivations, and in general made history pretty damned interesting. Too bad the show only lasted 1 season.

    Then I had a college history class. Yep, back to names and dates and not much else.

    History can be interesting, the way it's taught in school is a sham.
    • I think you are on to something. There may be no scientific evidence that Big History is any better, but there is no scientific basis to the current teaching of history, either.

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      History can be interesting, the way it's taught in [my] school is a sham.

      FTFY.

      I had a great history teacher, who taught us about the difference between cause and occasion, about webs of alliances and interdependences and how they create unintended consequences, and who made us understand why names and dates are important (to figure out the proper order of things and the connections between the people responsible).

      If your teacher sucked, don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

      And if you want to refresh, find "Crash Course World History" on YouTube.

  • As I understand it, he's a fan of tying different disciplines together into one interconnected timeline (astronomy, geology, paleontology, anthropology, etc). It doesn't appear that he wants to bias the content so much as come up with a better/more interesting way of presenting it. Seems like a worthwhile goal to me.
  • If it's taught in the style of Connections, I'm all for it. I absolutely loathed traditional history teaching methods until I saw that series.
    If it's revisionist, then screw that noise.

  • And by "the 1%" I mean academics like Diane Ravitch. Not only are academics like that among the wealthy and powerful in this country, far removed from the concerns of the ordinary citizens, they still have a chip on their shoulder because they look at the top 0.001% and think that they are being treated unfairly.

    As for Gates, he isn't in the 1%, he is in a class of its own. He has so much money and power that I doubt he is motivated by acquiring more. His history is unlikely going to be very good, but it's

    • The man has more money than he can spend, ever. Triple the number of UC's, and UofC's in California. More good would come from that than any lesson his minons could ever cut and paste together.
    • The powerful (winners) have been writing the mainstream history for a long time. In addition history is hardly even taught anymore; and the bit that is has been done poorly. They take great people like MLK and turn them into a phrase and an icon while it seems to be purposely removing the aspects that made them truly great. Summation is necessary, but it has been harmful either by accident or by intent - the academics seem to do a better job so one wonders how that gets lost on the mainstream education of

      • by silfen ( 3720385 )

        The powerful (winners) have been writing the mainstream history for a long time

        True, if by "winners" you mean the large number of left-leaning academics and teachers; people who use education as a propaganda tool in order to increase their status and train students to advance their political objectives. They are complemented by a smaller contingent of right wing and Christian groups that are doing the same thing with a slightly different ideological bend, often in their own private schools.

        From what you say

      • by silfen ( 3720385 )

        By the way, the books historyasaweapon.com suggests are about as propagandistic, misleading, and dishonest as they come, starting with "A People's History Of The United States by Howard Zinn. Zinn's book, incidentally, is widely read in schools today. You might as well be teaching young earth creationism, it's about as valid.

  • Well, lets look back. "Feed the Poor in Africa," with corn you can only get from Monsanto." Hell of a lesson.
  • I watched the video and I learned:

    1. Today we have roads
    2. In 1995 we had electronics
    3. in 1985 we had pedophiles
    4. in 1975 we had the waffle house.

    In short; the world hasn't improved much since 1975.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"

Working...