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Bill Gates: U.S. Education Harder to Improve Than Infant Mortality Rates (xconomy.com) 252

gthuang88 writes: In a Q&A with Harvard students, Bill Gates said his foundation's work on K-12 education in the U.S. has had little impact, at least compared to its success in reducing infant mortality in developing countries. The challenge with education, he said, is that it is "essentially a social construct" that depends on creating the right culture of accountability and interactions -- and funding, of course. Gates said if he had a magic wand for the U.S., he would fix education, and for the rest of the world, nutrition.

He also said if he were a college student now, he would study artificial intelligence -- and that he was jealous that someone in the room could solve the problem of creating an AI that can read a book and pass an AP exam.

Gates predicted this generation of graduates will "solve" cancer, as well as the pesky problem of infectious diseases.

And even though his foundation's 20-year effort has failed to improve educaion -- "we'll keep going."
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Bill Gates: U.S. Education Harder to Improve Than Infant Mortality Rates

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    He's trying to fix problems 30 years in the making to destroy US Education. Lots of up hill battle and nimbyism fueled ideology.

    • by owlaf ( 5251737 )
      What would you consider the specifics of 30 year in the making to destroy the edu system? What factor do you think the evangelicals co-opting the issue with their solutions of charter schools?
  • IIRC the Netherlands did it but I might be getting my countries wrong. You mandate equal funding for all schools, public and private. Then the rich are forced to properly fund education. Next make public Uni & vocational schools tuition-free. Lastly do a few social programs so kids aren't getting beaten up (literally and figuratively) at home when the economy sucks. Problem solved.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 28, 2018 @01:49PM (#56519879)

      Somewhere in all that, parent participation is left out. Parents are the key to a successful education program. That's why some cultures do better than others.

      • by Dusanyu ( 675778 )
        It's not just parents the students have to want to learn as well. When i was in High school there were many students who were just there because they had to be by law and treated the classroom as party time. End result was Teachers who could not teach because they were handling problem students. and problem students who made the Classroom impossible to study in. One of the big problems we have is youth who think its cool to ignore Rules and authority
        • by lucm ( 889690 )

          When i was in High school there were many students who were just there because they had to be by law and treated the classroom as party time.

          I was one of those. I hated school because it was all about writing useless shit down and memorizing statements that one could not challenge or discuss. It was paradise mostly for girls and pussies who loved highlighting stuff and pleasing teachers, but for anyone who wanted to stand on their own two feet it was a huge waste of time.

          It takes a lot of maturity to truly benefit from a rote learning system, such as going to medical or law school where you can build skills with the proper accumulation of inform

      • Well,
        that could be right today, well in my country, not sure in yours.
        However my education brought me so quickly beyond the knowledge of my parents that besides organizing private lessons there was nothing they could have done for me.
        None of my parents speaks english beyond a beginners level, had physics in school or biology, knows the latin terms for the grammar rules of the german language (and I don't know why german teachers insist or are forced to use latin terms for past, present, future, conjunctive

      • Don't look at China, Japan and India. They have high marks in math and science because it's a cutthroat world over there. It's like the Charter Schools in America. If you're grades drop you get kicked out of school. One of the things folks like to ignore when they point out that test scores in America have been dropping is that we're no longer kicking kids to the curb when they can't hack it.

        Think of it this way: No Shit a pro sports team can beat amateurs. All the amateurs who tried out got kicked off
    • IIRC the Netherlands did it but I might be getting my countries wrong. You mandate equal funding for all schools, public and private. Then the rich are forced to properly fund education. Next make public Uni & vocational schools tuition-free. Lastly do a few social programs so kids aren't getting beaten up (literally and figuratively) at home when the economy sucks. Problem solved.

      Easy to do when your country is roughly the size of Rhode Island. It might also explain why Rhode Island has a stronger education system than say Texas.

      Trigger warning for you Mods out tbere: I have some karma to burn and hold an unpopular warning XD

      This so called "education crisis" in America is really overblown when you start to account for the fact that America is a massive country with a significantly lower amount of people per square KM. It's only common sense to accept that infrastructure in rural reg

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This so called "education crisis" in America is really overblown when you start to account for the fact that America is a massive country with a significantly lower amount of people per square KM. It's only common sense to accept that infrastructure in rural regions will be less. It has been that way since the beginning of time.

        That's actually rather overblown in itself, when in reality, you're just hand-waving how many of the worst schools are in high population density areas, and adding the whole nonsense about "lower people per square kilometer" which is ignoring how the average has no relationship to the actual population distribution.

        So basically you added your own fallacious explanation to allow you to ignore the reality that has been passed around since the 1980s.

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday April 28, 2018 @03:17PM (#56520299)
      U.S.public spending on education is already the second-highest of any OECD country [oecd.org]. The problem isn't funding. The problem is most of the increase in education funding over the last 50 years has gone to ballooning non-teaching administrative staff [heritage.org].

      It's the administrators who control the school budget. Any time education funding is increased, they sop it up by raising their own pay and benefits and hiring more administrators, while passing a token amount down to teachers. Every time education funding is cut, they send it straight to the teachers, so they'll generate news stories about how they had to buy paper and pencils for their students out of their own wallet, to pressure legislators into increasing education funding even more. I even crunched some numbers from the Dept. of Education website a few years ago, and dividing the salary + benefits by the number of teachers yielded an overall average pay for teachers over $100,000/yr. There's no way that's possible. What probably happened is administrators shifted some of their pay and benefits into the teacher category, to try to hide how much of the school budget they were sopping up.

      The problem isn't funding, it's how the funds are spent.
      • I really wish I had mod points for you; this is exactly right.
      • by hwihyw ( 4763935 )

        I love how your post says the problem is not funding, but then blames low teacher pay. Here you go: "The typical elementary school teacher received $75,160 last year, while middle and high school teachers collected slightly less at $75,020." (https://www.dailynews.com/2015/03/21/lausd-educators-typically-earned-75504-last-year/) If you can't teach basic reading/writing/math/history for $75k a year, plus summer off, QUIT. There is no shortage of people who can teach basic skills for $75k. But why quit when y

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        The US education problem would have resulted in the best students globally every decade if the problem was a lack of past funding.
        States, federal gov, cities and public private partnerships have moved vast amounts of new funding into many "poor" US schools every decade.
        The test results remain the same every decade. The students cant pass very average tests. Many students fail even with all the new funding.
        New books, calculators, desktop publishing, arts, music, sport, GUI robot kits. More funding an
      • Mod +6. This is a REAL problem in Arizona. There are literally HUNDREDS of school districts. And every time there's an effort to consolidate districts, there's immediate pushback.

        Examples of administrative stupidity in AZ:

        #1 - In the east valley of the Phoenix metro area, where there used to be an unincorporated town named Higley, Arizona [wikipedia.org]. It has been completely annexed by Gilbert, AZ, so there's nothing really left of Higley except a hot dog business - and the Higley Unified School District. There is ZERO

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Around here at least, the excess administrative cost seems closely tied to the extent that the "achievement gap", the so called difference in educational outcomes between African American students and white students. This has lead to two things.

        One, the increasing expansion of the educational bureaucracy to provide not only education but social welfare as well, providing things like meals, social workers and an increasing the number of special education teachers to deal with the learning deficiencies of th

      • which is why places like Oklahoma are on a 4 day school week. In America we use property taxes to fund individual school districts. We do this so the well to do and wealthy don't have to pay for poor kids to go to school.
    • by hwihyw ( 4763935 )

      And yet the typical High School graduate in the Netherlands will have the same job prospects as the typical High School graduate in the US, which are either working at McDonald's or Starbucks. Which coincidentally are the same job prospects that a High School dropout has. Hmmm. If they only had a college degree......Here you go: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXpwAOHJsxg)

    • That's not really the problem. The per-pupil spending in Chicago, for instance, is 33% higher [illinoisreportcard.com] than the state average, even though it is one of the worst performing systems in the state.

      The real drivers of educational underachievement are social norms and immigration status. The children of low-skill recent immigrants make up the largest single percentage of children in the bottom two quintiles of achievement. Parental education level is the second best proxy of student achievement. This is not the fault of

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Saturday April 28, 2018 @01:51PM (#56519891)
    No, the challenge is that it's much harder to define an objective methodology for measuring the success of education than it is for measuring an infant mortality rate.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      At the top end you are right. But defining success in basic education is easy: can they so simple maths, communicate simple ideas effectively, understand simple concepts.

      There are global standards and yearly reports on this stuff.

    • Just spent a long time looking for "insightful" thoughts on Slashdot. Today I started with the key words like "divide", "conquer", "property", "elite", and some related terms whose relevance I'll clarify in a moment. Then I went for "funny" in the hopes of finding some disguised insights. Then I went for "insightful", where this brief note by JoeyRox was probably the best of the slim pickings. All in all it felt like a colossal waste of time. Pretty sad.

      The fundamental problem with education in America is t

  • The education system is fixated on teaching all students the same curriculum. That will never work; any teacher will tell you that a small percentage of the students are really fast learners, some will get by, and some are just plain dumb. Teachers refer to students among themselves as Track 1, Track 2, and Track 3.

    The way to fix education is to pour as much resource as you have into teaching the Track 1 kids, because they'll get the most out of it. Quit forcing the rest of the class to put up with Track 3

    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 ) on Saturday April 28, 2018 @02:50PM (#56520197)
      So your solution is to give up on 80-90% of the students because they require more help to learn?

      I believe Bill Gates is correct, the root of the problem isn't necessarily funding but changing our societal norms. There are large subsets of Americans that do not value education and they pass those values on to their kids.

      In Japan they have different types of high schools. Some are college prep and some are vocational prep. I do agree that we cannot treat all kids like they are the same but they should all be given the same chance to succeed.
      • by stdarg ( 456557 )

        So your solution is to give up on 80-90% of the students

        Seriously? Spending more on high achieving kids means "giving up" on the rest? Even if we spent 10x as much per student on the top 10%, that doesn't mean there's 0% left for everybody else.

        Instead we're in a situation where a disproportionate amount of resources is spent on the bottom 10%. Even beyond money, just look at time.. ever wonder why kindergarteners these days have hours of homework? It's an attempt to equalize performance between good and bad students. The good students deal with busy work, the b

        • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
          This is a quote from the post I responded to:

          The way to fix education is to pour as much resource as you have into teaching the Track 1 kids,

          What does that sound like to you?

    • The way to fix education is to pour as much resource as you have into teaching the Track 1 kids, because they'll get the most out of it. ( Should I say 'typical american'?)
      Perhaps you should read a book about it?

      We take two similar schools. In school A we make groups of students, to solve a problem/write a paper, the grade of each member of the group will be the grade of the best member of the group.

      In school B we make same sized groups and give them the same problem. However the grade of each group member

  • It's not hard to see that the problem with U.S. education is that it's a vast pool of political patronage. If you are spending 20k+/year on a student it's hard to imagine how they can't get a reasonable education unless the system is being robbed every step of the way.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So you're saying that introducing faux-"free market" fappery is the right solution to this, just like "uncle milty" thinks it's a good idea for bloody everything, even if he had to force-feed it to the population by kicking the system when it's down? Because privatisation works so well for everything, always, ever now and forever? Been in a US hospital lately, or tried to pay for medical insurance?

      Some things just don't privatise well, and you shouldn't even try.

      Which is not to say that the US schooling lan

  • Seems Gates is just now learning this one.

  • K-12 Education has so many variables, not least of which is the state of a developing mind. I get sick of listening to "advice" from parents of kids who sleep through the night from day one, or have a great circle of friends all through their school life, who are un-fazed by deadlines or allergens or self image issues or any of the legion things that can trouble a kid even if they have attentive supportive parents and are in good health. K-12 is a social maelstrom and some of those issues are not eligible t

  • Change culture (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Saturday April 28, 2018 @02:16PM (#56520041)
    if you want to change education. School has minimal impact if the desire is not there.

    I logged onto yahoo yesterday when I'd heard about N Korea and it was buried under a bunch of celebrities that I'd never heard of doing something that I did not care about. I grew up in a poorer area of town and all of my Asian friends did well (very well in fact) in school, everyone else was a mixed bag, but tended to be on the lower side of educational attainment.

  • Now that those who rebelled against education can get encouragement from others over social media, they don't want their kids to get too educated. They fear that they will have less influence over their kids than conniving, and plotting brain washers/educators. And they vote accordingly.
    • Now that those who rebelled against education can get encouragement from others over social media, they don't want their kids to get too educated. They fear that they will have less influence over their kids than conniving, and plotting brain washers/educators. And they vote accordingly.

      Then there are those who believe that education will shake their children's faith and drag them down to hell. Many of these home school, others try to remove "false science" from the curriculum to "protect" their kids and leave other kids open to conversion. Can't have the kids too educated so they reject religion. Have faith not learning. :(

      • I'm not sure, but I suspect lots of parents who home school (including the religious ones) do so for reasons more related to many of the comments in this /. article. Namely, they don't believe the current US school system is teaching well; too tied up with frequent testing, teaching to the test, being PC, Common Core, and so forth. And I have to believe they have a point.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Bad test results in some areas of the USA stayed the same for decades and generations. Before a few big social media brands. Spending did not help get better results over generations.
      Social media did not help make people who cant be educated more "educated"
  • by nehumanuscrede ( 624750 ) on Saturday April 28, 2018 @02:35PM (#56520135)

    It will never happen by anyone who lives in a country like the US. Besides the decline in education, the mindset is wrong.

    Capitalism ensures that an ongoing treatment of a disease is far more profitable than curing one.

    As a result, the Nobel for curing something like Cancer will never have an American name attached to it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Your comment says a lot more about you than it says about reality. From deep in the trenches of cancer research I have to say that I suspect your tinfoil hat is too tight.

    • Is that why cures have been discovered for so many other diseases in the last 100 years? Mostly, if I'm not mistaken, by researchers in capitalist countries. Indeed, if the situation you describe were true, the US would not have done so much in the last 50 years to curb tobacco use: tobacco is an industry, and it was a much larger industry. And treating lung cancer and other diseases that tobacco causes is also an industry.

  • It seems after getting rich on screwing the whole world with an overpriced bad OS and office package, he finally cares about doing at least something good. The US education system is beyond fixing though, it does serve primarily as a mechanism to teach conformity and already pre-select the next prison generation. It is not about qualifying anybody to be a responsible, capable, insightful person. Why do you think the US has to import so many academics? US citizens are not more stupid or more intelligent than

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The funding per student should have fixed that "almost universally really badly educated" generations and decades ago.
      The same areas produce generations of students who cant pass simple tests and keep up with getting average grades.
      The funding problem was cover generations and decades ago.
      More funding just allowed for more books, more calculators, more computers, more networks, more GUI robots.
      The low test results stayed the same over decades of spending and new support per student.
      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Bad education is generally not a problem of funding. Sure, you can cause bad results with really low funding, but the problem in the US is the wrong goals and the wrong mind-set in the people that determine what gets taught and how it is taught, and also, who gets to be a teacher. I mean and education system where, for example, Evolution is taught as "just a theory" or not at all will probably have a _negative_ effect overall, regardless of funding. When you make indoctrination the primary goal and facts be

  • Get rid of loans / cap payback based on imcome with an max time say 10-20 years.

    • Pssssst! Not so loud! That is what scandinavian countries are doing! If you talk about it to loud, they will label you a communist, and your kids wont get proper grades ...

      • by stdarg ( 456557 )

        It's amazing how delusional people are. Yes, communists are in such trouble in academia these days, it's just absolutely dominated by the right wing isn't it? Jesus christ dude.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    IQ is mostly (80% by adulthood) genetic and is not significantly influenced by education[1].

    Expecting education to make someone more intelligent is the same as expecting them to become taller by joining a basketball team.

    Immigration and reproduction in the US are dysgenic for IQ: https://iq-research.info/en/average-iq-by-country

    These are "hate facts" because you don't have the emotional maturity to deal with them.

    [1]https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=iq+genetics&btnG=

  • It's going to be way easier to improve something from "crappy" to "not-so-crappy" as compared to improving something from "all right" to "good."

    • by stdarg ( 456557 )

      Not sure I agree with that, especially with education. Getting "all right" [sic] kids to "good" means focusing on their academics. Getting "crappy" kids to "not-so-crappy" means you're probably dealing with a lot of things outside of academics, because kids are crappy because of home life, poverty, generational lack of education, and so on.

      • Well, by "crappy" I mean more like "cannot afford to go to school and has to work as a subsistence farmer, or will starve" crappy. Not American-crappy, but actually crappy.

  • [I'm Canadian] When I was in university we held a protest asking for more funding for universities. We had 3 politicians come to speak to us. The first two were very sympathetic and said that funding for university was a priority for their parties and if elected they would spend enough to keep tuition the same or lower. The third politician was the former head of my university's student council and a member of the ruling federal party. The protest was in one of the engineering lecture halls where he had
  • The major reason we fail when it comes to education is that we keep trying a one size fits all. This is ridiculous.

    We actually do a pretty good job of teaching certain gifted students. We offer lots of gifted classes.

    But we fail the poor, the homeless, and the less gifted.

    I was horrified by the tale of Kalief Browder. Arrested, held at Rikers for 3 years without trial, he commits suicide. This was a 16 year old kid accused of stealing a bicycle and the disgusting, vile, evil prosecutor asked for bail.

  • Just how much bullshit much people ram down a child's throat? By law, at least 12 years of bullshit.
  • ...because he's an IT billionaire, we're supposed to unquestioningly accept him as an authority in education? Corporations and schools are organisations that are about as different from each other as you can get. Corporate know-how will get you into deep trouble in education.

    There's a long history of education reform and enhancement programmes that have failed. He could've asked about those and why they failed before trying to reinvent the wheel and do it all over again. He could've consulted with the lates

    • Kids in middle-class neighbourhoods get great education, those in poorer ones get terrible education.

      Why is that?

      But that would mean helping poor people which isn't really a thing in US politics.

      Seriously? There are entire constituencies built around government welfare programs that politicians fight over.

      They'd rather let poor people starve and fend for themselves (boot-straps mentality) and see their economy decline because of it:

      Show me where people are staving in this country. And, no, not 'food challenged' or whatever they are calling it when you don't get three meals a day, every day.

      • Show me where people are staving in this country. And, no, not 'food challenged' or whatever they are calling it when you don't get three meals a day, every day.

        Before you dismiss food insecurity, please read this research paper on its "particularly toxic" effects: https://jamanetwork.com/journa... [jamanetwork.com] This should make the connection between poverty and poor academic performance clear enough to you.

        • I'm not dismissing food insecurity, I'm just saying that nobody is 'starving' in this country, as you asserted.
    • 40%, huh? Where did you get that #? I've no doubt that depending on ones definition of "poverty" and how you measure (which are two different things), there's a range of possible numbers. However, the lede in the Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_the_United_States) shows a value of 13.5%, which is miles away from 40%.

      As a wise man once said, If you go carryin' pictures of Chairman Mao, y' ain't gonna make with anyone anyhow. Toning down your claims might get you a larger audien

      • Sorry, incomplete use of statistics and I can see that my statement is false. The 40% figure is a definition of an impoverished neighbourhood, i.e. areas where 40% or more of the population live on less than $25,100 for a family of 4 per year; that's $6,275 per family member per year.

        These are the people who are dragging down the US national average in OECD PISA test scores.

        Don't you think it's interesting that you compared spending on public education to Maoism? Do you consider the UK, France, Germany, Swe

      • Just looked at the 2017 results of OECD PISA test results. China, the origin of Maoism, outperforms the USA in all categories: Maths by 61, Science by 36, & Reading by 20 points.
  • Top problems with US education

    1. Uninvolved/unhelpful parents

    2. Teachers unions

    3. Lack of funding

  • Accountability. That's the central problem. My mom is a teacher and she brings in horror stories of parents refusing to accept that their kids are anything less than perfect.

    Seriously my generation seems to be fucking awful parents.
  • Gates said if he had a magic wand for the U.S., he would fix education, and for the rest of the world, nutrition.

    Well,while there, Gates could also tackle US nutrition problem. It is not the same as developing countries, but it is still the elephant in the room.

  • This is a really obvious comparison. Diseases can be treated and cured because the disease doesn't organize, vote, and get legal representation. Meanwhile, improving education requires one group of people convincing another group of people that they are the problem.

  • But it isn't cheap or politically easy.

    You need trilingualism starting age 3.

    You need many streams and the capacity to not just switch but utilize those to catch up.

    You need high quality school lunches and a total ban on junk food.

    You need the absolute fewest possible number of tests, no homework (since parents cheat) and proper mediation between teaching and practice. Exams should be at least to the much higher British standard, using floating grades (arithmetic mean score is a C).

    You need no fixed reward

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