I was reading Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and came across this story…
I happen to have enough money so that if there’s a dime lying on the sidewalk and I’m in a hurry, I won’t bend down to pick it up. But if I see a quarter, I stop and get it. You can do laundry with quarters, you can put them in parking meters, plus they’re big. So, even given my net worth, I’m still picking up quarters — but not dimes. So let’s do a ratio of my net worth and what I don’t pick up to Bill Gates’s net worth and what he won’t pick up. How little would have to be lying in the street for Bill Gates to feel it wasn’t worth bothering to pick up? Forty-five thousand dollars.
My guess is that, with his expertise, popularity, frequent appearances on television and radio, Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s net worth is quite a bit higher than mine. Relative to my net worth, Bill Gates would probably ignore about $100,000.
Ok. Let’s look at another comparison…
Because of his wealth, Bill Gates has influenced American public education quite a bit over the past few years and he continues to influence policy by supporting charter schools, funding projects, and financially supporting different organizations.
But what actual public school experience does Bill Gates have that provides him with the expertise to influence American public education the way he does? Did he attend a public school? Did he teach in a public school? Gates entered a private school at the age of 13 and continued attending private schools till he dropped out of Harvard. If he started kindergarten at age 5 then he would have been in public schools for grades K through 7, a total of 8 years [See Biography.com]. As far as I know, Bill Gates never taught in a public school.
I, on the other hand, attended public schools from Kindergarten through graduate school for a total of 19 years. Following that I taught in four public elementary schools and have volunteered in three for an additional total of 40 years working as an adult in public schools.
So, I have spent 59 years in public schools compared to his 8. I’ve worked with a dozen principals, hundreds of teachers, and taught nearly 1,000 students from grade Kindergarten through university graduate students. I’ve read hundreds of textbooks, books, and journal articles and spent hours studying about teaching and learning and practicing teaching techniques.
Question: Why then, does he have more to say about the education of America’s public school children than I do?
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.