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Bill Gates Tries to Fashion Teacher Support for His Beloved Common Core

March 14, 2014


One would think that if teachers supported the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), then teachers would take the initiative to rally around said CCSS.

Not so. It seems that we need Bill Gates to tell us that we need CCSS. He did so today (Friday, March 14, 2014), in Washington, DC:

Bill Gates is rallying teachers to support an embattled cause, the Common Core State Standards.

Got that? Teachers support CCSS to such a degree that they need Bill to tell them to do so.

It seems that Gates has once again bought himself an audience; he offered his CCSS-indulging speech to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) at its Teaching and Learning conference.

Why is Gates, a non-teacher, offering his non-expertise to an audience of nationally-certified teachers?

Consolation prize for millions donated.

Gates has paid NBPTS $5 million in the form of two grants, one in 2010, and one in 2013:

Date: May 2010 
Purpose: to score Measures of Effective Teaching videos, enhance the Take One materials and processes and design, and assess the efficacy of those materials as a whole-school approach to improving teacher effectiveness 
Amount: $1,195,639 

Date: July 2013 
Purpose: to support revision of the National Board certification process 
Amount: $3,743,337  

Gates is not a teacher and has never been a teacher, yet he feels he is qualified to make untested judgments about a set of inflexible, corporate- and federal-endorsed “standards” that currently have legislative bodies nationwide in upheaval.

The sadder indictment comes against NBPTS, who allowed Gates this opportunity to showcase his ignorance.

My sincere thanks to education organizations that have not taken Gates money. Thank you for not selling your conference speaking opportunities to well-funded emptiness.

Gates is a billionaire, so he can buy this NBPTS platform in order to push the CCSS that he has spent the last several years purchasing.

And why do we need CCSS, according to Gates?

As Joy Resmovits of Huffington Post  writes,

[Gates] charged that the controversy around the Core “comes from people who want to stop the standards, which would send us back to what we had before.” [Emphasis added.]

Where “were we before,” Bill?

I’ll tell you where I was– you know, since I’m a teacher and you are not. I was allowed to use standards as flexible guidelines, to adjust them to serve my students– based upon my professional judgment.

That’s where I “was,” Bill. And that is where I must now defend remaining.

Standards are secondary to students. Students (and teachers) should not be forced to fit the mold of inflexible standards.

Forcing students and teachers to contort themselves to suit a set of rigid standards is not “academic rigor.” It is academic abuse.

Going back “to what I had” is a welcome idea, for what I “had” did not preclude my individual expertise as a professional capable of making sound judgments in regard to my own students.

But Bill has his own ideas.

Keep in mind that this is the same very rich guy who has been playing with American education for years as though its his own personal toy and who, without thought for the thousands of lives he has disturbed, is able to casually toss out in a September 2013 Harvard University interview,

“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”

According to Resmovits, Gates continues his March 14 speech:

Gates argued that America’s education system currently does not prepare students adequately for college, because it’s not asking enough of them. So the transition to the new standards is hard because it has to be, he said, and asked teachers to explain the standards to local families.

First off, “not preparing students for college” presumes that the school exerts overriding control over students and should guarantee that all are processed for the Gates-determined “college ideal.”

Certainly preparation “for college” presumes college completion.

After all, isn’t “college completion” the ultimate mark of “a system’s adequately preparing students for college”?

I find it an incredible irony that Gates himself is a college dropout, and that some spreadsheet could include his name on a list of “failure to complete.”

In his narrow logic, Gates insists that the “problem” is to “ask more of students,” and that this can be accomplished via CCSS.

In Gates’ skewed estimation, CCSS is magic. It will solve the Gates-perceived education problems– unless it doesn’t– and this we “probably won’t know for a decade.”

But we “know” now because Gates says so:

Consistency of the Common Core across states, Gates argued, is a key ingredient in its potential success. Under older standards, he said, a student from Kentucky didn’t have to know the quadratic formula, but a neighbor in Tennessee did. 

I love the reference to “old standards.” Even the pro-privatizing Fordham Institute did not rate CCSS as better than many states’ “old standards.” However, like Gates, Fordham pushes CCSS.

If “consistency” were necessary for educational success, then every elite private school would conform to CCSS. However, these schools are above being asked. No one expects the elite to bow to CCSS. On the contrary, CCSS is for the masses.

Mass production of pseudo-education.

Sci-fi “sameness.”

The bottom line is that no proponent of CCSS has any solid proof of its efficacy, Gates and his billions included. Yet despite having no “consistent” (rigid) educational standards across its 50 states, the United States somehow became a world power and has managed to produce scores of inventions now taken for granted and often considered indispensable to everyday functioning.

Bill, I realize that CCSS is your current “educational cause” and that you are used to having your way via your purchasing power. However, you’re going to lose this one.

The pushback from bottom-up defies both your billions and the weight of your overpriced will.

Perhaps you ought to take up reforming the so-called reformers. Hold them accountable to document the successes they so loudly declare. Hold them accountable for the damage their capricious decisions cause.

Now there’s an arena ripe for some standards.





  1. Well said, Mercedes!

  2. Dr. Rich Swier permalink

    Great. Posted:


  3. Laura h. Chapman permalink

    Anita, You are correct, and I judge that you have been around long enough to see the trail. Of course, outcome-based education is now being called “competency-based” education and it is being promoted by enthusiasts who claim that on-line courses allow students to proceed at their own pace and so on. KnowledgeWorks, one of Ohio;s largest foundation is part of a large network that includes Jeb Bush–and more building this band wagen, Also the longstanding tension between college prep and vocational education was supposed to be resolved by the CCSS by making one-size-fits-all requirements in the 3R’s with a dash of attention to literacy in other subjects beginning in grade 6. The research cited in support of these claims is paper thin, not peer-reviewed, and based largely on Achieve’s America Diploma Project which focussed only on “more rigorous: high school coursework, reduced electives, etc. Interviews with CEOs of a narrow range of businesses in about six states were used to “justify” the claim that there is no difference between college-prep and career readiness. For information about Achieve’s Research see

  4. Last 5 paragraphs among your best. Here’s to the big money losing its attempt to buy US education policy. (And state legislatures, and judicial elections, and . . .)

  5. Hannah permalink

    What I find disturbing about so much of the “standards” is that it ignores not just individual differences, but the free will of people to determine their path in life. I agree that there are certain competancies that need to be mastered for independent living (life skills curriculum), but the quadratic formula??? The only time I’ve ever used it is teaching it to students who need to pass their algebra class to graduate. I’ve got a Master’s degree, and have not needed it outside of teaching. There are many folks I know who are highly educated, and have no use for the quadratic formula. Many many standards are like that… unnecessary to living in society. Do some people need this knowledge? Sure. Should all children have the opportunity to learn it? Yes. Should all kids HAVE to learn it to graduate? Emphatic NO!!!!

    • Harlan Underhill permalink

      Or, CAN all students even learn the quadratic formula? If it were desirabe that all students should know the quadratic formula, could it be taught to everyone? If so, what is the best means to that end? Perhaps we should even ask WHY is it desirable (if it is) for anyone to know the Quadratic formula?

      What do you think?c

  6. Bill Gates’ Common Core comparison to electric plugs as “motivation” brings to mind the Milgram obedience experiment that has become the most famous study in psychology’s history. There is a relationship. Today, the Common Core “obedience” from it’s supporters and promoters seems to come from people who worship Bill Gates as an “authority”. Like the Milgram experiment, the “voice of authority” can lead people to follow orders and perform in ways that goes against their own nature, even to commit cruel acts on others without conscience awareness of guilt or shame.

    Bill Gates may be one of the best authorities on technology, but he is not an authority on child development, education, or psychology. In fact, my observation as an autism specialist is that Bill Gates has classic “Asperger” (High Functioning Autism). This is not to diminish the value of people with autistic qualities, including myself, but it can present some deficits in specific areas of affective functioning, and it does cause certain limitations. It may be this deficit that does not allow him to recognize the psychological distress to children caused by the CCE (Common Core Environment). It may also be the deficit that does not allow him to recognize his own limitations.

    There are two conditions that determine psychological abuse: Entrapment & Control.
    Both of those conditions are in place in the CCE. Children are forced to attend school, therefore they are trapped with no escape. While in that environment, they are being controlled with a rigid schedule with a domineering teacher using uninspiring, mind numbing, low level, rote memory, test drill that is like torture. They have little opportunity for creative self directed learning, cooperative learning, or imaginative self expression. This chronic stress and feelings of “never fully measuring up” in the CCE is high risk for psychological damage. It is a dismal “work” environment that is joy-less, comfort-less and heart-less. It is this same grim social denial that led to childen working in factories of New England in the 1800’s.

    Sitting in a desk for seven hours without healthy physical activity and without ongoing social emotional interactions with peers causes a child to feel isolated and “punished”. The CCE is a “bullying” environment that is causing children to have chronic feelings of “victimization” that are unrecognized and repressed. Young children in this environment are learning to repress their own needs and emotions and perform according to what their teacher/parent wants. A child’s greatest fear is disappointing parents or teachers.

    This “self denial” and conditioning of children to repress their emotions is the beginning of the “faux front” that will develop into a personality disorder. The child will build an internal reservoir of repressed feelings of victimization – shame, anger, guilt, helplessness, while outwardly performing well intellectually for the teachers and parents. A child in the CCE will become desensitized and emotionally flat. After some time, it can be observed that they have lost their spirit when they begin to function more robotic. At that point, they have lost imagination, spontaneity, and humor. Their behavior will become more withdrawn or irritable, bored, sad, cry easily, sleep or eating disorders, or impulsive aggression. At the time these symptoms can be recognized, the damage is already done. They are “burned out” and depressed. Without intervention, this chronic traumatic stress will manifest in young adulthood as self destructive or risk taking behaviors that will negatively impact their future and well being. Their intellect may be high from the CCE, but their social/emotional development will suffer severely.

    Intellectual development (cognitive) and Emotional development (affective) do not run on the same track. In fact, they develop in different stages at different times, and not always at the same pace with each child. It is “imagination” that uses elements of each, cognitive and affective, when making decisions and perceiving one’s world. It is the emotional development that maintains a person’s “morality”, in addition to their ability for empathy or guilt, and other feelings/emotions. When imagination (spirit) goes away, there can be decisions made with intellect, but without connections to affect: guilt or shame.

    When young children are “captive” in an authoritarian school environment that focuses exclusively on “performance” (reward/punishment), their intellectual development will advance, but their social/emotional development will not. Without a “safe” environment that supports healthy social and emotional development from positive behavior modeling, and when forced to function in a “threatening” demanding environment, children’s social/emotional development will not progress but will be stunted. If the insecurity from a “threatening” environment becomes chronic, a child’s emotional development will start to regress (going back to a safer place in early childhood). This delayed emotional development and/or emotional regression will become “hard wired” into a young child’s personality. This invalidating environment in public schools has intensified to what we have today as the most punitive environment in history, and we see increasing evidence in the general population of adults who cannot think for themselves, are slow to mature, and often behave like “children”.

    The invalidating school environment has increasingly contributed to the problem that has become a psychological plague in American society: “covert” Narcissistic Personality Disorder. We have many highly functioning intellectual professionals (the best and the brightest) but with immature social/emotional development, which includes a deficit of morals. (think Enron, Wall Street, Politicians, Billionaires, etc). They usually perform well in their work, but their personal lives often reflect their emotional deficits via relationships of codependency. Their codependency is often “covert”, since it mostly impacts their personal relationships with people or “things”, and usually reflects an addiction to either substances (alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, etc), or to work, or to their mates or romantic interests.

    The punitive environment in elementary schools is causing many children to have symptoms of High Functioning Autism. This has been a mystery. Mental health professionals all over the country are focusing on the soaring increase in autism, and the co-occurring disorders of anxiety and depression. The early signs of regression and emotional dysregulation that were previously believed to be High Functioning Autism, are now being recognized by more mental health professionals as signs of “traumatic stress”. Both trauma and High Functioning Autism have similar symptoms, primarily regression, dissociation, and constriction. CCE has created an environment of traumatic stress for many children, especially the sensitive children who are often gifted and prone to high spatial intelligence. Their symptoms often include ADHD in addition to the other signs of anxiety and depression. These children, who are most often the creators, inventors, and artists, are the most damaged in the CCE. Like the reference to Einstein’s quote: These children are “fish” who are being measured on how well they can climb a tree.

    It is my observation as an educator and mental health professional, that the current school CCE is causing psychological damage to young children on a grande scale. It is causing permanent psychological damage in the form of personality disorders, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. It is also my professional observation that those who designed the curriculum do not have the knowledge of child development or empathy to recognize the psychological damage from chronic emotional distress, which is very gradual and works on the brain like erosion works on soil.

    Bill Gates and the other school reform billionaires may be the “best and the brightest” in designing technology and recognizing what constitutes intellectual development, but they are causing harm to the nation’s children by not listening to mental health experts
    and child development specialists. It may be their own “narcissistic” personality traits, in combination with those of the general population, that bestowed this “voice of authority”
    on them, but they are wrong about what children need. We cannot afford to allow wealth and power to buy “false authority” for determining what children need.

    The nation’s most recognized researcher on Borderline Personality Disorder resides in Seattle, and works at the University of Washington. Bill Gates would be wise to consult with Dr Linehan and UW about the impact of CCE on children . This important research from UW, which shows that an “invalidating” environment in childhood leads to Borderline Personality in adulthood, cannot be ignored in light of the statistics on children’s mental health disorders resulting from the CCE. The CCE may enhance some test scores through motivation by fear and intimidation, but our nation will pay a heavy price that Bill Gates nor his cadre of billionaires cannot afford. There is no amount of money that can fix permanent psychological damage to children.

    As Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to care for a child than to fix a broken man.”

    If Bill Gates and the other Common Core “voices of authority” continue to ignore children’s greatest needs, and fail to recognize the psychological damage from CCE, they are in effect practicing what the Milgram experiment proved.

    • Sahila permalink

      love, love, love this piece…. completely spot on… speaks to all my concerns about where public education is at, about “edreform” and why I took my son out of school and we are “unschooling” now…. I hope you get it published elsewhere, maybe on Diane Ravitch’s blog or in a major newspaper….

      Sadly, I dont know if it will make a difference…. I came to realise a long time ago that none of this is about the kids…. its about power, control and money…. social engineering by plutocrats….

      But it still needs to be out there, in the broader arena… part of the “witnessing”…. part of the “I know what you are doing, it’s BS and its not OK – I wont help you implement it”…..

  7. Harlan Underhill permalink

    One of your best, Mercedes, and that’s a very high standard.

    I’m wondering, though, about the criterion of education nationally as successful if it produces superpower technology. Is that the right criterion of success?

    Second is education what produced national power?

    GAnd third in so far as what we had, was it successful at citizenship education? Did it work in Louisiana if it gave you Jindal? Did old timey education work when it gave us Reagan or Bush 2, or for that matter Obama?

    And ultimately the question may be, What can the society do to get more people through college graduation? Is it succeeding now in reddying its students for college and upon graduation for career? Should everyone in high school be educated for college entrance? I ask you to zoom out, so to speak, to address that fundamental question which seems to underlie Gates’ promotion of the CCSS.

  8. 2old2tch permalink

    “I was allowed to use standards as flexible guidelines, to adjust them to serve my students– based upon my professional judgment.”

    Those were the days. In fact, I was so “into” using my professional expertize to customize my curriculum to meet the needs of my students, I totally missed the memo that said “No, no, no, you teach it our way!” It was a total surprise to me when all of a sudden I was being judged by the rigid standards of a program that I had been taught to use flexibly. That’s what happens when you get a data guru who comes with the new wave of my way or the highway. All of a sudden, the needs of my special ed students were irrelevant. The only important variables were data points that were supposed to inform my instruction. Silly me, I didn’t realize that “inform” means dictate the one and only right way of doing everything, Amen and Halleujah!

  9. ColoMom permalink

    You are brilliant as always Mercedes. I absolutely agree, Gates will lose this one because all the money in the world can’t change that these standards aren’t proven, aren’t rigorous. Gates may think he can buy most anything but he can’t buy off parents. Bring it on Bill. My kids aren’t for sale.

  10. Bookworm23 permalink

    Excellent, Mercedes. I always enjoy your well-researched and articulate posts. You have a true teacher’s gift for getting to the heart of the matter and bringing clarity to complex issues.

  11. ChrisJ permalink

    Doesn’t Bill Gates send his kids to a private school? No CCSS there. Guess HIS kids aren’t available for guinea pig status.

  12. jendacott permalink

    Reblogged this on EduSanity and commented:
    Mercedes Schneider takes Bill Gates to Task. Shame on the NBCT for letting this EduHack buy the right to their keynote address.

  13. Why does every slob with a billion dollars think he knows more than me about education?

  14. Mercedes,

    First let me tell you that your work on this cannot be underestimated. The profiteering that is now rampant in the educational-industrial complex is very real and quite staggering. What’s more not too many are aware of the degree and details. I’ve been making flyers, which detail much of what you are covering, and passing them around to parents over and though they understand much of what is going on they are quite amazed at the breadth of financial interests involved and simply the amount of money.

    Just this last Thursday we had a rainmaker (“expert educator” and CEO) come to our town, Willard Daggett, who was brought here by our award-winning (NY State) superintendent, Luvelle Brown to speak to the “benefits” of Common Core and other areas of “college preparedness.”

    In his hours of bloviating what you got from this was essentially that the “industry” is fast forward on technology at all costs. All of the new “techno-learning tools” were being lauded and at least w/Willard Common Core was scarcely mentioned and when done so he backed off his full-on support of CC. That I think in large part due to the firestorm surrounding it.

    I believe we will at the least see a restructuring of CC and a re-packaging of it and a greater emphasis on shoving technology down the throats of every district. That certainly seems to be where the money is going at the moment. And from the capitalists point of view it makes sense as the schools will increase their debt burdens through the years w/this technological imperative meaning a constant revenue stream for all sorts of suppliers (Gates being only the obvious and largest financier) and the shutdown of even more schools who can’t keep up with the debt which of course then means even more transfer of public funds to private institutions.

    Great work Mercedes. Have you seen any specific expose’s on how funds for these technologies are connected to Race to the Top funds and how the contracts operate as they obligate schools to certain purchases? And of course who profits from those purchases (e.g. Microsoft and InBloom for Gats?).

    As an aside Daggett’s forum was poorly attended few parents and fewer teachers- if any. Mostly board members and business types. I was the only one who stood up and spoke out against CC and the only one who spoke at all aside from Daggett.


    by Garrett A. Hughes

    Bill Gates had close to what I consider an ideal education. He was allowed to pursue his own educational goals both in high school and in college.

    In high school (Lakeside School – a private school in Seattle, Washington), he was excused from math classes to pursue his interest in computer programming. His lack of attendance in math classes did not seem to affect his SAT scores – 1590 out of 1600.

    In college (Harvard University) Gates did not pursue a major, but instead spent most of his time studying subjects of interest to himself and writing computer programs, just as he did in high school. Gates left Harvard in his Sophomore year to work on a business opportunity with his friend Paul Allen, and never returned to Harvard. His lack of a college diploma did not seem to impede his future career goals.

    While in high school and college, Gates wrote many practical computer programs that were useful both to schools and to businesses. It is well to note that while in school he had many opportunities to explore in depth a subject that he was passionate about. Furthermore he went on to make a career and a fortune out of those opportunities.

    Given his education, you would think that Gates would be the last person in the world to want to compel students to a top-down, extremely-structured educational experience. But that is just what he is doing: spending an enormous amount of effort and money advocating and funding the development of the so-called Common Core (CC) standards.

    Listening to Bill explain himself on this issue, you would think that CC is the next best thing to sliced artisan bread. (Caveat: you don’t want to pre-slice artisan bread). Bill’s defense of the Common Core standards appeared in USA Today ( I have paraphrased his remarks in the numbered paragraphs below.

    1. Common Core was created with the widespread participation of educational professionals from 48 states including governors, school officials, teachers unions, teachers, and over 10,000 members of the general public.

    You have to be careful interpreting this remark. These were discussions about creating a nation-wide set of curricula. The curricula were not designed or implemented at this time. Design and implementation came later, with Bill and Melinda’s financial assistance, and most importantly without public or legislative approval at the state level. The Obama administration helped implement the curricula by tying CC to educational funding available from the federal “Race to the Top” initiative.

    2. Common Core standards do not mean that students will have to take even more high-stakes tests.

    We know that is patently false. The number, length, and difficulty of assessment tests has increased dramatically in conjunction with the implementation of the actual CC curricula. And the stakes are higher than ever – being used to determine the fate of teachers, administrators and even schools. Like it or not, teachers must now spend an inordinate amount of time preparing students to take these tests.

    3. Common Core standards will not limit teachers’ creativity and flexibility.

    Does Gates’ live in a parallel, but somewhat skewed, universe? Course materials are so inflexible as to be scripted. Teachers are threatened with the loss of their jobs if they do not adhere to the scripts. Teachers are constrained to teach to the questions expected to appear on the assessment tests.

    Those are three of Gates’ comments directed at criticism of the Common Core standards, but Bill also gives us a lot more to think about in his general remarks. Bill is driven, in his words, by “a simple and powerful idea” (that phrase in itself gives one pause): that “Every American student should leave high school with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and the job market.”

    Remember, in Gates’ mind, this is an effect of having been educated in an environment that uses curricula corresponding to the CC standards. More importantly, it is the premise of all his arguments in favor of these curricula. (For the record, Gates refers to the CC curricula as just “standards.” How you separate what you are going to be able to do, from what you must know to be able to do it, is pure legerdemain.)

    But Gates begs the real question, which is – What should be the goals of a public school education for our children? Surprisingly, Bill did not meet either of his own criteria: Bill did not succeed as a result of a college education, nor did he prepare himself in a direct fashion to find a job.

    Despite Bill’s “shortcomings,” what lessons can we learn from his experiences about the nature of a public school education?

    First: education does not have to be structured to succeed. Educational experiences need to focus on motivating individual students, fostering their creativity, enhancing their self-esteem, and providing an environment that allows each student to explore a subject of their own choosing in depth.

    Second: education ought to enable a student to provide for themselves and others as a result of their educations. Instead of focusing on preparing students to passively accept what is available in the job market when they leave school, we should be helping students learn how to create their own opportunities for gainful employment. With this approach the student will not be asking for a job, but be prepared to offer one.

    As if the above were not enough to convince you of the irony of Mr. Gates’ support of rigid standards, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010 awarded Michigan State University a grant of $1 million dollars to “help African educators develop free and open access to agricultural education material, which they hope could improve agricultural practices and build a sustainable economy” – ostensibly with no pedagogical strings attached. The program is called “AgShare Open Education Resources.” (

    In my opinion, Mr. William Henry Gates III should learn to preach what he practices.

    19 February 2014
    Honeoye Falls, New York

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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