AN OPEN LETTER TO BILLY GATES

Dear Mr. Gates:

I watched your recent appearance on the Jon Stewart show where you described the work of the Gates Foundation in the area of education. You commented the arrival of Charter Schools is the first time we have had real experimentation in the field of education. Wow! You are among the most intelligent people in America, but that comment reveals your complete ignorance concerning the field of education. Then again, when President Obama appoints his basketball buddy, Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education despite never having taught school, what should one expect concerning what leaders of America know or think about education.

Mr. Gates you obviously do not know anything about education innovation during the Progressive movement. I attended an experimental Progressive school in the slums of the Bronx during the thirties and forties. In our junior high school, students handled all discipline problems through a student court and teachers stayed out of the way. Each child, whether on an academic or vocational track, spent half a day learning a trade. I could have left school after the ninth grade and obtained a job in a print shop. In class, the main mode of instruction was group work.

I was a teacher during the sixties and taught social studies in high school. After the Russians sent a space ship into space-Sputnik– President Eisenhower demanded changes in science and math. Leading biologists, math experts, physics experts, etc.. were brought together to create new science and math courses. I witnessed second graders in slum schools in St. Louis doing advanced math. In 1966, there were 64 different experimental groups working to create social studies materials that allowed students to learn through an inquiry method. There were similar programs in English. My students at Paul Schreiber HS in Port Washington, New York, created the Student Action Movement(SAM) which worked with people in Harlem by participating in rent strikes, they invited former Socialist party candidate for president, Normal Thomas to speak at our school, and they conducted all night discussions on the war in Vietnam. My social studies department offered the first History of Science class ever taught in high school. Tell me, Mr. Gates, are ANY STUDENTS IN YOUR SO CALLED EXPERIMENTAL SCHOOLS DOING ANYTHING ANALOGOUS?

Let me put it this way, Mr. Gates. If a person who fell asleep in 1900 and awoke today, in entering your charter schools would not be surprised. The curriculum is basically the same. Can you explain to me why we have the same curriculum in 2010 that we had in 1900! Mr. Gates, I have the highest respect for you, but you are NOT DOING ANYTHING INNOVATIVE IN THE FIELD OF EDUCATION. YOUR FOUNDATION SUPPORTS THE SAME OLD BORING OUT-OF -DATE CURRICULUM THAT WE HAVE HAD FOR YEARS.

How about bringing together the best minds in America and identifying what should be the 21st century curriculum and how best can it be learned? Do that and you will be innovative!

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