Note: This comment from Perimeter Primate Sharon Higgins originally appeared at EdNotes Online. It discusses Bill Gates' appearance at the AFT Convention, its implications, and comments on those who walked out in protest, ridiculed from the floor as well as the podium by chair and AFT President Randi Weingarten.
If the teachers at the convention had any idea how much money Gates has put into developing non-unionized charter schools, and that his vision includes an extreme reduction in the membership -- and power -- of their union, they might not have been so willing to cheer for him.
But like most Americans who aren't studying what is really going on, I'm sure 99.9% of the teachers were uninformed and clueless. They behaved like the people they are: typical Americans who were super-excited to see a famous celebrity. Seeing Bill Gates in person was the thrilling part of the convention that they later told their families about.
As an urban public school parent, supporter of teachers, and pro-public school activist, I believe that the larger concerns the resisters have are perfectly valid and deserve to be acknowledged and discussed -- at a venue other than in blogs. The opponents of today's "ed reform" desire to be heard but are constantly being ignored and shut out. They aren't wealthy enough to pay Charlie Rose to do a five-part series on their side of the story, like Eli Broad can.
Just because the resisters are fewer in number at this time, does not make their concerns any less valid; I suspect they are going to turn out to have been the bellwether.
Bill Gates is an unelected individual who has been manipulating public policy from behind the scenes by making use of his extreme wealth. His lack of willingness to engage in a transparent, public debate with people who oppose what he is doing -- and who do have legitimate opinions, concerns, as well as data and historical accounts to present -- is what makes it necessary for the resisters to react in a loud and angry way.
It appears to me that Weingarten is aiding and abetting Gates' undemocratic ways.
If Bill Gates is truly interested in doing what's best for America's public school future, he should purchase one hour of primetime airtime and present a show featuring himself debating Diane Ravitch.
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