Grand High Witch:
Witches of England Teachers of the US… You are a disgrace! Miserable witches teachers… You are good-for-nothing worms! Everywhere I look, I see the repulsive sight of hundreds, thousands of revolting little children… I ask you!
Grand High Witch: Why? One child a week is no good to me!
Woman in Black: [stands] We will do better! We will do much better!
Grand High Witch: Better is no good either! I demand maximum results! (edits my own)
This is a warning to all teachers, parents, and grandparents of school aged children around the globe. Do not follow the trail of breadcrumbs left by The Grand High, Melinda Gates, and her coven of corporate reformers.
In a recent interview with Donna Gordon Blankenship of the Associated Press, you were quoted as saying,
“I know the difference a great teacher can make,” said Gates, who has three children, one each in elementary, middle and high school.”
You and Bill admit that your teacher effectiveness plan is an experiment. You tell us to follow your trail of breadcrumbs because our schools are broken and that only data, combined with a great teacher, can close the achievement gap. As with every experiment, we know that controlled variables must be used. In teaching, however, we work with human beings who come to us with countless uncontrolled variables.
As Stephen Krashen points out, our schools (and teachers) are not broken. Our biggest uncontrolled variable is poverty and its myriad effects such as untreated malnutrition, illness, mental health conditions, and ongoing pre-natal neurological conditions caused by poor maternal health/drug/alcohol/tobacco use.
Children of poverty also suffer from socioeconomic opportunity gaps such as lack of shelter, warmth, basic safety, stimulating conversations with thriving adults to build vocabulary, sitting on a parents lap to read books together, and daily rituals, routines and structure that build school readiness.
I am a “great,” highly qualified special education and general education teacher in a public school where over 72% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Every day on my way to work, I drive by this large tent city on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way (ironic, no?), which lies in your backyard, #GatesTownUSA. Despite their circumstances, the parents living here would love for their children to have the same opportunities that your children have. Unfortunately, these families suffer from the “opportunity gap” effects described above.
This Nickelsville tent city stands in stark contrast to your aristocratic lifestyle. Just 10 miles away, you and your family live safely in your highly guarded Medina, WA Gates family compound.
One of the breadcrumbs you use is your motto that “all lives have equal value,” a bit of modern day sorcery used to trick parents and children to follow the path that leads to their own demise. Some of our children arrive in taxis, delivered from their homeless, undisclosed locations. They do not have the same opportunities as the children at Lakeside School. Nor do 72% of the children in my school. The real villains in their lives are poverty and your corporate education reform, not teachers and not so called “failing” public schools.
If all lives had equal value, Melinda, you would direct your foundation money towards the welfare of the children living in tent cities, in your backyard. But would that serve your real agenda?
Teachers can do only so much when the physical, neurological, and social/emotional impacts of poverty have already driven their blows into the innocent faces of children. Those of us courageous enough to try to make a real difference in their lives deserve respect, not disdain and attacks from corporate reformers. All children and teachers deserve the same kinds of resources that your children have at Lakeside.
Surely the well-rounded, enriched curriculum programs that your children enjoy – a lovely arts program , an outdoor program, a global service learning program, local service learning programs, athletics programs, an educational enrichment program, student clubs, summer programs, and student/family counseling services - would benefit ALL children, no? What if your billions invested in testing and Common Core went to these ends instead? But no, as the Grand High Corporate Reformer, you give these children the “candy store” variety of narrowed curriculum, Common Core, and high-stakes tests.
You see, Lakeside has opted out of all of your own bewitching spells of corporate reform. They follow a different path. Lakeside has opted out of high stakes testing and the Common Core. Lakeside leads children safely away from your corporate reform traps.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT ACADEMICS
“Lakeside believes there is more to life than academic success. We actively uphold a balanced approach to education; one that develops students who excel both inside and outside the classroom. We offer a diverse array of activities, from leading-edge experiential learning programs to numerous athletics endeavors, arts experiences, and student activities and clubs. Everyone can find whatever it is that interests them to deepen their involvement in our vital community. Lakeside also recognizes that it can be hard for some students to achieve that balance. That’s why our student support team is ready to help. Thoughtful and motivated counselors, teachers, and administrators work with students and their families to ensure that all have the opportunity to reach their full potential at Lakeside.” - Lakeside School, Seattle, WA
I agree with Lakeside’s “whole child philosophy” and with Diane Ravitch who says that children of poverty need more. As an advocate for the children in my public school, I wholly object to your corporate reforms. As an active union member hunted by your reforms, I object. As a teacher who has been hunted by your modern day McCarthy-style “witch hunt” against teachers, I object.
Just like McCarthy, who used propaganda and fear to create a false witch hunt, you and the Gates Foundation have used propaganda and fear to create false “McCarthy-like” witch hunts against children, teachers, unions, and public schools. History clearly marks McCarthy as the real villain in the story. History will mark you as the real villain as well.
Like the Grand High Witch in Roald Dahl’s The Witches who says “Better is no good either! I demand maximum results!”, in this AP interview you are credited with having:
“…studied education, influenced public policy and spent billions of dollars toward improving student outcomes by supporting education reform and demanding better results.” – Donna Gordon Blankenship
Better results Melinda? You are not satisfied with the “achievement” of America’s public school children? Why do you ignore the US Department of Education’s amazing results, as reported by Valerie Strauss in this interview: Diane Ravitch: Q&A on her controversial new book?
“Contrary to what we have heard from Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and others, American public education is not failing. In fact, test scores have never been higher for white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. Graduation rates are not falling. In fact, they have never been higher for white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. Similarly, for all of these groups, the dropout rate is the lowest ever in our history.”
David Sirota writes about your “candy store” guerrilla tactics in Salon.
“…the “reform” fantasy pretends that a lack of teacher “accountability” is the major education problem and somehow wholly writes family economics out of the story (amazingly, this fantasy persists even in a place like the Big Apple where economic inequality is particularly crushing). That key — and deliberate — omission serves myriad political interests.
For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activist-profiteers disproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.” - David Sirota
In your AP interview, you continue to spread propaganda about the “failure” of public schools, and in this narrative you ignore the real villains (poverty and your corporate reforms).
“I see pockets of improvements. The neat thing about the pockets of improvements is they’re getting larger all the time and they’re across the nation,” she told The Associated Press during an interview this week in her Seattle office overlooking the Space Needle at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation…” - Melinda Gates
Then you make sure to highlight the for-profit/privatization/and choice propaganda to sell children to the highest charter school bidder.
“You get these pinpoints of light from charter schools,” she (Melinda Gates) said, adding that parents can evaluate their own children’s schools by looking for successful reforms first tried in charter schools.”
It is clear to me that you don’t really care about all lives having equal value. What you really want is to maximize
results profits from children and teachers, regardless of the uncontrolled variables of poverty in your experiments on live children and teachers.
Let’s talk about your own corporate reform results for a minute. Blankenship points out the fact that the Gates Foundation has been experimenting with our nation’s children and that it has not gone well.
“Gates said the foundation is conducting experiments in Fresno, Calif., and Bridgeport, Conn., to see how districts can give teachers more planning and training time…
…One of the foundation’s first big education initiatives focused on creating smaller schools out of large comprehensive high schools.
The widespread and expensive experiment was considered mostly a failure by education experts, but Gates said the small schools initiative helped the foundation learn what was really important: the teacher at the front of the classroom.
That’s what led to years of research on what makes a great teacher and how schools can use various evaluation methods to study teachers and help them improve. That initiative is now influencing many states in redesigning their teacher evaluation systems, at the insistence of the federal government.
The foundation also has invested money into charter school networks and continues to support charter schools as laboratories for innovation, Gates said.”
Your husband, Bill, admitted this himself in a September 2013 interview at Harvard.
“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”
I would like to argue that major mistakes are being made in your corporate reform experiments on live children and teachers, creating a horror story that is not only impacting America, but the globe as well. John Kuhn recently published a book that describes the villains in a Texas horror story. It was reviewed here by Russ Walsh: Test and Punish: How the Texas Education Model Gave America Accountability without Equity.
“John Kuhn has a story to tell. It is a horror story worthy of Stephen King made even more horrible because it is true. It is the story of how Texas released the “test and punish” monster on public education and how, like a 1950’s science fiction movie, that monster came to threaten the entire country.”
The real villain – poverty - is not something you corporate reformers can profit from, so instead you create a witch hunt; a war on children, teachers, unions, and public education to sell your “candy” to unsuspecting children, parents, and teachers.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is hiding your starring role in the real horror story. It is hiding behind a mask of philanthropy, not unlike the character of the Grand High Witch in Roald Dahl’s The Witches who wants to turn all the little children into mice.
Like you, the Grand High Witch in Dahl’s tale is one of the most influential and powerful sorceresses on the planet. Like Dahl’s coven of witches, corporate ed reformers such as members of the Business Roundtable, the Philanthropy Roundtable, UNESCO, A.L.E.C., the US Department of Defense, and the US Council for Foreign Affairs (see flow chart below and the Truthout link created by Morna McDermott of United Opt Out), all meet behind closed doors. In Dahl’s tale, the Grand High Witch is the leader of a secret society on a terrible quest to turn all children into mice. The children are then to be disposed of either by the witches themselves, or by their unsuspecting parents.
By creating a three-tiered education system, you have slickly convinced America’s parents to participate in reforms that position their own children to become “disposable”. Through the use of the words “choice” and the “hired guns of Astroturf organizations” – in an act that might seem to only be possible through sorcery (aka propaganda) – you use bread crumbs to lead the public into your corporate reform traps.
Like the grandmother in Dahl’s Grimm-like fairy tale, Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates is here to warn children, parents, and the public that – in fact – our democracy itself is at high risk. However, this tale is different from fantasy for it is a true horror story. In that regard, I guess it could be used as a Common Core-approved informational text. Be sure to use your close reading strategies. Teachers and parents, heed my warning:
Once upon a time, the Grand High Witch Corporate Reformer became one of the most powerful and influential aristocrats in public by marrying a terrible
Warlock Monopolist. Behind the closed doors of her castle Medina compound and her glitzy foundation she and her coven of witches corporate reformers planned exactly how to cast a spell and turn all of the children into mice (or sheep). The Grand High Corporate Reformer was never satisfied with good results. She always wanted higher achievement profits and power .
The modern technocrat version of the Grand High Corporate Reformer looks attractive. She is very wealthy, at the very top part of the wealthiest 1%. She is highly connected to technology, and has minions working in the government to control her agenda. She knows friends in very high places, like the World Bank for example. She uses her powers and riches to build very well designed traps. She uses marketing, media, and technology to keep her prey in a consumer coma, and she sells you a story that lures you into her web of deceit.
The Grand High Corporate Reformer pretends to want what is best for children as a ploy to capture them and turn them into mice. As mice, she is sure they won’t be able to escape her trap. As mice they won’t be able to fight back. As mice they will remain in a constant state of oppression.
She uses the bait of consumerism and propaganda with the public to win their favor. This modern witch cloaks herself behind her wealth and uses her philanthropy as a cover. She wants her customers to feel their children are safe in her hands just like the children in Dahl’s story who believe they are safe because, after all, they are under the care of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
The modern day Grand High Witch makes sure the public sees her philanthropy’s slogan “All Lives Have Equal Value”. The public sees their billions donated to “good causes”, but their profits are hidden away in tax havens, and of course the trap is set. The Grand High Corporate Reformer never sheds her mask in public. Like Dahl’s Grand High Witch, the true nature of the coven’s agenda is only displayed behind closed doors in the company of the other witches corporate education reformers.
Dahl’s Grand High Witch uses candy and candy store fronts run by her coven as a means to trap the children. Today’s Grand High Corporate Reformer uses charter school store fronts run by her coven of reformers. Today’s Grand High Corporate Reformer uses technology “candy” in the form of “personalized learning devices” – a “candy” tablet for every child – Common Core “Smarties candy” to “compete in the global marketplace” and the Common Core “candy stores” to make all the little kiddies “college and career ready”, testing “candy” products to trap states, districts, schools, and teachers into helping her trap little children so that she can turn them into mice. Today’s Grand High Corporate Reformer uses data mining through inBloom to gather even more information in order to market even better traps to catch even more children. She creates a host of parasite products that will entrap all the children in America and then begins to spread her products around the world that will eventually turn all children into those who will obey.
Through corporate education reforms, she controls OUR public education system, extruding America’s children through a machine of scripted, narrowed curriculum in a test and punish model stripped of democracy from beginning to end.
She makes certain her own children are safely tucked away from her spells in a system that fosters the 1% inbreeding of more old-and-new-money-capitalist-power-and-profit-hungry covens. The results of her spells are becoming obvious.
Corporate education reform has been in the works for 20 years, since its birth in Texas, and the results are in: Americans have become numb to their oppression by the 1%. Children are indoctrinated early in the test-and-punish-zero-tolerance institutions to remove any free-thinking spirits. America’s children, teachers, unions, the public sector, and our very democracy are the Grand High Witch’s prey. By creating a three-tiered system of education whereby the coven punishes children through test scores disallowing their graduation, the products produced become a permanent underclass. As the coven’s corporate control takes over all branches of our government, the nation’s school children and teachers are caught up in a consumer coma, apathetic and easily controlled “mice”.
Much like Angelica Houston as the Grand High Witch, we see you wearing your mask in public and imagine you taking it off at the Business Roundtable and when you meet with the World Bank.
How do we stop this spell you have cast? We need a war on reformers, and a war on poverty, not a war on children, teachers, and public schools! The cure for this problem is to stop allowing the spell to work. Awaken from the coma. Opt-out of high stakes testing. Pull the plug on profit. Organize. Fight back.
Melinda, if you were not the Grand High Corporate Reformer that you are, you would clearly see that your experiments are not solutions at all. If you really planned to live by your “all lives have equal value” motto, then you would do exactly what David Sirota suggests in his Salon piece We Need a War on Poverty, Not a War on Teachers.
“We wouldn’t be talking about budget austerity — we would be talking about raising public revenues to fund special tutoring, childcare, basic health programs and other so-called wraparound services at low-income schools.
We wouldn’t only be looking to make sure that schools in high-poverty districts finally receive the same amount of public money as schools in wealthy neighborhoods — we would make sure high-poverty districts actually receive more funds than rich districts because combating poverty is such a resource-intensive endeavor.
More broadly, we wouldn’t be discussing cuts to social safety net programs — we would instead be working to expand those programs and, further, to challenge both parties’ anti-tax, anti-regulation, pro-austerity agenda that has increased poverty and economic inequality.
In short, if we were serious about education, then our education discussion wouldn’t be focused on demonizing teachers and coming up with radical schemes to undermine traditional public schools. It would instead be focused on mounting a new war on poverty and thus directly addressing the biggest education problem of all.”
At the end of Dahl’s tale, the Grand Witch suffers a fitting demise when her own magic is used against her. Melinda, students, parents, and teachers are waking up from the Gates’ spell. I look forward to the day when the Gates’ spell is broken and the corporate ed reformers become the mice that are afraid of our power.
Readers, if you want to learn more about Melinda Gates’ big hoax read Diane Ravitch’s new book Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.
What do you think? Does Melinda Gates create reforms for personal power and profit through the use of bewitching propaganda, or does she genuinely want to solve the problem of poverty and realize America’s dream that “all lives have equal value”? Do the actions of the Gates Foundations match their words?
Susan, co-author of Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates