By Bob Confer
Niagara Gazette — Editor’s note: This is the final column in an eight-part series exploring Common Core.
For many, Bill Gates — he of the $67 billion net worth — is looked at as a hero for American education. Through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has invested millions in the development and introduction of the Common Core standards, the latest and allegedly greatest remodeling of teaching as we knew it.
Here is just a sampling of the recipients of his donations to the Common Core cause:
• National Governors Association: This organization was one of the main progenitors of Common Core and most responsible for its integration in 45 states. Gates’ total input to date is $25.7 million.
• The Council of Chief State School Officials: This group counts itself as the only one to bring together the top education leaders from every state in the nation and as equally responsible as the NGA for the launch of Common Core. Gates has donated a whopping $79 million to the CCSSO.
• Achieve, Inc: Considered by Education Week to be one of the most influential education policy organizations in the nation, Achieve, Inc. wrote the Common Core standards. Their reward from Gates? $46 million.
Gates also gave $23.2 million to eight national educational organizations and think tanks, most of which are strong proponents of Common Core. Among the largest recipients are American Federation of Teachers ($5.4 million) and the Council of Great City Schools ($5 million)
While at first blush this looks like the charitable effort of a philanthropist who truly cares about improved outcomes in education, it is not. Instead of altruistic intent, Gates is more likely concerned with an improved outcome for his baby, Microsoft.
Though no longer the CEO, co-founder Gates is still Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect. And, it’s his legacy. Revenues and profits are paramount to him. So, it’s not coincidental that Microsoft — and another new Bill Gates initiative — end up reaping substantial benefit from Common Core.
Consider Iris LiveView, something that seems ripped right out of the pages of George Orwell’s “1984.” Since teacher evaluation is a critical component of Common Core’s ancillary practices, Gates has strongly urged school districts to use this surveillance system in every classroom in America (it is believed the cost to taxpayers would be around $5 billion). Iris LiveView consists of a camera and powerful microphones (which could even pick up student banter) that can be watched live over the internet or recorded and saved in the cloud for later viewing. A cursory look at Iris LiveView’s website (ThereNow.net) shows a smiling Bill Gates. You can’t blame him for being tickled pink: The required software is Windows Vista or XP.
Then there’s the issue of data mining. Common Core and Race to the Top, the federal government’s funding carrot for Common Core implementation, require elaborate data collection and management schemes that will track, at the individual and collective levels, everything from grades to discipline to interpersonal behavior to a student's (and their family’s) political, sexual and religious orientations.
You can’t collect and maintain such records without substantial software and hardware. inBloom is the company charged with all of this. It just so happens that inBloom was founded with $100 million in funding from Bill Gates and a few other organizations. Once all 45 Common Core states fully sign on to the mandated data collection, inBloom will reap a spectacular windfall, not only at the launch but in perpetuity.
Not surprisingly, third-party organizations are granted access to the cumulative data so they can tailor-make educational modules, texts and software for educators, from which they will amass great revenues. Among the corporations that will benefit from this taxpayer-funded and incredibly deep data collection that the businesses could never really collect on their own: Microsoft.
Sometimes you have to look a gift horse in the mouth and this is one of those times. It’s grossly apparent that Gates’ nearly $200 million donations aren’t an investment in education. Rather, they are investments in his bottom line. He is a capitalist and this “small” sacrifice will result in billions of dollars of income for some of his financial interests.Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. Email him at email@example.com.