Bill Gates tells us why *his* high school was a great learning environment

Today’s post was submitted by HiPointDem, a supporter of public education:

Lakeside School

Bill’s high school, Lakeside, is Seattle’s most elite private school. The current tuition is $28K (not including food, books, bus, laptop, and field trips).

A bargain, compared to some eastern private schools, but about equal to the median income of all US workers.

Lakeside has a lovely campus that looks kind of like a college campus:

– Faculty is nearly equally balanced between men & women (i.e. Lakeside pays well);
– 79% of faculty have advanced degrees;
– 17% are “faculty of color” (half the students are “students of color,” cough, Asian)
– Student/teacher ratio: 9 to 1
– Average class size: 16
– High school library = 20,000 volumes
– 24 varsity sports offered
– New sports facility offers cryotherapy & hydrotherapy spas
– Full arts program with drama, various choruses, various bands including jazz band and a chamber orchestra.

Lakeside campus

Bill says Lakeside was great because the teachers pushed the students to achieve (and when you push students to achieve, of course they do, especially when you challenge them to read your college thesis and your ten favorite books — what student wouldn’t rise to such a fascinating challenge…):

Rigor absolutely defined my Lakeside experience. Lakeside had the kind of teachers who would come to me, even when I was getting straight A’s, and say: “When are you going to start applying yourself?” Teachers like Ann…One day, she said: “Bill, you’re just coasting. Here are my ten favorite books; read these. Here’s my college thesis; you should read it.” She challenged me to do more. I never would have come to enjoy literature as much as I do if she hadn’t pushed me.

Bill says Lakeside was great because the education was relevant to real life:

Relevance also was a big part of my Lakeside education. The most common image of a bad education is a sullen kid, slumped in a desk saying: “When am I ever going to use this?”

The teachers here did everything to make their lessons matter….Years before other schools recognized the importance of computers, the Lakeside Mothers Club came up with the money to buy a teletype that connected over the phone lines with a GE time-sharing computer…

The school could have shut down the terminal, or they could have tightly regulated who got to use it. Instead, they opened it up. Instead of teaching us about computers in the conventional sense, Lakeside just unleashed us…

Lakeside introduced me to computers. They allowed me to teach a class in computers. They hired me to write a scheduling program. It didn’t have to work that way. They could have hired an outside computer expert to do the scheduling system. Teachers could have insisted that they teach classes on computing, simply because they were the teachers and we were the students…

Bill says Lakeside was great because of relationships:

Finally, I had great relationships with my teachers here at Lakeside. Classes were small. You got to know the teachers. They got to know you. And the relationships that come from that really make a difference…

Relationships include the ones developed in Lakeside’s Global Learning Program. Bill thinks it’s important that rich kids see how poor people in other countries live…poor neighbors in *this* country, not so much…

I’m really excited about the Global Service Learning Program, which will send Lakeside students on extended trips to developing countries to learn about the people and the issues they face…I believe if we could get the same kind of visibility for health problems around the world, so that rich people saw millions of impoverished mothers burying babies who died from causes we can prevent—we would insist that something be done, and we would be willing to pay for it…We need to see what’s happening—only then will we stop ignoring our neighbors and start helping them.

Bill says: I want as many students as possible, from as many different backgrounds as possible, to enjoy a Lakeside education.

See remarks made by Bill Gates at Lakeside in 2005.

Bill is funding financial aid for talented students who can meet Lakeside’s rigorous entrance requirements.

Bill is funding schooling for “ordinary” students too — but what does Bill want for these “ordinary” students?

Bill says for ordinary students, class size doesn’t matter.

Bill is funding Teach for America, because for ordinary students, teacher training and advanced degrees don’t matter, 5 weeks of training and a BA is plenty.

Bill is funding high-stakes testing, which stresses students, teachers and schools and crowds out class time & district money for actual teaching, the arts, and sports. Ordinary students don’t need those things.

Bill is also funding Common Core, which will dictate a national curriculum to the extent that every school in the country will be on the same page of the same book or computer program at the same time. So no chance for students to be “unleashed,” or go with the flow of the students’ interests, as was Bill’s lucky experience at Lakeside.

Once Common Core is instituted there will be even more standardized tests — high-stakes standardized tests in every subject!! At least 20% more testing time!! And these tests will determine whether a student passes or fails, whether a school passes or fails, and whether a teacher has a job or not.

Bill thinks when schools and teachers fail his tests, the school should be dissolved, the teachers should be fired, and someone else should come in and give it a shot, perhaps in a charter school open to anyone on a lottery system because stability and relationships aren’t so important for ordinary students as they are for the kind of students who go to Lakeside.

Maybe the charter school can rent a church basement, or “co-locate” in a public school and push the public school students into classrooms located in supply closets or down in the boiler room.

Because decent facilities don’t matter so much to ordinary students.

Bill Gates wants to keep a central database of all student information.

Far from allowing students to be “unleashed” and learn through “relevant” experiences like Bill did, Bill Gates is funding Orwellian electronic devices which will monitor students’ attention to his canned lessons, and cameras in classrooms to make sure teachers are sticking to the canned lessons.

Bill is going to make a lot of money on all the things he’s imposing on ordinary students…but that’s another Op Ed. Suffice it to say that Bill’s schools won’t be hiring students to write computer programs for them, or anything else. They’ll be hiring private contractors for big money.×9314623

What can we conclude from the kind of education Bill supports at Lakeside and the kind of education Bill supports for ordinary students?  And not only Bill, but all the rest of the elite prep-school-educated, hedge fund and high finance “school reform” crowd?

I think it’s pretty obvious.

60 thoughts on “Bill Gates tells us why *his* high school was a great learning environment

  1. I attend Lakeside, and judging by the comments, people don’t seem to comprehend that Bill Gates isn’t demeaning other schools, he’s just explaining why Lakeside is good.

    Also, it wasn’t cool to add the “cough Asian” part in the article. We have Asian students, but they don’t overpower.

    1. Nathalie,

      The point is what Bill Gates is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on in public schools is exactly the opposite of the type of education he received.

      What’s good for the goose, apparently, is not good enough for the gander, the rest of us.

      What Gates is pushing onto parents, students and teachers in public school systems with his millions is not what we want or need.

      That includes the focus on standardized testing, using unqualified teachers in the classroom with no to little experience, for profit K-12 schools, a focus on a few basics with not enough time or money left for the arts, history, civics, PE or even lunch and recess these days.

      He is the epitome of a plutocrat in public education and is leaving little room anymore for democratically run public schools where educators take the lead in the decision making process with input from parents and students.


  2. Never in his life has this entitled, spoiled brat of wealthy, influential parents ever had to do without anything so it’s stupid to think he would be anything but grossed out by the poor in his region. He’s far too precious to stoop that low.

    1. Vomiting after a grueling 2K crew race is not uncommon, actually. What I would like to point out is that Seattle’s Green Lake Crew, a Seattle PUBLIC Parks Program, consistently beats that Lakeside Crew. Go Green Lake.

      1. While Lakeside’s crew team is non cut, Green Lake has a large pool of athletes to choose from. In contrast, Lakeside only has a small set of students who are actually interested in the sport.

  3. Bill needs to get out of education… Publics school work, and work well. If he’s going to give… give. He needs to stop “Venture Philanthropy.” Stop trying to undermine something good because it doesn’t make money…

  4. Here’s a devastating article that points up Bill Gates’ hypocrisy when it comes to the variation between what he demands for his own children, and what he subjects children from lower income communities:

    THE SEATTLE TIMES’ Danny Westneat takes Gates to task for promoting policy all over the country that jacks class size sky high, with Gates using the common-sense-defying logic that kids will fare better in larger classes.

    Well, Westneat sends his own kids to public schools, and will eventually attend Garfield High School (in the news of late). These are the schools that—once Gates has his way—will have obscenely large class sizes… A bit fed up, Weastneat did what perhaps no other writer has yet dared to do:

    he investigated the two rich kids’ private school where Gates sends his own children and—doncha know it? —these schools major selling point is that they have… wait for it… EXTREMELY SMALL CLASS SIZES:

    WESTNEAT: “I bet (Gates) senses deep down as a parent that pushing more kids into classes isn’t what’s best for students. His kids’ private-sector grade school has 17 kids in each room. His daughter’s high school has 15. These intimate settings are the selling point, the chief reason tuition is $25,000 a year — more than double what Seattle schools spends per student.”

    Calling out Gates’ hypocrisy, Weastneat ends the article with a knockout finish:

    WEASTNEAT: “Bill, here’s an experiment. You and I both have an 8-year-old. Let’s take your school and double its class sizes, from 16 to 32. We’ll use the extra money generated by that — a whopping $400,000 more per year per classroom — to halve the class sizes, from 32 to 16, at my public high school, Garfield.

    “In 2020, when our kids are graduating, we’ll compare what effect it all had. On student achievement. On teaching quality. On morale. Or that best thing of all, the “environment that promotes relationships between teachers and students.”

  5. Watch this video parodying New York State
    Ed Commisioner’s pushing of excessive
    testing and Common Core standards.

    This is King behind the scenes:

  6. I doubt that Bill ever took a standardized test in his school (except the ACT or the SAT). The school itself, however, does not offer standardized tests. The curriculum at schools like these is already supported by life experiences that the students bring with them (i.e. trips to other countries, to libraries, networking with other powerful people, food in the refrigerator every night, the best healthcare available, etc). If schools like Bill’s had to teach students who come in reading at the 4th grade level, were chronic truants, had insufficient healthcare, had parents who worked three jobs to remain one inch above the poverty level, did not have his wonderful life experiences before getting to high school, and if the school had brand new teachers each year, I doubt that his experience would have been so powerful.

  7. Kids teaching themselves is hardly the point. Gates was allowed to have his education vary from the standard because he was evaluated by his teachers rather than a standardized testing company. As a result, the teachers were able to see his passions and abilities and go from there, keeping his education relevant to him. Further, his teachers changed his curriculum when they saw an opportunity to help him achieve more (read these ten books). I have no doubt computers could replace humans teaching common core, because with CC the curriculum is treated with more reverence than the child. The CC curriculum doesn’t change to adapt to the child’s gifts, passions and deficiencies; rather, the child is forced to fit the curriculum. If you believe computers can replace teachers, put your kids in an online program. As for me, never. I have much higher aspirations for my kids as people.

  8. Sorry people….but no matter how good it sounds, every kid is not like Bill !!!!!!!
    Children should not have to teach themselves, which is where this common core is going. ” Oh wait… Maybe Bills computer programs will take the teachers place. Makes sense to me.

  9. Why would Gates then elevate a public school web page for inclusion in his best seller (The Road Ahead), in his chapter on education, way back in 1995? Simple – public schools were busy pushing the envelope then, and have been ever since: Private schools? – not so much.

    My public elementary school was a great learning environment. Tuition – $0.00

  10. Excellent article!! ‪#‎StopCommonCore‬ The Gates Foundation is another group that has invested millions in the political campaign to implement CCSS across the country. Comparison between the education that Bill Gates received & the education model that his foundation promotes is another eyeopening contrast between what the elites consider is good ‘enough’ for the ‘commoners’ and what they would have for themselves & their children. Mr. Gates, OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT COMMON!! They deserve classrooms where teachers are encouraged to instill a love of learning, critical thinking skills and inspiration to be the future innovators & entrepreneurs that the highstakes testing involved with implementing CCSS will CRUSH in our local schools & classrooms. Our children ARE NOT HUMAN CAPITAL for corporations. You are being warned that parents & educators of our children will NOT BE SILENT and WE WILL REMEMBER THE NAMES of who chooses to align themselves with CCSS.

  11. These “ordinary” students you mention sound suspiciously like poor African American children. At least in Chicago they are.

  12. Well done piece, here. Powerful elitist creeps are used to getting their way. How much longer will it be before the rest of us say, “that’s it, enough!!” and resist it all?

  13. How’s this for irony: When you type “cryotherapy” (one of the features you have listed that Lakeside offers to their students: “New sports facility offers cryotherapy & hydrotherapy spas…”) into MS Word, it shows it as misspelled and suggests “cry therapy” instead (which, I guess, is what the regular people get…).

  14. Jason,

    I don’t think that is what the writer of this article was referring to.

    My take is that because the stereotype is that Asians generally score well on tests that instead of taking on students who are intelligent and quite capable but highly challenging, that Lakeside takes the easy way out in saying that they have a certain percentage of minority students but as it happens those students are high achievers anyway.

    The point to taking on minority students is to take students who have no way out of their circumstances except for an opportunity to go to a school where they would get the attention that they need and the opportunity and support to develop and grow.


  15. What’s with the swipe about Asian people not being people of color? You write “17% are “faculty of color” (half the students are “students of color,” cough, Asian)” — is that to suggest that the racism and discrimination that Asian people face isn’t an important issue? Perhaps you were trying to make an argument about economic disparities. If that is the case, I would think there are clearer ways to raise that issue than by making ‘jokes’ about Asian people not being people of color.

    1. Jason: Everyone knows that Asian students are usually highly motivated and at the top of their classes. As for them being people of ‘color’, ‘white’ is considered a color also. Scientifically speaking, “Scientists consider black to be the absence of light (and colour if you like) and white to be the presence of all colors”, so people of colour, who are not black, should be thrown together under the ‘white’ category. This is obviously at odds with most sociological definitions. If some people had a ‘green’ tint and were top-performers, Sociologists would insist that they be classified as a separate group, i.e. just because they are different with respect to what the survey is intended to measure. Therefore, by including them with all other non-whites (rather than as whites or a separate category) raises the scores of ‘people of color’ and brings the average scores of the ‘non-white group’ closer to the scores of the other ‘white’ group. Maybe you should check the definition of terms before you make public reactions of the accusatory (red?) type .

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