Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Awaiting the Bill Gates of Education

The JT has a reprint of a commentary by Bill Gates in today's paper. Gates argues that innovation, education and immigration are the keys to success for our country. It is hard to argue with any of that. And by immigration, Gates refers specifically to those foriegners with skills in math, science and computer science.

Gates notes that American school children are performing poorly in math. American student recently finished 24th among 29 industrialized nations in math competency. "Governments must work with educators to reform schools and improve educational excellence" says Gates. Again, it is hard to argue with that.

Here is my concern. If innovation is important, and I think it is, wouldn't it be important to have innovation in education? Does our present system of educating children foster innovation, or stifle it? Where would Bill Gates be today if we had a government run system for the research, production and distribution of technological products? Would we have technological innovation, or would it be stifled by a lumbering government bureaucracy?

Bill Gates is a billionaire in large part because we have a more or less free market for the production of technological products. We do not have a free market when it comes to education. As such, we do not have the innovation in education that we have in technology. If we had more of a free market in education, we would see innovation in education. Someone could make billions if they came up with great ways to engage and educate children. And our children would be smarter.

I look forward to the day that the US produces a Bill Gates of education.


Brenda said...

Bill Gates and free market share of technological products?

Surely, you jest... Microsoft is to technology as RUSD is to education here in Racine.

But other than that, I agree with you 100%!

Denis Navratil said...

Perhaps Bill Gates and Microsoft is not the best example of unfettered competition, I don't know, but you did get my point.

quidnunc said...

brenda - I think your analogy is flawed. Obviously microsoft is more than heavy handed in squelching their competition, but the fact of the matter is, aside from Apple, there IS NO competition.

Microsoft , plain and simply, revolutionized the pc and continues to be at the forefront of technological advances. Can you really say that about RUSD?? :^) I worked in the computer field starting in the early 70s and completely understand, and quite frankly am in awe of, what Bill Gates was able to accomplish.

I understand that you're making the analogy based on lack of competition, however, if Microsoft didn't produce a good product, it wouldn't matter. Gates would be driven out of business.

RUSD continues to produce a poor product, yet they are not driven out of business, even though there is some competition. An analogy of free market commodities and government bureaucracies almost never applies.