Billionaire software tycoon Bill Gates has poured millions of dollars into efforts to develop and promote the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a set of K-12 math and language arts curriculum benchmarks and high-stakes standardized tests now being implemented in 46 states.
Strangely enough, though, Common Core isn’t quite good enough for Gates and his wife, Melinda, when it comes to the education of their own three children.
Diane Ravitch, a self-styled education policy iconoclast who tends to oppose Common Core (and charter schools, and much else), noted this irony on her blog earlier this week.
The children of Bill and Melinda Gates – Jennifer, Rory and Phoebe – have attended Lakeside School, Seattle’s most elite, fancypants private school.
The hallowed halls of Lakeside School are a sweet place to attend classes if you have the means.
According to a Seattle education blog, the student-teacher ratio is 9 to 1. The average class size is 16. Some two dozen varsity sports are available and the opulent athletic facilities include “hydrotherapy spas.”
Of course, what with tuition for the 2013-14 academic year costing $28,500 per kid (not including books, laptop, field trips, etc.), most families don’t have the means.
Lakeside’s website doesn’t appear to discuss Common Core much.
“The mission of Lakeside School is to develop in intellectually capable young people the creative minds, healthy bodies, and ethical spirits needed to contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society,” reads the school’s mission statement. “We provide a rigorous and dynamic academic program through which effective educators lead students to take responsibility for learning.”
A sub-mission statement talks about “interacting compassionately, ethically, and successfully with diverse peoples and cultures.”
A 2011 webpage from Lakeside School does discuss how Lakeside has sort-of-kind-of used Common Core’s relatively obscure science component as a framework. The page notes, however, that Lakeside students are “generally more advanced than average” and won’t be subject to any of the standardized testing which the hoi polloi in public schools will undergo.
Like his children, Gates also attended Lakeside before going off to – and then dropping out of – Harvard University.
In a 2005 speech at the tony prep school, Gates fondly remembered his time and his teachers at the school.
“Teachers like Ann Stephens. I was in her English class, and I read every book in there twice. But I sat in the back of the room and never raised my hand,” Gates declared.
“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.”
Interestingly, the Common Core standards Gates has funded so heavily mandate a nonfiction-heavy reading regime that devalues literature tremendously. Specifically, in the 46 states which have adopted Common Core standards, nonfiction books must constitute at least 70 per cent of the texts read by high school students. (RELATED: Under Common Core, classic literature to be dropped in favor of ‘informational texts’)
This month, the former Microsoft CEO has been aggressively pushing Common Core. For example, Gates visited the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. to deliver a robust defense of the controversial education standards to a largely conservative audience. (RELATED: Convinced yet? Bill Gates defends Common Core)