Reposted from the New York Times:
“Alyce Barr, the principal in Brooklyn came to feel that Gates’s course was better than the existing alternative. “If you were to interview many, many progressive social-studies teachers, they would tell you that World History is a completely flawed course. It’s spotty. It’s like fact soup. Kids don’t come out of it really having a sense of global history,” she told me. “So I said, ‘Why are we doing this?’ ” Last year, Barr allowed the Big History Project to replace World History, which is known as Global Studies in New York, as a required course.
Henstrand was cautiously optimistic that it would catch on, but he also seemed to recognize how hard it is to innovate in the educational system. “I think many are driven by it, but there are also some that are like: ‘Oh, God, how do we fit this into the requirements of the day? How do we fit this and that?’ ” he said. “This course is a fundamental shift in how you deliver something. But there’s so many factors in American education that work against it.”
In many ways, education is a lousy business. Teachers are not normal economic actors; almost all of them work for less money than they might fetch in some other industry, given their skills and advanced degrees. Students are even weirder economic animals: Most of them would rather do something else with their time than sit in a room and learn algebra, even though the investment is well documented to pay off. By the same token, attempts to paint Bill Gates as a self-interested actor in his education projects don’t make much sense. Joel Klein, the former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, who charged Microsoft with being a monopoly while a lawyer at the Justice Department, laughed off the idea that Gates had an ulterior fiscal motive. “The notion that he has an agenda other than trying to improve education is just embarrassing,” said Klein, describing how Gates continued to contribute — and even increased his contributions — to New York City public schools during Klein’s tenure. “I can’t think there is a malevolent bone in his body.”