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Bill Gates' Double Speak

Etherzone |March 9, 2007
Joan E. Battey

Never thought the next finger-pointing at "Well, Duh!" news would come so fast! Then came an article today linked from The Financial Times Limited, which dealt with Bill Gates' warning on how immigration restrictions on skilled workers are putting our competitiveness at risk.

Gates was quoted from a speech to the Senate committee on "health, education, labor and pensions." (That committee name alone is worth a "well, duh!" as to why things take forever and two days to be accomplished in Congress.)

As background to the doublespeak approach to concerns about technology competitiveness, please remember how many people have warned and written for years about what was coming. It has now come, as a result of educators and corporate big-wigs demanding upgrades in education to meet the needs of the global economy, without wanting to hear about any flaws in the plans. Many parents and taxpayers, and also a number of educators, pointed out that the planned upgrades were actually watering down academic skills, not strengthening them; and they were further watered down by adding emphasis on non-academic endeavors, as well.

Many people have also likely forgotten how politics and education bureaucracies shifted more to growth of their bureaucracies and getting publicity which would lead to grants and growth of schools and colleges. Part of the growth of many universities and colleges was geared toward "diversity," Among the many aspects of focusing on diversity, was enlisting foreign students to swell student enrollments, and to be rewarded for being in the vanguard of moving into the new global economy.

They boasted of attracting students from other countries to supposedly give them the skills to "take back home with them." The practice of medicine was one of the first career fields attracting foreign students on that basis, and the career fields expanded as time went on. Few people noticed that at the same time most American students were being steered to communications, entertainment, management, political science, non-profits, service industry, etc. (Or that the foreign students didn't want to go back home to low-paying jobs or political unrest.) When the lists of graduate degrees came out every year, far too little attention was paid to the fact of how few American students were earning technically demanding degrees. Social welfare, film and theater, counseling and other non-technical fields were the careers of choice for far too many American students.

American students were either not qualified for the career fields, or had no interest in them. How come all the experts closed their ears to any warnings about what it could lead to, or to questions about why it was happening?

Year after year, businesses and corporate moguls whined about American students being deficient in skills needed for the new global economy.

But, did they ever go beyond whining? Did they look at what students were actually involved in learning? Did they demand that schools shape up and stop watering down academics? Did they help parents and taxpayers who saw what was happening with the shift away from academics and science, and toward social interactions, performances, sports, self-directed learning, etc.? In a word: "NO."

Mr. Gates was quoted as acknowledging that many of the workers he feels are being kept out by our immigration policies were "educated at our top colleges and universities." They weren't recruited to fill our workforce, they were recruited to fill the coffers and the prestige of the colleges, but supposedly mainly to take their education back home with them.

Why aren't enough American students being educated at our top colleges and universities in the needed career fields? Has Mr. Gates taken a good look at the courses now offered? Big clue there!

Mr. Gates says "we" are failing to educate our students... "especially in our high schools." After more than a decade of ensuring that very outcome, "well, duh!"

Maybe Mr. Gates is in need of some field research on the problem. He should stop talking to high-level choirs, and dig into the long trail of how we got to this stage of "competitiveness." Find out when and HOW we set in motion the loss of our competitiveness edge. Go back to the point where focusing on what students should "be like" was the new driving force in changing education, supposedly to prepare students for the global economy. Go back to when so much focus was placed on "fun" while supposedly learning. Go back to when careers and workforce development programs started before basic education was in place, and before individual skills and abilities had a chance to develop. Take a good look at what goes on at schools and colleges.

Mr. Gates' arguments before the Congressional committee were described as being from the aspect of not impeding immigration of skilled workers.

It's not immigration that should be the chief focus of the problem-solving he wants tended to.

The focus should be on what has been doggedly pursued and set in place against all warnings of failure due to faulty planning. The experts that big-wigs rely on weren't so expert, after all, were they? Keeping at the same old failed approaches is going to ensure permanent loss of our competitiveness.



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