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Philanthropy: Four Responses To Bill Gates' Annual Letter

Mega-philanthropist Bill Gates has been doing the media rounds over the past couple of days, priming the pump for his annual letter. Here's a roundup of what's been said so far:

image from scholasticadministrator.typepad.comThe first notice I came across was from the WSJ, via the indefatigable Larry Ferlazzo (who wondered whether this was the first time Gates has specifically endorsed merit pay). I'm not sure, frankly -- I think I sort of assumed that Gates was for it all along, whether he said so or not. Has anything changed?

Next thing I noticed was Slate's Jacob Weisberg, livetweeting tidbits from a reporter roundtable Gates did (including Gates' observation that he shouldn't rightly be counted as a college dropout since he had so many credits he could have graduated).  Check that out via @jacobwe.

Yesterday writer Dana Goldstein passed along her account of the meeting, which included hints that the BMMGF might do something to create an alternative college ranking system to measure retention and graduation of remedial students (and make The Washington Monthly's Paul Glastris super happy), and doubts about Florida's timeline for coming up with standardized tests in art and music.  Forbes' Luisa Kroll picks up on the college ratings revamphere. You can read Goldstein's writeup focused on Gates growing enthusiasm for big data here

Last but not least, uberblogger Jason Kottke wrote up some thoughts about meeting Gates and what he has to say -- general favorable response to Gates' characteristic optimism (though Gates noted that education R&D were drastically underinvested). He compares Gates to Bloomberg.

Or just skip it all and read the damn thing here, or jump in to the education section here, or follow the suggested hashtag #billsletter. Mashable points out that last year's letter was more focused on innovation (so passe!) but this year's version was presented as a multemedia presentation (alas without interactivity).  Image via the BMMGF.


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It's odd how inconsistent he sounds depending upon the report. I've read three of these: in the Wall Street Journal his argument was incoherent, citing an excellent teacher's lesson about 12th-grade narrative writing as evidence for a data-based approach (her lesson had nothing to do with the latter); then, with the fuller, unedited version of his letter, he produced something very coherent and impressive; finally, in Dana Goldstein's piece, he is wildly inconsistent, apparently quite aware of the limitations of the MET project's results and then actually idiotic (I never thought I'd write that about Bill Gates) in his suggestion that the ideal college would take a bottom-scoring SAT student and make her or him wealthy ($100,000 per year) and super happy.

This might also say something about the importance of media constraints and reporters, if his message actually is internally consistent.

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