Bill and Melinda Gates have launched a lobbying group in part to drive their agenda on education.
The move comes as Congress is negotiating a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the main federal law concerning student financial aid.
The Gates Foundation has also recently started up a commission to determine the value of a college degree or certificate. If Gates lobbyists convince legislators to embrace the agenda of the Gates commission, then Congress may make it harder for students in certain majors to secure loans or grants.
In this way, I believe the Gateses could transform universities and colleges that presently offer a wide array of courses into vocational training centers that focus on immediately marketable skills.
I’m a political theorist who researches education policy. In my book on the Common Core, I describe how Bill and Melinda Gates funded and coordinated the Common Core State Standards Initiative. I argue that the Gateses helped build an educational system that emphasizes a narrow set of reading, writing and math skills that can be tested on computers.
The stated purpose of the Gateses’ lobbying effort is to focus on – among other things – educational outcomes for black, Latino and rural students and move people from poverty to employment.
The Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Value Commission gives some insight into what the Gateses mean by educational outcomes. The commission aims to create a way to measure the value of certain degrees or certificates. If legislators adopt this measurement tool, then they might only fund things that lead to an immediate economic payoff.
Though elite institutions of higher education will likely still provide students a liberal arts education, regional state schools could be under increasing pressure to cut majors such as history, French, geography, philosophy and political science.
Why lobby now
The Gates Foundation has been indirectly shaping K-12 education public policy for years. The group has given millions of dollars in grants to education groups, think tanks, parent-teacher organizations, teacher unions, state departments of education and a governors association to write, advocate for and implement the Common Core. Despite a revision and rebranding effort in many states, the standards still shape how most students in America learn reading, writing and math.
Now that the Gateses have pivoted to lobbying, it signals to me they want to play a more aggressive role in the writing of legislation….
Given their education and vaccination agendas they apparently don’t anticipate the need for independent thinkers in this country’s future.