What's middle school like?
I spend my days with hundreds of teenagers...teaching 8th grade English (at Pioneer Middle School in DuPont, WA), during which I try to convince 14-year-olds that writing and reading actually can be enjoyable and fruitful endeavors. To assuage my distress over the incomplete success of this work, I occasionally teach college courses in political science, and write...
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
A little missive for Bill Gates....
March 25, 2011
William H. Gates, Chairman
Dear Mr. Gates,
I want to tell you how excited I am every time I browse through the Microsoft web site, or look at your foundation’s web pages, or, of course, use a Microsoft product. You and your company are the epitome of ingenuity, vision and service.
What America needs now is a software development company that makes a wide range of sophisticated cutting edge technologies that people can really use, and you have built and maintained just that company. I am especially grateful that you have created products that allow people, especially young people, to realize that they needn’t learn something when they can just have the computer do it, or they can look it up on the web. By the way, it’s too bad you didn’t come up with Google, or at least buy it. That way we could know that an even wider array of digital tools and services was being ably created and managed by Microsoft.
I also appreciate how smart your products are. I hardly ever have to go back and repeatedly fix the automatic changes that your Word program executes while I’m writing. I mean, it’s true...I hardly ever use an abbr. In the middle of a sentence and so prefer that your cleverly designed auto-corrections not do their handy work. (I am surprised, however, that the program registered no concern about the badly mangled construction of the previous ‘sentence.’ I take some consolation, though, that it did mark the sentence just prior to this one as a fragment. Wow, I think I know what you programmer types mean about infinite loops.)
I truly admire that you have followed your dream and your vision and achieved the ideal of what you wanted Microsoft to become. I wanted it to become that, too. You’ve created the tools that help the symbolic analysts (as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich calls them) compete and win in the brutally competitive information economy. It took vision to understand that information is really the core resource, and to devise better and faster techniques to use, manage, send and manipulate that information. You saw, long before anyone else, that information, not knowledge or wisdom, is where power really resides.
That’s why I’m so pleased that you are inserting yourself so forcefully into the discussion about school reform. Sometimes it takes a so-called outsider to really see the forest for the trees, or understand how the digitized art work projections of forest-like environments function. Who else could so clearly and rightly break down the service called ‘teaching’ into the sequential technical steps that will maximize students’ technology skills, and the like?
I have grown tired of teachers speaking of their “craft,” or of meeting the different needs of their numerous students. It takes clarity and drive to know how to apply technical problem-solving genius, like yours, to the rather uncomplicated task of educating children. You have the bold insight to know that merely replicating a successful product wins the day. Putting more students in front of the good teacher reflects the same kind of simple elegance of your brilliant repetition of the Office line of software products. If we find the circumstances for success, then the surest route to efficient use of our technological resources is to conform all other divergent conditions to those successful circumstances. If I may be so bold as to refashion the expression--you have created a powerful hammer, now everything around can be easily pounded.
I look forward to great success in all your endeavors. One I hope you will consider undertaking, as I still await its advent...a digital satire-detector.