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"Training the workforce of tomorrow with today's high schools is like trying to teach kids about today's computers on a 50-year-old mainframe," said Gates, whose $27-billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made education one of its priorities.
"Everyone who understands the importance of education, everyone who believes in equal opportunity, everyone who has been elected to uphold the obligations of public office should be ashamed that we are breaking our promises of a free education for millions of students," added Gates, to strong applause.
He's absolutely right. The public education system in this country is a national disgrace and has been so for a long time.
The industrial model for schooling which emerged back in the Progressive Era and is still with us, is completely obsolete and should be done away with. But what would replace it is not clear.
What we need is a national debate on the whole subject of education -- one that would set clear goals stating what we as a society expect our educational institutions to accomplish. Only then will it be possible to restructure those institutions so as to achieve those goals. Right now reform efforts are directionless and therefore futile. The lack of a clear focus, far more than the opposition of entrenched interest groups is the reason that meaningful reform has failed to materialize.