Bill Gates Filthy Wealth, Bolivian Chickens, and Victimized Schoolkids
NOTE: By now, I suppose this is old news. I tried to publish it in more general venues--reaching beyond our rather narrow education audience. Of course general audiences just don't give a damn about our plight. But I regard myself as a unique commentator on this particular issue. . . . I have, after all, actually laid hands on a Bolivian chicken.
by Susan Ohanian
Buckets of money give Bill Gates the singular notion that he knows what it means to stand in other peoples' shoes. In his June 7 blog, Gates pronounced, “It's pretty clear to me that just about anyone who's living in extreme poverty is better off if they have chickens. In fact, if I were in their shoes, that's what I would do--I would raise chickens." Gates goes on to give lessons in chicken husbandry and economics, including the fecundity of chickens and how chicken ownership can bring empowerment to women.
In keeping with the Gates gospel that he knows what people need, Gates announced a gift of 100,000 chickens to impoverished nations worldwide, including sub-Saharan Africa and Bolivia. The Financial Times reported that Cesar Cocarico, Bolivia's minister of land and rural development, was insulted. "[Gates] does not know Bolivia's reality to think we are living 500 years ago, in the middle of the jungle not knowing how to produce. Respectfully, he should stop talking about Bolivia, and once he knows more, apologize to us." As it happens, Bolivia’s economy has been steadily growing for the last decade, with per-capita gross domestic product jumping from roughly $1,200 to $3,100. The Guardian stepped up with the information that Bolivia produces 197 million chickens a year.
US media, who come to praise Gates, showed no interest in his missteps regarding what Bolivians need.
For decades I have stood in shoes that would give Gates bunions. Since my first job at Grover Cleveland High School in New York City to twenty years of teaching disaffected students to studying schools in twenty-six states as prep for writing about how teachers teach and kids learn, my close contact with public schools shows me the harm Gates money has wrought. What's Schools Matter: Bill Gates Filthy Wealth, Bolivian Chickens, and Victimized Schoolkids: