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Eli Broad and Bill Gates: New American Propagandists

From Wikipedia: "Propaganda is a type of message aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of people. Often, instead of impartially providing information, propaganda can be deliberately misleading, or using fallacies, which, while sometimes convincing, are not necessarily valid. Propaganda techniques include: patriotic flag-waving, glittering generalities, intentional vagueness, oversimplification of complex issues, rationalization, introducing unrelated red herring issues, using appealing, simple slogans, stereotyping, testimonials from authority figures or celebrities, unstated assumptions, and encouraging readers or viewers to 'jump on the bandwagon'" of a particular point of view.

Unhappy with the state of American public education, yesterday Eli Broad and Bill Gates announced that they would spend $60 Million dollars over the course of 18 months in order to "wake up the American people that we have got a real problem and we need real reform." The wake up call consists of massive advertising and online media campaigns aimed at influencing the opinions and behavior of all of us.

What must we believe, and how must we behave?

We must believe that the "schools are failing" and the only way to save them is by following corporate messiahs.

It is time for Americans to start challenging this simple slogan, to ask if celebrities such as Broad and Gates aren't deliberately misleading us using fallacies, glittering generalities, intentional vagueness, oversimplification of complex issues, and patriotic flag waving.

With the use of pseudo science and media hype individuals such as Broad and Gates have led us to believe that "failing" public schools will cost America its global economic dominance. We must ignore for the time being the fact that the same people support off-shoring the very jobs they claim schools must prepare children to enter.

Are schools failing?

In 1983 members of the Reagan administration told America that if we did not radically change the way we ran our schools we would be speaking Japanese or German. We did not radically change our schools. I was in school in 1983. I teach in schools now. The only real difference is the amount of money schools spend on tests.

Today corporate America tells us if we don't radically change our schools we are going to take our marching orders from China or India. These are the same public schools that supported the economic boom years from 1991-2001, but no one praised public schools for that decade of economic success. Is it not odd that public schools are now accused of spawning future economic catastrophe?


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Am I the only one that saw the Dow break 13,000 yesterday? Given that 89% of Americans attend public schools, am I supposed to believe that it was a failing country that created the conditions for that particular economic spectacle?

German propagandist Joseph Goebbels explained that "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." Americans are beginning to wake up to the fact that they were sold a false bill of goods on the Iraq war, a war that would not have been entered without another tactic employed by Goebbels, who reminds us that propaganda "must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over."

Think weapons of mass destruction…

Bill Gates funds at least four "independent" think tanks: The Education Trust, The Education Sector, The Aspen Institute, and Strong American Schools. All four of these organizations repeat the same few points over and over:

Our schools are failing. Poor teaching is to blame. It's time for tougher standards. America needs a national curriculum.

I do not deny that our country's school system needs help. The fact of the matter is, our country needs help.

In a recent report UNICEF ranked the United States the second worst industrialized country for a child to grow up in. That rating had nothing to do with public education and everything to do with a lack of healthcare, an incarceration industry, and a growing poverty rate. One out of five children comes to school hungry. Tougher standards will do nothing to help them learn, neither will "highly extra super qualified" teachers, as called for by each one of Gates' "independent" think tanks.

One can only wonder why Gates and other captains of industry believe a national curriculum will ensure that America retains its place as global economic leader. Arguably, it is creativity, exploration, risk-taking, and liberty that helped this country earn its place as the sole global superpower. Forcing American teachers and children to follow the same script undermines all of the above.

If I had $60 million to spare on a media campaign, I'd ask this country who benefits from all of us thinking the same way about the same things at the same time. It certainly isn't "we the people."

Philip Kovacs

Philip Kovacs

Philip Kovacs is working on his PhD in educational policy studies at Georgia State University. He can be reached at

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