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High Tech High 2.0 146

theodp writes "A week ago, in his How to Keep America Competitive Op-Ed, Bill Gates touted the Gates Foundation-backed High Tech High as the future of American education. One small problem. Two days earlier, tearful Bay Area High Tech High students — recruited by a Bill Gates video — were told that their school of the future has no future. So would Bill be too embarrassed to lay out his education plan before the Senate Wednesday? Nah. Not too surprisingly though, mentions of High Tech High were MIA in Bill's prepared remarks (PDF), which touted Philly's imaginatively named $65M School of the Future, built under the guidance of Microsoft, as the new school of the future. Committee politicians reportedly embraced virtually all of the suggestions made by Gates."
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High Tech High 2.0

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  • naturally (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mastershake_phd ( 1050150 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @11:32AM (#18276556) Homepage
    Committee politicians reportedly embraced virtually all of the suggestions made by Gates.

    Of course they embraced his ideas. Hes the richest man in the world. Every politician want s to be him.
  • by nharmon ( 97591 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @11:38AM (#18276642)
    I really wish Gates would stop touting the H-1B program as the solution to a lack of American scientists and engineers. All it does is allow companies to pay scientists and engineers low wages by pumping up the labor supply. This is a clear case where the interests of the companies are in stark opposition to the interests of America.

    If America wants to stay competitive, force these companies to start paying real salaries for scientists and engineers. People will seek these career fields if the salaries are right, and the supply problem will go away.
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @11:44AM (#18276720)
    Your solution only works if paying 'real salaries' is profitable(leaving aside the discussion of whether they are or not, job creation depends on it being profitable to pay someone to do work).

    The real problem with the H1B program is that it exports a bunch of knowledge for no good reason. The bright folks who want to come here should be encouraged to stay, not to stay for a while.
  • by galenoftheshadows ( 828940 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @12:03PM (#18276974) Homepage
    Ummmmm... Let's see here.

    Divide by 42.

    Carry the one.

    "$#&%! We're $300 Million in the hole!"

    "Nah, we'll just ask congress to write it off until they're all paying social security, and get a huge tax break now!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2007 @12:04PM (#18276984)
    A DDJ blogger wrote yesterday of the pitiful disinterest in engineering as a career for American graduates, and cited, among other things, the lack of financial reward for engineers in the 21st Century.

    It seems to me that offshoring and H1B wage-lowering strategies are not going unnoticed by those in school and choosing a career.
  • by MyIS ( 834233 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @12:08PM (#18277038) Homepage
    Bill Gates is a shining example of the kind of competitiveness we do not want. His empire was built on undercutting the right enemy at the right time and cramming technological mediocrity down consumers' throats. And this is not me being a frothy-mouthed anti-Microsoft zealot; anyone can compare, say, OS/2 with Windows 95 and agree with that statement, grudgingly or not.

    And so, is this the man we want as an example of technological brilliance? He should be inspiring young kids in MBA school, not the future engineers and programmers. His business sense goes against the entire philosophy of having a high tech school - it seems that he made his money by preventing technological advancement.
  • Poker (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @12:12PM (#18277088) Journal
    Bill Gates was known as a master Poker player in college. Many think this is the skill that allowed him manipulate his way past competitors and cripple giants like IBM. Offshoring and visa workers are making tech skill a cheap commodity. Perhaps we should teach our kids Poker. As W shows, we are the land of con artists. We might as well embrace our comparative advantage and welcome our sneaky overlords.
  • MS != US (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darekana ( 205478 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @12:14PM (#18277122) Homepage
    However stupid "High Tech High" sounds,
    it is not grounds to dismiss Gates' points.

    America needs smarter citizens.
      (who respect intelligence, and don't vote for certifiably stupid leaders)

    America needs to be attractive to the best and brightest from around the world.

    This requires focusing on education and immigration policy reform.

    Please lets not get sidetracked on the MS bashing stuff when bigger issues abound.
  • by Caspian ( 99221 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @12:16PM (#18277150)

    "Committee politicians reportedly embraced virtually all of the suggestions made by Gates..."

    Infuriating, but not at all surprising. Outside the geek world-- and very few geeks seem to realise this-- people think Bill Gates is a role model to be followed. He's the richest guy in the world, so people in our highly capitalist, money-obsessed society are prone to hang on his every word. Much like Christian apologists, they note the good ("Bill Gates gives billions to charity") whilst ignoring the bad (e.g. "he made those billions via anticompetitive, illegal means" / "his Foundation is a huge tax break and PR boost for himself, and has been used as a tool to push Windows on developing nations who can't afford it"). They believe that simply because he is obscenely wealthy, he is necessarily a good guy. Everyone likes to root for the biggest fish in the pond. Everyone likes to root for the winner, and Bill Gates is undoubtedly a winner. It's sad, but true-- most of the world thinks Gates is a great guy.

    History doesn't look upon, say, Andrew Carnegie as a good guy simply because he gave away obscene amounts of money, but the average American today is lot more greedy, selfish and short-sighted than their counterpart of Carnegie's time, evidently...
  • by C3ntaur ( 642283 ) <centaur@netmaPLA ... minus physicist> on Thursday March 08, 2007 @12:25PM (#18277272) Journal
    I think the H1-B program will soon be irrelevent. It hastened the inevitable, but the fact of the matter is that any job that can be offshored for more profit, will be. It started happening to our manufacturing industry 30 years ago, and it's been happening to our high tech industries ever since other nations with cheaper labor built up enough infrustructure to support it.

    The only advice I can think of for someone choosing a career today is to find something that cannot be offshored.
  • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by m0rph3us0 ( 549631 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @12:25PM (#18277280)
    If you want to create schools that teach people useful knowledge the best thing that could happen is a school voucher program where parents receive a set amount of funding from the various levels of government and are free to spend those dollars as they see fit. Thus music programs and technological education can compete in a fair manner.
  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @01:14PM (#18277924) Homepage Journal
    The bright folks who want to come here should be encouraged to stay, not to stay for a while.

    If green cards were easier to obtain, and they weren't beholden to the employer who sponsors them, they would.

    Of course, then they could shop the market, and they could demand a salary as high as the rest of us. So of course the corporations will never allow that to happen.

    The top-level poster is spot on, all these other excuses are to divert attention from the money. It is *always* about the money. In the long term, there is no such thing as a labor shortage. The market fixes everything.
  • by poot_rootbeer ( 188613 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @01:56PM (#18278464)
    anyone can compare, say, OS/2 with Windows 95

    Windows 95 came with a TCP stack included. OS/2 required you to spend an extra $80 to get the "Warp Connect" package if you intended to use the Internet. In 1995.

    IBM's OS/2-native Web Explorer browser was also at all times at least one full major release behind Netscape, feature-wise.

    Windows 95 took the market because it was a better consumer OS than OS/2.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2007 @02:34PM (#18278942)
    "No H1B requires competitive pay"

    Use your brain. If you pay 50 Americans $100,000/yr and 50 H1B's $50,000/yr the average salary is what? $75,000. Now you can offer Americans $75,000/yr. Next you have 50 Americans at $75,000/yr and 50 H1B's at $45,000/yr so the average becomes what? $60,000/yr. And so on, and so on, and so on, ...

    This is what is going on.

    If American companies want better employees they need to do it the old fashion way. Take generalists and give them the training they need.
  • Nice! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tony ( 765 ) * on Thursday March 08, 2007 @02:40PM (#18279022) Journal
    This is just wonderful. Politicians will listen to Bill Gates, but not to actual teachers.

    No wonder education in America is fucked.
  • by TrinSF ( 183901 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @03:58PM (#18280032)
    Wow, it's interesting to see this show up on /. -- stories haven't been about things happening to me personally since the coverage of Be Inc. dying. Anyway, my son was one of the first students at High Tech High Bayshore. The first year, 2003-2004, they were actually just "San Carlos High School", because the deal with the HTH franchise came later. Originally, the idea was to have the school be run on the HTH model, not be an actual member school.

    Anyway, here's what the articles aren't saying: the school sucked. The articles are making a big deal about the money issue, and yes, they are closing because of the money, but the reason they don't have funds is that they're incredibly under enrolled, and they're under enrolled because they've had so many students leave.

    Initially, we had really high hopes for the school, and the first year wasn't that bad -- some good teachers, some mediocre teachers. The next year they had a new principal, and there were more mediocre teachers. As an example, that year all 10th graders (like my son) were in Chemistry. They had no lab equipment, and the instructor frequently taught them just *wrong things*. Wrong as in, the wrong value for Avogadro's number. Since the class was supposed to be a lab science, they were told they had to be doing lab work weekly. To meet that requirement, they did a "learning to measure" lab. And the next week, they did it again. For weeks on end, they essentially repeated the same basic labwork, so that the school could say they were participating in a lab component. At the end of the year, the administration apologized and admitted that they hadn't actually learned any Chemistry. Oh, and at the end of that year, many of the remaining *good* teachers left.

    So, by this year, they had something like 30 seniors, and were losing those fast. They've had attrition at two ends of the spectrum. They lost students dropping out or failing out, but they have also continued to lose students at the high end of the academic spectrum. My son, for example, studied two years of math in one year in his first year there, because he was allowed to have a more independent study approach. His sophomore year he was studying Calculus with two other students, but the teacher they had assigned to oversee them -- the "10th grade math" teacher -- couldn't actually *understand* math at the pre-Calc or Calc level, so he didn't give them any tests, couldn't grade their homework, etc. For the second semester, the school agreed to have the students take community college math classes instead. That would have been fine, except the next year, they decided the students should rejoin their grade level math classes -- now 2 years behind -- and just do that.

    I have tons of stories like this -- my son being taught flat out wrong things, having some classes where they learned a lot about one "project-based" subject, but had huge gaps in other areas. While some of the instructors were incredible people and really engaged my son, increasingly that wasn't true.

    But what made him leave in the end was the paucity of college assistance. My son's aiming pretty high for schools, but the school was pretty much set to tell students "Pick a University of California school you want to apply to, and a Cal State school, and you're done!" Son has watched some very gifted students fall through the cracks because there wasn't enough coaching in place to help kids find and apply for schools other than that. So we reached a point where it began to appear that staying at HTHB was going to negatively impact his ability to be accepted at the schools he really wanted to attend. He ended up transfering to another small charter school, where he's doing his senior year now.

    It sort of frustrates me as a parent to see all the focus be on the money situation at the school. If the school hadn't had ongoing problems with the quality of education, if it hadn't driven away high-achieving students by saying things like "academic quiz teams are not in keeping with the school's

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."