Tag Archives: Bill Gates

Could There Be No Poor Countries in 20 Years? Bill Gates Thinks So

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 1.10.10 PMThis is probably one of my favourite headlines I’ve had to write so far this year, especially on the heels of yesterday’s post about less than 100 people having more wealth than half of the world. In the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation annual letter, Bill Gates is optimistic, to say the least:

I am optimistic enough about this that I am willing to make a prediction. By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. (I mean by our current definition of poor.) Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer. Countries will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations like new vaccines, better seeds, and the digital revolution. Their labor forces, buoyed by expanded education, will attract new investments.

By current definition of poor, Gates clarifies that he means that, “almost no country will be as poor as any of the 35 countries that the World Bank classifies as low-income today, even after adjusting for inflation.”

WOW!

Can you imagine a world where this happens? And Gates thinks that this could happen by 2035 — that’s 20 years from now! Twenty years!

A few months ago, I wrote a post considering what might be my generation’s version of racism:

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my generation in comparison to generations past, but the true purpose of this post is a juxtaposition of the generations to come. As I said, it seems that past generations had a harder time than mine digesting the mix of cultures. For kids growing up today (in certain countries), it’s abundantly clear that there are people who look different from them and it’s just normal to grow up and be friends with people like this. My question, what is it that my generation will have a hard time with that future generations will see as natural?

Maybe a tangential answer to that question is poverty. Maybe in my lifetime, poverty (as we know it) will be eradicated. That’s certainly a wild idea given the current state of the world, but I for one would be thrilled to see this come to pass as I imagine others would be. With that being said, I could see how some folks might not be as accepting of this change and that’s not to say that they wouldn’t want poverty to be forever changed, but just that they might be a little less comfortable with the change.

As an example, let’s use technology. Generations before mine had technology that was quite different from what we use today. That is, the invention of TV was amazing. Now today, we can watch TV on a device that we can carry around in our pocket. Some folks from past generations are amazed by this and might still have a hard time adjusting to this reality.

That’s how I’m trying to superimpose the possibility of the eradication of poverty for my generation. Some folks might have a hard time adjusting to this reality. Regardless of the comfortability of some folks with this potential reality, I think it’s great that the Gates’ have wrote a letter helping to debunk some of the myths in developmental economics:

  1. Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
  2. Foreign aid is a big waste.
  3. Saving lives leads to overpopulation.

I definitely recommend checking out the whole letter, which you can read here.

Are Grades and Tests the Best Way to Measure Learning?

The other week in class, I was speaking with a classmate about grades and learning. We were opining about how sometimes, getting the right answer (on an assignment) shouldn’t necessarily be the goal of the assignment. That is, shouldn’t learning be the goal? Shouldn’t improving one’s storehouse of wisdom be the goal? Shouldn’t understanding be the goal?

Of course, that is the intention with these assignments — that one will learn/understand the material. After having spent (almost) an entire semester on the other side of the classroom, I certainly have [some] empathy for teachers and their assignments. While I don’t have to report to a department chair, I understand that in order to measure students, there needs to be something measurable and I understand that tests/assignments have become the easy way of doing this. Should this be acceptable, though?

I recently came across an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that addresses this issue:

According to this view, the nature of teaching and learning should be measured instead of relying solely on an outcome like a grade or a test. Students should be exposed to courses and assignments that require them to analyze information and apply it to new contexts, reflect on what they know, identify what they still need to learn, and sort through contradictory arguments.

Such opportunities are described in research literature as “deep approaches to learning.” They figure prominently in Thursday’s release of data from the National Survey of Student Engagement. While Nessie, as the survey is known, has long sought data on those practices, this year’s report replicated and extended the previous year’s findings, which showed that participation in deep approaches tends to relate to other forms of engagement, like taking part in first-year learning communities and research projects.

This article has sparked a great deal of debate in the comments section, too. Here’s one comment that I found particularly on-point:

I do not want to be an apologist for the way things are, because it is always possible to improve our practices and in many respects we are responsible for the critical view the public have of us (honestly, it isn’t all the fault of right wing politicians with an anti-intellectual bent); however, higher ed adminstrators and the higher ed press have to stop treating each new study, each new innovation and each new utterance from some rich person suddenly interested in, but also dismissive of, higher ed (I’m looking at you Bill Gates) as the silver bullet  that is going to transform and save higher ed.  My head is not in the sand, I know higher ed (particularly public higher ed) is going through rough times but the panicked responses of the folks in charge is truly dismaying.

~

I once wrote about the need to shift towards Waldorf- & Montessori-like education. When I wrote this, I was thinking more about elementary and high school. I wonder — what should the model look like for college/university? Should it also be Waldorf- & Montessori-like? I don’t know, but it’s certainly a question worth asking.