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Gates demands better schools as Gates-backed school closes

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Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates displayed the timing of a percussionist suffering from the DTs when he called for more US education funding in an editorial for the Washington Post.

In the piece published Sunday, Gates celebrated San Diego's High Tech High as an example for educators trying to improve the state of US schools. The Microsoft founder's fondness for the school is understandable given that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pumped money into the project meant to supply youngsters with a technology-laced liberal arts education.

But just before the Gates editorial appeared, word broke that one of the hi-tech schools in the heart of Silicon Valley will be shut down because of a lack of funding and students.

The board of directors behind the High Tech High in Redwood City – the home of Oracle – last week voted unanimously to mothball the school less than two years after it opened.

Parents and students broke down in tears during a meeting about the school, saying they were promised a five-year commitment to keep the project going.

Gates never mentioned this closure in his well-intentioned piece.

"Companies must advocate for strong education policies and work with schools to foster interest in science and mathematics and to provide an education that is relevant to the needs of business," Gates wrote Government must work with educators to reform schools and improve educational excellence."

Much of BillG's editorial focused on the US's need to create an engineering savvy, innovative workforce. And, rather tellingly, Gates pointed to the US inventions such as the transistor, integrated circuit and microprocessor – not software – as examples of where this country has done well in the past.

"The most important factor is our workforce," he wrote. "Scientists and engineers trained in U.S. universities - the world's best - have pioneered key technologies such as the microprocessor, creating industries and generating millions of high-paying jobs."

That's a funny remark coming from a man who once chastised Intel co-founder Gordon Moore during a tirade saying, "You make the sand. I will do the software."

Ribbing aside, Gates should be commended for keeping the US education woes in the press and for working to do something about the problem.

You can expect to read more pieces like the last since Melinda Gates in on the board of the Washington Post. ®

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