Rich people and education reform

My attention as drawn to this news item about Rupert Murdoch attacking New Jersey governor Chris Christie for his embrace of president Obama’s assistance after Hurricane Sandy.

But what caught my eye was not his remarks but the photo caption that said “News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch delivers a keynote address at the National Summit on Education Reform on Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, in San Francisco.”

Why is Rupert Murdoch being invited to speak about education reform? What does he know about it? What could he possibly contribute to the discussion? Has he been secretly studying up on the complexities of learning theory in childhood while also systematically destroying the media in the US and UK?

Meanwhile Bill Gates has also now, by virtue of his ability to dispense large sums of money through his charitable foundation, become an authority on education and some school districts follow his guidance because of the money he can provide them.

There is no doubt that people like Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch have shown considerable ability in making money and running businesses and their views on those topics may well be worth listening to. But education?

The trouble is that rich Americans are often treated as if they are oracles, experts in any area that they choose to gaze upon. This idea that rich people have some generalized wisdom and expertise is as misconceived as the idea that Bobby Fisher could advise on playing bridge because of his undeniable prowess in chess.

Of course, people like Gates and Murdoch are pushing a corporate view of education. And when states and localities starve their public schools of resources, they make them more vulnerable to the allure of these rich people who may think they know what is best for school children but instead are pushing a very narrow view of it.