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So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class ...

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As Gates was working his way through the series, he stumbled upon a set of DVDs titled “Big History” — an unusual college course taught by a jovial, gesticulating professor from Australia named David Christian. Unlike the previous DVDs, “Big History” did not confine itself to any particular topic, or even to a single academic discipline. Instead, it put forward a synthesis of history, biology, chemistry, astronomy and other disparate fields, which Christian wove together into nothing less than a unifying narrative of life on earth. Standing inside a small “Mr. Rogers"-style set, flanked by an imitation ivy-covered brick wall, Christian explained to the camera that he was influenced by the Annales School, a group of early-20th-century French historians who insisted that history be explored on multiple scales of time and space. Christian had subsequently divided the history of the world into eight separate “thresholds,” beginning with the Big Bang, 13 billion years ago (Threshold 1), moving through to the origin of Homo sapiens (Threshold 6), the appearance of agriculture (Threshold 7) and, finally, the forces that gave birth to our modern world (Threshold 8).

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Threshold 1: The Big Bang Big History Project

She took a deep breath and softened her tone: “In some ways, I give Bill Gates huge credit. Bill Gates took a risk to get engaged. The fact that he was willing to step up and say, ‘Public education is important,’ is very different than foundations like the Walton Foundation, who basically try to undermine public education at every opportunity.”

That's such a horrible characterization of the educational reforms the Walton Foundation are aiming for.  "Undermine" is a cheap shot.  Parental choice is a huge benefit to students who are trapped in non-performing schools.  It brings hope to the lowest of income families and mild competitive pressures to reform.    

From "A Win-Win Solution: The Empircal Evidence of School Choice", Third Edition, Greg Forster, 2013.

• Twelve empirical studies have examined academicoutcomes for school choice participants usingrandom assignment, the “gold standard” of socialscience. Of these, 11 find that choice improvesstudent outcomes—six that all students benefitand five that some benefit and some are notaffected. One study finds no visible impact. Noempirical study has found a negative impact.

• Twenty-three empirical studies (including allmethods) have examined school choice’s impacton academic outcomes in public schools. Of these,22 find that choice improves public schools andone finds no visible impact. No empirical studyhas found that choice harms public schools.

• Six empirical studies have examined schoolchoice’s fiscal impact on taxpayers. All six findthat school choice saves money for taxpayers. Noempirical study has found a negative fiscal impact.

• Eight empirical studies have examined schoolchoice and racial segregation in schools. Of these,seven find that school choice moves students frommore segregated schools into less segregatedschools. One finds no net effect on segregationfrom school choice. No empirical study has foundthat choice increases racial segregation.

• Seven empirical studies have examined schoolchoice’s impact on civic values and practices suchas respect for the rights of others and civicknowledge. Of these, five find that school choiceimproves civic values and practices. Two find novisible impact from school choice. No empiricalstudy has found that school choice has 

Thanks for this. I was thinking that was an unfair characterization. 

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