Back when I was first writing ktm, and was just discovering constructivism, I watched an Oprah Winfrey special on a Bill Gates-funded school in San Diego (I think it was). High Tech High.
The camera followed Oprah around the school for what seemed like a very long tour. The rooms were strikingly different from standard academic classrooms. For one thing, there were no books. No desks, really, either. Just groups (teams!) of kids building stuff. Every class looked like shop class, only with plastic and metal instead of wood.
Finally Oprah said, "I don't see any books. Don't you have books?"
The tour guide, who may have been head of school, said rather proudly that, no, they didn't have books.
I expected the guide to add that all their books were on computers because they were high-tech-high (e-books weren't around yet), but she didn't. The answer was just a simple 'no.' The school didn't have books. Because technology, I guess.
The look on Oprah's face was priceless. She more or less wrinkled her nose, then said, "I don't think I'd like this school very much."
A fabulous moment.
Naturally, I was aghast, and I wanted to write a post about the show.
But I didn't.
My co-creator of ktm, Carolyn, along with her husband, Bernie, had just taken jobs at Microsoft; they'd pulled up stakes and moved to Seattle.
Given Carolyn's professional situation, I didn't think I should write a post sharply criticizing Bill Gates.
I had no idea whether blasting a Bill Gates-funded school on a blog I shared with Carolyn would bother her, and I didn't ask. I didn't want to put her in the position of having to express an opinion one way or the other. Nor did I know whether blasting a Gates-funded school on our blog would bother anyone she worked for. I was pretty sure no one at Microsoft would see anything I wrote, but you never know.
So I said dropped the idea.
I didn't change my views.
I didn't become an advocate for schools without books.
I just let it go.
That's how social influence works.
Bill Gates is funding too many think tanks, schools, unions, interest groups, politicians, journalism projects, politicians, etc. In the world of education, you can't turn around without bumping into the guy.
We need writers to point this out.