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July 13, 2010 2 min read
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DISTRICT DOSSIER

Gates on Charters

In a one-on-one interview with Education Week after his speech to the National Charter Schools Conference in Chicago last month, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said he believes charter schools have largely lived up to their promise of creating innovative, high-quality education for students, but he wants to see more risk-taking. Mr. Gates also dismissed the notion that his foundation has outsized influence on the Obama administration’s agenda.

“Everyone’s got the same goal in mind, which is to improve the schools,” he said. “There is no agenda. If the status quo were satisfactory, we wouldn’t need to be involved at all.”

Besides, Mr. Gates noted, the country is far from being in agreement on how to improve public education. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has “a lot of different strategies. Some overlap [with the foundation’s]. Some are different,” he said. “I wish the world had one [education] agenda it knew would work and be embraced by teachers.” —Dakarai I. Aarons

CURRICULUM MATTERS

Independence From Whom?

In the days leading up to the Fourth of July this year, a polling firm asked U.S. residents a timely question: From which country did we win our independence?

Overall, 74 percent answered correctly, while 20 percent were “unsure,” and 6 percent identified other countries, according to the survey conducted by the Marist Poll. Broken down by age, those 18 to 29 had more trouble answering the question, with only 60 percent of them identifying Great Britain.

It’s no secret that many Americans are a tad weak on their knowledge of U.S. history and civics. And plenty of organizations are trying to correct that. The nation just lost a leading advocate for civics and history education with the death of Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. He was among those who protested a proposal by President Barack Obama that would consolidate funds for a variety of programs at the U.S. Department of Education, including the Teaching American History grants program, into a larger competitive fund. (“History, Civics Education Part of Sen. Byrd’s Legacy,” this issue.) —Erik Robelen

DIGITAL EDUCATION

Dr. Phil Says No to Bullies

Television psychologist Phillip McGraw, the host of the syndicated TV show “Dr. Phil,” brought star power to a U.S. House Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities hearing last month on Capitol Hill, where he was one of six panelists seeking federal help to combat cyberbullying.

“It is impossible to unring the cyber bell,” Mr. McGraw said while explaining to the committee why online bullying is perhaps more dangerous than its verbal or physical counterparts. “Once it’s out there, it’s out there.”

Mr. McGraw urged Congress to address cyberbullying in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He also encouraged parents to monitor their children’s online activities and stressed that to stop cyberbullying, perpetrators should be counseled, not vilified. —Ian Quillen

A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2010 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week

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