When Cities Go Bankrupt?

Dear Commons Community,

Over the past week, the media covered extensively the bankruptcy declaration by the City of Detroit.  A  good deal of speculation has been made about what bankruptcy would mean for the city, its residents and its workers.  Some speculated that it would be a good thing and would force Detroit to get its fiscal house in order.  Others saw it is as a path to pain with many people suffering with the loss of city services, vendors not getting paid, and workers losing their pensions.  Several other American cities that have recently filed for bankruptcy such as San Bernardino, Stockton and Birmingham are in the early throes of slowly making their way back to solvency.

I keep thinking back to the mid-1970s when New York City was on the fiscal brink and literally hours away from declaring bankruptcy. Sam Roberts of the New York Times recalled in an article written in 2006:

“A statement of default by Mayor Abraham D. Beame was drafted and typed and ready to be released on Oct. 17, 1975…

“I have been advised by the comptroller that the City of New York has insufficient cash on hand to meet debt obligations due today,” the statement said. “This constitutes the default that we have struggled to avoid.”

The statement…went on to say that the city had applied for and obtained a court order to preserve its assets from creditors.

It said that “rational and humane” priorities had been approved to make payments in this order: police, fire, sanitation and public health services; food and shelter for people dependent on the city; hospital and emergency medical care for those with no other resources; bills from vendors of essential goods and services; school maintenance; interest on city debt; and payments due the retired and aged, beyond those from pension funds.

The Beame statement was never distributed because, after the most tense episode in months of fiscal crisis, Albert Shanker, the teachers’ union president, finally furnished $150 million from the union’s pension fund to buy Municipal Assistance Corporation bonds.

Mr. Shanker had resisted …but relented after meeting with Gov. Hugh L. Carey.”

While New York never declared bankruptcy officially, it acted as if it did and it took about a dozen years of belt-tightening and a fiscal watch dog before it  got back on its feet.  New York did not die nor will Detroit, San Bernardino, Stockton or Birmingham but the road will be long and hard.



MOOCs at San Jose State University: An Insider’s View!

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this week I posted on The Chronicle of Higher Education article on the state of MOOCs at San Jose State University in California.  The article entitled, San Jose State U. Puts MOOC Project With Udacity on Hold, essentially raised several critical questions regarding its implementation at this mainstream public university.

Cathy  Chiel, Associate Vice President and Senior Academic Technology Officer and a colleague of mind from the Sloan Consortium, in an email, commented on the article.  I asked her if it would be okay to post her email to my blog and she graciously agreed.  She makes several comments from someone on the inside of the MOOC implementation at San Jose.  I am sure readers following MOOC developments will find her insights most interesting.

Email from Catheryn L. Cheal to Sloan Board of Directors dated July 20, 2013
Hi all,
Unfortunately, everything you’ll read in the media about the MOOCs at
San Jose is vastly simplified and overly pessimistic. We created
courses with MOOC materials, but they aren’t as massive or freely open
as MOOCs. The usual media life cycle of overly-hyping an innovation
and then turning on it is now in play. It happened with online courses
in the early 2000s, then with Second Life, and now with MOOCs. This
will blow over too and the type of online materials possible in a MOOC
will continue to evolve as one more online option for online
The math MOOC course, which had the lowest passing rates, had an SJSU
student population of those who had previously failed remedial math,
and the MOOC course was a second chance, when they usually don’t get a
second chance. So those 20% who passed were retained at SJSU when
otherwise they would have had to move to a community college. In
addition a high school population had been signed up, but those
students didn’t have computers at home and we learned about that some
2 or 3 weeks into the course. We worked with the high school to open
it’s lab for them in the afternoons. In other words, these courses
didn’t have the typical SJSU student population.
Passing rates, though, are always something to work on and the summer
courses have made some changes that are looking to help, such as an
Orientation week, grading on a more granular level (as should be done
in all online courses) and numerous faculty/student chat sessions
about the material. We won’t have those numbers until the end of the
summer. We were planning to give faculty extra time in the fall to
study the video-tutorials and work on edits and then teach the MOOCs
again in the spring. The tutorials are as detailed as textbooks, so
the sequencing and detail needs to be reviewed for flow.
There are problems on the business side of things that really need to
be worked out, such as enrollment, billing, pre-reqs, data exchange,
etc for a smoother process, as well. At any rate, what I’m reading
about our courses has more to do with the nature of media than the
nature of MOOCs.
Catheryn L. Cheal, Ph.D., Associate Vice President and Senior Academic Technology Officer, San Jose State University

Sam Roberts on New York City’s Mayoral Candidates!

Dear Commons Community,

Long-time urban affairs editor for the New York Times (and formerly with The Daily News) has a piece today on the New York City mayoral candidates.  He comments about the uncertainty among New York City voters:

“For all the illusion that politics is irrational blood sport, arguably every New York mayoral election over the last century was won by a candidate who offered a clear alternative to his predecessor. The candidacies — at least in retrospect — seemed to provide voters with a logical rationale. Not all of them fulfilled their promise, but what they appeared to offer as candidates meshed most with New Yorkers’ perception of what they wanted that year in a mayor, whether it was a cheerleader in chief or a soothing provider of balm.

What’s especially striking about the congested 2013 elbow-to-elbow mayoral field is that with so many candidates and with the primary less than two months away, polls suggest that voters seem uncertain even about which qualities they want in the next mayor, much less which candidate can deliver.”

He observes:

“Twelve years after Mr. Bloomberg was first elected, New York seems a little like France did a year ago, weary of the flamboyance of Nicolas Sarkozy and longing for a return to “normalcy” after a whirlwind two decades of Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Bloomberg. As a criterion in choosing a mayor of New York, normalcy can be extremely subjective.

However the campaign unfolds this time, it will play into the public perception of each candidate’s peculiar narrative: among them, Christine C. Quinn’s grit (tempered by her tender embrace of Mr. Bloomberg’s third term and political agenda); Bill de Blasio’s populism; William C. Thompson Jr.’s maturity (amid increasing contentiousness among the candidates, and fiscal uncertainty, he may come across as the most grown-up); Anthony Weiner’s appeal as an outsider and his rugged, even untethered, individualism; John C. Liu’s espousal of unabashed liberalism; and, if he wins the Republican nomination, Joseph J. Lhota’s managerial credentials.

What New Yorkers want after 12 years of a Bloomberg administration that posited itself as apolitical is clearly someone else — though someone who will not return the city to the “bad old days” before Mr. Giuliani; also, as a New York Times and Siena College poll suggested last week, someone who is more warm and fuzzy and can move the city in some vague new direction.

“So what is the theme for 2013?… “Maintaining the status quo while doing a few things better seems to be the prevailing mood — a less compelling theme than in some years, so harder to call.”

I would agree with Roberts that New Yorkers want someone who can manage the city but also want someone who can relate to and understands the needs of all the people.


Professional Staff Congress Endorses Bill de Blasio for Mayor and Needs Your Support!

Dear Commons Community,

The Professional Staff Congress has sent out a call to its members seeking volunteers to help in the campaigns of candidates it is supporting in this year’s citywide elections.  Below is the letter from Steve London, First Vice President of the PSC.



Dear PSC Member:

The PSC has endorsed Bill de Blasio for Mayor, Letitia James for Public Advocate, and Scott Stringer for Comptroller.

The 2013 elections represent a special opportunity for union members and supporters of public education in New York City. After two decades of Giuliani and Bloomberg, we have a chance to elect a mayor and other officials who will change today’s policies of austerity – and we have eight weeks to make that happen.  The Democratic primary is September 10, and the PSC is working to make sure that the most pro-CUNY, pro-labor candidates will be on the ballot in November. I’m writing to ask you to volunteer in this effort.

Right now is a key time in this year’s elections. Most voters are undecided or not strongly committed to any candidate. In the next few weeks, they will start paying more attention to the race and decide who to support. That’s why we’re asking PSC members to volunteer some time to work on the mayoral race or other citywide contests:

BILL DE BLASIO FOR MAYOR: The PSC has endorsed Bill de Blasio for Mayor of New York City because of his clear progressive record and his focus on economic inequality. DeBlasio understands the strategic importance of education (and CUNY in particular) in expanding opportunity for New Yorkers who’ve been left behind in the Bloomberg era.

As The New York Times reported, De Blasio’s plan “to assess a tax on wealthier New Yorkers to pay for more prekindergarten and other programs,” and his proposal “that $150 million worth of corporate tax breaks be ended and the money invested instead in CUNY” helped him win the PSC’s support.

To volunteer on the de Blasio campaign in your neighborhood, you can sign up online at billdeblasio.com/get-involved/neighborhood, or contact Harold Miller at Harold@billdeblasio.com or 917-576-5403.

LETITIA JAMES FOR PUBLIC ADVOCATE: A long-time progressive who has represented City Council District 35 in Brooklyn for three terms, Tish James has supported increased funding for CUNY and introduced a Council resolution criticizing the Pathways project.  As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Contracts, James demanded an investigation of the disastrous CityTime payroll project, which cost the City millions in fraudulent billing by private consultants.  A Lehman College graduate, she has been at the forefront of efforts to curtail the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” policy, which disproportionately affects CUNY students.  She has also fought to preserve community interests in the Atlantic Yard development.

To volunteer on the James campaign, contact Gina Bull at gina@letitiajames2013.com or 845-596-6512.

 Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has a strong record of support for CUNY.  A graduate of John Jay College, Stringer has also backed expanding college access for undocumented immigrant students through the New York State Dream Act, priority legislation for the PSC.  A current trustee of the New York City Employees Retirement System, he has worked to protect City employees’ retirement security.  An advocate for transparency in government, Stringer is a strong supporter of the public campaign finance system and has released his last five years of tax returns (something his opponent has refused to do).

To volunteer on the Stringer campaign, contact Anaf Uddin at 917-982-6800.
The PSC’s political action work is a people-powered effort, and it’s your participation that makes us effective. Please consider volunteering now – and let us know that you’ve done so by e-mailing Amanda Magalhaes (amagalhaes@pscmail.org).

Steve London

PSC First Vice President



San Jose State U. Puts MOOC Project With Udacity on Hold!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that the University of California at San Jose is giving itself a “breather” from MOOCs after two semesters of experimentation.   Ellen Junn, provost of San Jose State, described the break as temporary. The university has not suspended its partnership with Udacity, she said, and the university and the company will probably create new courses together by next spring.

“This is a natural breather time, that’s all we’re doing,” she said.

News of the break coincided with the leaking of a slide show containing preliminary data on the spring trials, which included three mathematics courses that San Jose State instructors built with Udacity. The courses were offered to a mix of students, some who were enrolled at the university and others who were not, including some high-school students.

The pass rates for the San Jose State students in those courses ranged from 29 percent to 51 percent. For non-enrolled students, the range was 12 percent to 45 percent.”

Asked whether it was the preliminary findings from the spring trials that had prompted the university to take a “breather” from its experiments with Udacity, Ms. Junn said that the early data “did not necessarily cause this to happen” and that no planned courses had been canceled. She said she does not recall when the decision to put the trials on hold was made, only that “it was a joint decision” with Udacity and that many factors went into it.

Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity, said the company was merely taking time to restructure its courses with San Jose State so that students could work through the material more at their own pace. “The No. 1 complaint we’re getting is that students need more time, they feel rushed,” said Mr. Thrun. “We never made the decision to stop” the pilot entirely, he added.

San Jose State has been ground zero for several projects aimed at testing how MOOCs—or, more precisely, technology developed by MOOC providers—might help traditional universities improve their online courses while lowering the cost to students. In a separate pilot, the university has pushed its instructors to use content and technology from edX, a nonprofit MOOC provider, in their courses, an experiment that has garnered both promising data and skepticism from faculty members.”

The Chronicle concluded its article as:

“…data from the spring trials can serve as a useful reminder that the outside providers cannot provide a miracle cure for the problems facing public higher education in California, said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association.

“The problem is all the hype,” she said. “I think what these data do is bring us down to earth.”

Bring us down to earth indeed.  MOOCs are not silver bullets by any means.  They have been hyped by their providers, investors, politicians and the media looking for quick fixes.



College Graduation Gap Narrowing Between White and Minority Students!

College Graduation Rates

Dear Commons Community,

The graduation gap between minority and white college students is slowly narrowing according to a new report by the Education Trust.  The report, based on data from the U.S. Department of Education, noted that from 2009 to 2011, the number of Hispanic undergraduates at four-year colleges shot up 22 percent, while enrollment grew 8.5 percent for black students and 2.7 percent for white students. Six-year graduation rates for all three groups improved: by 4.7 percent for Hispanic students and by 2 percent for black and white students.  The report states:

“Making use of new data now publicly available on the College Results Online (CRO) website, The Education Trust finds some encouraging news for those concerned about broadening access and

success in the nation’s four-year colleges: Over the past three years,  the number of black and Latino undergraduates enrolled in four-year colleges grew far faster than the enrollment of white students, and success rates for both groups also increased. Certainly, more improvement is necessary. Success rates (i.e., six-year graduation rates) for both groups still lag those of white students.

And even with the recent increases, the current graduation rate for black students is still below their rate in 2006 by 2.2 percentage points. But if more colleges and universities can match the improvement patterns seen at the leading institutions profiled in this brief, closing the college completion gap is within our reach.”

“Colleges that decide student success is the number-one priority have been able to move the needle even with decreasing levels of state support,” the report’s author, Joseph Yeado, a higher education research and policy analyst for the Education Trust.

The report specifically mentions several colleges (SUNY Stonybrook, Florida State University, University of North Carolina- Greensboro) that are doing an excellent job of narrowing the graduation gap and several  (Michigan State, Louisiana State, University of Akron) that are not.


Teachers Flunk Bill Gates on School Improvement!

Dear Commons Community,

This has not been a good week for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  On Monday, The Chronicle of Higher Education published two articles critical of the way the Foundation operates with political, corporate and media collaborators to influence education policy.   Now The Huffington Post is reporting that a website has been set-up by K-12 teachers expressing their views (letters) on the contribution of the Gates Foundation to school improvement.  

“The Huffington Post has sifted through the letters, which tell stories of students and school districts that have been impacted by the Microsoft mogul. Below we have compiled a list of the themes most mentioned in the writings.

The top seven things that educators and education activists want Bill Gates to know:

7. Schools should teach children things that can’t be tested, too. While the standardized tests the Gates Foundation supports measure quantifiable skills, such as writing and math, some educators think schools should also place an emphasis on teaching students skills that would develop their emotional intelligence and vocational abilities. As John Chase notes in his letter to Bill Gates, “Critical reading and thinking skills are very important, but I do not believe they trump or supersede the equally if not more important ‘soft skills’ that help students to succeed and overcome the real ‘tests’ in life.”

6. One size does not fit all in education. Many letters lament the stress and self-esteem issues that result when bright students underperform on standardized tests. Some note that schools would be much happier places if there were less emphasis on standardized tests and more importance placed on individualized learning. As Michelle Cosgrove writes, “With the ever increasing emphasis on high stakes testing and usage of cookie-cutter curricula, we are expecting ALL children to drink the exact same water at the exact same time…and then punishing them when they will not or cannot.”

5. Teacher evaluations should not be heavily tied to test scores. This seems to be one area in which both groups’ philosophies align. While Bill Gates previously supported policies that strongly tied teacher evaluations to test scores, in recent months he has made statements suggesting he is changing course. According to a recent op-ed written by Gates in the Washington Post, “the country needs … thoughtfully developed teacher evaluation systems that include multiple measures of performance, such as student surveys, classroom observations by experienced colleagues and student test results.”

4. Not all reformers have it right. While most letters do not doubt Gate’s good intentions, some fear the philanthropist is taking advice from the wrong people. Some letters say that Gates should avoid listening to reformers like Michelle Rhee, with whom he previously appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

3. Give education professionals a seat at the table. The stated purpose of “Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates” is to give teachers, education researchers, parents and students a democratic means of influencing the Gates Foundation in its education policy and financial decisions. Indeed, several letters express concern that the wants, needs and experiences of teachers –- who inevitably know schools best –- are overlooked in the realm of education policy. As first-grade teacher Gretchen Conley wrote in her letter: “Invest in us. Believe in us. I’ve never been invited to the table to talk about assessment with policy makers.”

2. No Child Left Behind was bad. With the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 came the rise of standardized testing across the nation. The Gates Foundation has supported the principles of NCLB, but educators and activists want Bill and Melinda Gates to know that this has been bad for their students’ educations. According to Linda S. Hudson, “High stakes testing is expensive, ineffective, and inefficient, and, according to some research, has been correlated with higher drop out rates.”

1. Implementing Common Core standards will not fix things. The Gates Foundation has provided $150 million in grant money for organizations to invest in Common Core implementation. Educators on “Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates” bemoan this, writing that Common Core standards will continue the trend of high-stakes testing in school. Instead of trying to fix education by investing in Common Core standards, one writer tells Gates to invest in poverty reduction instead. Writes Carmen R. Andrews, “The only people benefitting from the Common Core Standards and attached over-testing are those creating the tests and supporting materials.”

I would suggest that Bill and Melinda Gates would be better off working in areas where their billions might be better used.  However, if they feel they must be involved in education, they should: 

  • provide no strings attached grants;
  • listen to educators and not corporate and technology-oriented colleagues;
  • stop installing their operatives in federal and state education departments.


A MOOC Delusion: Why Visions to Educate the World Are Absurd!

Dear Commons Community,

The online version of The Chronicle of Higher Education has a guest post today by Ghanashyam Sharma, an assistant professor in writing and rhetoric at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.   Sharma provides an important perspective on teaching to world audiences as someone who before teaching at SUNY Stonybrook, taught for ten years in Nepal.

As The Chronicle recently reported, perhaps the most prominent motivation among professors at prestigious universities for teaching massively open online courses, or MOOCs, is “altruism—a desire to increase access to higher education worldwide.”

In itself, the desire to increase access to quality education for millions across the world is a laudable one. After seven years of being within American academe, first as a graduate student and now as an instructor, I share that desire. I wish to make my teaching available for students around the world who aspire to learn from knowledgeable educators regardless of national borders.

But I don’t share the delusion that seems to be the basis for the excitement over MOOCs among my colleagues here in the United States.”

To make his point, Sharman cites Bakary Diallo, a professor from the African Virtual University:

“As Bakary Diallo, a professor from the African Virtual University, reportedly remarked at a recent meeting among international educators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, students in other parts of the world have their “own realities,” their “own context and culture.” It would be absurd to ignore how significantly those realities shape students’ participation in our virtual classrooms.

So, notwithstanding the inherent goodness of altruism, it is sad to see how educators who see MOOCs as a means of educating students across the world also seem to lack the willingness to consider seriously what happens when thousands of students constituting a vast spectrum of proficiency levels and academic backgrounds try to catch up with one’s attempt to educate the world primarily through video-recorded lectures. This problem is evident in the design and delivery of any MOOC in almost any discipline at this time.”

This article is a well-stated analysis of the hubris that has evolved with the American MOOC phenomenon.  The idea that American professors can relate to multitudes around the world via video lectures is indeed “absurd”.  As Sharman concludes:

“If you were to land today in a small town in India, Argentina, or South Dakota and have to start teaching one of your courses tomorrow morning, how well do you think you would do?

If I may assume that most of us would say that it is hard to teach well in that situation, what magical powers do the MOOC platforms or our personal computers provide us that make all the challenges of facing students across the world simply disappear?”



The Chronicle: More on Gates, College Completion, Remediation, and Job Skills!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a second article today that critically examines the higher education policy approaches of the Gates Foundation, specifically, with regard to college completion, remediation and training for job skills.   For example:

“… the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has financed studies that argue for broad-scale changes aimed at pushing more students, more quickly, toward graduation. Working alongside the Lumina Foundation through intermediaries like Complete College America and another nonprofit, Jobs for the Future, the Gates foundation has helped influence higher-education policy at the state level to a degree that may be unprecedented for a private foundation.

At a time when college budgets are strained from decades of cuts in state support, Gates grantees have urged lawmakers to allocate spending more efficiently, emphasizing the need for more students to graduate and presenting evidence that remedial courses hold them back…

Only about 58 percent of first-time, full-time students who start at a four-year college receive a bachelor’s degree from that college within six years. Most higher-education experts agree that that’s a problem.

But some object to the way Gates and legislators have gone about tackling the issue. The influence of a major foundation and its grantees in state policy discussions makes some experts uncomfortable, since as a private entity Gates is not accountable to voters. They contend that the strategy bypasses colleges themselves and imposes top-down solutions, seeking quick fixes for complicated problems.

“You create this whole hyped-up, get-it-done-fast mentality,” says Debra Humphreys, vice president for policy and public engagement for the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Association officials have argued that the completion agenda being pushed by the Gates foundation doesn’t pay enough attention to educational quality, and that it focuses too narrowly on getting students through as quickly as possible.

Gates officials say they’re merely making sure states get the data they need to make smart policy decisions. Working at a state level allows the foundation to reach more students than they could with a small pilot program, they point out. And they say that rather than bypassing academic experts, they are shining a national spotlight on those with workable solutions that can be broadly applied.”

This article goes on to provide other examples and is a good companion piece to another Chronicle article  on The Gates Effect. Both articles are important contributions to the discussion of venture philanthropy’s influence on education policy..  The articles could have explored more the attitude of Gates, its corporate, political and media partners toward faculty and teachers.  For the most part, Gates and its collaborators have a clandestine war going on against anything to do with shared governance and collective bargaining.




The Chronicle of Higher Education Looks Critically at the Gates Foundation!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a feature article today on the Gates Foundation.  It establishes the fact that Gates has become a major player in higher education policy by funding projects, by infiltrating the U.S. Department of Education with former employees, and by influencing political, media, and other officials at various levels.

“Since 2006, Gates has spent $472-million to remake U.S. higher education, according to a Chronicle analysis—$343-million of that since January 2008, the year Gates announced a new focus on helping low-income young people earn credentials. The Lumina Foundation, another key player in the college-reform movement and the largest private foundation devoted solely to higher education, spent a little more than half that amount over the same period on a similar agenda.

Five years into an ambitious postsecondary program that is expected to last two decades, the avalanche of Gates cash has elevated the Seattle-based foundation to a central role in the national debate about reforming college, raising questions about the extent of its influence.

Gates’s rise occurs as an unusual consensus has formed among the Obama White House, other private foundations, state lawmakers, and a range of policy advocates, all of whom have coalesced around the goal of graduating more students, more quickly, and at a lower cost, with little discussion of the alternatives. Gates hasn’t just jumped on the bandwagon; it has worked to build that bandwagon, in ways that are not always obvious. To keep its reform goals on the national agenda, Gates has also supported news-media organizations that cover higher education. (Disclosure: The Chronicle has received money from the Gates foundation.)…

The effect is an echo chamber of like-minded ideas, arising from research commissioned by Gates and advocated by staff members who move between the government and the foundation world.

Higher-education analysts who aren’t on board, forced to compete with the din of Gates-financed advocacy and journalism, find themselves shut out of the conversation. Academic researchers who have spent years studying higher education see their expertise bypassed as Gates moves aggressively to develop strategies for reform.

Some experts have complained that the Gates foundation approaches higher education as an engineering problem to be solved.

Most important, some leaders and analysts are uneasy about the future that Gates is buying: a system of education designed for maximum measurability, delivered increasingly through technology, and—these critics say—narrowly focused on equipping students for short-term employability.

Private foundations have shaped academe for decades. But Gates and its philanthropic partners, the Lumina and Kresge Foundations, are pioneering an activist approach to higher-education reform, one that emphasizes systemic change and demands quick, measurable results. This new approach has earned praise from some observers, who maintain that strategic, focused grant making is exactly what foundations should be doing.”

The mega-question is:  But what if the focus of these grants and strategies are  misguided?

There is little in our checks and balances to prevent Gates and others like it to operate as venture (some would say “vulture”) philanthropy looking to control and manipulate enterprises to their own view of the world.  As a private philanthropy, Gates (like Lumina, Broad, Walton) are answerable to no one.  They do not want to answer to anyone and instead look to control as much of the playing field as possible – similar to the way monopolists control markets, the production of raw materials and the means of production.   Th article covers good ground  but could also have explored more the corporate, for-profit connections of Gates and others like it.

In sum, the American education-industrial complex continues to grow and function well through Gates and his philanthropic, political,  and corporate collaborators.