Open letter to EdCamps
Since writing Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, we’ve been asked to donate books to many EdCamps as gifts to teacher participants. We’ve gladly done so. We recently received a request for an upcoming EdCamp, but this time and in the future will not be donating books. We want to share the reason publicly.
First, a little background. EdCamps are unconferences, born out of the idea that teachers need more collegial time to share ideas, learn new things, and find support in moving from ideas to action. They are free to attend, organized by volunteers, and don’t rely on sponsors or vendors who would use the event as a sales opportunity. We encourage these efforts. Over the years, the organizers created The EdCamp Foundation to grow the movement.
However, the EdCamp Foundation recently accepted a two million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation has spent the past decade wreaking havoc on public education and deprofessionalizing teachers. Gary Stager has been writing about this pattern of attacks since the early days of the Gates Foundation’s involvement in education.
If you’d like to read more, here are two articles:
- Who Elected Bill Gates? (Huffington Post)
- School Wars (Good Magazine)
Bill Gates and his foundation have questioned the merits of small class size and teacher education while turning schools into joyless test-prep factories for “other people’s children”. The Gates Foundation’s small investment in EdCamp provides a public-relations shield for the much larger Gates Foundation strategy of defunding public education and undermining teacher education programs (pre-service and in-service). St. Augustine said, “Charity is no substitute for social justice withheld.”
We understand that the Gates money will allow EdCamp to award small grants to teachers to implement ideas and to organize events. We are not against teachers receiving money. We do not believe that the EdCamp Foundation employees, individual organizers, or attendees will be forced to espouse or support Gates Foundation goals. We believe that teachers who plan and attend EdCamps can make up their own minds about issues.
We have the greatest respect for educators participating in EdCamps around the world, but feel that we have to take a stand with regards to the Gates Foundation. Therefore, we cannot in a good conscience play even a small role in events run by an organization that has aligned itself with the Gates Foundation.
Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager
Authors of Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom
Okay, I understand that the Gates Foundation wasn’t the best. But what are your solutions? EdCamps have empowered thousands of teachers to break free from the traditional mold of moldy inservice training. That’s a good thing.
Don, I think the model that EdCamp uses is a good one. The post says that. It’s borrowed from other open models including barcamp and Open Space Technology which are free for any schools or organizations to adapt. In addition, the solutions that we offer on this site, from our books to our own professional development represent what we believe about empowering teachers.