Billionaires Want Poor Children’s Brains to Work Better

Photo by ImagineCup | CC BY 2.0

Why are many poor children not learning and succeeding in school? For billionaire Bill Gates, who funded the start-up of the failed Common Core Curriculum Standards, and has been bankrolling the failing charter schools movement, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, it’s time to look for another answer, this one at the neurological level. Poor children’s malfunctioning brains, particularly their brains’ “executive functioning”–that is, the brain’s working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control–must be the reason why their academic performance isn’t better.

Proposing to fund research on the issue, the billionaires reason that not only can executive malfunctioning cause substantial classroom learning problems and school failure, it also can adversely affect socio-economic status, physical health, drug problems, and criminal convictions in adulthood. Consequently, if teachers of poor students know how to improve executive function, their students will do well academically and reap future “real-world benefits.” For Gates, who is always looking for “the next big thing,” this can be it in education.

Most people looking at this reasoning would likely think, “If executive functioning is poorer in poor children, why not eliminate the apparent cause of the deficiency, i.e., poverty?” Not so for the billionaires. For them, the “adverse life situations” of poor students are the can’t-be-changed-givens….

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