Atheist Philanthropist Takes His Own Life, Gave Millions to Catholic Schools December 27, 2013

Atheist Philanthropist Takes His Own Life, Gave Millions to Catholic Schools

This is a sad and frankly strange story. On Monday, Robert W. Wilson, a multimillionaire hedge fund mogul and philanthropist, jumped to his death from his high-rise apartment in New York, months after suffering a severe stroke, at age 86. The reason this story is here is because Wilson was an avowed atheist, but one whose substantial philanthropy was directed not just at causes one might expect (the environment, cultural heritage, wildlife, etc.), but to Catholic schools.

Wilson had expressed a desire to make sure the vast majority of his money had been given away to good causes, and one of those causes for him was education. To him, public schools were a lost cause, telling Bloomberg News in 2010 that when it comes to teaching the fundamentals, Catholic Schools “do it better than the union-controlled inner-city schools.”

“I realized that Catholic schools were closing all over the country,” he told them, “and Bill Gates probably didn’t have enough money to save them.”

Wilson’s heart was in the right place it seems, and whether you agree with his decision to give his money to Catholic schools or not, it should trouble us that someone who was so willing to endow his fortune to good causes would reject public schools outright for not even being worth the trouble. But the last thing the Catholic Church needs is more money, particularly money for the purpose of indoctrinating children. It’s a shame that Wilson won’t have the chance to be persuaded out of it.

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  • i get so tired of people bashing teacher’s unions, as if that is the only group causing problems for our schools. it’s ridiculous and factually incorrect in the vast majority of cases. these 1%ers just can’t help themselves though, they stink with hypocrisy.

    i’m not even going to get started on what i think of using your money to help put even more children under the supervision of a repeat offender pedophile protection racket.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Sitting here trying to figure out a way that makes sense and I just can’t. My mother actually offered to pay to send my daughter’s to Catholic school. Wouldn’t cost me a dime. I rejected it because I just don’t see any evidence of it being a better education and I obviously have a list of moral objections to the RCC that would read like War and Peace. Perhaps not as eloquent but just as long. I can’t even go to a church feast let alone send my kids to their schools.

    Also, if you’re going to kill yourself…don’t jump out of a window in Manhattan because there’s a chance you could kill someone else.

  • Icaarus

    I’d suggest that the biggest problem with the schooling systems in the US is that the structure allows for municipalities to generate curricula. Ignoring the obvious partisan problems, just the repetition of labour alone would severely limit capabilities. Add no child left behind and you have manpower not money as the primary restriction.

    Before someone suggests that money could be used to hire more people, people are finite and hiring takes time. I doubt the system could keep up with demand, retirements, mat leave, and overburdened administrations.

  • paulalovescats

    What a selfish way to go. Splattering yourself all over the street, traumatizing probably at least 100 people.

  • BoGardiner

    And risking killing someone.

    Agreed, Paul, giving up on public schools is such a wrongheaded way to think. What a sad misdirection of his resources, and waste of a life.

  • Randall Slonaker

    So well said. I am an aspiring educator, and have lots of teachers as friends and family. I also have lots of law enforcement officials and medical professionals in my family. People don’t blame the cops when crime skyrockets. People don’t blame doctors and nurses when people get sick. However, teachers and the teachers unions are scapegoated when students fail.
    While there are a few mediocre or outright bad teachers out there, most teachers are hardworking, dedicated and knowledgeable professionals who do everything they can to help students learn and succeed.
    I live in the vicinity of a large system, the Cleveland Public School system, where they spend a great deal of money, with very poor results. I do not blame the administrators or the teachers. I do blame many of the parents who are not involved in their children’s lives, and to a certain extent, some of the blame must rest on the students themselves, especially when speaking of the high school students.
    My sister works with special needs children in the Akron Public Schools, and can tell horror stories of parental non-involvement.
    Also, yes, we should not give any money to this “repeat offender pedophile protection racket.” Even before this racket was brought to light, I was aware that while Catholic schools did in some ways provide superior education, the accompanying indoctrination was not worth it.

  • Suicide is seldom the action of someone whose mind is operating well.

  • Randall Slonaker

    More on the subject of Teacher Union bashing. Yes, how dare those teachers demand a fair wage. They don’t do anything valuable.
    The same people who provide lip service about the importance of education don’t seem to be willing to shell out a few more bucks in annual taxes to ensure that teachers are paid well. The same people who defended paying Wall Street bonuses (paid for by taxpayers, with TARP money) four or five years ago after the meltdown, claiming that they could only attract the best talent in a competitive market with bonuses in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars balk at a raise for a teacher. They assert, much like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, “No one forced these people to be school teachers.”.

  • Brice Gilbert

    Makes sense since he sounds right wing.

  • karlfrankjr

    Public schools outperform catholic schools in every category.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Citation needed.

  • karlfrankjr

    Longitudinal study from University of Illinois, Champaign. Here is the book by the researchers.

    I site many more sources at

  • Dave

    At 86, suicidal, he most likely was not thinking logically. It seems to me like an example of Pascal’s wager.

  • R Vogel

    Actually I would say the biggest problem is local funding, although the two may be linked. Most districts in the US are funded by local property taxes which creates significant disparity in income. Public schools in wealthy areas look like private schools both in the breadth of offering, graduation rates, and the choice of post-secondary schools they attend. When anyone talks about ‘averages’ in US public education they are either ignorant of this fact or purposely ignoring it. It is similar to argument made about income disparity based on averages of tax returns that have been made recently.

  • Jeff Chang

    Egh. Not really. SES was the main factor. People with some middle class, upper middle class and upper class parents perform well regardless of the institution they go to. In higher SES communities the public school is better funded, having nearly the same number of AP courses as private schools.

  • Lucilius

    So public schools are a lost cause, but it’s the Catholic schools that would shut down without his subsidies? Seems a little inconsistent.

  • Icaarus

    Yes you outlined another problem with the structure that I left unsaid, you just said it better than I could have so thank you.

    It would have been clearer had I typed “is the structure, which…” instead of “is that the structure…”

    The structure itself is the problem with all the glorious symptoms of failure.

  • Beenie

    In catholic high school they told my cousin the only reason for sex was to procreate. That screwed her up u til I gave her my sociology of sexuality college text book her senior year.

  • R Vogel

    I agree with you completely. What a shame that he had the opportunity to use his money to perhaps fund research into improving the system, which could have produced long lasting value to society. I assume his political persuasion had something to do with his choice.

  • FlyingFree333

    An atheist conservative is still a conservative, nothing but ignorant bigots, even in the rare cases they try to do something good their stupidity and bigotry make them end up doing harm rather than good.

  • FlyingFree333

    If his mind was operating well he wouldn’t have been conservative.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Well the man was clearly conservative as you can tell he would probably go on a tirade about how corrupt teacher’s unions are and how they are inept.

  • Teacher unions are arguably a significant part of the problem with education in the U.S. Identifying this problem is part of any solution. But it’s only one element in a complex situation.

    I have no problem with an education reformer looking to change or eliminate unions. But I do have a problem with unions being singled out as if they were the only problem, the only thing standing in the way of a superior U.S. education system. That’s not a reasonable view. Nor is it reasonable to believe that in a country that will always be primarily dependent on public education, funding private schools is really a very good use of resources.

  • Agreed. Until we have a national curriculum, national standards, national evaluation, and national funding, we will continue to operate at an educational disadvantage compared with much of the rest of the developed world.

  • RN from NY

    As a former teacher, I would argue that curricula is not the problem. Main problems include lack of discipline (principals discourage suspensions because absences from school lower performance on tests, so bad kids run wild, reducing the learning ability of all students), large class sizes, shrinking budgets for materials, textbooks that are far too expensive ($20 million for a k-6 reading series alone in my former district, and it was full of careless errors, including pages out of order), too much time spent on testing and test prep (up to 20% of the school year), and not enough support for the neediest kids in the form of after school programs, tutoring, aides in the classroom and summer school. I had some kids from the projects who were so bright and capable, but are damned because they don’t have the opportunities of a suburban kid. Going home to momma’s crack house isn’t the same as going home to a mom who reads to you. Blaming the teachers for this gets us absolutely nowhere, but people feel the need to vent, so who better to pick on than a low-paid public servant? If it weren’t for the union, teachers would be making minimum wage and working 12 hours a day. It’d be a horror show.
    I’d like to know how he decided catholic schools were better. Did he work in both? Did he volunteer in both? Did he just assume private means better?

    I personally quit teaching because my pay was $3,000 a year lower than it was 5 years prior, which doesn’t include all the money I lost with inflation. Gov. Christie is right, no one made me become a teacher, and with their attitudes I decided not to continue to be one. Personally, I think that’s what they want, since they won’t have to pay pensions or bigger salaries if they can get teachers to quit within a few years. Teaching is just a temp job now, unless you’re a masochist who enjoys being broke.

  • smrnda

    You know what I think the real deal is? I think our education system is set up to fail a whole bunch of kids and teachers by default. I’m from Chicago. Lots of kids on the South Side don’t do well in school. Why? Because they’re poor, don’t get enough food sometimes, and hey, let’s not forget that the Chicago Reader did a good job of pointing out that lead paint is still an issue in neighborhoods like Englewood, which is known to cause behavioral and cognitive problems in children. Then, if the parents are working, they’re probably busting their asses at multiple part time jobs without a steady schedule, meaning they don’t have the time to devote to their kids the way more affluent parents do.

    Teachers have an impossible job since no amount of good teaching will fix those problems. Enter the charter schools, which turned out to be no better and were just a speculative bubble that later went away, and now the city is closing schools all where the Black and Brown kids live. And charter schools suck to work for, since it’s basically ‘if we create a climate where you get fired if the kids don’t do better, teachers will make it happen!’ No, teachers are people, not superheroes or miracle workers.

  • smrnda

    I can’t support eliminating unions since I think collective bargaining is a basic human right. I do have one exemption to that where I think that possibly, the police shouldn’t have a union because I think the public should be able to have cops removed they have no confidence in on the basis of complaints.

    Unions can protect bad teachers, but that’s because their role is analogous to a public defender. Even when you’re in the wrong, it’s their job to advocate for you, and yes, bad teachers can be fired, and often are since other teachers get sick of them.

  • Carmelita Spats

    “Parental non-involvement”…I’m not so nice…I have a huge collection of dead-beat parent stories…I’ve seen everything from outright LYING about the child’s daily reading, to dumping the kid in front of the school at 6:15 am and screaming because the few teachers who are there at 6:00 am, ON THEIR OWN TIME to prepare for the day, refuse to supervise kids who should be at home or at daycare paid for by the crank-ass parents. I’ve seen parents DEMAND after school tutoring for students and preschool siblings until 5:30 pm (free babysitting) so they can go to the nail salon. Seriously. I’ve seen parents scoot their double-D asses to every goddamn book fair and school carnival with free fried food but deliberately skip parent-teacher conferences even after numerous texts and phone calls. I’ve seen a crazed parent argue about implementing “planned ignoring” for a kid who single-handedly shuts down an entire class, throws chairs, disrupts the learning environment and endangers others on a regular basis. I’ve seen special ed folders that are wider than a double-wide wherein the teacher must make 15-20 “special” changes to the lesson plan with her own resources and on her own time even though she’s paid to teach GROUPS. One of the monkey-ass “accommodations” was to give a multiple choice test with only TWO choices. Seriously. I’ve seen frustrated teachers just itching to discuss BIRTH CONTROL as a viable intervention in an ARD meeting after seeing a massive pile of attention-deprived kids ooze out of the same rickety loins and they are all either special ed or tiered intervention kids. I’ve seen it all. Catholic schools, “pro-life institutions”, cherry pick their kids.

  • smrnda

    True. Though I heard that in Japan, they were able to cut down on suicides of people jumping in front of trains by pointing out that it caused other people an inconvenience by making them late.

  • momtarkle

    Hurrah, Robert Wilson! You achieved amazing financial goals, then gave most of what you earned back, to organizations that you felt deserved it. Other people would have selected differently. Let them.

    Hurrah suicide! Good choice for someone who feels that nothingness is better than the mental and physical distress and pain he must have lived in, and, I’m sure, one who is abundantly sure that he had done all he could to improve his world.

    (Did he, by jumping 16 stories into a courtyard, endanger or traumatize others? I’m guessing not. I’d look first, before jumping. Wouldn’t you?)

  • smrnda

    For this reason alone, if I had kids I would *never* send them to a Catholic school. I don’t want kids taught nonsense like that that could screw them up.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    I have found that a Catholic school education is fine preparation for a life as an atheist. I’m sure you have many other examples among your readership.

  • Dower_House

    I understand that his suicide will have made a mess – but we are told that he has had a severe stroke and that may seriously limit his ability to kill himself; surprisingly it is more difficult than people realize to kill oneself for certain. Massive trauma is one of the surer ways.

    His mind may have been very clear – we will never know for sure.

  • scinquiry
  • scinquiry
  • The Starship Maxima

    Thank you for pointing that out.

    Btw, it’s amazing you get downvotes for pointing out that a statement is unsubstantiated.

  • And I think unions are, as a rule, bad things. But that’s not the point. The point is, reasonable people should be able to disagree about the value of unions in the educational system, and discuss the issue rationally. My complaint was that unions were being singled out as if they were the only problem, and even people like me, who think they are a problem, should not be suggesting that they are the problem.

  • I tend to think of them as a necessary evil, made necessary only because the (bizarre) prevailing social pressure is to undervalue teaching labor compared to its social dividends. In and of themselves, I find professional unions to have very few of the same socially valuable benefits as unions do in their traditional milieux; they are, for example, one of the primary stumbling blocks to police officers being accountable to the public (or, really, anyone) for misconduct.

  • LutherW

    And here in CT we have Paul Vellas saving one of our school systems. He is one of several saviors of the Chicago school system. He is also a serial savior, having saved New Orleans and Philadelphia as well as Chicago. He is even less effective than prayer, which has no direct negative effects.

  • Malcolm McLean

    US Catholic schools don’t get any funding from government. So parents have to pay fro public school out of their taxes, and a Catholic school out of taxed income.Since a lot of Catholics are Hispanics or from other fairly low income groups, it’s hard to keep the schools financially viable, Nothing to do with the basic quality of education.

  • Malcolm McLean

    If you’ve got an independent school competing against a free state school, parents who choose the independent school must feel it is substantially better. Unless you are seriously wealthy the fees are a major expense which drastically changes the family’s lifestyle.You wouldn’t make such a commitment unless you really felt it was worth it.

  • LesterBallard

    Very disappointing.

  • Icaarus

    I’d put money on those also being symptoms of the obtuse structure problem.

  • It is true that the behavior is odd if they didn’t feel it was worth it, but that has to be weighed against humans being notoriously poor at calculating abstract value; we are very easy to distract by the form of the good, the cachet of the brand, and so forth. In this case, the cachet of being a private (and thus often translated subconsciously or consciously as elite) school would weigh substantially on the choice whether or not the school actually produced better outcomes.

  • Lumen

    We moved around a lot when I was a kid and I went to a combination of both Catholic Schools and Public. When my mother could afford it I went to a Catholic school, and when she couldn’t I went off to public. My experience was that the Catholic schools were far and away the better education. Whenever I would transfer back into a Catholic school having “done time” in a public school I inevitably had an uphill battle in areas like math and science, because I had fallen behind in the public schools.

    I strongly suspect that the “best” school is going to heavily depend on where you live but, I would like to see some actual evidence on the issue since anecdotes aren’t overly useful, my own included. But today I am a firm atheist and skeptic, and I can credit my catholic high school for a fantastic science education.

    As someone who doesn’t have kids I can’t really comment on all the emotions that go through a parents mind… but it just doesn’t seem sensible to me to refuse to send your kid to the school in your area with the best math and science courses because you’re afraid they will be taught abstinence in health class. It’s much easier to tell your kids about birth control options and the morality of sex yourself. But are you really prepared to help them pass Pre-Calculus? (For the record my catholic high school science teacher outlined every possible form of birth control in depth so again I suspect it depends on the school itself)

  • Carmen

    Thank you. In this country we praise those who make a fortune, whatever they do, so long as it is in the so-called “private sector” – even if it produces a useless product or worse, causes global environmental destruction or economic devastation. If you’re the best at what you do, you should be paid handsomely in the private sector. But we want teachers to educate children who are only willing to make huge sacrifices and they should never, ever, ever expect to earn a decent income (much less that of a CEO of an oil company or Wall Street exec)? I fail to see the logic of this.

  • Lumen

    This post article references private schools as a group, not Catholic Schools specifically. I’m not claiming that there is a huge difference but the discussion is specifically about Catholic schools. Not all parochial schools are Catholic, and not all private schools have religious affiliations.

  • Lumen

    I think some of the blame should be laid at the feet of her parents for not bothering to tell her any different, or worse reinforcing that belief. Of course it’s not uncommon to lay the blame of her being “screwed up” on the school… that’s what people do with public schools too. Parents seem to have very little accountability these days.

  • Carmen

    There are a great number of studies showing public schools generally do outperform private schools, including recent studies. You can google “public v. private schools” or whatever iteration of that you want, and find many instantly.

    I do think there are many problems with comparing public schools with any sort of private school and especially religious private schools, because the two are so different. But this skews in favor of private schools – they can turn away any student, have no curriculum requirements, can grade how they like, to name a few differences.

    As for my own anecdotal evidence, I was educated in public schools through college. I jumped at the chance to go to a well established east coast private law school. Almost every one of my classmates had gone to private colleges and most had private school education (primarily Catholic but also Jewish and others). I graduated at the top of my class and of the top 5 of us, 3 were educated in public schools.

  • Randall Slonaker

    I certainly can sympathize with overworked, stressed parents. However, I see a different side, with drug addicted, careless parents who don’t have any business having kids. My sister works with handicapped kids who dress themselves and walk to school in the dark, because daddy is nowhere to be found and mommy, is passed out. My sister has had to sit with a classroom full of bawling handicapped kids because their parental units could not be found, or be bothered to sign a permission slip to let their child attend a free field trip. This happened again, as these so-called parents couldn’t be bothered to spend five seconds to sign a permission slip which would have allowed their kid to receive a free bicycle. My heart breaks for these kids. While I am a firm supporter of funding schools (including paying teachers well), we reach a juncture of diminishing returns-throwing more money at this problem won’t solve the root cause, which is deadbeat parents.

  • Lumen

    I’m sensing your sarcasm so don’t think I don’t appreciate the humor. But the odd thing for me is my Catholic high school DID prepare me for life as a skeptic (and atheist). I declared myself “agnostic” in my junior year, and the first sister I told about it was completely unfazed. She made some comment about “finding my own way” and smiled. I was an open non-believer from then on out. I not only learned about Evolution at the school (not unusual given Catholics have no problem with Evolution), but I was taught proper footnoting and referencing and strict scientific method. So… yeah, I’m sad when I hear about other people’s horrible experiences. I have nothing but love for the men and women of faith who taught me. Seriously, they were/are beautiful people who were very gentle and supportive of me, even as I disentangled myself from religion.

  • I consider them a necessary evil in some arenas of labor. I consider them awful when professionals are involved, and I consider teachers to be professionals.

    Personally, I’d never belong to a union, and I’m grateful that we don’t have any union involvement at our little school.

  • Lucilius

    True to some extent, which is why I said “a little inconsistent” rather than outright contradictory. But Catholic schools can also be funded by the tax-exempt church itself; and if the education was truly so superior to public offerings, then more affluent parents would be signing up in greater numbers as well. Not all Catholic-school students are themselves Catholic. Furthermore, though public schools are funded with tax money, that’s not equalized across district lines, so many public-school districts are funded by taxpayers as poor as any group of Catholic parents.

  • Malcolm McLean

    Some people do think that private education fulfills the social needs of the parents more than the educational needs of the children. In fact the group that do best in the UK are children of parents who could afford to educate their children privately, but go state for ideological reasons.

    However I’ve had experience of both sectors.Private is a much safer choice, both for the average child who isn’t much interested in academic work, but will do it if forced firmly enough, and for the exceptional child with a real academic inclination, who needs it nuturing and maturing, and who benefits from contact with like-minded peers. But the UK private sector has deep problems. They’re masked by the more obvious problems at the bad end of the state system.

  • kaydenpat

    I’m curious if there is objective evidence that Catholic schools are more successful at teaching children than “union-controlled” public schools. Would love to understand from where Mr. Wilson got such an idea.

  • Jacobi Coriolanus

    You’re wrong and its the bigotry against religion thats showing. I went to college in a small town in Northern louisiana with a disproportionately liberal/atheistic leaning professorial staff, at least compared to anywhere else I went afterwards. Nearly everyone enrolled their children in Catholic schools because a) the public “schools” (if they can be called that understanding what the word means) were so bad you’d be better off hanging in front of Wal Mart all day, and b) kids generally can exercise logical thinking to escape the religious element, particularly if they come from a supportive home. While my own experiences with religious schools in Texas were abysmal there is a difference between Kent Hovind and being deliberately taught the wrong thing and getting a quality education with a papist stamp.

    Besides its your unwavering faith in public schools that ignores the drop out rate in inner city schools and the factors causing that. I taught in such schools for a couple of years because of requirements, it definitely changed my attitudes towards a lot of idealism. As cruel as it is to lie to children about nonexistent beings that beats learning about criminal enterprises in a disruptive environment that is positively frightening and virtually no learning is going on. Its also a sign when your coworkers reflexively say “call a police officer when they act up” about the precedent being set for young people who already are cynical about society before even participating in it, other than punishment with no concept of reward other than deviant behavior when successful in trying to get around rules.

    It was Mr. Wilson’s money and honestly in that position he should have set up a trust for charter schools to get the ones who have any hope in an environment without depriving unions of their bona fide tax subsidy to do nothing to change the mindset that America is a static idea rather than a generational effort. The whole point of atheism is to stop believing in miracles and end time deus ex machina happy endings and look at the world the way it really is no matter how people feel about things. Sometimes I wonder if the movement has been coopted as a cover for lefties who studied philosophy and failed to get into law school.

  • karlfrankjr
  • Jacobi Coriolanus

    Washington DC is the best funded school system in the country and has the poorest results. I realize you were taught in your torts class before you dropped out that its because the estate tax isn’t high enough, but perhaps if you would stop going off of electronic media and step inside a public school to win the student body over with your enlightened political attitude you a) would be shocked to find out the religious attitudes are almost the same as Southern evangelicals, and b) its amazing how people can compartmentalize a profound need to praise Jesus every two minutes and pepper their language with obscene antisocial references and century old Czarist conspiracies that have found new incarnations online to explain every urban myth in America.

    Go back to grad school or become a West Coast celebrity if you want to be surrounded uncritical yes (wy)men who have all the solutions and not the slightest clue what happens when you tell people, sometimes even people you think will be “grateful,” to change their life rather than the easy road of straw manning everyone you disagree with. There is nothing bigoted about Philips, he successfully managed a hedge fund which means he knew good investments. Its easy to support throwing other people’s money away but not so much your own you worked for and thats why people always wonder why celebrities say the country should spend one way and yet they tend to cut costs and go to the same places all the captains of industry do. You won’t be a millionaire period if you manage your estate like the Department of Education.

  • Moeller Mike

    I have to agree (I hate that I have to.), but unless there is a serious reform of the nation’s public education system, public education is a lost cause. Seriously, is there any rational purpose for local school district to spend between 54 to 60 million dollars on a high school football stadium? Would any rational person want to send their children to Detroit or New Orleans public schools?

  • Matt Ranson

    That’s a good point. The Catholic schools give scholarships to good students. The rest of the students have parents that can afford private school tuition. We all know that if the parents are well off the odds are higher for their children to be successful.

  • Matt Ranson

    The local Catholic High School in my town is probably less than 20% Catholic. A lot of more affluent parents who happen to have children that are poorly disciplined send their kids to the catholic school because the school is known for strict discipline.

  • you are quite foolish. like the 40hr work week? thank a union. like regulations and protections that keep the workplace safe? thank a union. like benefits like retirement packages, health and dental care? thank a union. like the idea that you can’t be fired for being a woman, black and/or gay? in states where that happened, thank a union. like workman’s compensation for on the job injuries? thank a union. like COLA increases? thank a union.

    the destruction of the union labor force as a majority of the work force in this country corresponds DIRECTLY with the fact that wages have remained utterly stagnant in this country for more than 40 YEARS. a union worker like my grandfather could afford to raise a family of 5, buy a home, and send all of his college to children. today, white collar workers with dual income families are struggling to do half of that.

    i’m sorry you’ve bought into the corporate propaganda that all unions are “bad.” no organization is perfect, but ask yourself, if unions are so bad, why aren’t you rushing off to a union-free working environment, like in asia? you know, those places where workers are still locked into collapsing factories, working in mold infested locations, being raped or extorted by their managers, etc? oh, that’s right. you like the basic standards of civilized work place conditions.

    like union people fought, and died, for you to have.

    fourth generation union woman here. you’re just a slave who doesn’t know what more can be taken away from you, and will be, thanks to lazy and uncritical attitudes like yours.

  • TCC

    There is nothing bigoted about Philips, he managed a hedge fun which means he knew good investments.

    Yes, because treating schools as businesses that deal in commodities has done wonders for public education.

  • it’s really important to remember that the rise of the overpaid “executive administrator” has destroyed a lot of public school systems. and yes, i agree it’s on purpose. after all, who are a majority of these ‘failing’ kids? poor, brown, black.. all the groups for whom an education might eventually lead to a social revolution, once they realize how seriously they are being screwed by the 1% and their apologists.

    i am an educator. i know all about what is happening in school systems. obama has continued the bush era policy of pushing for charter schools, for profit schools, and overpaid, worthless overseer grade administration that serves no purpose but to suck up the “a lot of money” that really is thrown at many school systems. it’s no wonder voters are angry and unwilling to increase millages. when so few results come about because of them.

    i have lived in detroit, DC, chicago and also wealthy suburban districts and i’m here to tell you that when an urban or poor rural school district is failing to educate kids, the first place you should look is at the school’s management class. i can relate shocking stories about these people that would curdle your stomach. grifting, extortion, outright theft for personal gain… this is a well established trend in many districts.

    all while teachers see their pay and benefits cut, year after year, and their authority and autonomy to do what actually works in schools taken away, so that yet another testing agency can fleece the taxpayers.

    it’s sickening and on purpose.

  • Shazam

    The belief in God OR those that have such ideals in their schools RUIN it for everyone! its really that simple.

  • $925105

    Research shows that catholic schools don’t perform any better than public schools.

  • Muscle man

    Those people remind me of the parents in our city.

  • That there was once a need for unions I do not deny. Nor that they continue to have some value. But I believe they destroy the dignity of the individual, and that they are very often as corrupt as the organizations they stand against. And when one union supports another, that is as unethical as corporate price fixing, and should be just as illegal. A healthy society would have no need for unions.

    Again, however, my opinion on teacher unions isn’t relevant to the point I was making.

  • Erin Masterson Korbylo

    On the flip side, I can honestly say I was able to step away from my catholic upbringing BECAUSE of 12 years of catholic education. The schools I attended taught me how to think and question. I was taught about evolution and how the stories in the bible we’re not literal, but oral stories which had been passed down for generations to convey a message.
    And there were children in my school who were not religious and while they paid more, they were not required to participate in mass or the religious activities, if their parents did not want them to. I’m not sure all catholic schools are like this, but mine were fantastic in building people who really know how to use their brains. The funny thing is a good majority of people with whom I graduated are also no longer religiously affiliated.
    Here’s hoping the schools to which he donated are like the ones I attended. It would do a lot of disadvantaged kids a lot of good to have the educational opportunities with the choice to opt out of the religious ones.

  • TCC

    Here’s a fairly recent study on the matter.

  • Itarion

    Or maybe [and here’s just a wild thought from the blue] we give money to [it’s a stretch but bear with me] the public schools [not done yet] so that they have the resources to be world class educational facilities.

    They’re not worth giving money to because they have poor quality education. They have poor quality education because they have no money. Oversimplification, but not entirely wrong.

  • Itarion

    Unfortunately yes, and yes. Respectively.

    Athletics gives a whole lot of prestige to a school, so the school gives money to athletics. Even if the athletics program generally sucks. I’ve seen this firsthand, as my high school football team went winless for an entire season, and still seemed to have money falling from the skies upon their heads. Oh, and the arts programs are always the first up on the chopping block.

    If it’s that or nothing, I’d go with that. Education is important, and a crappy education is better than no education, which is why there are still kids in Detroit or New Orleans public schools.

  • Itarion

    Really, though, it’s not that there is much of a difference between the various forms of schools across the board. Based on location, sure, demographics, inner-city/suburb, etc., etc. There is no education that any school can give that a different, similarly equipped school could not also give. The problem is that the inner city public schools don’t have the resources necessary to control the students and also educate them. That’s not just limited to space and equipment, that includes people. As you say, teachers who reflexively call the cops at the first sign of trouble. There’s no thought that these students will ever be more than street thugs/walkers, so they end up as street thugs or street walkers. It’s a symptom of the problem that just makes the problem worse.

  • Goldstein’s Nephew

    A third of all children don’t even manage to graduate from public schools.

    Of those who do, another third can’t even read and do math at a High School level.

    And never mind the drugs, violence, and sex diseases.

    Oh yeah, don’t you meanies bash on public schools.

  • jdm8

    I think rushing to blame the schools is overly simplistic at best. Sure, there are problems with public schools, but there is a large degree of scapegoating going on with rushing to blame some portion, or all of public education.

    Poverty and parental (non-)involvement are bigger factors in a student’s academic success than the type of school. In fact, a parent getting involved in their child’s education has a greater effect than switching to private schooling. Poverty can make parental involvement very difficult though, and it’s a root problem that’s not easy to solve, it’s easier to use band-aid solutions.

  • jdm8

    Someone in the plutocrat class doing something ridiculously selfish, to the damaging expense of others? Do tell.

    In all seriousness, if a severe depression is involved, the illness can strongly inhibit reasonable thinking. They did say a stroke is involved, which can cause problems in higher thinking. It’s one of those things where I don’t think it’s useful to be so quick to blame or judge.

  • Jacobi Coriolanus

    Schools aren’t treated like a business commodity unless they are private. They receive absolute funding despite the results and are treated as an absolute right with no quality control. European schools aren’t run on this model. Its the reason the US is always the tail end of educational progress. However the large size of the student population and the vast discrepancy in available resources means the only short term solution is to remove students who have the desire to do better and are deterred by their environment. You can throw as much money as you want and ignore the conduct in a classroom or what happens when those students leave the campus but it just means a better administrative office for the same failed standards.

  • Jacobi Coriolanus

    I’m glad you didn’t make it racial because its not. The inner city student population is pretty down the line hardened by circumstances. The problem is class size, and thats because options are denied which precludes proximity to certain behavior patterns determine what is “normative” and rewards cannot be administered on the basis of performance but rather survival. Given no option if a school is an intimidating environment the rational decision is to leave since no payoff is apparent. The needs of such students are much more exacting and yet the resources available are diluted by an expanded supply of students and a concentrated level of often poorly trained staff whose frustration leads to diminished efforts at a perpetual battle against an environment where social deviancy is standardized and success is an abstract concept determined from conspiracies rather than understanding administration and skills.

  • Jacobi Coriolanus

    You speak reality, not wishful thinking. No one is arguing for mandated Catholic school attendance or funding. This guy was not talking about suburban schools with kids who own laptops and will spring break after sailing into college admission. He was talking about kids whose only other option was to learn about drug culture and get into the situation of an unplanned pregnancy or face violence that won’t make headlines since its not a middle class kid stealing daddy’s gun and never be prepared for the basic foundations necessary to live on a median income except maybe by seguing into the military if they meet the requirements. These aren’t juveniles sitting around debating the relevance of evolutionary theory contrasted with the ludicrousness of creation myths and preoccupied with the efficacy of legal recognition of same sex marriage as a move towards communitarian public policy.

  • kickinitincrick

    Public school is child abuse, an embarrassment and a colossal waste of money. There’s a reason why this guy had money – he won’t invest in garbage, and that’s what the public sector is. Just because it’s secular doesn’t mean you should support it. Secular crap is still crap.

  • TCC

    The only short-term solution is to give up on an entire subset of our students? Frankly, I don’t think you have a clue what you’re talking about.

  • TCC

    “Child abuse”? What the fuck are you smoking?

  • TCC

    Also, you should note that the Catholic schools Wilson invested in are not better than public schools.

  • TCC

    I’m only in my fifth year of teaching, and I have seen enough times where school boards tried to screw over their teachers that I am firmly in support of them.

  • Mario Strada

    Looks like we discovered another planet orbiting a distant star. The one where you come from.

    How are public schools “child abuse” (unless you are British, that is, were the term Public School means something else).

    Public schools are the reason why the west advanced as much as it did (for good or worse). The problem with public schools is that they are chronically underfunded and mismanaged by people that don;t care about education. People that teach only math and “science” (the kind that’s as disjointed from daily reality as possible) and then wonder why most people are not creative and believe Canada is part of the US.

    My daughter attended a “charter school” because it was the closest to us. It was a disaster. The quality of teaching was dismal, teachers changed on a weekly basis and being for profit they never did anything above what they were required to do.

    There are somethings that should not be privatized. Fire and police, prisons and mandatory schools. If the private sector can make a profit on them, the government can at least break even.

    I’ll allow some private schools, but changing the system to complete privatization is madness.

    is that what you prefer?

  • Jacobi Coriolanus

    I didn’t give up on them. You did. I want people to be in an atmosphere where they can prosper so that the others can get the attention in the underlying social issues that are taking precedence in their life over grades and curriculum. You want a model in a book that sounds great and is just in need of some rich people’s money and has no practical flaws or resistance in reality from the people themselves at all. Kids are just little lab rats that have to be conditioned, not thinking reactive people with years of experience an a whole peer group that takes priority over anything even a well intentioned adult does.

    Did you ever go to school? Have kids? Much less work in these environments? Probably not with such bad reading comprehension because all I said was remove the ones who are already motivated but deterred by the disruptive environment to address the special conditions that are causing these behaviors. I want to fix the misconceptions and implement a reward incentive in people who don’t have it; the prevailing argument is pass them along unprepared and with minimal correction and expect life to correct it. Life doesn’t always correct it, more often than not they end up on the wrong side of the law or addicted or stuck in below living wage with no direction. Thats not theory pal, thats what I’ve seen. When people deal with kids like that its not that they know how to succeed and are choosing not to… most of the time the knowledge simply isn’t there and book work and class attendance is just an obstruction to a world that most authority figures don’t understand and think they can walk away from at any time.

  • Jacobi Coriolanus

    No one said to change to complete privatization. The argument is for an alternative when a public school environment is bad.

    This isn’t about people who have the luxury of putting people on a career track from home and quibbling over the geological time scale. Its about the ones who go all the way through school and are functionally illiterate or can’t do basic algebra. And public schools aren’t the reason for Western Civilization but thats a whole different topic.

  • dagnykight

    I went to 12 years of Catholic school. When I got to college, I found what a superior education I had received. Today, there are hardly any nuns or priests at Catholic schools but I never felt all that “indoctrinated” anyway. Catholic schools have never been like “Christian” schools. There’s never been a secular private school in my hometown so even today, the Catholic schools are the private schools for affluent kids.

  • TCC

    I not only went to public schools and have children in public schools (an urban elementary school, in fact); I also teach in a public school and work with generally low-income (although rural, not urban) kids. What you’re saying is nonsense. There are plenty of things to criticize about the way we do public education, but you are missing a lot of the equation. Pulling motivated students out of public schools is not a solution, period.

  • ginalex

    Great, now all the bible thumpers will use this as an excuse to say how miserable it must be to be an atheist, “see look at this guy he killed himself” and you know they are going to say it was because he was an atheist. Also, yes it’s true our public schools are not the best in the world, but you know what might’ve helped? Oh I don’t know, maybe millions of dollars? He could’ve at least thought, “hmmm, Catholic vs Public?… public is the lesser of two evils so I will give my money to all children instead of a select few.”

  • ginalex

    I’ve often thought that kids need to spend more hours working and less hours in school. Hear me out. Kids should work. I know that child labor is a touchy subject. There should be very strict regulations. They should be allowed to work perhaps as young as ten, for maybe ten hours a week. When they reach certain age levels they could work more. I even wonder if high school should be postponed altogether until they are 18. Adolescents going through puberty are not good students. I had zero interest in school when I hit 12 and until I graduated from high school. Now I wish I could go back and do it again because I actually have an interest in science, history, math etc. If anything they should do a 40 hour week just like adults, but half of the hours are in class, half at a job. Think how great it would be for parents if they didn’t have to support their kids as much.
    I had a job when I was 12 and for most of my adolescence I had a part time job, but I think kids should work more at younger ages and do less school work. A great portion of their money would go into savings so that when they hit 18 they could pay for themselves to go to high school and then college.
    It may never happen, nationally but maybe at a local level. If one or two towns tried out a plan like that, see how it works, then it could be a model for the states. I know there will be problems, it won’t be perfect, but the situation in education as it is now is hardly close to perfect.

  • The problem is that children also need time to be children, and working for money is something that is not optional in poor families. School will fall by the wayside, even for children who do love learning and do want to do well, because eating takes priority.

    I was a perfectly good student going through adolescence. You really shouldn’t judge all people based on your own personal experiences.

  • Moeller Mike

    The only reason why anyone would send their kids to Detroit or New Orleans public schools is because they have no choice.

  • Please spend a little time examining why the United States and other civilized countries do not allow child labor.

  • One of my aunts is a nun who teaches at a parochial school. She’s about the least religious person in my entire extended family of Catholics and probably the most dedicated to questioning and learning of them all as well. I have a lot of respect for both her and the school she’s described to me; most of her students aren’t actually Catholic at this point (it’s an inner-city school of the sort Mr. Wilson gave money to, so it’s also very diverse and with kids from all sorts of economic, cultural, spiritual, and social backgrounds). She loves them regardless of their religion and is dedicated to giving them as good an education as she has while she’s got them. Yeah, they get some Catholic indoctrination, but I doubt that fazes too many students. I knew a mess of young adults in central Kansas who’d attended one of those schools and none of them came out the worse for it. Anecdotes are not data, I realize, but it’s hard for me to diss these schools too energetically. I know they’re not any better than public schools in the main, but at least they’re not worse.

  • ginalex

    I know the history of child labor in this country. I do not want to go back to that. Kids can work, they are able to. We have kids that work in movies and TV. Why not expand it to other jobs?

  • ginalex

    Absolutely, I am not suggesting that they spend all their free time working. I am saying that for some people maybe working as a kid is ideal and school should fall by the wayside until adulthood. Many students don’t do well in school during adolescence and those students can have an option to earn some money. For example, trade schools can be more well established. In one school around my area, you spend every other week in classes. The alternate weeks you are in your trade classes and they actually do work. I don’t know if they can get paid, but they should be able to if they can produce viable work.

  • Again, reproduction of inequality. You cannot learn as much in half-time school, and children whose families are poor won’t be given options other than work.

  • ginalex

    I’m not saying people will get less education, it will just be stretched out throughout adulthood. I want to keep learning now more than ever as an adult. Adults learn better than kids. We should be going to school throughout our lives, I hate to use a tired cliche but try to think outside the box.

  • The problem is that the jobs you can get with more education earlier pay better and set you up to build a longer, more lucrative career. Of course everyone should keep learning as an adult- that’s so obvious I didn’t feel the need to address it. But you should never create a system whereby the goal is that some people enter adulthood with less education and worse career prospects than others. Not to mention that you can’t compel adults to go to school the way you can kids- we only have 16 years to make sure children learn everything we think they should know. They system you advocate sounds okay in theory, but in practice it would an absolute monstrosity. For that reason, I condemn the idea in the strongest possible terms.

  • ginalex

    “The problem is that the jobs you can get with more education earlier pay
    better and set you up to build a longer, more lucrative career.”
    Well, maybe that’s true but I think you are discounting experience. In trade schools, high school kids have something over kids who don’t go to a trade school and that is experience.
    What I am proposing is kind of like a trade school. Perhaps what it should be is to have a trade school for older elementary and jr high students, but expand on that. Maybe have kids do internships too. We have to stop thinking that kids can’t learn this stuff. Kids are sponges and they would love to earn money and we can teach them about responsible money management too.

  • Do you know why we stopped sending kids to trade schools? Because poor kids were tracked into them and rich kids never were, no matter what their aptitudes and interests. Because they turned into yet another way for rich people to retain privilege and education over poor people.

    Your idea does that in spades. I’ve done just school, and I’ve done school + work. The latter is exhausting, even for a healthy 20-year-old. Trying to force a 12-year-old to do it … you can’t even begin to compare the education ze isn’t getting to the education a purely academic 12-year-old would get.

  • ginalex

    I appreciate your arguments. I do. I would never attempt to actually push this onto our society without first exploring the problems that may pop up along the way. Thank You.

  • ginalex

    I am not disagreeing with any of your arguments but I am certainly not changing my mind. In my profession, we track our special needs students into a pre-vocational training program starting at middle school age and then when they are at high school age we track them into a full vocational training program where, depending on their level, they may learn how to do a job interview, they may learn such tasks as sorting objects or folding shirts, laundry etc. There is no reason in my mind why we can’t have vocational training programs for typical kids all over the country. They need to learn more skills that they will actually use in the real world. It’s not going to be perfect, I know, but is our education system as it is now a perfect one?

  • Those are skills everyone should learn. Folding clothes, doing laundry, interview skills- special needs people might take more time to learn some of those skills, but quick classes on how to do those things for everyone aren’t a bad idea. In fact, they used to offer those sorts of classes, and call them “shop” and “home ec”. Bringing those back is a good idea.

    Special needs children have special needs, pretty much by definition. Tracking them into subsistence “careers” that challenge them and give them a sense of fulfillment can make some sense. I don’t understand why you would want to condemn a very bright, very poor child to the same job, though. Ze would be neither challenged nor fulfilled.

    And no, of course our education system is far from perfect. However, it is in some ways better than it used to be (though, granted, not many ways). One of the few ways it has improved is by treating poor kids less badly (officially and in a sanctioned manner) in comparison to rich ones than it used to. You want to make us go backwards in one of the few areas we’ve made progress and I don’t understand why.

  • Neko

    i can relate shocking stories about these people that would curdle your stomach. grifting, extortion, outright theft for personal gain… this is a well established trend in many districts….it’s sickening and on purpose.

    That is alarming and not the case at all in our district. Our administrators devote considerable time, resources and good-faith initiatives to poor and underachieving students. Like teachers, they are regularly scapegoated for failures. The teachers, of course, are unionized and get pay raises every year (which I support). During the recession both teachers and administrators, as well as other public servants, made sacrifices so that programs could be maintained and teachers kept on staff.

    The problems attending the achievement gap and unequal education are various and daunting; you could do away with the entire administrative class, and the status quo, at best, would persist.

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