BEST OF THE WEB: Why universities hate Bill Gates

Bill Gates is known for spending plenty of his fortune on philanthropic causes, including vaccinations in impoverished countries.

But a piece over at Chronicle seems to suggest many in academia are not thanking him for the millions of dollars he’s sending their way. In fact, quite the opposite.

The piece goes on to describe how the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has done a lot of work in helping new types of education courses get off the ground – namely an experimental online course at the Southern New Hampshire college.

All of this is part of the foundation’s attempt, as the article argues, to “overhaul higher education, changing how it is delivered, financed and regulated”.

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.

It’s a huge amount of money, but not everyone is happy. Those in academia who have been championing their own methods of reform feel as though they’re not getting a look-in.

As the piece describes, some feel as though the Gates Foundation is approaching 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.

There are all sorts of arguments regarding this move, especially from academics who suggest we shouldn’t be looking to change the form of higher education instead of what people are actually learning.

But this paragraph encapsulates the problem some have with Gates and his plan:

“For those who worry about Gates’s influence, the concern isn’t just about the foundation’s ideas. It’s the feeling that Gates operates as a de facto lobbying group, one with a direct pipeline to the Department of Education.”

Only time will tell whether he ends up being successful or not.

Purging Reddit for the better

Reddit has emerged from obscurity over the past four or five years to become one of the most popular websites on the planet.

Most of this popularity is due to the fact Reddit isn’t controlled by anyone. Rather, the users create mini-reddits, or “subreddits” and then focus those on discussing whatever they want to discuss. Moderators within those discussion boards keep tabs on participants.

The downside of this is that Reddit’s philosophy of “free speech” means some truly awful subreddits have appeared. One in particular was focused on collecting pictures of underage girls.

Another goes by a more horrible name – “r/niggers”. One doesn’t require a big imagination to guess what is discussed therein.

This truly awful subreddit was allowed to congregate under the Reddit banner – until recently when Reddit did something many never thought it would. It banned the subreddit from appearing at all.

As The Atlantic points out, this is “big step for the site’s development”.

“It seems to indicate that admins are interested in taking a more hands on approach to shaping Reddit’s overall direction.”

“Most mainstream media organisations have some kind of enforced policy for what users are and are not allowed to post, and it seems like Reddit is attempting to solidify its place amongst them.”

As most fast-growing tech businesses soon find out – with huge growth comes responsibility.

The hidden cyber war

There is a hidden cyber war occurring. Major companies have been hit, including major banks, and the telecommunications industry has fallen victim as well.

The past few years has seen cybercrime emerge as a serious threat. And as this Vanity Fair piece reveals, it’s bigger than you think.

The United States and Iran are going head to head – and it’s a totally different type of warfare than you’ve ever seen before.

Wes Brown, who has never sold a bug or exploit to a government but whose Mosquito program may have inspired part of the best-known cyber-warfare operation so far, puts it simply. “You don’t have to be a nation-state to do this,” he says. “You just have to be really smart.”

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