(as an aside, i’ve been an Apple guy for the last few years because Windows sucks so bad…but as evil as Windows is pitched to be, it’s hard to argue with Bill Gates’ philanthropy, whereas on the other hand I don’t have a clue about what Steven Jobs does with his loot. )
We’ve got a scientist deficit in the states. More people believe that God created man in his present form than in even a moderate version of evolution. While there are all sorts of ways we might deal with that deficit, I think the best way is simply to train more black boys and girls, Latinos and Latinas, white girls and rural white boys. Go to the under-represented populations and the deficit should diminish significantly. Spending money on schools in DC, Baltimore, and Saint Louis should be a no-brainer. And while some think that these kids aren’t able to be taught, I think there are enough models that prove otherwise.
The problem though is twofold. First we conceive of education as a private rather than a public resource. Which means that we’re less likely to put a sustained effort into dealing with kids we don’t see a private benefit in dealing with. I put work into my children because they’re my children.
The second is that city school systems are sink holes of patronage and as bad as they are they are perceived as being even worse.
Newly elected DC Mayor Adrian Fenty has already been criticized for ignoring black professionals. For something like this to work he already needs the stars to be aligned just right. But on top of that he needs buy-in, from his constituency, as well as from the various educators. I wish him luck.
(Edited to add: Thinking about corruption I ran into this mosaic. An excellent presentation of some of the barriers to overcoming corruption, as well as some innovative solutions.)