"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

On MuSoft and attitude

Julie Leung: Seedlings & Sprouts: Thanks to Doc Searls, I burned the soup..but it was worth it

Maybe good insight to Bill G's attitude (note: found Julie's site via Doc)

"Doc's piece impacted me enough that I am willing to reveal something I've been reluctant to write on this blog in the past. He begins with a critique of Microsoft's belief in the bell curve.

What's wrong here isn't simply the focus on Microsoft in a country where open source is a huge phenomenon. It's that both Tom and Microsoft continue to believe IQ tests are important ways to measure citizens in a flat world. Because if there's one thing the world is flattening fast, it's the old caste system we call The Bell Curve.

Although I've never worked at Microsoft, I may be able to understand part of the company's culture and values. Why? I attended the same high school founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen did. Lakeside was the only school where Bill G received a diploma, dropping out of Harvard after a year. It's been called the Ivy League high school of the west coast, or something similiar, and the brick-and-ivy campus in north Seattle as well as the tuition of close to $30k a year, only encourage the comparison. To survive the competitive admission process, kids must score well on exams and demonstrate talents.

a reputation and an identity

School shapes us. The reason I haven't mentioned Lakeside by name on this blog is because it has a reputation. My mom sent me there after years of frustration with public education, thinking it would be best for me. I wasn't a typical student: I commuted miles across towns each morning on metro buses and received loads of financial aid. Although I'm biased as an alum, I'd guess that Lakeside School has two prominent associations in people's minds: if you went to Lakeside, you must be wealthy and smart, in an elite way.

So Microsoft's use of IQ tests or emphasis on the word "smart" doesn't surprise me. Lakeside kids, which Gates and Allen still are somewhere inside, as we all are still children - can start attending the school in fifth grade, at age 10, and grow up in a culture where intelligence becomes identity. Why are we all at this school? Because we're smart. It's an identity that requires significant investment, both financial and otherwise, so it reinforces itself out of necessity.

I am thankful

Lakeside did provide me with a challenging academic education. Teachers at the school played important support roles in my life when I needed other adults to care for me. For those two factors I am grateful. The private school helped me survive adolescence, mentally and emotionally. I also became active as a runner on sports teams, developing physical abilities I wouldn't have discovered if had I stayed in a larger school.

But Lakeside is also a culture - or at least it was a culture - that emphasized the belief in the elite, rather than belief in everyone. With words the school may say otherwise, but de facto, by definition, it values intelligence that can be measured on tests, prizing and thereby preserving belief in the tip of the bell curve."

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