The Gates Foundation invokes a third way in education reform debate by appealing not to government regulation or market competition but to philanthropic investment as a catalyst for improving educational equity. While the foundation praises this investment as transcending the conventional polarities of debate, I argue that this praise assigns a familiar form of blame toward public education and educators, for it declares philanthropists the only reformers whose commitments to educational civil rights remain uncompromised by political-economic self-interest. In light of this analysis, I qualify the deliberative potential of praise as a rhetoric of education reform.

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