First of all, Fredrick T. Gates is not related to Bill Gates. This out-of-context quote from the Rev. Frederick T. Gates exemplifies an article on the "Thrive" web site: The original context of the quote comes from an article titled: The Country School of Tomorrow - In which young and old will be taught in practicable ways how to make rural life beautiful, intelligent, fruitful, recreative, healthful, and joyous. Which you must admit sounds like a good thing. So why does Gates say we should not to try to make lawyers and doctors out of people? First let's look at the context. I'm going to give the paragraph first in its surrounding context, and then give the entire article, with relevant parts highlighted. You can just skip down, or read the whole thing if you are really interested. In reading this, the basic context you need to understand is that he is talking about rural schools, i.e. schools in the country, and those schools were in terrible shape. http://books.google.com/books?id=ArdKAAAAYAAJ&pg=PP12&output=text And here is the entire article. I've highlighted various key sections: In summary, the key points are that country schools are in a terrible state. Gates recommends education that is initially tailored to the immediate problems of the rural poor - specifically health, food, clothing, shelter. He note the current system with it's blind emphasis on rote learning of the thee Rs is not working. He notes that better educated people is better for the economy, and suggests this is justification to raise taxes to pay for public education. But I think the most telling quote that answers the Thrive accusations is: This does not, I think, gel in any way with the claims of Thrive: It seems more, at least for Gates, the goal was to raise up the rural poor, especially in the South from their miasma of abject poverty and crippling ill health, to fix an education system that did nothing to address those problems, and get them to a place where they could actually think for themselves.