Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's Talk about Philanthropy

Several articles on this topic have crossed my computer screen so let's dive in.

One of my favorite public education bloggers, Mercedes Schneider, had this fascinating thread at her blog, Deutsch29, "Media Matters: Reporting on Corporate Reform and Omitting Walton, Gates, and Broad."

Media Matters is a non-profit "progressive research and information center research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation in the US media…" whose chair just happened to be Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, David Brock.  

Media Matters published this piece, “Here Are The Corporations And Right-Wing Funders Backing The Education Reform Movement: A Guide To The Funders Behind A Tangled Network Of Advocacy, Research, Media, And Profiteering That’s Taking Over Public Education.”
Now, from the title, it sounds like Vogel’s piece is exhaustive– “a guide to the funders.” However, as one continues reading, one finds this summation:
Media Matters outlines the many overlapping connections in an echo chamber of education privatization advocacy groups, think tanks, and media outlets that are increasingly funded by a handful of conservative billionaires and for-profit education companies — often without proper disclosure.
Interestingly enough, Vogel’s “many overlapping connections” fails to include the Big Three corporate-reform-purchasing philanthropies: Gates, Walton, and Broad.
How can you write about ed reform and leave out those people?  
Also remarkable is that Vogel includes the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, which has received to date $2.6 million from the Gates Foundation just to remain in existence (i.e., for “general operating support”). She also includes Stand for Children (to date, $17 million from Gates). Still, Vogel omits Gates.

What else is noteworthy is that Vogel includes Campbell Brown’s The 74 but omits Peter Cunningham’s Education Post (which is really Results in Education Foundation, or RIEF). These two peas share a pod, with Ed Post carrying articles originally from The 74 and The 74 offering the disclaimer, “Disclosure: The 74 sometimes partners with Education Post to share content.”
In addition, Vogel makes no mention of the corporate reform money and proselyte funnel, Teach for America (TFA), which is Walton-Broad-Gates-funded ($5 million from Walton in 2015; between $1 million and $5 million from Broad in 2015, and $761,000 from Gates in 2015– and $11 million from Gates since 2007), nor does she mention the election-purchasing Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).
Well, as we all know, Mrs. Clinton did not win the presidency and now we have an advanced truth-dodger as president.   The fact still remains that no matter who is president, all these public education philanthropists are still trying to mold public education to their vision and put out their own brand of disinformation.

Next up, Mark Zuckerberg (who started Facebook) and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have their own foundation, which is working on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. 

In this article, by right-winger, Chester Finn for Education Next, Mr. Finn pens a letter to the Zuckerbergs about their efforts.  He notes that the main issue is in trying to change school districts, in which he considers that effort misplaced.
Much of what his foundation (speaking of Bill Gates) has undertaken in the K–12 realm, however, has fallen prey to the classic temptation to try to reform school districts. You—Mark—apparently succumbed to that same temptation when you committed $100 million to the renewal of public education in Newark, by way of both district and charter schools. Smart fellow that you are, you’ve acknowledged that the charter part of this generous gift has done some good (whereas the district part, not so much). You’ve probably read Dale Russakoff’s excellent book about what went wrong in Newark; she notes that you and then-Mayor Cory Booker intended “not [just] to repair education in Newark but to develop a model for saving it in all of urban America.” That obviously didn’t happen.
No kidding it didn't happen and yet Mr. Finn does not try to figure out why the money thrown at charters would work out better than at traditional districts. 

What to do?
On the one hand, foundations are fundamentally private organizations that influence policy priorities outside formal democratic deliberations—a critique that has generated concerns about plutocracy. On the other hand, foundations may benefit democracy as an efficacious alternative to the bureaucratic state.”

That does not, however, mean you must do what they ask. Philanthropy is not government, and it forfeits its distinctive advantages when it cozies up to government—even more so when it does government’s bidding.

Especially considering how puny philanthropy is next to government, its greatest asset isn’t money—it’s independence, the singular ability to do things that government cannot or will not do.
Uh oh.
One sound reason for you to consider doing so is that the “individual education plans” (IEPs) mandated under special education are, arguably, a clumsy early version of the “personalized learning” that you—and I—believe should become ubiquitous.

And while you’re at it, how about developing robots that can play the mentoring and advising role that those aggressive parents play? (A too-cute robot might even be an improvement!) 
Ding, ding, ding!  There it is - "personalized learning."  Get used to it because it's the next big thing.

Mr. Finn urges Mr. Zuckerberg to expand charters in all directions and prop up groups like Teach for America.

The next big news is that Laurene Jobs (Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs' widow) has launched a campaign to revamp high schools, to the tune of $50M.

Now we all recall another big-wig, Bill Gates, and his ill-fated attempt to do this as well with his smaller high schools/school within a school idea.  The difference here is that Ms. Jobs is actually seeking out educators to help figure this out.  From the New York Times:
Called XQ: The Super School Project, the campaign is meant to inspire teams of educators and students, as well as leaders from other sectors, to come up with new plans for high schools. Over the next several months, the teams will submit plans that could include efforts like altering school schedules, curriculums and technologies. By fall next year, Ms. Powell Jobs said, a team of judges will pick five to 10 of the best ideas to finance.
Ms. Powell Jobs said that while she was committed to ensuring that the new schools are public, she was unsure whether they would be charter schools
The XQ project is the highest-profile project yet of the Emerson Collective, the group that Ms. Powell Jobs uses to finance her philanthropic projects.
I reported on this effort before but now it appears more fleshed out.  It does not seem that the initiative will overhaul existing schools but create entirely new ones.  How that will work in any given state will be interesting to follow.  As well, I would guess that no student would just be assigned to such a school but would enroll of his/her own accord (therefore eliminating the guinea pig idea that wealthy people seem to have about experimenting on public education with someone else's children.

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