An Open Letter to Mr. Zuckerberg and Dr. Chan

Mark_Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg courtesy of eu.wikipedia.org

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg and Dr. Chan,

Thank you for your generosity!   With you as exemplars I hope others will follow: untold billions of dollars could be targeted to benefit mankind.

As an advocate of public education, I hope some of your generosity will help the millions of public school students here in America.  Your letter said one of your initial areas of funding would be personalized learning – I can only assume that you have K-12 education in mind.

As you formulate goals for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiatives you must decide early on if your actions will be designed to improve public education or to weaken it.  Or if they will be able to make any difference.  As you well know from your experience in Newark, putting large amounts of money into schools can be a waste of that money.  How many billions of dollars have been spent on the Common Core and the PARCC initiatives, both of which are rapidly losing support?

If you see your daughter Max. and America, as beneficiaries of public education and you don’t want to have your money wasted, please consider the following:

  • Find out what’s needed before providing a solution.  Your letter stated an interest in supporting personalized learning. Does this solution arise from your obvious expertise and interest in technology or have you reviewed the scholarly research in education, talked to the experts in the field and decided this is what is needed?
  • Don’t just listen to rich/powerful people telling you what should be done to public schools.  Use some of that money to listen – really listen – to teachers, parents, students, and education professionals.  Be different from your peers – learn from those most invested in education.
  • If you hear that some of the problems with schools, particularly in urban areas, are societal (i.e. poverty, poor nutrition, lack of pre-natal care, gang violence) don’t turn a deaf ear as others have.  By attacking societal issues you will help improve education.
  • If you do listen when the rich/powerful people talk about public education, are they talking about what’s best for children?  Or what’s best for themselves?
  • Don’t assume public schools can’t adopt new practices.  They have again and again.  But it can be a slow process, so identify what is needed, come up with a solution, improve it along the way, and be patient.  Don’t shove it down the throats of educators and expect change over night.
  • Hear what is good about public education.  Too many people have found it in their best interests to bad-mouth schools.  Look around – America is the greatest country in the world because of our public education system.

In closing, good for you but do some good.  Forty-five billion dollars is a lot of money – use it to find ways to improve, not reform, our public schools.  America will thank you for it.

Sincerely,

Mike Warner

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