Education Week reports on the plans of billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan to redesign American education. They have launched something called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative–or CZI Initiative–to carry out their plan for “personalized learning”‘( I.e., “depersonalized learning”) to remake education into whatever they think in their limited experience is best. They have hired James Shelton–formerly of the Gates Foundation, formerly in charge of Arne Duncan’s failed SIG program (the School Improvement Grants part of Race to the Top, which federal evaluations found produced nothing of value).
What’s wrong with CZI? First, neither of its founders understands that public education is a democratic institution, in which parents and communities make decisions about their children’s education. It is not a start-up or a venture fund or an app. Did someone elect them to redesign American education without telling the public? What arrogance! Why don’t they pick a District and ask for permission to demonstrate their vision before they spend hundreds of millions to lobby for it?
Second, if they want to help children, why don’t they open a health clinic in proximity to every school that needs one? Dr. Chan is a pediatrician. Children’s health is something she knows about. Mark knows code. Children don’t need code. They need care.
Third, the article describes this as a “high-stakes venture,” but there are zero stakes for Chan and Zuckerberg. If they drop $5 billion, so what? Who will hold them accountable when they get bored and move on?
Why don’t they do what is needed, instead of foisting their half-baked ideas on the nation’s children?
And last, it is beyond obnoxious that they dare to call their tech-based approach “whole-child personalized learning,” which is an oxymoron. What part of “whole-child learning” happens on a computer?
Where are their plans to feed the hungry, heal the sick, create opportunities for play and imagination to run free?
Sad to say, this is a vainglorious and anti-democratic imposition of C and Z’s ideas on people who have nothing to say about it. The one-tenth of 1% toying with our children and our schools, for their enjoyment.
An excerpt from the Education Week article?:
“Pediatrician Priscilla Chan and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg are gearing up to invest hundreds of millions of dollars a year in a new vision of “whole-child personalized learning,” with the aim of dramatically expanding the scope and scale of efforts to provide every student with a customized education.
“The emerging strategy represents a high-stakes effort to bridge longstanding divides between competing visions for improving the nation’s schools. Through their recently established Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the billionaire couple intends to support the development of software that might help teachers better recognize and respond to each student’s academic needs-while also supporting a holistic approach to nurturing children’s social, emotional, and physical development.
“The man charged with marrying those two philosophies is former Deputy U.S. Secretary of Education James H. Shelton, now the initiative’s president of education.
“We’ve got to dispel this notion that personalized learning is just about technology,” Shelton said in an exclusive interview with Education Week. “In fact, it is about understanding students, giving them agency, and letting them do work that is engaging and exciting.”
“To advance that vision, Shelton has at his disposal a massive fortune and a wide array of levers to pull.
“Chan and Zuckerberg created CZI as a vehicle for directing 99 percent of their Facebook shares-worth an estimated $45 billion-to causes related to education and science, through a combination of charitable giving and investment.
“The initiative is structured as a limited-liability corporation, rather than a traditional foundation. That means CZI will be able to make philanthropic donations, invest in for-profit companies, lobby for favored policies and legislation, and directly support candidates for elected office -all with minimal public-reporting requirements.
“For now, Shelton said, CZI is “one of the best-resourced startups in the world, but still a startup,” with fewer than 20 people on its education team.
“In the near future, though, he expects the initiative to give out “hundreds of millions of dollars per year” for education-related causes. Such a figure would place the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative among the highest-giving education-focused philanthropies in the country.
“Within five years, Shelton said in the June 22 interview, CZI’s work should have helped launch a “meaningful number” of schools and learning environments “where kids are performing dramatically better, and feel more engaged, and teachers feel more engaged in the work that they’re doing.”
“Chan, 32, and Zuckerberg, 33, also have embraced the idea of a long horizon for the initiative’s work, saying their support for personalized learning will extend over decades.
“From the outset, however, the couple’s attempt to engineer big changes in the U.S. education system faces significant obstacles.
“Personalized learning” was an amorphous concept even before this new attempt to integrate it with equally hard-to-define “whole child” strategies. It remains unclear how Chan, Zuckerberg, and Shelton intend to balance the organization’s support for research and development with their desire to quickly bring to scale new products and approaches, many of which have limited or no evidence to support their effectiveness.
“And CZI won’t commit to publicly disclosing all of its financial and political activity or to making the source code for its software open and accessible to the larger education community. That stance has stirred complaints about a lack of transparency.”
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