Hooray for Priscilla, Mark and Max!


The Chan-Zuckerberg Baby Announcement raised a lot of eyebrows. Some people are skeptical of the motives, and the fact that the initiative has been created as an LLC rather than a foundation has rubbed some people the wrong way. Personally, I think it’s a great idea.

First, the fact that the couple has committed so much of their wealth to the improvement of children’s lives – not a select group of kids, but all of them – is encouraging. They seem to be truly concerned about bettering the world, not just the life of little Max. By citing their “moral responsibility to all children in the next generation,” they have set an example for many other young philanthropists.

Second, unlike the Gates Foundation, which focuses only on the parts of education Bill and Melinda have an interest in (improving U.S. high school and postsecondary education, global health, global development, and global policy & advocacy), the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative will focus on two broad goals: advancing human potential and promoting equality.

The fact that these are broad goals is a good thing, because education is complicated and interconnected with many other areas of life. Schools cannot be improved in a vacuum. Students are children and teenagers first and foremost; if their physical or mental health needs are not being met, they will not be able to learn, regardless of how good their teachers are or what kind of assessments they are taking.

Third, the fact that Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg have created an LLC rather than a non-profit foundation is an advantage. This move permits the organization to fund many different kinds of projects and to lobby lawmakers to promote change on a larger scale. This flexibility will allow the initiative to support truly innovative programs and encourage funding applications from all different kinds of people and areas.

Finally, I believe that, due to Priscilla Chan’s experience in both the fields of education and medicine, the couple has an actual understanding of the range of services we must provide to improve the educational outcomes for all children in America. They also understand that real change will take time, decades even; we probably will not see dramatic results in four years, the way some of our politicians and policy-makers seem to wish for.

For example, the school they have founded in East Palo Alto will be a private school geared towards low-income families; attendance will be free and children will receive healthcare and educational services from birth through graduation. This school reflects an understanding of the needs of children and the complicated nature of educational reform; it reminds me of the “Kids First” agenda proposed by David Kirp that I wrote about here. And it is the kind of vision we need to create a bright future for every single one of our children.

This is why I am embracing the news about the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. I am grateful that, finally, there seems to be an intersection of both big money and big ideas. As Mark Zuckerberg posted on Facebook, “we as a society should make investments now to ensure this world is much better for the next generation.” I hope that this investment will inspire others and promote innovative change – we need it.

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