Larry Cuban highlights the reckless nature of major philanthropies whose lack of accountability often leaves students and their schools worse off than before any reform efforts were foisted upon them.
Center stage in this article, McGeorge Bundy, a leading proponent for escalating the war in Vietnam, has no doubt in his edicts, whether they ultimately benefit the recipients of his decisiveness or not, witness the demise of the Republic of Vietnam and the immeasurable cost to our country and the hundreds of thousands of American casualties.
It seems philanthropies simply use the same playbook as other elites in our society, such as the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, who recently escaped unscathed, and inconceivably rewarded, for his firm’s role in the global financial meltdown.
Apparently, noblesse oblige only applies to the friends and families of our nation’s elite, and not the common folk, such as those in public education.
Critics of current donors often point to how philanthropists have supported centralizing school governance (e.g., mayoral control, state takeovers of districts and schools, No Child Left Behind). They note that the inevitable companion of consolidated authority is increased top-down regulation of schooling in cities and states. And that regulation, they claim, has seen the growth of explicit federal and state accountability mechanisms. The critics are correct.
Yet as venture philanthropists have advocated market-friendly ventures in public schools and approved of centralized local, state, and federal policymaking, donors themselves have escaped responsibility for errors they committed in grant-making. Like the Ebola virus, donors dread federal and state regulation of their publicly subsidized foundation activities. The fact is, however, that they have no accountability for their own “oops!” or dumb mistakes.
When foundation grants fail to achieve the objectives officials sought, philanthropists turn their backs, shrug, and walk away. They have no…
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