Thursday, September 23, 2010

Weird how this country works sometimes

From the NYT:

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive and a founder of Facebook, has agreed to donate $100 million to improve the long-troubled public schools in Newark, and Gov. Chris Christie will cede some control of the state-run system to Mayor Cory A. Booker in conjunction with the huge gift, officials said Wednesday.

The three men plan to announce the arrangement on Friday on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”

On one hand, I am enough of an old-school liberal and believer in government as a force for good to be sad -- and worried -- that it has come to this, that we must look to rich patrons for gifts, rather than correctly setting our priorities as a citizenry and paying for such things ourselves. I am also enough of an elitist snob to cringe at the clout of TV talk shows.

On the other hand, I would like to think of myself as enough of a realist and a pragmatist to be able to recognize when, like it or not, something isn't working and so we must try something else. I would also like to think of myself as flexible enough to be able to accept that the shifting nature of who holds power is not automatically bad, just because it is a change. And as far as this specific instance goes, who can be against giving a nice chunk of money to schools, particularly ones that appear to be so badly in need of help?

Still ...

In conclusion: no conclusion. Just thinking out loud again.


Ocean said...

Ahhh... there you have a really interesting topic!

Altruistic donations directed to a failing school system don't sound bad at all. But, how about this becoming a trend in which private donors a-la-middle-ages start to fund whatever they please? Including, of course, political muscle? Does that take something away from the normal channels of funding?

In this case, it does get Christie off the hook with his budget cuts for that school system. So, indirectly, he gets a benefit.

Is there any negative effect over that school system? How about the long term? How much does 100M accomplish and what happens after it runs out? It is a band aid after all.

The main problem I see with private funding is that the recipients are at the mercy of the donors and have no control over what's given to them. It is a return to middle ages. I thought that the nation-state through government is supposed to make sure that funding is allocated where needed and at least it has some checks and balances. I emphasize "some".

There is a role for private funding, charity and altruism, but I don't think it should be a substitute for government's responsibilities.

bjkeefe said...

You and I are on the exact same page here, that's for sure.

BTW, there was a good comment left on this post by Rita over on the Facebook, if you're interested.