Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

THE NEW SCHOOL TIES; If You're an American Billionaire, There's Only One Place to Put Your Charity Dollars -- Education, Says Philip Delves Broughton

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

THE NEW SCHOOL TIES; If You're an American Billionaire, There's Only One Place to Put Your Charity Dollars -- Education, Says Philip Delves Broughton

Article excerpt

Byline: Philip Delves Broughton

FORGET global warming, overpopulation or disease. The cause preoccupying the very rich today is schools. As Al Gore was to 2006, with his Oscarwinning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, so Bill Gates promises to be to 2010, as one of the key figures in Waiting for Superman, a documentary skewering of America's education system.

Glib as it may sound, philanthropy, like everything else, follows trends. The charter school revolution in America, which has inspired Michael Gove's new "free schools" in Britain, is attracting heavyweight interest and money like never before.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old founder and chief executive of Facebook, pledged [pounds sterling]60 million to help the schools of Newark, New Jersey. His pledge came two days before the release of The Social Network, a film about the founding of Facebook, which paints Zuckerberg in an appalling light. Yet, whatever his motives, the gift has been widely welcomed as a boost to some of the worst schools in the US.

Waiting for Superman was directed by the man who directed An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim, and promises to introduce a new group of education celebrities to the world. First, of course, is Gates, whose foundation has invested billions over the past 10 years in trying to find the cure for what ails public education.

Like Zuckerberg, Gates was a sinister figure in the late 1990s when he first started giving money to education reform. Microsoft was buffeted by anti-trust investigations, and Gates was widely seen as a bullying monopolist. As he does the rounds in Waiting for Superman, however, he is a man transformed: a warm, avuncular figure pleading for better opportunities for children.

Another star of the film is Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone, a pioneering programme in one of the poorest areas of Manhattan. It is a partnership similar in spirit to that of Arki Busson, the London fund manager and boyfriend of Uma Thurman, who raises millions each year for his charity ARK, which runs eight academies in Britain.

Another leading character is Michelle Rhee, the 40-year-old head of Washington DC's school system. …

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