With the mammoth news yesterday of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million grant to Newark schools, the billionaire’s motives are being questioned.
Officially, his answer, as he put it on “Oprah” is this: “Because every child deserves a good education, and right now that’s not happening… I’ve had a lot of opportunities in my life, and a lot of that comes from having gone to really good schools.”
But cynics point out that the announcement of the generous gift might deflect the critical portrayal of him in the movie “The Social Network.”
In today’s NPR report, branding expert Rob Frankel of Frankel & Anderson is blunt:
“This is clearly a [public relations] stunt,” Frankel said. “He wants to have a philanthropic track record to counter his portrayal in the film.”
Forbes weighs in about the importance of Zuckerberg’s good behavior for the face of Facebook:
Concerns by activists and regulators over how the company handles personal data could derail its ultimate success, even though one million people a day sign up for the network.
But regardless of Zuckerberg’s motivations, the fact is that Newark schools will receive a huge boost from his grant, as well as a matching $100 million grant from Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
This is the sort of philanthropy that we see from the likes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates; frankly, it’s amazing to have someone else with the ability to contribute at that level to that field. Ideally, we should be able to take the gesture at face value and not taint it with speculation.
The question that should be asked here is how that money will be used, and to what effect. In an interview with TechCrunch, Zuckerberg praises Teach for America and KIPP as examples of positive influences in education reform, and says achieving scalability is part of the vision for the foundation.
But the long-term goal would be to make Newark into a symbol that you can do this. So that way, a lot of the results can get replicated in other places
We know one thing for certain: With millions of Facebook members across the globe and the education reform movement on high alert, it will be watched closely.