I have recently read of the $4 billion that you will receive for selling your movie empire to Disney, and your plans to give most of this money to support education. This is wonderful news. I deeply appreciate this generosity. I am writing a letter to encourage you to think outside the box as you decide how to spend these funds. It is critical to consider where educators find ourselves in 2012.
The George Lucas Education Foundation already has made a substantial impact on our schools. Edutopia has been an amazing resource for years, sharing news and examples of project-based learning, authentic inquiry and other innovations. The emphasis is almost always on giving students rich challenges, with opportunities for creative expression.
This emphasis is decidedly at odds with the direction of the other giants of “education reform” such as the Gates Foundation. It also runs counter to the mainstream of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and other government-led reforms, which place their faith in standardized test data and curriculum aligned to standards and tests.
I hope these new funds will not be used to further the destructive agenda that other philanthropists have set. Do not embrace the idea that due process for teachers is the enemy of quality. Do not yield to the technocratic vision of perfectly aligned standards, curriculum and tests. Do not try to raise test scores by rewarding or punishing teachers. Do not advance the privatization of education, but rather, support our public schools as the surest vehicle by which this is made available to all. Insist on this for every child, not just those with high test scores.