By Pete Deluca
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of the social networking site Facebook.com, sat down with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker on the Oprah Winfrey Show to announce his plans to donate $100 million dollars to the Newark Public School System.
The grant is welcome news to residents of Newark, who saw control of their failing school system turned over to the state of New Jersey a decade ago. Still, under the new regime, nearly 46 percent of the district’s 40,000 students failed to graduate from high school and less than half of elementary school students read and write at the appropriate grade level.
News of Zuckerberg’s donation spread quickly. In researching this topic, I expected to see thousands of articles praising this recording-breaking donation. Instead, I found story after story criticizing the move as a publicity stunt on the heels of the release of The Social Network – a film due out Friday that portrays Zuckerberg as a self-centered egomaniac who rips off his friends to create Facebook.
Either way you look at this situation, a donation of this size has the potential to dramatically change one of America’s most notoriously dangerous cities. One million dollars would have been more than enough to help teachers city-wide simply buy supplies. Five million dollars would be enough to provide new computers, after school programs, or safer transportation. Fifty million dollars would be ground breaking – allowing the city to build dozens of new schools. But a $100 million-dollar donation is unheard of. Publicity stunt or not, Zuckerberg’s grant is an amount that will change the lives of individuals for generations.
In addition to The Social Network, there is another movie in theatres on Friday entitled Waiting for Superman This documentary describes the hardships of the American public school system - the struggles teachers face every day, the poor level of education children are receiving, and how the system, which was once the best in the world, is now failing our students. The title hints to the overall plot of the film – the school system needs something, or someone, to save it.
Regardless of Zuckerberg’s motivation, Newark, New Jersey found their Superman.
Pete Deluca is an Associate Account Executive. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.