The widely publicized letter that Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, wrote to their newborn daughter this week — a letter that might have attempted to preclude any anxiety on the child’s part with a clause like “don’t worry, there’ll always be money for Cheddar Bunnies” — pledged 99 percent of the couple’s Facebook shares to charity.
Those shares, currently valued at about $45 billion and potentially worth much more, will form the basis for what will be known as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The project’s focus will include efforts toward eliminating disease and poverty and creating a world in which there is greater access to opportunity for children born into circumstances less favorable than baby Maxima Chan Zuckerberg’s.
Among the principles the letter cites as vital to achieving these goals is “personalized learning,” an educational philosophy and practice to which Mr. Zuckerberg is already committed through his investment in AltSchool, a network of for-profit experimental schools that began in San Francisco and recently arrived in New York.
Founded by a young former Google executive, Max Ventilla, AltSchool is a product of the capitalist utopianism that drives Silicon Valley: the notion that smart people, or at any rate those supremely confident in newly held convictions, can make money making the world a better place. “Better,” of course, is highly subjective, but AltSchool, which essentially attempts to use affluent children whose families are paying reasonably high tuition fees as a laboratory to reshape education for the broader population, has the advantage of seeming less ambiguous in its nobility than Uber or the 100th start-up built on the premise that more people need vegan bouillabaisse delivered to their doors.
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