Reconnecting Education and Foundations: Turning Good Intentions into Educational Capital

To commemorate its centennial, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching commissioned two of its resident scholars, Ray Bacchetti and Thomas Ehrlich, to edit a collection on the faltering relationship between major foundations and educational institutions. The result, Reconnecting Education and Foundations: Turning Good Intentions into Educational Capital, proposes a paradigmatic shift toward the accumulation of educational capital by grantseekers and grantmakers.

The collection, comprised in part of papers delivered at a Carnegie-convened conference, concerns itself with the largest hundred grantmakers in education as well as grantseekers from elementary, secondary, and higher education — an uncommonly broad focus intended to reflect Andrew Carnegie's commitment to education and make plain that education reform efforts must involve grantseekers as well as funders if they are to succeed. Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, an education historian and dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Education, and Jennifer de Forest, an assistant professor of educational history at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, provide a historical backdrop for the discussion in their essay "What Might Andrew Carnegie Want to Tell Bill Gates: Reflections on the Hundredth Anniversary of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching," which reviews the successes and failures of education philanthropy over the last century.

Organized into four parts covering history, K-12 education, higher education and "cross-cutting topics," the volume's key concept, educational capital, is defined in Bacchetti and Theodore Lohman's chapter "Increasing Foundation Impact by Increasing Educational Capital" as "experience, knowledge, competence, values, attitudes and norms, and other social factors that determine what educators can do with children and with what effect." Bacchetti and Lohman also introduce a five-point plan for building educational capital, something grantseekers will find useful and grantmakers will appreciate in their continual evaluation of funding requests.

Subsequent chapters consider the role of patrons in higher education and present a number of case studies reviewing the effectiveness of a national writing project, the failure of a social studies commission, and the mixed outcomes of the late Walter H. Annenberg's large-scale donations to public education. The case studies also provide constructive, colorful commentary on the steps taken by educational professionals to accomplish more while conserving their energy and pacing themselves for the long haul.

Useful for the background it provides on the historical partnership between philanthropy and education and for its critical analysis of varied attempts to institute social change through education, Reconnecting Foundations and Education, though at times prosaic, calls attention to the somewhat diminished emphasis on education by today's philanthropists and will inspire educators and philanthropists alike to renew their commitment to this vitally important relationship.