But let’s not kid ourselves: The law, such as it is, ran out of guidance or anything resembling an incontrovertible answer long before any of the justices reached their result in these [“momentous”] cases. What determined the outcome in all of them was nothing more and nothing less than how far one believes we have come as a society on questions involving race and sexual orientation. Of course, this is true for all the court’s momentous decisions (which is why they end up in the Supreme Court in the first place).
But maybe we should ask ourselves: Why on earth would we entrust such judgments, affecting the whole of society, to five people on a court whose members are made as unaccountable as possible and who sit on the bench for life, rather like monarchs?
President Obama recently recognized the accomplishments of Estiven Rodriguez, a senior at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) in New York City, which is part of the Foundation's Deeper Learning Network. Estiven, who could not speak English when he moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic at age nine, will attend Dickinson College on a competitve scholarship in the fall.
Estiven will attend the State of the Union Address tonight as a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama.
Thoughtful article at Foreign Affairs from George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. He argues that their focus should be on ending Iran’s capacity to build a nuclear weapon quickly, not on politics or ending its enrichment capacity.
Annie Lowery, writing in the New York Times about interesting new research on how media influences teens' reproductive health decisions:
A new economic study of Nielsen television ratings and birth records suggests that the show she appeared in, “16 and Pregnant,” and its spinoffs may have prevented more than 20,000 births to teenage mothers in 2010.
The paper, to be released Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, makes the case that the controversial but popular programs reduced the teenage birthrate by nearly 6 percent, contributing to a long-term decline that accelerated during the recession.
“It’s thrilling,” said Sarah S. Brown, the chief executive of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit group in Washington. “People just don’t understand how influential media is in the lives of young people.”
Of all the daunting challenges the nation faces—economic, social, environmental, and educational—perhaps the most vexing for the future is whether schools are preparing all children to apply what they are learning to make the critical decisions required to power the economy and democracy.
Administered every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, PISA measures whether all of a modern nation’s children receive this education. Today, the honest answer is “no.” But the United States is planting the seeds of a movement to prepare today’s students to tackle tomorrow’s complex problems.
Despite various names and descriptions, the movement’s uniform objective is to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the ability to build on their knowledge to think critically, solve problems, and communicate effectively.
Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund, which the Hewlett Foundation has supported for many years, provides one-time assistance to our neighbors facing unexpected hardship. In addition to housing aid and other forms of direct support to families and individuals across the nine-county Bay Area, Season of Sharing also donates more than $1 million to the region's food banks each year.
The Hewlett Foundation is proud to support the Mercury News Wish Book, which provides assistance to Bay Area families and individuals in need. Each year, Mercury News reporters introduce the paper's readers to the people and organizations supported by the campaign.
Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer and Fay Twersky, Director of our Effective Philanthropy Group, respond to new research from the Center for Effective Philanthropy on Foundation CEOs' assessment of their own organizations' impact.
According to the survey, CEOs are not—by their own admission—as well informed as they believe they should be about the extent to which they are achieving their goals. When asked what would improve their ability to assess progress, they cite a need for improved communication across organizations about what is being learned and a need for more evidence-based information. Despite feeling less than fully informed, the CEOs nevertheless say they believe that their foundations have “contributed a lot” to what progress has been made.
We think these data underscore the need for foundation leaders and staff to be at once more reflective and more open. By reflective, we mean that foundation leaders would be well-served by asking and actively seeking answers to questions like: How would we know if we are on a path to achieving our goals? Are we on that path? What progress are we making and what obstacles are we encountering? What are the key enablers and inhibitors to progress for us and our grantees? Which of our assumptions about how change would happen have been proved right and which wrong? Given such lessons, what might we do differently next time? Fully engaging with questions like these requires some data, some deliberation, and a healthy dose of open-mindedness and humility.
Somehow we need to change incentives, make it so foundations are expected to share—are, indeed, rewarded for sharing—what they have learned about what works and what doesn’t. That way, we can learn from each other and accelerate progress towards achieving important, shared goals. While some cynics thought it gimmicky, the Giving Pledge launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett has been quite effective in moving wealthy individuals to give most of their wealth away. Maybe it’s time for foundations to think about doing something analogous, a kind of Openness Pledge that helps move our default position to one of sharing information.