Joann Barkan writes for the Chronicle of Philanthropy on criticizing the work of philanthropists:
Criticizing philanthropy (or philanthropists) of any kind is tricky. To most people, a negative appraisal sounds off-base and churlish—yet another instance of “No good deed goes unpunished.”
Criticizing the immense private foundations that finance and shape the market-model “reform” of public education in the United States produces the same incredulity and indignation.
There are at least three approaches to evaluating the role of big philanthropy in public education. Understanding how they differ makes for a more effective analysis and clearer arguments. These three approaches are:
Focusing on the failure of specific policies pushed by the foundations and the harm they do to teaching and learning.
Examining how big philanthropy’s activity undermines the democratic control of public education, an institution that is central to a functioning democracy.
Analyzing how large private foundations are peculiar and problematic institutions in a democracy.