Education has been a hot topic lately. There are questions about the impact remote learning will have on kids, and controversy swirling around President Donald Trump’s recent calls to end racial sensitivity training across federal agencies and clamp down on a New York Times initiative called the 1619 Project, used by some schools to teach the history of slavery and its far-reaching consequences. In short: There’s lots to talk and worry about.
To be sure, this is also an opportunity to rethink and revamp how and what we teach, for those who seize it. Online learning platforms are seeing a boom, and technology in general is being incorporated in unprecedented ways, which is actually helping to broaden the reach of educators in some regions of the world. What’s more, despite the rhetoric from the White House, the current racial reckoning is leading many in the private sector to up their investment in education that emphasizes racial history and aims to solve inequities.
Case in point: Today, Everfi, a provider of online curriculum that pushes for social change, announced a $100 million, three-year-long commitment to building and expanding curriculum that teaches about social injustice and addresses economic disparities. This set of online classes and resources will be free to K-12 teachers and students across the country, and will be fully funded by the private sector.
“Covid has thrown kerosene on problems that existed before,” says Tom Davidson, the founder and CEO of Everfi. “We are going to get this [the new curriculum] into hands of school districts as fast as we can.”
Everfi got its start in 2008, by providing financial literacy classes to public schools. Its model is to bring together corporate sponsors who have an interest in pushing for economic inclusivity, among other issues, and get them to foot the bill. (Davidson says Everfi never allows any branding or ads within its learning environment, and is responsible for 100% of the development of content.) Why the private sector? Because the public sector has chosen not to fund it, says Davidson, and the nonprofit sector can’t fund it.
Over time, Everfi has amassed more than 3,000 “strategic” partners, from LinkedIn to the NFL. Many of them plan to help finance the latest push for new, K-12 curriculum.
“Now more than ever the importance of understanding the history and contributions of Black and African Americans to our national culture is paramount for our country to move forward, drive change and eliminate racism,” says Tom Naratil, co-president of UBS Global Wealth Management and president of UBS Americas. (UBS has committed to expanding Everfi’s African American history curriculum.)
RISE, a sports organization that pushes for social justice and another of Everfi’s partners, says it has partnered with the education company to establish curriculum that specifically addresses matters of race.
“Conversations about race, race relations and racism have always been important to have with children at all ages,” says Diahann Billings-Burford, CEO of RISE. “There is a clear need to increase an understanding of racial equity and cultural competence. We are living the consequences of what happens when these conversations are left to chance.”
As for the consequences of President Trump’s recent fighting words, Davidson, the CEO of Everfi, says that he is not too concerned, at least not now.
“Who the president is, and what the president thinks, is interesting but often disregarded or at least fleeting in terms of how districts design curriculum,” says Davidson. “There’s not a lot of precedent for curriculum guidance from the Oval Office. But these are unprecedented times.”
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