Archive for the 'Philanthropy' category

Scienceblogs: Clearly More Popular than Steven Colbert

Oct 31 2007 Published by under Do Something, Philanthropy

If you are one of the many people who was trying to contribute to the DonorsChoose challenge today, you should know that there's one person you can blame for the trouble you had accessing the site: right-wing spinmeister and wannabe Presidential candidate Steven Colbert. That's right, folks. Like a typical heartless Conservative, Colbert's not content merely trying to shrink government to a convenient, easy to drown size. No, he's not going to rest until he makes it harder for un-American liberal weenies like you to waste your hard-earned dollars by using them to buy things that he knows that students don't really need - like binders, or projection screens, or basic lab supplies. Kids don't need that stuff to learn - a slate, some chalk, and a bible was good enough for grandpa, and it's good enough for junior. Americans shouldn't be giving their money away so that other people can waste it on children. We should be supporting American retail by buying more things made in China. There's an educational benefit to doing that, too - when you're done, give the stuff you buy to the kids. Most of it's got enough lead to write with.

Colbert can try to mess that up for people, by evilly enticing his unwitting viewers into overloading the DonorsChoose site by going there to "vote" for him by giving away money, but he's learning a valuable lesson. He may be more popular than all of the other Presidential candidates combined, but he's not more popular than Scienceblogs. And he's got a long way to go before he gets there.

Right now, here's what the polls have to say:

Steven Colbert has plugged his campaign over and over on the air to his so-called "millions of viewers," but has raised a trivial $43,170.

The blogs of, after much selfless work and dedication, have brought in a spectacular $53,494 - and counting.

Because of Colbert's antics, the DonorsChoose folks have extended the campaign by 24 hours, so you've got a whole extra day to donate, and to show Colbert just what you think of him and his "campaign."

4 responses so far

Donors Choose - Coming Down to the Wire

Oct 30 2007 Published by under Do Something, Philanthropy

We're now in the last two days of the DonorsChoose Bloggers' Challenge. As things currently stand, this blog is now $88 away from my $2,500 fundraising goal. Unfortunately, we've been more or less stalled for the last couple of weeks, so I'm going to add an incentive to see if we can get over the top.

DonorsChoose has generously committed to give blogs that hit their goals with a 10% bonus that can be used to fund additional projects. I've already contributed some to my own challenge, but if we have met the goal by 10 pm tomorrow night, our family will also contribute 10% of the total raised (up to a maximum of $500).

Here are the proposals in my challenge that still need contributions:

Continue Reading »

One response so far

The Income Gap and the Education Gap - and how to stop leaving children behind.

Oct 14 2007 Published by under Do Something, Education, Philanthropy, Science

Late last week, the IRS released figures showing that the income gap in the United States is larger now than at any time since they began tracking that data in 1986, and may be worse now than at any time since the 1920s. The figures, which are based on 2005 tax returns, reveal that the richest 1% of Americans accounted for 21.2% of income, up from about 20.8% in 2000. The bottom 50% of families earned 12.8%, which is a drop from the 13% that they took home in 2000.

When the Wall Street Journal asked President Bush about the widening income gap, he said:

First of all, our society has had income inequality for a long time. Secondly, skills gaps yield income gaps. And what needs to be done about the inequality of income is to make sure people have got good education, starting with young kids. That's why No Child Left Behind is such an important component of making sure that America is competitive in the 21st century.

Amazingly enough, he got most of that right. Skill gaps do yield income gaps. Providing everyone with a quality education is a good way to make sure that everyone has a chance to get into a career that will let them bridge that gap. Right now, though, that's not happening. In part - in large part - that's because we're funding education locally. Rich people tend to live in areas inhabited by other rich people. Poor people tend to live in areas inhabited by other poor people. When the tax base for your area is made up primarily of rich people, it's easy for the local government to come up with enough money to run a quality school system. When the tax base for your area is mostly made up of people who don't have much money, it's very hard to come up with the funds to run adequate schools.

If you don't believe that money makes a difference in education, take a look at this story:

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

DonorsChoose update:

Oct 12 2007 Published by under Do Something, Philanthropy

This week's DonorsChoose update is a short one. We're still doing well here - $2278 has been donated, which puts us well on our way to meeting our goal for the third time. I've added new proposals, again mostly from the Bronx, most of which are looking to fill basic classroom needs. (One request is for a copy machine and toner, because the entire school currently has one machine and no service contract. Another is for play-dough for a kindergarten classroom. A third is another request for pencils, crayons, and markers.)

In related news, Seed Media Group (the parent company of Scienceblogs) announced earlier this week that they are starting a Science Literacy Grants program, and that as part of that program they will be matching the first $15,000 in contributions to the DonorsChoose campaign. itself - the folks who pay us - is also going to be kicking in some prizes for individual donors. These prizes include t-shirts, mugs, books, and the grand prize is a new iPod Nano. If you've donated to my challenge - or any of the others - email a copy of your receipt to

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The DonorsChoose goodness continues.

Oct 04 2007 Published by under Doing Science, Philanthropy

Earlier today, I raised the goal for my DonorsChoose challenge from $1588 to $2000. More of you donated, and within just a couple of hours we pulled to within $0.35 of the $2K mark. I've upped the goal by another $500. Since two of the proposals that I added earlier today are now fully funded, I'm adding one more. I was going to wait, but this one's a true heartbreaker - well beyond depressing. This proposal comes from P.S. 62 in the Bronx:

We have been instructed to cover up all of our blackboards which are old and ruined. As a result, I have to teach all of my lessons on chart paper that I always hang in the classroom so that the children can have a visual representation of what we have accomplished each day.

Therefore, I am asking if my class could please be supplied with a large donation of chart paper for the rest of the school year, as this is all I have to work with and it runs out very quickly. It can be both the small pads as well as the really big pads. We are not provided with these at our school which becomes very difficult for me.

A classroom without a blackboard, and a school that can't afford to provide chart paper. In the richest city in the richest country on the planet, we've got a school where the teachers don't have blackboards. What's wrong with that picture? I mean besides it not showing up in the classroom on account of they've got no damn blackboard to draw it on.

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Another DonorsChoose update.

Oct 04 2007 Published by under Do Something, Philanthropy

The response to my DonorsChoose challenge continues to be outstanding. Earlier today, we passed the $1,588 that I had set as my initial goal for the drive. Since there are still 27 days left in the challenge, I went back and increased the target to $2,000. If more of the projects are fully funded, I'll go back and add more to the challenge.

When I do add more proposals, I'm going to stick to the criteria that I used earlier today - schools with 85% or more of the students receiving free lunch, and proposals requesting very basic supplies. If you would prefer to fund proposals with a specific science component, there are a lot of other blogs here at that are running challenges of their own. They'd also welcome all the help that you can give the students they've picked.

Finally, keep the receipts. I've been told that there may be some incentives from outside this blog, and I'm still trying like crazy to think of something to offer from myself - beyond my gratitude, that is. I'm open to reasonable suggestions on that one.

One response so far

A DonorsChoose challenge update, some new proposals, and what those proposals say about our screwed-up national priorities.

I can't begin to thank the people who have donated to the DonorsChoose campaign enough. As of today - four days into the campaign - we've raised $1045. That's more than was contributed during all of last year's 15-day campaign. That's absolutely fantastic.

As of now, all four of the projects that I picked have been fully funded, but we haven't hit the goal yet. (Either someone donated to one of the projects through this campaign without receiving credit, or someone donated to one of the projects independently of the campaign.) At this point, we're still about $550 short of my goal for the campaign, so I've added a few more proposals. I'm doing something a little different with these, though.

When I picked my original proposals, I focused entirely on science education. I'm a scientist, I write about science (at least on occasion), I write at, and I firmly believe that it's critical for children to receive a good foundation in science. Given all of that, it seemed appropriate that I ask you to help fund projects that have some tangible science component.

The more time I spend browsing through just the Bronx proposals on the DonorsChoose website, the more I think that focusing this funding drive on science was the wrong decision. Science is good. Science is important. Science is critical. But it's not the only critical part of education. Focusing entirely on science is like giving kids nothing but citrus fruit. It's exactly what you need to do if their biggest problem is a vitamin C deficiency. But it's not the best solution if they're starving to death.

There are teachers - not to mention entire schools - that lack some of the most basic essentials needed for education. And when I say basic, I mean basic. I'm not even talking about things that are a basic part of any reasonable concept of a 21st century education. In many of these cases, we're talking about things that are a basic part of a reasonable 19th century education.

I've added a number of additional proposals to my drive. Some of them are still Bronx-based, but I'm no longer exclusively using that as a criteria, either. Leaving poor children behind is not a problem that's restricted to New York City. It's a national disgrace. The common elements behind this set of proposals are that the schools that submitted them are all rated by Donors Choose as having poverty levels of 85% or higher, and the proposals themselves request less than $400. Oh, and these proposals are all for things that these teachers should not, should not, should not have to beg for. These teachers are asking for the kinds of things that most people take for granted.

Even after restricting myself to proposals come from very poor areas, request little money, and are intended to provide things that teachers should already have, I still had a hard time narrowing down the list of proposals. There are just so many to choose from. I've picked a few, and if you folks are kind and generous enough to step up to the gap where our pitiful excuse for a government has gone unforgivably AWOL, I'll find and add more. Take a look at the things these teachers need:

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far

Great Start for the Donors Choose Campaign.

Oct 02 2007 Published by under Do Something, Education, Philanthropy, Science

For those of you who haven't looked over at the sidebar, the DonorsChoose campaign is off to a start that far exceeded my wildest expectations. Yesterday, five donors kicked in an outstanding $687.06. That's more in one day than I had targeted for the entire drive last year, and enough to bring us more than 40% of the way to the total. To everyone who's donated so far, thank you very much.

Some of the other blogs at scienceblogs are offering incentives to donors. I'm trying to think of something, and promise that I'll get some sort of idea up in the next day or two. There are also some rumors that there may be some incentives available from other sources - so hold onto your receipts if you've already given, and check back in a couple of days.

5 responses so far

Let's Make Science Happen: The 2007 Scienceblogs DonorsChoose Challenge

Oct 01 2007 Published by under Do Something, Education, Philanthropy, Science

DonorsChoose is a fantastic organization. Individual teachers submit proposals for things they'd like to do in their classroom, but can't afford to do. People can go to DonorsChoose, pick projects that they like, and donate money directly to those projects. You truly know where your money is going to go, and you can see what a big difference even a small donation can make.

Last year, we had a major Scienceblogs funding drive for DonorsChoose. Our readers - you - were absolutely fantastic. In just 15 days, we managed to raise more than 23,000 dollars - not counting the 10,000 dollars in matching funds that our benevolent overlords at Seed kicked in to sweeten the pot. Readers of this blog - and there weren't as many of you then - donated over $650, exceeding my goal for the drive. Today, we're launching another drive, and I hope you'll be every bit as generous this time as you were last year.

This year, I'm hoping that the readers of this blog will be kind enough to kick in $1588. That might seem like an odd number - it's definitely not a round number - there's a method to my madness. $1588 is the combined total that is needed to fully fund four projects that I know will really help make a difference in an area that could really, really use it.

The four schools are all located in The Bronx, and all four are within walking distance of where I grew up. All of the schools are in high poverty areas. 73% of students qualify for a free lunch (that's an annual pre-tax income of under $27,000 for a family of four) at one of these schools, and that's the one in the wealthiest area. At least 80% of students qualify at the other three. These children come from families who don't have much money, and go to schools that don't have much either. The buildings are often in incredibly poor shape. The classrooms have few of the resources that most of us take for granted. The kids do have at least one thing going for them, though. They've got teachers who care enough to go the extra mile, and aren't willing to let the lack of funds at their school stop them from trying to offer the best education that they can. Let's do what we can to make sure they get what they need. They certainly deserve no less.

Here are what the four teachers I picked are asking for:

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Donors Choose - Thank You

Jul 03 2006 Published by under Do Something, Education, Philanthropy, Science

The ScienceBlogs Bloggers' Challenge was wildly successful, raising well over 30,000 dollars in 15 days to fund education projects at individual schools. The challenge here at The Questionable Authority was also successful, bringing in a bit over $650.00, meeting the goal that I set.

Thanks to all of the donors to both my own little contribution and to the broader challenge.

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