Bold Ideas in Education with Harvard Graduate School of Education

A good education is the best – and least expensive – fix to most social ills. Schools that engage and succeed are in everyone’s best interest.Better_You_Harvard_Feature

No institution enjoys greater impact in education reform than Harvard. And no city has made greater progress in urban education reform than Chicago. So naturally, Harvard convened civic leaders, its alumni and others in Chicago for the first “Bold Ideas In Education” outreach of its Graduate School of Education capital campaign.

Harvard University in Chicago

(left to right): Honey Skinner, Lindsay Chase-Landsdale, Susan Noyes, Eileen Murphy and Terese Sommer

Chicago Board of Education Chairman David Vitale moderated the event at The Casino. Professors Monica Higgins, Tom Kane and Paul Reville presented compelling research and data. With thoughtful questions and comments, expert panelists and audience members continued the discussion of big ideas for improving schools. Everyone left feeling inspired and more connected to a hopeful future for all children and schools.

I was particularly proud to cohost this event that brought together thoughtful education philanthropists – like the leadership of the Chicago Public Education Fund, for which I was a founding board member 15 years ago.  It was a vivid reminder of the growing impact this type of philanthropy has on our city.

Powerful Moms

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From left to right: Susan Sholl (UNICEF’s Chicago Humanitarian Awards co-chair 2015); Sue Duncan; Wendy Serrino (U.S. Fund for UNICEF Midwest Board Chair); Susan Schmitt (UNICEF’s Chicago Humanitarian Awards co-chair 2015) “Mom’s philosophy was, ‘You are on this earth to make the world a better place…She built confidence that you could do anything, you could be excellent and she could help you get there.  She was, and is today, very powerful.”

Mom’s philosophy was, ‘You are on this earth to make the world a better place…She built confidence that you could do anything, you could be excellent and she could help you get there.  She was, and is today, very powerful.”  —Sarah Duncan, Honey Skinner and Keith Goldstein on Sue Duncan, Founder of the Sue Duncan Children’s Center.  

Honey Jacobs Skinner, Keith Kiley Goldstein and Sarah Duncan know about good moms and power.

As the 11th of 13 children, Honey could have gotten lost in the pack.  Instead, she graduated from Harvard and became a partner at Sidley Austin with a powerful lobbying practice even while she was raising 2 great sons and is supporting her husband’s high profile career (Sam Skinner was Chief of Staff for George H. W. Bush, among other powerful jobs). Illinois state legislators consider Honey an angel for children because of her thoughtful work on behalf of Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Keith Kiley Goldstein earned a Wharton MBA and worked in commercial banking and real estate before deciding to exercise more power on behalf of children through organizations like the Ounce of Prevention, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Civic Consulting Alliance while raising her two children and supporting her own powerful husband (Rodney Goldstein is a Managing Partner of Frontenac Fund).

Unicef Humanitarian Gala honoring Sue DuncanBecause they are inspiring women and moms in their own right, it really caught my attention when Honey & Keith wrote about Sue Duncan, because she so inspires them.

Sue raised 3 kids – including Sarah and current US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan – with them working at her side in an after school tutoring center that she founded in one of Chicago’s worst neighborhoods.

Sue’s compassion, determination and dedication transformed the lives of thousands of children who most needed help.  And she raised amazing kids in the process.  Please learn more about Sue’s work and watch the inspiring documentary shown at the UNICEF event where Sue was honored.UNICEF humanitarian Gals

A great mom like Sue Duncan is a powerful person indeed. Thanks for reminding us all of that, Honey & Keith.

Internet’s Own Boy – Aaron Swartz Story Inspires, Informs & Promotes Conversation.


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Every day Aaron asked himself, ‘what is the most important thing in the world that I could be working on right now?’ … Although we’re completely shattered by this experience, we want to further Aaron’s work too and see something positive come out of this.Robert Swartz, Aaron Swartz’ father

Even if you don’t know who Highland Park’s Aaron Swartz is – or rather was – you or your children know some of his visionary web inventions. They include the RSS feed and the online news site Reddit. Swartz was a genius.  He was driven to use the web to make the world a better place for as many people as possible.  And this is what led to his death.

On January 11, 2013, at age 26, Swartz committed suicide in response to a wrongful federal felony prosecution based on his downloading documents through the MIT library system, which he was entitled to do.  As Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, CoCreator of the World Wide Web, eulogized at Swartz’s funeral, the world lost one of its most promising minds.

Everyone should see the powerful documentary about Schwartz’s life – “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz.”  But it will particularly inform parents of gifted children looking for role models, anyone hoping to better understand the power and inherent possibilities of the digital world, and citizens confused by “keep the internet free” rhetoric.Aaron Swartz The Internet's Own Boy

By the time he was 12, Schwartz had created the first web version of Wikipedia.  As a teen, he worked alongside adults when he helped create the RSS feed and Reddit.

Note:  if you don’t yet know Reddit.com, you should.  Every significant, savvy American luminary participates in it’s’ AMA –“Ask Me Anything” – opportunities, including President Barack Obama. Your kids are more likely to get their news from Reddit than from any of the sources you prefer.

Schwartz was the oldest of three very bright boys, who all attended North Shore Country Day School. As the documentary carefully depicts, Schwartz’s parents lovingly nurtured him and his extraordinary gifts, allowing him to leave high school early to attend Stanford.

Stanford UniversitySchwartz also left Stanford early because he had already made a bucket-load of money through the sale of Reddit. Thereafter, Harvard and MIT welcomed Schwartz into their programs too.  Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessing credits Swartz with inspiring him to change his famously successful professional path, just as the teen affected so many others to do too.

Despite MIT’s culture of pushing traditional boundaries and open web access, Swartz was charged with multiple felonies and hounded by US prosecutors for downloading documents through the school. His intent was never to profit from the activity; rather Swartz hoped to make a valuable point for the rest of the world.

Even as Swartz fought the wrongful charges, he led the surprisingly successful movement to stop enactment of “SOPA(Stop Online Piracy Act) and other laws that would limit access to the internet and valuable information.  He continued to lead with his heart every day.  But his battle with the criminal justice system overcame him.

Everyone who grasps the transformational possibilities of the internet – like Berners Lee and Lessing – mourns Swartz’s death.  The rest of us need to better understand the issues which led him to kill himself too.  Parents who watch this documentary will have additional tools to connect with and help their own children too.

I will soon be interviewing Swartz’s father, Robert.  Of course I want to help a parent trying to carry on his child’s dream of making the world a better place!  Do you have any questions that you would like me to ask him too?

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Everything I Needed to Know to Grow Make It Better Media and Great Kids I Learned at Baker School

Keynote speech for the Baker School Fundraiser:

Nick’s signature is still on the wall at Baker School

It is my great pleasure and honor to be here tonight for many reasons – personal and professional – in order to tell you that “Everything I Needed To Know To Grow Make It Better Media and Great Kids I Learned at Baker School.”

I’m here with my husband, Nick, and our friend and former Baker School parent, Bonnie Ford.

Bonnie & another friend,Catherine Rocca, helped me launch – or more accurately relaunch – the Baker parent fundraiser which is the precursor to tonight’s event.  You’ve come a long way since then!  We only raised $6000 that night.  We spent weeks creating a student art show and silent auction.  But we made the mistake of starting the evening with dinners in different homes, and many people were so “over-served” that they never even made it to the school to spend their money.

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Lady Gaga Launches the Born This Way Foundation

Lady Gaga launched her Born This Way Foundation at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSW), with Oprah, Deepak Chopra, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, her mother and the first Born This Way teen representative, Alyssa Rodemeyer, who lost her brother to bullying.

Me and Lady Gaga!

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