Charity – with strings attached.
Former first lady Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, but directed it to go toward buying educational software from her son Neil’s company, Ignite! Learning, the Houston Chronicle reports today. Ignite! computers “[have] been given to eight area schools that took in substantial numbers of Hurricane Katrina evacuees.”
Ignite!, as you can see here (and you really should), is a computer-based history program that deemphasizes old fashioned book-learning. Or, as Neil explained to the Chronicle last year:
Dyslexic, [Neil] was badly frustrated by traditional school. He has said he saw his son suffer through the same “boring” classes, and he felt a call to do something. So Ignite! designs and promotes software-based curriculum for “hunter/warrior” types — kids Neil believes are just as smart as the eggheads, but aren’t being served by traditional education.
But does it work? Even the Houston school district flak couldn’t come up with evidence, today’s piece notes: “information about the effectiveness of the program. . . was not readily available Wednesday, according to a spokeswoman.” But Barbara Bush is convinced, at least.
Ignite! has spread to a number of Houston schools, due in no small part to who is behind it. In 2004, Neil Bush and his employees beat the bushes for donations to the Houston school district — and the board unanimously voted to spend the money with Neil’s company.
Barb’s not the only big-name supporter Neil counts: in 2005, Bush teamed up with Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who was recently accused of attempting to overthrow the government of President Vladimir Putin, to promote his company, according to a British paper.
Update: Read Josh on Ignite’s business model.