2013 was another successful year for us. Some of our major accomplishments for the year were:
16.6 million unique visitors (up from 15.7 million in 2012), 1,011 new schools using ProCon.org (4,571 total), 68 new books referencing ProCon.org (270 total), 344 media mentions (1,080 total), 9 new federal and state government agencies using ProCon.org (52 total), 19,109 new email subscribers (98,725 total), and substantial increases in our various social media followers (see I. below).
Three new websites: We added three new issue websites (in alphabetical order): Animal Testing, College Education, and Drones (III. below).
100% of surveyed teachers would recommend ProCon.org to other teachers and librarians: We received 1,420 responses to our teachers and librarian survey between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2013. 97.1% of teachers responding to our survey and who use ProCon.org (admittedly a self-selecting group) reported an improvement in their students critical thinking skills. 100% of surveyed teachers said they would recommend ProCon.org to other teachers and librarians (VI. below).
Staff, Volunteers, and Interns: Our organization began and ended 2013 with a staff of seven full-time equivalent employees. We also had two volunteers and two interns (VIII. below).
Number of donors: We received charitable contributions from 176 donors in 2013 - an increase from our 169 donors in 2012 (IX. below).
Select additional highlights (see X. below for several more):
A. Guidestar, the nation's largest charity evaluation organization awarded ProCon.org the Gold Participant recognition, its highest honor.
B. ProCon.org and the March of Dimes Canada held two celebrity golf tournaments to raise money for our nonprofit organizations.
C. Pivot, a television network from Participant Media, selected ProCon.org as its exclusive alliance to promote critical thinking by providing research around the social issues explored in the new TV series Raising McCain, a documentary-style reality program featuring Meghan McCain, the daughter of US Senator John McCain.
In sum, in 2013 we surpassed 60 million unique visitors, 138.5 million pageviews, 2.7 billion hits, and we have launched 50 pro-con websites since we started in 2004.
Thank you for your continued interest in the information we supply, and thanks to our talented researchers, IT Manager, President/Managing Editor, Board Members, interns, and volunteers.
Thanks as well to our expert sources, the media who referenced us, the tens of thousands of times teachers have used our content in the classroom, and to the millions of ProCon.org readers who helped our organization become so popular. And a big thanks to all our supporters for your helping us continue our work
In 2013 we added three new websites, listed below in the order in which they became publicly available:
College Education: On Sep. 30, 2013, ProCon.org launched the website College Education ProCon.org to explore the question "Is a College Education Worth It?" The site received 64,328 pageviews in 2013.
Proponents of college education say that college is worth it because college graduates have higher employment rates, bigger salaries, and more work benefits than high school graduates. They say college graduates also have better interpersonal skills, live longer, have healthier children, and have proven their ability to achieve a major milestone. Opponents of college education say that college is not worth it because the debt from college loans is too high and delays graduates from saving for retirement, buying a house, or getting married. They say many successful people never graduated from college and that many jobs, especially trades jobs, do not require college degrees.
Animal Testing: On Oct. 22, 2013 we launched the website Animal Testing ProCon.org to explore the core question "Should Animals Be Used for Scientific or Commercial Testing?" The site received 86,408 pageviews in 2013.
An estimated 26 million animals are used every year in the United States for scientific and commercial testing. Proponents say that animal testing has enabled the development of many life-saving treatments for both humans and animals and that there is no alternative method for researching a complete living organism. Opponents of animal testing say that it is cruel and inhumane to experiment on animals and that animals are so different from human beings that it often yields irrelevant results.
Drones: On Dec. 19, 2013, we launched the website Drones ProCon.org to explore the question "Should the United States Continue Its Use of Drone Strikes Abroad?" The site received 1,457 pageviews in 2013.
Proponents say that drones have decimated terrorist networks abroad via precise strikes with minimum civilian casualties. They contend that drones are relatively inexpensive weapons, are used under proper government oversight, and that their use helps prevent "boots on the ground" combat and makes America safer. Opponents say that drone strikes create more terrorists than they kill. They contend that drone strikes kill large numbers of civilians, violate international law, lack sufficient congressional oversight, violate the sovereignty of other nations, and make the horrors of war appear as innocuous as a video game.
ProCon.org for Teachers
ProCon.org expanded the list of schools where an educator uses or has used ProCon.org from 3,560 schools at the end of 2012 to 4,571 schools at the end of 2013 - an increase of 1,011 schools (28.4%). We add schools to this list when we see that an educator (not a student) from that school has referenced ProCon.org online, usually in a lesson plan, suggested resources list, social media reference to our content, published work, or as a response to our two-minute ProCon.org teacher/librarian survey. We include a PDF of the lesson plan, when available, so that other educators can get ideas and draw inspiration from each other.
Those schools were from 65 different countries including (in alphabetical order): Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belize, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Yemen.
The breakdown of schools by level is as follows: 1,053 elementary and middle schools (23%), 2,356 high schools (51.6%), and 1,162 colleges and universities (25.4%).
In 2014, we will continue to make our extensive resources available to teachers, librarians, administrators, and other educators. We believe that most of the approximate 100,000 schools in America would love ProCon.org if only they knew about it. We would appreciate it if you would tell all the teachers, librarians, administrators, other educators, and students you know about us and our work.
Email Updates & Reader Responses
We started the year with 79,616 email subscribers and ended 2013 with 98,725. We sent 22 email newsletters in 2013. Some of the more colorful and interesting emails, responses to our newsletters, and "contact us" form submissions are provided below.
"I used it [ProCon.org] in a Critical Thinking class in several ways. I used statistics from surveys and experiments as examples for students to evaluate. (They have been learning how to evaluate sources, surveys, and experiments). I also had the students use statistics from ProCon.org to build their own arguments. As part of the assignment, they were to provide evidence regarding the credibility of those sources, and students from other teams were encouraged to challenge them and identify potential weaknesses." Dr. Crystal Allen Gunasekera, Professor at Principia College (Elsah, IL) Nov. 4, 2013
"ProCon.org often gives different sides of the same argument. This really helps me get across the point to my students that every issue has at least 2 sides and you can use the same data to help support both sides of an argument. It helps them to think critically about which argument is strongest." Candace Bolles, History Teacher at Menlo-Atherton High School (San Jose, CA), Oct. 7, 2013
"ProCon.org is remarkably transparent." Sylia Obagi, MBA, COO of The Annenberg Foundation, Sep. 18, 2013
"Students use the site for obtaining information on issues for government class and for the Junior State of America debates. During election campaigns, thy also use the site for information on the candidates and political parties." Ms. Gwen Hanna, History Teacher at San Marcos Academy (San Marcos, TX), Sep. 9, 2013
"The ProCon.org website is incredible. I have read parts of it again and again, yet there is so much more to read and learn. I am thankful that your site shows views from both sides. In reading information from your site, this old man kind of feels like a kid in a candy store." Louis Goins, Aug. 9, 2013
"I work in the contentious field of church and state, which features many battles with strong arguments on both sides. I have found ProCon.org to be a great resource, with strong research and timely issues. I especially appreciate the links to relevant material. I find myself using ProCon.org so regularly, that I have added the site to my bookmarks on my computer." Sarah Barringer Gordon, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law & Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, June 19, 2013
"As someone who uses procon.org personally, I see the great value it can bring to California's students, teachers, and librarians. This free educational resource helps students develop vital 21st century skills such as critical thinking and civics education. It also helps them learn about important issues, and is consistent with Common Core and the findings of my Education Technology Task Force." Tom Torlakson, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, June 11, 2013
"I teach APA style writing in Composition II, for which students must write four persuasive/argumentative papers. ProCon.org provides a wonderful resource, so I actually require students to at least start with your website for their research. Many of my students are adults returning to school after long years in the workplace and their study skills are rusty or, sometimes, nonexistent. Along with me, your website provides a good guidepost to getting them on their way to using research before they form an opinion. Thank you!" Gale Cady Williams, Adjunct Instructor of English & Communications, Central Ohio Technical College (Newark, OH), May 9, 2013
"We promote ProCon.org in Africa in order to establish an educated community capable to face the challenges of Africa through critical thinking. We think that ProCon.org ideas are needed for the new generation. A generation full of energy and knowledge. It's so helpful for students. Indeed, it works." Daniel Oka, President of the Perspectives Association (Ivory Coast), Apr. 21, 2013
"Students using ProCon.org can't help but see the opposing argument and they realize that they have to really think about why they have the opinion they do. Basically, the layout of the info makes it hard for them to ignore the other side of an issue.
I have a link to ProCon.org on my library's website. I tell students to refer to it before other websites as ProCon.org tends to have all the info they need in one place. Information is accurate so I often tell students to refer to the site even for assignments that do not include debate." Julie Boyer, Librarian, John F. Kennedy High School (Fremont, CA), Feb. 27, 2013
"I heard about procon.org on the radio. I had hoped that the pros and cons would have been factual pros and cons but instead they are quotes from politicians and others and the reader of procon.org still doesn't know what part of the quote is correct and what part is incorrect and how facts may be distorted. I was very disappointed in the site... doesn't help the reader understand the true facts about an issue." Robert, Nov. 18, 2013
ProCon.org Teacher Survey
We ran a ProCon.org Teacher Survey to receive input from teachers and librarians so we could understand how they use ProCon.org and to learn their views on whether or not using ProCon.org improves their students' critical thinking skills. The survey had 1,420 respondents between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2013. Some highlights from that survey include:
* 97.1% of teachers using ProCon.org reported that ProCon.org improved their students' critical thinking skills.
* 98.6% of teachers using ProCon.org reported that their students found ProCon.org useful.
* 100% of respondents said they would recommend ProCon.org to teachers and librarians.
Media and ProCon.org
ProCon.org received 344 media references in 2013 compared to 285 in 2012. Our President and Managing Editor Kamy Akhavan was interviewed 17 times on radio, on television, or in print publications across the country, by organizations including ABC News, Fox Business, and Voice of America.
Notable 2013 media references included The Atlantic, Business Insider, CNN, Deadpsin, Forbes, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, New York Times, NPR, PBS, Psychology Today, Reuters, TIME, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.
The New York Times recommended Video Games ProCon.org in a Feb. 13, 2013 lesson plan written by Jennifer Cutraro, Alison Fromme, and Michael Gonchar titled "Collateral Damage? Researching a Connection Between Video Games and Violence." The article was part of the newspaper's section called "The Learning Network." The authors wrote, "Students might want to start by combing through Times reporting on the link between video games and violence, or by consulting ProCon.org for its collection of arguments supporting both sides of the issue."
Forbes raved about Gold Standard ProCon.org in an Apr. 29, 2013 article by Ralph Benko titled "The Great Gold Debate Continues, and It's Serious." Mr. Benko wrote extensively about ProCon.org, saying in part, "ProCon.org is a resource for the engaged citizen seeking out both sides of issues... Wikipedia, watch your back: ProCon.org is sneaking up on you... ProCon.org recently opened up an impressively presented section on the renewed gold standard debate... ProCon.org may be the most impressive resource of its kind..."
Minyanville, an Emmy Award-winning business and financial news website, praised Health Care Reform ProCon.org in a July 26, 2013 article by Diane Bullock titled "How Does Obamacare Work? 11 Questions, 11 Unbiased Answers." The article featured an interview with ProCon.org President Kamy Akhavan. Ms. Bullock wrote, "When Minyanville was searching for an unbiased take on this labyrinth of a law, we turned to an organization with only one dog in the health-care fight: the truth. ProCon.org is an award-winning nonprofit charity that operates with the explicit purpose of helping the public make informed decisions about complex social issues. For its 15.7 million readers, ProCon.org pores through volumes of legislation (in Obamacare’s case, 900 pages worth) and weighs -- in equal measure -- the pros and cons from experts on both sides of the political aisle."
Board and Staff
Our organization has five unpaid Board members, including me the Chairman/CEO. We ended 2013 with a staff of seven full-time in-house employees (one fewer person than we had at the end of 2012) made up of five Researchers, one IT Manager/Webmaster, one President & Managing Editor, and a part-time Schools Outreach Coordinator. We also had two Volunteers and two Interns contribute roughly 150 total work hours during the year.
We received charitable contributions from 176 donors in 2013 - a 4.1% increase from our 169 donors in 2012. For our latest financials, including charts and graphs, please visit the "Financial Info" section of our "About Us" page.
Dec. 2, 2013
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Minority Television Project v. FCC referenced our headline article, "ProCon.org and Pivot.tv Join Forces on Critical Thinking Campaign” and linked to ProCon.org. It was our first reference in a circuit court ruling.
Dec. 2, 2013
ProCon.org and the Rehabilitation Foundation for Disabled Persons, U.S. held a celebrity golf tournament fundraiser on Dec. 2, 2013 at the Calabasas Country Club. Celebrity participants included former NHL player Marty McSorley, former MLB player Royce Clayton, former NFL player Hank Baskett and his wife, reality TV star Kendra Wilkinson, senior golf pro Steve Pate, former NBA player Norm Nixon, and actors Patrick Warburton, Alan Thicke, Anthony Anderson, Ryan Merriman, Sheila Shah, Stephen Bishop, Chris Rich, Jeremy Sumpter, Christopher McDonald, Paula Trickey, Josh Morrow, and Kato Kaelin. See dozens of photos from our successful event.
ProCon.org participated in the Junior Statesmen of America’s "2013 Gene A. Burd Institute on L.A. Media and Politics” for the fifth year in a row. Our 2-hour critical thinking seminar on social networking was called "phenomenal” and "fabulous” by participating students. After analyzing pro/con statements, brainstorming pro and con arguments, discussing both statements and arguments in small groups and as one large group, and conducting additional exercises to stimulate critical thinking, 15% of the students changed their minds about social networking and 100% of the students felt engaged and stimulated by the seminar.
July 22, 2013
ProCon.org Passes 4,000 Schools Milestone - Teachers, librarians, and educational administrators at 806 elementary schools, 2,063 high schools, and 1,055 colleges and universities in all 50 states and 57 countries have used ProCon.org in their lesson plans, resource lists, and other instructional materials.
July 12-13, 2013
ProCon.org exhibited at the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) conference in Torrance, CA. The collective attention to critical thinking and informed citizenship was impressive.
July 10, 2013
Guidestar, the nation's largest charity evaluation organization awarded ProCon.org the Gold Participant recognition, its highest honor. ProCon.org achieved the Silver Level of participation at Guidestar on July 1, 2013, for our "commitment to transparency.” ProCon.org had achieved the Bronze Level of participation on June 27, 2013.
Mar. 2, 2013
ProCon.org and the March of Dimes Canada held a celebrity golf tournament on March 2, 2013 at the Desert Dunes Golf Club in Desert Hot Springs, California to raise money for our nonprofit organizations. It was our first ever fundraising event. See dozens of our celebrity golf tournament photos or watch the celebrity golf tournament videos on our YouTube channel.
VIP Correspondence: We've received beneficial feedback and/or content from many VIPs. Here's a random sample (in alphabetical order):
Ralph Benko, former Deputy General Counsel for the Reagan Administration
Howard Berman, former Member of the US House of Representatives (D-CA)
Theodora Capaldo,President of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS)
Karen Cator, CEO of Digital Promise and former Director of the Office of Education Technology at the US Department of Education
Christopher Eisgruber, Provost of Princeton University
Scott Gilliam, Director of Training for D.A.R.E. America
Sarah Barringer Gordon, Professor of Constitutional Law & Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania
Ruchira Gupta, Founder and President of Apne Aap Women Worldwide
Erwin J. Haeberle, Founder and Director of the Archive for Sexology
Paul A. Heise, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Lebanon Valley College
Tom Holder, Founder of Speaking of Research
Charles Kadlec, Member of the Economic Advisory Board of the American Principles Project
Andrew Knight, Veterinarian and Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
Kay Lazar, Health Reporter for The Boston Globe
Nathan Lewis, Principal of Kiku Capital Management LLC
James Livingston, Professor of History at Rutgers University
Joel C. Lombardi, Assistant Attorney for the New York State Department of Health Bureau of House Counsel
Jan Lundberg, Founder of the Lundberg Survey
Michael Mazerov, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Doug McVay, Director of Research at Common Sense for Drug Policy
National Association of Elementary School Principals
Rebecca L. Pearson, Assistant Professor in the Health Education Program Physical Education at Central Washington University
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
David W. Purcell, Deputy Director for Behavioral and Social Science in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dario Ringach, Professor of Neurobiology and Psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles
Michael H. Schwartz
, Visiting Professor in Energy and the Environment
at Princeton University
Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University
Matthew Vadum, Senior Editor at Capital Research Center
Tom Vander Ark, CEO/Partner of Getting Smart and former Executive Director of Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Cathy Young, Contributing Editor at Reason magazine and Reason.com