Michael Bloomberg is a typical rich-to-riches American success story, becoming one of the world’s richest men in the last generation or so.
Like universities, it is in the business of disseminating knowledge and information, in its case mainly to provide investors with a large amount of financial information quickly. But he made a name for himself in politics, sometimes as a Republican, sometimes as a Democrat, and even as an independent.
In three ways, Bloomberg is a great friend of higher education, in some cases without appreciating the contributions universities make.
First, of course, is his tangible financial contribution. Bloomberg has given more money to American universities than any other individual, including a multibillion-dollar gift to Johns Hopkins University. easily The largest ever made by an institution (even after adjusting for inflation). But he has also donated large sums of money to other schools—Harvard and Cornell come to mind in particular.
Here’s a point that tax-wealthy Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) rarely acknowledge: Historically, most wealthy Americans have given away a large share of their wealth. For personal charity – often more than their own children. Look at Warren Buffett or Bill Gates. When Helen, the widow of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, died, most of her estate went to charities. Bloomberg follows that great tradition by promoting philanthropic causes, perhaps with far less administrative overhead than government bureaucracies do.
But Bloomberg has promoted higher education with two policy initiatives that I think are very important. (Full disclosure: I did some writing for Bloomberg several years ago, receiving little or no financial compensation.)
In the year At the 2014 Harvard Commencement, efforts to limit free speech in the academy escalated: “If you want the freedom to worship as you want and speak as you want… you must tolerate my freedom to do so. He added, “Isn’t the purpose of a university to stimulate discussion, not to silence it?” It is morally and ethically wrong to prevent other students from hearing a speech. They find that free expression and the sharing of different viewpoints provide intellectual energy that promotes learning and tolerance.
Contrast Bloomberg’s view with that of what is often found at today’s top universities, as Harvard suggested.
For example, the University of Pennsylvania seems determined to get rid of Amy Wax, who was Penn Law’s chief executive for decades and was recognized for teaching excellence (the Lindbeck Award). Wax is very anti-tattoo for the school’s law students.
This position made Penn seem contemptuous of the founding father, Benjamin Franklin, who once said, “There is no art without freedom of thought, and no liberty of the people without freedom of speech, which is the right of every man.” man”
In recent days, Bloomberg has been the voice of common sense on another higher education issue: the use of standardized tests like the SAT and ACT to help make admissions decisions. To quote Bloomberg in a recent opinion piece, “The crisis in US K-12 public education has worsened, and the decision by many colleges and universities to abandon SAT and ACT scores has exacerbated it. “Colleges expect less than high schools, rather than demanding more accountability.”
In the year At the end of 2017, the national composite ACT average score was 21.0. In the year It will drop to 19.8 in 2022, the lowest in three decades. High school enrollment has declined dramatically, partly but not entirely due to the recent pandemic. Therefore, objective standardized test data about student academic performance is more important than ever. Many schools, including bellwether institutions like Harvard, have stopped looking but continue to base acceptance on factors such as affirmative action rather than just academic achievement.
Mike Bloomberg, a pioneer in providing financial information, has great advice for improving the quality and quantity of intellectual conversations in universities. We need to listen to him.
Richard K. Vedder is Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ohio University, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California, and a board member of the National Association of Scholars. He’s a writer.”Restoring the Hope: Higher Education in America.