Check back for regular updates on Art Pope’s philanthropic activities.
The Pope Foundation’s new Liberty Leader focuses on Baker Mitchell, a retired businessman who now devotes his life to helping kids in coastal North Carolina get an excellent education:
A tale of two schools.
That’s what prompted Baker Mitchell to embark on a journey to bring more education options to families in coastal North Carolina.
The story began in the early 1990s, when Baker lived in Houston, Texas, with his family. He had recently sold his computer company and was looking for a new pursuit to spice up retirement. Baker decided to use his affinity for science to volunteer as a teacher in elementary schools.
“At the time, Barbara Bush Elementary School in the suburbs of Houston was the big deal,” Baker said. “It was a brand new school with all the gadgets, using all the new education fads, with all the wealthy students. But their scores were terrible. I began to ask why.”
Soon, Baker got an answer. A friend suggested that he volunteer at Wesley Elementary in north Houston. In contrast to Barbara Bush Elementary, Wesley’s roll comprised almost entirely African-American students enrolled in the free and reduced-price lunch program.
“I pulled into the school’s parking lot and immediately noticed a 6-foot barbed wire fence around the school,” Baker recalls. “It was in a rough area of town.”
“Yet each student was well behaved and advanced educationally,” he added. “In the 4th grade, they were reading and studying Shakespeare. Kids weren’t allowed to use calculators. They had to learn phonics and memorize their multiplication and division tables.”
Read more Liberty Leaders here.
The Pope Foundation’s new Achiever Spotlight tells the story of Terry Stoops, Director of Research and Education Policy Analyst at the John Locke Foundation:
The odds have always been against Terry Stoops.
As an advocate for expanding parental choice in education, Terry has been a minority in a world dominated by education bureaucrats. He has faced formidable foes in North Carolina — the education establishment, including the powerful N.C. Association of Educators — that stand against parental empowerment and choice and fight to maintain the status quo.
But Terry has never backed down from the fight, and recently his commitment has produced results.
Since a Republican majority took control of the North Carolina legislature in 2011, Terry has played an even more important role contributing to the policy dialog on schools — and he’s been a leader in reaching common sense reforms.
As Director of Research at the John Locke Foundation, a free-market think tank in Raleigh, North Carolina, Terry has cultivated a simple philosophy: provide more options in education so that families and children may flourish.
“The public school system isn’t going to meet the needs of every child,” Terry said. “Our goal is to ensure that those children who are struggling in their traditional public school have the option to find a school that better meets their needs.”
It’s a unique role in the policy world: bringing a freedom- and choice-centric message to the area of education.
Read more Achiever Spotlights here.
The Pope Foundation’s new Grantee Profile focuses on the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University, an academic center designed to teach the origins of one of the most essential disciplines of all time — economics:
Human beings are fascinated by stories of origins: How life began, how nations were founded, how civilizations rise and fall, and how concepts were developed.
Jumping off that natural interest in beginnings, Dr. Bruce Caldwell has established a world-class academic center at Duke University —the Center for the History of Political Economy — designed to teach the origins of one of the most essential disciplines of all time: economics.
That’s an important mission, because the history of economic thought is all-too-often overlooked in economics curriculum. Many recently graduated economists understand current theories and practice, but lack a firm grasp of their profession’s history — where theories originated, and who originated them.
Caldwell is on a mission to push back that frontier of ignorance.
“We’re trying to change the culture of the economics profession, to get economists more interested in their history,” Caldwell said. “But you don’t change academic institutions overnight. It’s a long-term process.”
That process began in fall of 2008 when Caldwell launched the Center for the History of Political Economy at Duke University, with critical support from the John William Pope Foundation. The Foundation committed $875,000 to the Center between 2008 and 2013.
Read more Grantee Profiles here.
The Pope Foundation’s new Achiever Spotlight tells the story of Travis Fisher, who became a free-market economist from the political left:
Travis Fisher experienced a political epiphany as a junior in college: He wanted to become an advocate for free markets.
Until then, Travis considered himself a confused, left-leaning moderate in his political philosophy. Then a two-fold revelation occurred — he began reading the works of the French classical liberal theorist Frederic Bastiat and he took a course in economics at N.C. State University. Both set him on the path to fiscal conservatism.
“I came to believe in free markets from the political left,” Travis said. “I remember thinking the way that Bastiat explained the economic harmony that emerges from free markets appealed to me the most.”
Soon afterward, Travis switched to an economics major — a decision that he’s never regretted. From the moment he took his first economics course, the subject matter clicked with him.
“That was an eye-opening moment when I really got the concepts, and when I started asking and exploring questions instead of just reading the material,” he said.
Read more Achiever Spotlights here.
The Pope Foundation’s new Grantee Profile focuses on The Fund for American Studies, a nonprofit that prepares young people for leadership, with particular emphasis on economics:
The time was the late 1960s. The United States was engulfed in a seismic cultural and political shift. Radicalism dominated college campuses. Confidence in the American system of government was on the decline.
That atmosphere prompted former New Jersey Governor Charles Edison, in 1967, to lay the foundation for what would become the Fund for American Studies, a nonprofit that organizes training programs to teach college students the values of freedom, individual responsibility, and free markets.
Today, TFAS has over 13,500 alumni representing 1,900 colleges and universities, all 50 states, and 113 countries.
Built around training young people to be the leaders of tomorrow, TFAS targets students interested in fields of study that are particularly influential in society: journalism, government, political science, international affairs, nonprofits, and the law.
“The founders of the Fund for American Studies felt it was the obligation of every generation to prepare the next generation for leadership. That’s particularly true in a free society,” said TFAS President Roger Ream.
At the time that TFAS was funded, Ream says, there was a deep concern that young people weren’t getting a balanced perspective on government in the halls of higher education.
Read more Grantee Profiles here.