Middle East studies in the News
Anti-Americanism in the Classroom
Remember Arundhati Roy? She's the Indian author who made the post-9/11 "idiocy lists" more than once — for calling Osama bin Laden George Bush's twin, and for saying that the Taliban's sins can't begin to compare to the genocidal actions of the Coalition Against Terror. Then there's Robert Fisk, the man who denied in The Nation that the war had anything to do with the struggle of democracy against terror. Fisk made news when, after being stoned and nearly beaten to death by young Afghans, he blamed their brutality on the United States. What about Tariq Ali? He's the Marxist author who just put out a book with a picture on the cover of George Bush as a mullah and Osama bin Laden as president. Ali believes that Bush and bin Laden are two peas in a pod, violent fundamentalists each. His book is a call for a socialist revolution and an end to the U.S. presence in the Middle East. Then, of course there's Edward Said, the founder of "post-colonial" studies, who labels tradition-minded scholars of the Middle East (like best-selling historian, Bernard Lewis) "Orientalist" bigots. Said, like Tariq Ali, favors socialist revolution in the Middle East, and is a bitter opponent of American foreign policy.
You may know all of these notorious figures, but do you know that your tax dollars have been subsidizing courses that train American elementary and high-school teachers about the Middle East by assigning them Arundhati Roy, Robert Fisk, Tariq Ali, and Edward Said? This particular set of teacher-training resources was called, "The September 11 Crisis and Teaching Our Children: Resources for Teachers on Islam and the Middle East," and was sponsored by the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. And don't think this federally subsidized program balanced the leftist authors with readings from Bernard Lewis or Samuel P. Huntington. No, in the belief that public knowledge of the Middle East will strengthen our security, the American government has been pouring millions of dollars into the pockets of the most anti-American scholars in the academy, vast chunks of which end up force-feeding America's children a steady diet of Arundhati Roy and Edward Said. Worse, since Sept. 11, the government subsidy for Edward Said and his legion of followers has been massively increased — and may grow larger still next year.
It's high time that the scam being run on the American people via "Title VI" funding for academic "area studies" programs was exposed. Here's the problem. In the wake of Sept. 11, Congress rightly believes that more money is needed to encourage the study of both foreign languages, and areas of the world that pose a challenge to U.S. interests. The difficulty is that much of the American academy is actively hostile to U.S. interests. So by funding area-studies programs within the academy, Congress is actually pouring money into the hands of those most determined to undermine American foreign policy.
The academy understands how to pull one over on the public, so funding for area-studies programs under Title VI is generally sold to Congress as a matter of "national security." Once safely back in their federally maintained towers of ivory, however, scholars harshly assail any student or professor who actually dares to go to work for the American government. That sort of patriotism is attacked as imperialist "Orientalism" in today's academy. And since part of Title VI area-studies funding has to be put toward "outreach" programs that educate American elementary and high-school students, leftist scholars now have fully funded mandates to design courses that bring Arundhati Roy, Robert Fisk, Tariq Ali, and Edward Said into the K-12 classrooms of your local community.
For two decades now, ever since America's programs in Middle Eastern Studies were taken over by Edward Said's post-colonial studies paradigm, the American academy has been busy undermining America's security, not enhancing it. In "Exposing Esposito," for example, I explained how John Esposito, and his taxpayer subsidized, "Center for Muslim Christian Understanding" at Georgetown University had discouraged American scholars — and even the American State Department — from either studying Osama bin Laden, or taking the threat he represented seriously.
The story of the Title VI scam was broken by Martin Kramer, editor of The Middle East Quarterly, whose recent book, Ivory Towers on Sand is a must-read for anyone concerned about the intellectual failure and moral bankruptcy of the contemporary academy. Kramer's point is not simply that government subsidized centers of Middle East Studies purvey the work of anti-American writers, like Edward Said. He also shows that America's Middle East scholars have been consistently wrong about their own alleged field of expertise for decades. A set of ideological blinders has prevented them from taking the threat of terrorism seriously. So instead of alerting the country to the problem, scholars have instead devoted themselves to criticizing the racism and bigotry of those few academics and policy makers who warned of the coming terror.
Worse still, when Congress actually did set up a program to increase the language and area-studies skills of government workers, America's Middle Eastern Scholars did everything in their power to marginalize and destroy it. After the Persian Gulf War, Sen. David Boren (D., Ok.) created the National Security Education Program, which supported students studying Middle Eastern and other languages, in exchange for a period of government service. Yet America's scholars of the Middle East were so horrified at the prospect of training students to serve their country that they forced the NSEP out of prestigious colleges and universities and into second and third tier institutions. Despite these efforts, the program survived and was immensely productive. But the story of the near death of the NSEP at the hands of America's elite area-studies professors reveals the truth about what is happening to the millions of dollars we are pouring into the pockets of these folks. In effect, by increasing funding for Title VI, we are giving a massive financial reward to a discipline that has gotten everything about the Middle East wrong for the last 20 years — and to the very people who most loathe the war against terror.
Running their game on Congress in the wake of Sept. 11, the academy's lobbyists were able to engineer a 26 percent increase in Title VI funding — the largest increase in history. This was a disaster for those concerned about the direction of the American academy, and about our national security. Now the problem may get worse still. The House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations has just held hearing in which the American Council on Education's president, David Ward, called for a Title VI funding increase of $24 million. The Bush administration, in contrast, is calling for a fiscal 2003 Title VI funding increase of only $4 million dollars. Congress needs to stick to the Bush figure — and even that is too much. The truth is, Title VI funding needs to be severely trimmed, and, above all, transformed into something other than what it is now — an open-ended entitlement for those most antagonistic to American foreign policy.
The need to boost our knowledge of foreign languages is real, but what's required to insure that federal money is not abused is a carefully controlled program. So, for example, no university that continues to ban the NSEP from its campus should be permitted to take federal funding from Title VI. Congress needs to pass an amendment insuring this. Congress also needs to change the composition of the committees that dole out Title VI funding. Instead of restricting the membership of these committees to scholars, policy makers and policy experts from think tanks need to be empowered to sit on such panels. Otherwise the money will continue to be controlled by Edward Said and his friends. And Congress needs to start enforcing the Soloman Amendment, which denies government funding to colleges that ban the ROTC. There is no "right" to a government subsidy, and it's high time that the American academy learned that fact.
The difficulty is that Congress has no inkling of the problem here. They hear only from education lobbyists, and are kept in the dark about the real ends to which their generous subsidies to the American academy are put. To bring this scam to a halt, readers may want to get in touch with the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations. Rep. Ralph Regula (R., Ohio), can be reached at 2306 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515, Phone (202) 225-3876. And here is a link to all the members of the key House Subcommittee. Even better, readers may also wish to contact their own congressman, senator, or the White House and urge that funding for area studies under Title VI be scaled back and controlled.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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