Middle East studies in the News
Talking Points Refuting Stanley Kurtz's Attack On HEA-Title VI Area Centers
American Council on Education
An effort is underway to undermine a very important program critical to our national interests. Certain individuals have launched a letter-writing campaign to the House Appropriations Committee assaulting a Department of Education administered program called Title VI (of the Higher Education Act). Title VI supports the study by Americans of foreign languages, as well as area and other international studies critical to strengthening our ability to ensure the nation's security and economic competitiveness. This small but successful program has been in place since the Sputnik era and has historically enjoyed strong bipartisan support. The 118 foreign language and area centers supported by Title VI serve the national interest by developing international experts and knowledge in a variety of world areas. These centers disseminate this information to a wide variety of audiences, including government, and offer training to K-12 teachers, postsecondary students, and college faculty in a huge number (142) of foreign languages, particularly the more difficult and rare languages that otherwise would not be taught.
In two recent articles in the National Review, Stanley Kurtz, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, makes the following assertions:
Kurtz's characterizations of U.S. Middle East scholars at centers receiving federal funding as "anti-American" and as "those most determined to undermine American foreign policy" are undocumented and completely false. He does not offer a single example among such scholars, which is not surprising, because there are none. Rather, he cites a few pages in one collection of readings from a one-day workshop to attack an entire field of scholarship. The document he criticizes consists of Xeroxed articles for K-12 teachers from mainstream publications. He particularly objects to 20 pages (of 212) in the document designed to consider the question "Why do they [the Muslim world appear to] hate us?" Not surprisingly, readings on such a question are critical of the United States.
Title VI centers are academic projects administered by applying the standards of free speech and academic freedom. Neither the national interest nor the development of knowledge would be served by requiring Title VI centers to read only materials that Kurtz finds acceptable. In seeking to pursue America's national interests, it is important for Title VI centers to report accurately what is being said about politics, global affairs, and even U.S. policy by countries and individuals in foreign regions, even if what they hear is critical.
Moreover, Kurtz gives the impression that huge amounts are flowing under Title VI grants to Middle East scholars, when the modest sum of $27 million is all that is available in the current fiscal year to support all 118 Title VI area studies and language training in all world areas. In fact, only $3.9 million of Title VI university center funds is shared by 15 Middle East studies centers — roughly $250,000 per center.
This is demonstrably false. Scholars at Title VI centers are actively engaged in training students for government service and many scholars for the federal government themselves. Graduates of Title VI centers serve in key U.S. government positions in all agencies involved in international relations and foreign affairs. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 1,007 graduates from Title VI area centers in the class of 2001 now work for the federal government. An additional 389 work for the U.S. military, and 616 are employed by state and local government. The U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Program continues to send its officers to Title VI centers for their M.A. in language and area studies training and has done so since the inception of the FAO program three decades ago.
National resource center and foreign language and area studies fellowship grants are competed every three years and the Department of Education determines the composition of peer review panels. Title VI peer-review committees are not drawn from a narrow community but from a broad spectrum of area and language specialists not in applicant institutions, including members of think tanks and federal government employees. Clearly, the Department of Education has the authority to change the composition of Title VI peer review panels if it wishes to do so.
No federal money is being abused under Title VI. On the contrary, Title VI has been enormously successful in creating and maintaining foreign language and area programs serving the national interest that would not otherwise exist without federal support. This success was recently evidenced by the fact that President Bush has requested an increase in fiscal year 2003 funding for Title VI programs, while he has proposed steady funding or no increases for many other education programs. Finally, expenditures of federal funds are already strictly controlled, and federal control of curriculum is not an option that anybody on either end of the political spectrum would support.
No university has banned NSEP (a DOD-supported program that supports foreign language undergraduate training in exchange for government service) from its campus. NSEP provide scholarships to individuals who apply for them as well as development grants for campuses. No university has prevented a student from applying for NSEP support. Many universities have chosen to apply for NSEP institutional support, and no university has banned it.
No university or college thinks it has a "right" to Title VI funding, which is competed openly every several years. Indeed, the fierce competition for funding ensures that only superior proposals are funded. Neither is Title VI funding simply a "subsidy"; rather, according to the Department of Education, Title VI funding "leverages a large amount of non-Federal funding. Thus, the Department is able to have a substantial impact on the field of international education for a small investment of taxpayer dollars." (See Department of Education, Fiscal Year 2003 Justifications of Appropriations Estimates to the Congress.)
Kurtz provides no evidence for this statement, which is simply wrong. The higher education community strongly supports the NSEP program and we know of no efforts to kill the program. Writing on behalf of the higher education community, ACE president David Ward recently sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee reiterating our strong support for NSEP. (Attached.)
Kurtz's sweeping attacks on Title VI that call for "bringing this scam to a halt" are wrong-headed and in fact would serve to jeopardize our national security. Title VI has served the nation well in the past and will continue to do so. The knowledge and capacity developed by Title VI and the individuals who have been trained by Title VI are a priceless national resource.
University programs that provide training in the less commonly taught languages and world areas, including those of strategic interest, would not exist without Title VI funding. These programs train 78% of the graduate students in the least commonly taught languages, such as those for which national security agencies have identified shortfalls (e.g., Hindi, Pashto, Tajik, Serbo-Croatian and Urdu). For example, a Title VI-supported university is the only U.S. site to offer training on a regular basis in Pashto, the language of the Taliban. Other languages taught by Title VI centers and for which the national security agencies have expressed a need include Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Portuguese.
The U.S. faces shortages of language and area experts today because these programs have been under-funded for decades. Without Title VI the nation will not have the expertise it needs to fight terrorism, conduct foreign policy, compete economically, and solve global problems. Eliminating or reducing Title VI funding would deprive students of resources they need to study the more difficult and less popular foreign languages and world areas, and reduce university outreach activities promoting greater understanding of international issues in government, the media, K-12 schools, and the community at large.
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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