A minor miracle occurred in the United States Congress just before the members adjourned for the August recess. Last week, a conference committee met to pass amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965, an action that could have watershed effects on the state of academia and the radical ethos that permeates it.
In order to appreciate the extent of this miracle, we have to go back over forty years to 1965 when folks in Washington rightfully understood that American college students were, by in large, woefully ignorant of a basic knowledge of foreign languages and cultures, potentially impeding our nation's competitiveness in the global marketplace and its ability to protect against the advance of communism.
Congress therefore passed the higher Education Act of 1965, which set aside a pot of money, at the American taxpayers' expense, to establish various regional studies departments (i.e. Asian Studies, African Studies, Soviet Studies, Latin Studies and Middle Eastern Studies) within several of the nation's college campuses. The original intent of this legislation was to establish a generation of well-educated adults who could help to serve our national security interests.
In 1976, the late professor of comparative literature at Columbia University, Edward Said, wrote the book Orientalism, which helped to cement a revolution in academic circles that had been brewing since the 1960's. Said's contention was essentially a post-colonial one, and he went so far as to argue that no one can claim expertise in a field unless he is a native of that region, and anything written by a Western scholar of a foreign culture should be held in suspicion.
The ripple effect of this simplistic treatise cannot be over-estimated. Throughout the United States, Middle Eastern studies departments became dominated by professors who regard America as a colonial occupier. In addition, Israel became vilified as the mother of all human rights violators, and many academics took great pains to torture common logic in order to describe practically every action perpetrated against Israeli civilians as justifiable in the name of Palestinian frustration.
Professor Juan Cole who teaches at the University of Michigan is emblematic of this sort of thinking. Cole, who had been President of the Middle Eastern Studies Association in 2006 (which is a grandchild of this title VI legislation), has recently written on his blog, "Informed Consent," that one has to understand in context the July, 2008 actions of the bulldozer driver, Husam, Taysar Dwayat, who killed three people and injured at least forty others, when he senselessly roared through traffic on Jaffa Road in the middle of West Jerusalem. Cole cites a litany of Israel's alleged sins and the fact that Dwayat has been working on a "controversial rail line that connects East to West Jerusalem," which magnifies fears of further Israeli land encroachments, and the fact that a "Caterpillar bulldozer had been used (which is used by the IDF to demolish the homes of terrorists) as symbolic of the justification for his dastardly behavior.
The University of Michigan is a recipient of Title VI funding. This "objective" scholarship is being brought to you at the expense of the America taxpayer. Our Title VI funded programs are now costing us annually a minimum of one hundred and twenty million dollars.
What is even more egregious is that in order to qualify for the funding, the university must conduct teacher-training workshops for teachers of kindergarten through twelfth grade. As had been well documented by Stanley Kurtz of the Institute for Ethics and Public in his July 25, 2007 article in National Review Online, the American federal government is bequeathing its funds and its seal of approval to a program that is largely being underwritten by the Saudi government. The Saudis have very cunningly managed to find the loophole in the Title VI legislation and have showered millions of dollars to the universities where Title VI Middle Eastern Studies programs are being conducted. They also have managed to conduct a stealth jihad by underwriting the curriculum guides for the teacher training workshops for the outreach centers for teachers of kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The picture gets even bleaker. Much of the materials that are being used in these outreach programs comes from a Saudi-funded compound 1,327 acre compound in Albuquerque, New Mexico, dubbed Dr al Islam. On this compound is a Mosque, a Midrassa, a Teacher's Education Workshop, and a Publishing House. It is from this publishing house that materials find their way into the classrooms of American youngsters from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The materials are also stamped on the back with the seal of ARAMCO, the Saudi oil conglomerate.
These materials have a wholly uncritical view of Islam and the Arab world, and a harshly critical view of the United States and Israel.
In order to be able to win the War against Islamofacism, we have got to be able to prepare our students for a balanced education that does not solely vilify the United States and Israel.
In this context, amending the Higher Education Act of 1965 can serve as a beginning place from which to protect against academic indoctrination. A gang of three, including Martin Kramer, who has written the seminal book on Title VI, Ivory Towers on Sand, Stanley Kurtz and myself, has been working for several years against some powerful lobbyists to educate the public about the lack of objectivity and balance within these Title VI mandated programs and teacher training workshops.
The revisions to the Higher Education Act of 1965 include:
As mentioned earlier, this miracle is just incremental and minor. Perhaps by being asked to reflect "diverse perspectives" and "encourage a wide range of views" in a real manner, the academy will slowly be encouraged to hire more faculty that are not imbued with the anti-Colonial orthodoxy of the Edward Said paradigm. It is not major, but considering the political climate, it is, indeed, a miracle.
1) The requirement for the Secretary of Education to consult with a wide range of government agencies to find out what are the languages of national need.
2) A survey shall be conducted once every two years to find out what areas of employment the students who have graduated from Title VI programs are entering. (This is a subtle reminder to the university that the money had been appropriated for a purpose.) There is also a separate section that requires the secretary to look at the record of placing graduates into fields of national need.
3) Many sections reflect the need for the Secretary of Education to study how "Programs under Title VI reflect diverse perspectives and encourage a wide range of views."
Sarah N Stern is founder and president of EMET, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy center in our nation's capitol.