There is a gaping hole in the curriculum of the College of International Studies and Middle Eastern studies here at OU: a Persian language program.
If OU wants to continue to lead the way in international relations, it needs a Persian language program for several reasons.
Perhaps the most important reason for bringing a Persian language program to OU is the current hostility and misunderstanding between the U.S. and Iran. It has been well proven that language learning leads to a more open-minded individual that appreciates foreign cultures.
This appreciation and understanding of Iranian culture is regrettably at a critically low level here in the U.S., as every day we seem closer and closer to war with Iran.
Furthermore, learning Persian is especially critical for Americans to understand Iran — as, unfortunately, Americans have never made a concerted effort to understand Iranians, as Iranians have done to understand Americans. While understanding and mutual tolerance is a two-way street, it appears that the American people have not put half the amount of effort into attempting to avert war and usher in a new era of détente in U.S.-Iranian relations.
I would like to give a practical example of how a greater number of Persian-speaking Americans can help U.S.-Iranian relations. In the American press, there is an abundant amount of misinformation about Iran. For example, in 2005, many reputable news organizations, including the New York Times, quoted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, as saying that "Israel should be wiped off the map."
However, according to Juan Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan, this is a blatant mistranslation. Such a mistake never would have made it passed the editing process if America had more qualified Persian speakers.
The dire lack of Persian-speaking Americans is nothing new, as Persian has been considered by the U.S. government as a "critical language" (a language that is critical for U.S. national security and economic competitiveness) since the mid-1960s.
This chronic shortage of Persian-speaking Americans seems quite absurd when you consider that because it is an Indo-European language, Persian is arguably the easiest Asian language for English-speakers to learn.
A small number of universities across the U.S. have been in the vanguard of establishing Persian language programs.
Unfortunately, OU is not one of these universities.
Quite simply, if the College of International Studies, as it claims in its mission statement, desires to enhance "the university's role as a leader in our nation's international relations," it needs a Persian language program.
Thomas Parker Simpkins is an Arabic and Middle Eastern studies junior.