I am dismayed to learn of an apparent letter writing campaign designed to undermine the international education and foreign language programs funded under Title VI of the Higher Education Act.
In two recent articles in the National Review, Stanley Kurtz makes a number of inaccurate and unfounded assertions about the Title VI program and calls on readers to send you letters demanding that Title VI funding be withdrawn. I am writing to set the record straight on Title VI and to urge your Subcommittee to support increased funding for these vital programs in the FY 2003 appropriations bill.
Mr. Kurtz's central charges are that Title VI grant recipients, and the Middle East studies centers in particular, use federal funds to promote anti-American activities, to undermine American foreign policy and to discourage students from entering government service. There is absolutely no truth to any of these charges. Indeed, Mr. Kurtz offers only one anecdote to back up his claim. Specifically, he takes issue with the reading list used at a one-day workshop for elementary and secondary school teachers sponsored by the University of California, Santa Barbara. The object of his criticism is 20 pages of a 212 page compendium of articles originally published by the Boston Globe, the BBC, New York University Press, Yale University Press, and Oxford University Press. Based solely on his disagreement with one small part of a single workshop offered by one Title VI Center, Mr. Kurtz condemns the entire Title VI program.
I find it particularly objectionable that Mr. Kurtz would impugn the patriotism of those who work in the Centers. He offers no evidence to support this charge. Title VI centers are academic initiatives at the nation's leading universities that follow the normal standards of peer review and academic freedom. Neither the national interest nor the development of new knowledge would be served by requiring Centers to read only those materials that Mr. Kurtz deems acceptable. Indeed, just the opposite is true — Title VI Centers should and do report broadly and accurately about politics, global affairs and U.S. policies.
Mr. Kurtz also suggests the higher education community opposes the National Security Education Program (NSEP), a program not funded by your subcommittee. Again, this is patently false. The higher education community has strongly supported this program since its inception and continues to do so. The only point of controversy in this program that I am aware of is whether the agency that oversees the programcurrently, the Department of Defenseis the best agency to do this. Some academics think that sending undergraduate students to countries that may be hostile to the United States in a program administered by the DOD creates a safety risk for the students. Those who have expressed concerns about NSEP have always made it clear that having the program funded and administered by the U.S. Department of Education would ameliorate this problem, a point Mr. Kurtz simply omits.
Finally, Mr. Kurtz alleges that Title VI Centers discourage students from working for the federal government. Once again, this charge is baseless and demonstrably false. According to the Department of Education, more than 1,000 individuals from the 118 Title VI area centers in the class of 2001 alone went to work for the federal government. An additional 389 undertook military service and another 616 went to work for state and local governments. In the seven years since NSEP has had a service requirement, hundreds of scholarship recipients have gone to work for the federal government. Those who do not honor their service requirement must repay their scholarships — this is a fairly strong incentive to honor the commitment.
I can testify personally to the strength of these programs. I first came to the United States as an international student in 1960. As a U.S. citizen born overseas, I have always had a deep personal interest in international education. When I was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Madison, we had seven Title VI-funded National Resource Centers, a Center for International Business Education and Research, and a National Language Resource Center for African languages. These Centers allowed UW Madison to teach over 60 languages, from Arabic to Yourba, most of them at advanced levels. In addition, we offered programs for elementary and secondary school teachers, journalists and business leaders. Many of the students who studied at these centers went to work for government agencies or non-profit organizations. In my eight years as chancellor, I never heard a single criticism of a program offered by one of these centers.
I would be pleased to discuss this with you or provide any further information you may need.
President, American Council on Education