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Big Brother in the Ivory Tower following approval of H.R. 3077

by Nirit Ben-Ari

Since 1965, the US Department of Education has funded programs in American universities under Title VI of the Higher Education Act. Title VI has provided grants to promote area and international studies centers, as well as Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) grants. This year the House of Representatives moved to revisit the old act and revise it according to "national security" needs. The new International Studies in Higher Education Act (H.R. 3077), approved on Sept. 17, 2003 by the House Subcommittee on Select Education, in effect re-writes Title VI. It has since been passed by the full House.

An "Advisory Board" to Monitor the Classroom

The new Act would create an oversight "advisory board" that will link Title VI funding to students training for careers in national security, defense and intelligence agencies and the foreign service. The 11 members of the new International Education Advisory Board are to be appointed in consultation with "homeland security" agencies. The board has the mandate to dictate curricula, course materials assigned in class, and the faculty who are hired in institutions that accept Title VI funding. The board would make recommendations to make sure programs under Title VI reflect national needs related to homeland security.

Edward Said no, Bernard Lewis yes

In preparation for the rewriting of Title VI, on June 19, 2003, the House Subcommittee on Select Education held a hearing on "International Programs in Higher Education and Questions about Bias." It's worth quoting Dr. Stanley Kurtz of the Hoover Institute, whose influential testimony and recommendations at the hearing translated into the revised act. He focused in particular on post-colonial theory and the work of Edward Said, in which (he said) "Said equated professors who support American foreign policy with the 19th century European intellectuals who propped up racist colonial empires. The core premise of post-colonial theory is that it is immoral for a scholar to put his knowledge of foreign languages and cultures at the service of American power." He also sited Arundhati Roy, Robert Fisk and Tariq Ali as examples to texts being taught that need to be balanced with authors such as Bernard Lewis and Samuel P. Huntington. Higher education in the service of "national security"? Kurtz expounded in the hearing: "We know that transmissions from the September 11 highjackers went untranslated for want of Arabic speakers in our intelligence agencies. Given that, and given the ongoing lack of foreign language expertise in our defense and intelligence agencies, the directors of the Title VI African studies centers who voted unanimously, just after September 11, to reaffirm their boycott of the NSEP [National Security Education Program], have all acted to undermine America's national security, and its foreign policy. And so has every other Title VI-funded scholar in Latin American, African and Middle Eastern Studies who has upheld the long-standing boycott of the NSEP... Congress can insure that our defense and intelligence agencies have access to well-trained linguists by redirecting the twenty million dollar post-9-11 increase in Title VI funding to the Defense Language Institute. The Defense Language Institute would then be in a position to fund scholarships for college graduates to do advanced language training, leading to full time jobs in our defense and intelligence agencies."

The new act is expected to be taken up by the Senate in January.


Kutrz testimony

Reprinting permissible with attribution.