Friday, April 02, 2004

At a time when expertise in Middle-Eastern languages and cultures is so important to our nation's security, you'd think that the GOP would be courting and supporting the academic institutions that teach the subjects. Especially since that expertise is also sorely lacking in our intelligence agencies. But no, the neo-cons are actually proposing legislation which threatens the quality of the programs that teach these badly needed skills. Apparently the neo-cons are upset that the scholars teaching in many Middle Eastern Studies training centers are critical of US policy in the Middle East and Israel's policies toward the Palestinians. First they tried to reduce federal funding for the colleges and universities that provide this training. That didn't work, so now they're trying to affect the academic freedom of said institutions. Conservatives in the House proposed H.R. 3077, which "calls for establishing an International Higher Education Advisory Board with broad investigative powers "to study, monitor, apprise, and evaluate" activities of area studies centers supported by Title VI. The board is charged with ensuring that government-funded academic programs "reflect diverse perspectives and represent the full range of views" on international affairs. "Diverse perspectives," in this context, is code for limiting criticism of U.S. Middle East policy and of Israel." The article goes on to discuss how this could adversly affect national security. "No first-rank university would accept direct government intrusion into the educational process. Such institutions would likely refuse to accept Title VI funding if it were subject to political oversight. The already dangerously low number of Americans competent in Middle Eastern languages would then be further reduced." The perpetual short-sightedness of the Neo-Cons never ceases to amaze me!