14. New Bill Threatens Intellectual Freedom in Area Studies

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

YALE DAILY NEWS, November 6, 2003
Title: “New Bill threatens intellectual freedom in area studies”
Author: Benita Singh

Title: “Speaking in ‘Approved’ Tongues”
Author: Kimberly Chase

Faculty Evaluator: Robert Manning
Student Researchers: David Sonnenberg, Josh Sisco

The International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003 threatens the freedom of education and classroom curriculum. In 1996 the Solomon Amendment was passed, denying federal funding to any institution of higher learning that refused to allow military recruiters on private and public university campuses. On September 17 of 2003 Congress passed House Resolution 3077, the “International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003.”

The Bill was first proposed in a June 2003 congressional hearing called “International Programs in Higher Education and Questions about Bias.” It was authored by Rep. Peter Hoekstra R-Mi, Chairman of the House of Subcommittee on Select Education and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence. He states “the changes would let the government keep closer track of how the money is spent.”

The bill portrays academic institutions as hotbeds for anti-American sentiment, specifically area studies programs. It proposes an advisory board that would be responsible for evaluating the curricula taught at Title VI institutions, course materials assigned in class, and even the faculty who are hired in institutions that accept Title VI funding. The advisory board would report to the Secretary of Education and make funding recommendations based on their findings.

Included in the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI prohibits any “discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.”

Both college leaders and lobbyists stated that the complaints of bias were inaccurate and that the new board would be used to interfere with curricular decisions on their campuses. Rep. Peter Hoekstra tried to “alleviate those concerns by adding to the bill language that would bar the advisory board from ‘mandating, directing, or controlling’ the curriculums of such college programs.” However, some “Democratic lawmakers feel that even greater protections were needed in the bill to ensure that the advisory board would not be used to intimidate scholars to toe an ideological line” (The Chronicle of Higher Education October 31, 2003). Professors fear not what such a board is supposed to do, but what it would try to do.

Conservative academic Stanley Kurtz testified in support of HR 3077 and the advisory board. Kurtz stated that “the ruling intellectual paradigm in academic area studies is “post-colonial theory.” His problem with this idea is that “The core premise of post-colonial theory is that it is immoral for a scholar to put his knowledge of foreign languages and culture at the service of American power.” According to Singh, Kurtz argues that “the root of anti-Americanism, is not our repeated missteps abroad, unilateral occupation, or the continuing deaths of innocent civilians, but rather, post-colonial scholarship.” He feels that post-colonial theory is the cause for bias against America, driving his conclusion that Title VI programs are putting national security at risk as they indoctrinate their students with a hatred of America.

With the ratification of H. R. 3077, any academic discipline that includes cultural studies will be under the scrutiny of the advisory board. These include African, European, Latin American and Iberian, Middle Eastern and East Asian studies departments as well as any language program. To add to this horrific agenda for control, “professors whose ideological principles may not support U.S. practices abroad can have their appointments terminated, any part of a course’s curriculum containing criticism of U.S. foreign policy can be censored, and any course deemed entirely anti-American can be barred from ever being taught.”

“Proponents of HR 3077 insist that no one is forced to agree with government policies unless they want government money” (Michael Bellesiles, Sunday Gazette: Jan 11, 2004). To add to this, the government states that schools with Title VI funding must also push students within the areas of study listed above into government security jobs. If they do not, they could be denied government funding.

According to an editorial written by UC Berkeley history Professor Beshara Doumani, The driving forces behind the provision of this bill, are the same individuals who have been promoting the war on Iraq. Their aim is to defend the foreign policy of the Bush Administration by stifling critical and informed discussions on U.S. College campuses (Seattle Post-Intelligencer p.7 on 04/02/2004). “All this is doing is placing anyone in international studies under a stricter control of the government.” (Michael Bellesiles , Sunday Gazette: Jan 11, 2004)

With the ratification of House Resolution 3077, the bill “would rob our society of the open exchange of ideas on college campuses that is vital to our democracy” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer p.7, 04/02/2004). This bill could allow the government to begin programming and censoring what students are being taught at institutes of higher education that receive Title VI funding. Singh states that Kurtz’ comments indicate “the American and Euro-centric ideology that the study of foreign languages and cultures serves no greater purpose than serving American interests.”