September 24, 2014 | Commentary on Civil Society, Tax Reform, Higher Education

Taxpayer-Funded Indoctrination at Colleges Hinders U.S. Foreign Policy

Nearly all parents (94 percent) surveyed by Pew Research three years ago said they wanted their children to go to university.

But they might not be so anxious to send the kids to campus if they knew everything that gets taught on campus. Last week, for example, 10 major Jewish groups released a series of reports which charged that foreign policy programs at many universities are themselves contributing to a rise in anti-Semitism.

You don’t have to fork over tuition to be paying for what passes for foreign affairs instruction at our colleges and universities. Under Title VI of the Higher Education Act, all taxpayers directly subsidize university indoctrination of our children. Title VI includes 10 programs that fund instruction in languages and areas of the world that could one day become hot spots. Most of the $97.5 million that taxpayers spent in 2010 on Title VI programs went to 125 National Resource Centers at universities across the country and to Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships.

What do we get for these various taxpayer investments? College graduates, on average, tend to do better in life than those without a college diploma. The last recession punished people without a diploma far more harshly than those with one, for example. This no doubt accounts for the fact that 86 percent of college graduates told Pew that college had been “a good investment for them personally.”

But are the Title VI programs producing graduates equipped to deal wisely with foreign policy challenges facing America? Consider the present messes in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Russia, Central America, Venezuela and elsewhere. Academics who teach about these areas have become increasingly doctrinaire over the years, and their departments allow little or no dissent from the orthodoxy, which is usually leftist and inimical to U.S. interests.

They influence foreign policy through many ways: by instructing future practitioners, by filling government posts, and as media contributors and political advisers. Many of these professors have become activists on the side. The impact is not always positive.

For example, ahead of the 2009 presidential election in El Salvador, Latin American academics in the U.S. pressured the then-young Obama Administration to not criticize the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, a Marxist guerrilla group turned political party. With Washington on the sidelines, the FMLN’s Mauricio Funes went on to win the presidency.

The FMLN is neither pro-American nor a bunch of nice guys. It has been linked to drug cartels, gangs and even the Italian Mafia. Its present leader, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, celebrated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by leading a mob that torched an American flag.

The FMLN government’s misrule is intricately linked to thousands of Salvadoran and other Central American kids turning up at our border this year seeking asylum. And yes, the academics who rose to their defense were instrumental in getting them elected — at least this was the verdict of the leftist Council on Hemispheric Affairs, which observed at the time that the Obama Administration had caved in to the academics and that “White House support was likely integral to Funes’ victory in a country where U.S. opinion is held in high regard.”

Latin American area specialists at our universities are notoriously left-wing. But they are outshone on that score by Middle East area specialists. The 10 Jewish groups mentioned above argue that Middle East Study centers have fueled anti-Semitism. One study showed that 84 percent of the speakers at UCLA’s Middle East studies center had engaged in anti-Semitic activity.

The groups did not call outright for the elimination of Title VI, only called for the U.S. Congress to exercise adult supervision over these taxpayer-funded programs. But these programs are not serving U.S. interests. Title VI — and the funding that enables these programs — should be eliminated.

 - Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Mike Gonzalez Senior Fellow
The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy

Originally appeared in The Washington Times