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Smoking Gun



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Are those tape recordings of Saddam talking about WMD a smoking gun? We’ll see. One thing for sure, though, we now have a genuine smoking gun quotation in the battle over federal subsidies to Middle East Studies. And this smoking gun tells a larger tale about how government spending, even for legitimate national needs, so often gets abused. Since 9/11, Martin Kramer and I have argued that professors of Middle East Studies are pocketing millions of federal dollars by claiming to teach strategic languages, then putting the money into work that does nothing for national security.

Now we get a direct admission of this by University of Massachusetts Amherst chancellor, John V. Lombardi. Speaking to a national summit on the government’s need for speakers of Arabic and other strategic languages, this is what Lombardi said:

“We in the universities and colleges have much experience in taking tightly focused government programs and diffusing their intent to flow money into activities more central to our interests. If you fund language and area studies, we will leverage the language effort to get more resources for area studies, literature studies, and culture studies. These are good things, but they do not address the national need you articulated at the summit, learning language.

Further, we in the colleges and universities are expert at avoiding effective performance measurement. If the nation needs college educated graduates functionally literate in a number of less commonly taught languages, the only way to get this result is to fund programs that will test the graduates. If you want us to graduate students with a command of spoken and written Arabic, Urdu, or Mandarin, you need to fund a program that delivers money to institutions that demonstrate the functional literacy of its graduates in these languages through standardized tests. Otherwise, we will train people for you who can read some things in some languages, have traveled and lived in the countries where some of these languages are spoken, but who may or may not have functional usable literacy.”

U. Mass. Amherst is a very left-leaning school. Yet here is the chancellor effectively admitting that the academy is taking government money under false pretenses. Lombardi is also admitting that conservatives are right to argue that only rigorous testing can insure against abuses of education funding. It doesn’t get any more smoking-gun-like than this. Martin Kramer has more on the great Title VI smoking gun.


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