The Corner

Academy Vs. Reform

The academy seems to be meeting proposed reform of Title VI with false claims about HR 3077’s supposed threat to academic freedom. Take a look at this opinion piece from the Yale Daily News. It claims that HR 3077, which reforms funding for academic area studies (including Middle East Studies), would permit the government to dismiss professors who are critical of U.S. foreign policy, censor their course readings, and permanently bar any course deemed anti-American from being taught. This is absolute nonsense. HR 3077 explicitly states that the newly created Advisory Board is not authorized to “mandate, direct, or control an institution of higher education’s specific instructional content, curriculum, or program of instruction.” The board is strictly advisory in nature. It is charged with making recommendations that will help insure programs funded under Title VI will “reflect diverse perspectives and the full range of views on world regions, foreign languages, and international affairs.” This describes the marketplace of ideas, the encouragement of which is the very purpose of academic freedom. The problem with today’s academy is that the marketplace of ideas has been destroyed. And now, the ludicrous charge that HR 3077 will silence voices like those of Edward Said and Noam Chomsky has even reached Pakistan. I have repeatedly said that followers of Edward Said cannot and should not be barred from federal funding. On the contrary, a student’s education would be incomplete without some exposure to post-colonial studies. All I have said-and all HR 3077 says-is that other perspectives should be included as well. That is the problem with post-colonial studies. By stigmatizing other points of view as Orientalist bigotry, post-colonial theory licences the suppression of its opposition. How ironic that a reform that calls for viewpoint diversity should be stigmatized as censorship by those who have already succeeded in purging their critics from the academy. Consider writing your Senator on behalf of HR 3077. For more on the bill go here.


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