The Corner

Gov’t and Higher Ed

Congressman Pete Hoekstra, newly appointed head of the House Intelligence Committee, has an important piece today on NRO. Hoekstra is the author of HR 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act. HR 3077 would reform the system of federal subsidies to programs of area studies–including Middle East Studies. The academy has smeared HR 3077 as “McCarthyism.” That is ridiculous. As congressman Hoekstra points out, the bill simply restores an advisory board to a program that had one for years, and calls for the teaching of diverse perspectives on international issues. How is a call for intellectual diversity McCarthyism? As Hoekstra points out, the bill explicitly protects against government control of the college curriculum. And no one is forced to apply for these funds. There are 125 programs of Middle East Studies. Only 17 of those get government subsidies. If a program doesn’t want to encourage debate among diverse viewpoints, or doesn’t want to help train students to serve the government after graduation, it doesn’t have to apply for the grants. In fact, few students who benefit from these subsidies go to work for the government. The core purpose of the program has been lost, and congress is absolutely right to try to make sure that taxpayers once again get bang for their buck. But the real significance of congressman Hoekstra’s piece is that it sends a political signal. HR 3077 passed the House unanimously, yet it’s been held up in the Senate by the higher education lobby. Hoekstra notes that this is a last chance for the Senate to pass the bill. Implicitly, Hoekstra is warning that he is not going to give up on the effort to reform area studies. In fact, we know from his remarks in this excellent piece by Slate’s Lee Smith that Hoekstra’s next bill may be a far more difficult pill for the academy to swallow. So in effect, Hoekstra’s piece on NRO today is a shot across the bow of the academy: “Stop blocking HR 3077, or risk far worse next year.”