A Cold War Program Gets Hijacked

A Cold War-era federal program has wandered far from its national-security mission and into the woke follies that permeate much of American education. For decades, U.S. colleges and universities have received taxpayer dollars through the Education Department’s National Resource Centers, a program intended to bolster U.S. national security at the height of tension with the Soviet Union. But more recently National Resource Centers are promoting unserious academic research or causes irrelevant to national security.

NRC-funded efforts included a training institute last year at the University of Texas, Austin, where teachers of pre-kindergartners through fifth graders were schooled in “(Un)learning patterns of whiteness in literacy teaching.” In May, Stanford University’s Center for Latin American Studies sponsored a webinar about using picture books to initiate “conversations centered on advocacy for LGBT Latina/o(x) youth.” The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia hosted a graduate student who uses critical race theory in her research on Russia and Ukraine.

Many scholars have questioned CRT’s academic rigor, distortions of history, and promotion of racial grievances. In fellowships at Syracuse University and Cornell University, education-school faculty incorporate subjects such as environmental justice into teacher-training programs. New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies held a 10-month program in which teachers use something called “contemporary critical educational theory” to create “culturally relevant” classroom lessons. The propaganda from such NRC-sponsored initiatives becomes more potent when the efforts include outreach for K-12 teachers, who will pass along what they learn to students.

National Resource Centers were founded to provide language education and knowledge about parts of the world critical to American interests. The centers first received federal support after Congress implemented the National Defense Education Act in 1958. The purpose was to shore up America’s national security during the Cold War, when Washington was short on officials with expertise on key parts of the globe.

Much has changed. National Resource Centers have abandoned their national-security goal and now enforce left-wing ideological conformity under the guise of “international education.” Federal funding of NRCs should end.

Advocates such as the National Humanities Alliance claim the National Resource Centers help Americans “engage productively across international borders.” But American national security doesn’t seem a priority in much NRC-funded work. My new report for the National Association of Scholars shows that NRCs in the Middle East have shifted their attention from security-related topics, including terrorism, over the past 20 years. Instead, these centers focus on social issues such as Islamophobia and immigration.

The concept of Islamophobia allows so-called intellectuals to condemn any reasonable response to Islamic extremism as irrational and discriminatory. While immigration is relevant to national security, my research found that National Resource Centers in the Middle East often back efforts that promote sympathy for illegal immigration and portray borders as inherently immoral.

NRCs in the Middle East have been assailed by academics and others for their mission drift over the past few decades. Martin Kramer and Stanley Kurtz are two of the scholars who have detailed these centers’ biases toward political correctness throughout the 2000s. By the 2010s, lawmakers had substantially reduced federal funding for NRCs. Despite the cuts, the centers have yet to make the necessary self-corrections. Americans should not be on the hook for centers that chose to ignore their national-security mission.

Defunding the centers would cast the U.S. into a national-security and knowledge crisis, NRC proponents warn. But it is no longer 1958. The internet fosters connections with other cultures—without the political correctness that dominates American universities. There are more bilingual speakers in the U.S. than ever, many of whom speak languages the State Department deems critical to national security. Instead of turning to misguided NRCs, we could draw on these individuals when expertise in other languages and cultures is needed.

Other government programs could step in. NRC funds could go to the Education Department’s Language Resource Centers, which support language teaching and training. (This assumes the LRCs will refrain from ideological activism.) There also is the Pentagon’s Defense Language Institute.

National Resource Centers were created in response to the desperate situation of the 1950s. That emergency has long since ended. NRCs have outlived their purpose, and it is time for them to go.

Neetu Arnold is a senior research associate at the National Association of Scholars.

The opinions expressed here are her own.

Read the original post on The Wall Street Journal.

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