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July 25, 2007

Indoctrination In The Classroom

Stanley Kurtz has an intriguing and yet frightening article on National Review Online about how the Saudis are using federal education programs to influence curriculum used in public schools about the Middle East:

Unless we counteract the influence of Saudi money on the education of the young, we’re going to find it very difficult to win the war on terror. I only wish I was referring to Saudi-funded madrassas in Pakistan. Unfortunately, I’m talking about K-12 education in the United States. Believe it or not, the Saudis have figured out how to make an end-run around America’s K-12 curriculum safeguards, thereby gaining control over much of what children in the United States learn about the Middle East. While we’ve had only limited success paring back education for Islamist fundamentalism abroad, the Saudis have taken a surprising degree of control over America’s Middle-East studies curriculum at home.

How did they do it? Very carefully...and very cleverly. It turns out that the system of federal subsidies to university programs of Middle East Studies (under Title VI of the Higher Education Act) has been serving as a kind of Trojan horse for Saudi influence over American K-12 education. Federally subsidized Middle East Studies centers are required to pursue public outreach. That entails designing lesson plans and seminars on the Middle East for America’s K-12 teachers. These university-distributed teaching aids slip into the K-12 curriculum without being subject to the normal public vetting processes. Meanwhile, the federal government, which both subsidizes and lends its stamp of approval to these special K-12 course materials on the Middle East, has effectively abandoned oversight of the program that purveys them (Title VI).

Enter the Saudis. By lavishly funding several organizations that design Saudi-friendly English-language K-12 curricula, all that remains is to convince the “outreach coordinators” at prestigious, federally subsidized universities to purvey these materials to America’s teachers. And wouldn’t you know it, outreach coordinators or teacher-trainers at a number of university Middle East Studies centers have themselves been trained by the very same Saudi-funded foundations that design K-12 course materials. These Saudi-friendly folks happily build their outreach efforts around Saudi-financed K-12 curricula.

In one sense it's easy to see how the Saudis can be so successful in their attempts to indoctrinate American schoolchildren. But at the same time it is frightening to consider that the same tactics that are used in Middle East countries than either sponsor or encourage terrorism could be used in American schools. Hopefully, Congress will take the steps necessary to fix this situation. Given the fact that Democrats are more concerned conducting endless investigations than dealing with our country's more serious problems it's unlikely that any deal can be struck. Our kids, and ultimately our nation's security, will suffer.

Posted by Tom at July 25, 2007 10:43 PM

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