All About Josh

Friday, August 02, 2002

IDEOLOGICAL INDOCTRINATION: That's what's happening at American University's School of International Service, where so many classes are forums for teaching anti-Israel, anti-US ideology, instead of presenting an objective curricula. I was scanning through all the assigned books for the scheduled Fall 2002 classes, and even I was shocked to see the precious few number of genuine scholarly works. I was so frustrated after making this query -- I mean, a lot of people's political opinions come into fruition in college -- that I decided to write a letter to the school's dean, Lou Goodman. Below is the letter:

Dear Dr. Goodman:

Ever since enrolling in an SIS (School of International Service) class last year, I have become painfully aware of the ideological bias prevalent within the department. Classes on conflict resolution and cross-cultural communication predominate, preferring to emphasize the optimistic view of global relations over the realpolitik. Textbooks by the leftist professors Edward Said and John Esposito are often assigned, rarely counterbalanced by their ideological and scholarly opposites, such as Bernard Lewis. A friend of mine had a (adjunct) SIS professor who proudly labeled herself with every radical ideology out there, from Marxism to "vegetarianism." I had my own eye-opening experience with the school.

In my "Analysis of Foreign Policy" class last fall semester, I was informed by Professor Philip Brenner on Sept. 6 that "perhaps Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are only bad from a Western perspective. Think about it." Five days later, 9-11 transpired yet Prof. Brenner insisted that, as tragic an event as this was, clearly the US had performed equal acts of terror in recent history. I withdrew two days later.

The latest travesty comes from a course titled "International Relations of the Middle East I" (SIS-571). The course sounds innocuous enough, until you note the professor teaching the course is Clovis Maksoud, a virulent opponent of anything Israel and former head of the Arab League -- hardly a body of democracies. Whether you agree with his views or not, I find it hard to believe that a man with his background could objectively teach about the Middle East without propagandizing. Clearly, you are aware of his background and clearly any reasonable person would not expect him to be an appropriate professor to teach about international relations in the Middle East, considering Israel plays such a huge role in that topic.

As dean of the school, it is your prerogative to set curriculum, hire teachers, and create an agenda as you see fit. If an unbalanced, ideologically-tinged curricula is what you deem appropriate, it is entirely within your role to see it implemented. But, as an educator, it should be your responsibility to ensure that all students are getting a fair and balanced curricula, free of the ideology prevalent in other areas of society. It's fine for professors to have their individual views and to share them with the class, when appropriate. But it's not acceptable when their views become the curriculum for the class.

At one time, I considered transferring into SIS, hoping to learn about the power politics that affect foreign policy throughout the world. I hoped to read primary and secondary
source material from a wide range of sources, so I could formulate my own ideas about the workings of the world. Sadly, this wasn't the case. My personal idealism is over, dampened by the harsh reality of what passes for academia in the School of International Service.


Josh Kraushaar, junior/CAS

UPDATE: The economics department doesn't have that much better of a record. Out of the eight microeconomics sections being taught at American U, five of them include textbooks by Chomsky, Roy and another Chomskyite -- none of them professional economists and radical leftists to boot! And microeconomics is a prerequisite for all economics majors.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

THE HEBREW U. BOMBING: Here's what Hebrew U. President Menachem Magidor said about the heinous massacre of seven Israelis and Americans -- in a college cafeteria:

The forces of evil have struck yet again. For them, the entire State of Israel, its citizens, and its institutions are legitimate targets - this time, however, the target was chosen with much care. The attack required planning and determination in order to overcome the many layers of security and strike at the very heart of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This was not just an attack on our institution; it was an attack on a symbol of the rebirth of Israel in its own land, on a modern state that is rooted in tradition but embraces openess.

This attack was perpetrated against a university founded upon the principles of pluralism and tolerance, a university that seeks to understand the world in which we live and that - despite the wave of terror and murder we are experiencing - aspires to promote peace and understanding with its neighbors in this region. The aim of the terrorists responsible for the horrific scene that I witnessed several minutes after the explosion was to bring an end to those values that the Hebrew University embraces and embodies - understanding, tolerance, and the quest for peace.

The victims include many members of the University community - students, teachers, employees, and visitors from all parts of the world. They are Jews and Arabs, and citizens of the US, Korea, France, Italy, and other countries. This attack is a crime not only against Israel or the Jewish people; it is a crime against the free and enlightened world. As I stood facing the destruction, the pools of blood and the wounded, I was forced to ask myself how we can continue in our research, teaching and other vibrant activity while we mourn for the victims. The answer is clear and it is expressed by the Hebrew word davka, 'despite everything'. The perpetrators of such heinous acts may kill those dear to us, but they cannot destroy our vision and our determination to continue to create a society that is based on reason and mutual understanding, and to work as a community of researchers and students which welcomes Israelis of all backgrounds and guests from all over the world. Above all, we will not let them kill our aspirations for peace.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

UNC'S INTRO TO ISLAM: The University of North Carolina has required all freshmen to read 35 excerpts from the Koran in preparation for study sessions as part of their orientation to college. It's created the expected outrage among Christian, pro-family groups, with them claiming that these required courses constitute religious indoctrination and violate church-state separation. It's funny that these same groups aren't similarly angered when high school teachers espouse creationist theories in the classroom or propose prayers at the beginning of each school day.

No, the problem with this UNC curriculum isn't its content. Sure, the class discussions will undoubtedly contain their share of PC "Islam means peace," and other happy-feely discourse. But, let's face it -- college is full of that. Many of the Middle Eastern courses in the International Studies school at American University regularly assign Edward Said's flawed "Orientalism." Half of our microeconomics courses this semester use books from Chomsky and Roy as their main texts. Assigning a politically correct text by Michael Sells, trying to promote religious tolerance is hardly extreme.

The problem with this "Introduction to Islam" program that UNC wants to implement is that administrators seem to believe freshmen are actually learning something about Islam from a one-week crash course. Most pundits, who've leaved through the Koran trying to glean some insight from it, frankly have little clue, what the text really means. There are plenty of contradictory passages, or "suras" in it, just like any other religious text. Understanding the primary source text requires familiarity in the history of Islam and adequate context. The fact that UNC administrators think that reading a simple book on the Koran will suddenly enlighten 18-year olds, many of whom hardly know about their own religions is horribly naive.

One of the common precepts in Judaism is that when someone wants to convert into the religion, it isn't adequate to merely read "Judaism for Dummies," and then proclaim yourself Jewish. Potential converts are required to study with a rabbi for an extended period of time Understanding religious texts is not something that's simple -- it takes at least months of study, especially to those unfamiliar with even the basic precepts of the religion. The university's chancellor compares the reading of Koranic excerpts to reading the Iliad. What an absurd comparison. Students who read a great work spend much time discussing each passage and the course is usually taught as part of an ancient civilization course. This orientation to Islam is done in the span of a week, and the school requires all freshmen with no background in Islamic history to magically understand and discuss the Koran. It would be akin to having all freshmen take a seminar on the slumping economy, without having taken a single course in macroeconomics.

And that's what's ridiculous about this course.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

BACK AND FORTH ON IRAQ: On Sunday, the Washington Post published an article by Thomas Ricks, suggesting that some in the Joint Chiefs of Staff have discouraged a war on Saddam Hussein, instead promoting a strategy of containment. I agree with Glenn (el InstaPundit) that Ricks is being deliberately misled.

Well, today's New York Times' story by David Sanger seemingly contradicts Ricks' report, quoting "senior administration officials" saying they're considering a quick strike on Baghdad, hoping to cause a quick collapse of the government.

SOME ECONOMICS READING: Two good recent columns about our economic situation from the Washington Post:

Here's "Reform Hysteria" by Robert Samuelson, one of my favorite columnists and the more-recent "Risk-Takers, Look Out" by David Ignatius.


SLAVIC BEAUTIES: In my recap of "Beach Week 2002," I jokingly referred to the fact that my friend Eugene -- the Russian Mac-Daddy -- showed much skill in flirting with the endless number of attractive Eastern European waitresses at Rehoboth Beach. He was shocked -- shocked! -- that our cute hotel clerk was an avid reader of Dostoevsky. But while Eugene's macking it up may have been surprising, the number of Eastern Europeans on the Delaware shore should not be. Margaret Engel explains in an op-ed for the Washington Post.

Turns out a lot more high-schoolers and college students are taking the unpaid internship route instead of the minimum-wage job on waiting tables. This leaves more cute, acculturated European girls for Eugene to flirt with at the beach.