The Decline Of International Studies
One of America’s greatest resources is its university system and the vibrancy of academic study of the field of international relations, but Georgetown University professor Charles King laments in a lengthy article in Foreign Affairs that a lack of funding from nonprofits and the government is having a negative impact.
“Shifting priorities at the national level, a misreading of the effects of globalization, and academics’ own drift away from knowing real things about real places have combined to weaken this vital component of the United States’ intellectual capital. Educational institutions and the disciplines they preserve are retreating from the task of cultivating men and women who are comfortable moving around the globe, both literally and figuratively. Government agencies, in turn, are reducing their overall support and narrowing it to fields deemed relevant to U.S. national security—and even to specific research topics within them. Worse, academic research is now subject to the same ‘culture war’ attacks that federal lawmakers used to reserve for profane rap lyrics and blasphemous artwork. Unless Washington stops this downward spiral, these changes will not only weaken national readiness,” he writes.
“They will also erode the habit of mind that good international affairs education was always supposed to produce: an appreciation for people, practices, and ideas that are not one’s own,” adds King.
What has occurred, King reports, is that international studies has become a political target, much like the National Endowment of Arts was a decade ago.
The National Science Foundation’s annual appropriation is almost $7.3 billion, of which a fraction—less than $260 million—goes to the behavioral, social, and economic sciences. Of that figure, only about $13 million goes to political scientists, and an even smaller amount goes to those doing research on international affairs.
King maintains that it is crucial for that decline to be reversed.
“For more than half a century, the world has been shaped by the simple fact that the United States could look at other countries—their pasts and presents, their myths and worldviews—with sympathetic curiosity. Maintaining the ability to do so is not only a great power’s insurance policy against the future. It is also the essence of an open, inquisitive, and critical society,” King concludes.
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