EMET Praises Department of Education for Working to Curb Political Biases on College Campuses

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(Washington, D.C., September 26, 2018) Today, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) praised the Department of Education (DoE) for taking steps to enforce a law that could help curb many professors and programs on university campuses, and teachers of the K-12 level, that espouses anti-American, anti-Israel, and at times, anti-Semitic viewpoints, in violation of federal law.

Some grants to universities and schools funded under Title VI of the Higher Education Act (HEA) have contributed much to the belief that America’s support for Israel is a strategic liability and a source of why the US is presented in the global community.  EMET has long been working on Capitol Hill and beyond to reform Title VI of HEA to ensure that the biases are put to an end.  Under the Obama Administration, DoE had willfully ignored the law in place to prevent these biases, and further enabled the politicization of Title VI programming.

All of this is about to change.

The Higher Education Act was originally signed into law on November 8th, 1965, to strengthen the educational resources of American universities and colleges and to provide financial assistance to students in postsecondary and Higher Education.  HEA was a later version of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), signed into law in 1958 by President Eisenhower.  The original intent of Title VI of the NDEA was to prepare our students to serve the national security needs of the United States by funding foreign language and area studies programs at universities, particularly with respect to combatting the Soviet threat at the time.  The area studies programs are known as National Resource Centers (NRCs).  In 1965, Title VI legislation was included into HEA, most recently reauthorized as the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) in 2008.

For the 2014-2018 grant cycle, more than $13.4 million of federal grant money was awarded to 19 Middle East NRCs under Title VI of HEA.  Grants for the next cycle will be allocated this fall.

Unfortunately, the original legislative intent of Title VI of HEA had been turned on its head.  Research shows that many Title VI-funded NRCs – currently at 100 institutions of higher education across the U.S. – are replete with an anti-American and anti-Israel biases.  Specifically, many Middle East NRCs, including at such prestigious institutions as Columbia University, Georgetown University, Princeton University, and Yale University, among others, are replete with Title VI-supported faculty and programs that advance the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; whitewash terrorism and radical Islam; and create a false narrative of U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East.

Also, problematic, under Title VI, NRCs are required to extend their activities by creating programs of “public outreach,” including workshops where K-12 teachers are trained.  Many of the workshops, and their lesson plans on the Middle East, are heavily influenced by Saudi money, reports show.  Some of the training materials include essays of Islamist radicals who advocate for terrorism; textbooks painting Israel and the West as colonial powers; and lesson plans that promote Islam, but criticize Christianity and Judaism.  As a result, Title VI-funded Middle East studies biases are trickling down to America’s most vulnerable and impressionable youth.

In 2008, EMET was instrumental in amending Title VI of HEA to require the need for “diverse perspectives and a wide range of views,” within the U.S. taxpayer-funded Title VI programs.  Despite EMET’s exhaustive efforts in 2008, the U.S. Department of Education, which provides these grants to the universities, as well as the recipients of the grants themselves, have, up until now, ignored their statutory requirements to provide “diverse perspectives.”

Since 2008, EMET has been the only organization on Capitol Hill regularly raising awareness about the abuses of, and calling for legislative changes to, Title VI, through one-on-one meetings with Congressional staffers and Members of Congress. EMET has also met with the Department of Education, a number of times, and with a senior member of the White House, to discuss the issue.

Thanks to EMET’s work, the Department of Education is now giving more consideration to the 2008 amendments of “diverse perspectives and a wide range of viewpoints” when evaluating applications for funding under Title VI of HEA.  The Fiscal Year 2018 application for grants for NRCs states that it is an “Absolute Priority” that applicants fulfill the 2008 amendments, by providing “….(1) an explanation of how the activities funded by the grant will reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs; and (2) a description of how the applicant will encourage government service in areas of national need, as identified by the Secretary, as well as in areas of need in the education, business, and non-profit sectors.”

Sarah Stern, founder and president of EMET said, “For far too long, students at universities and on the K-12 level have received a steady diet of anti-Israel propaganda as a paltry substitute for a solid education, under some Title VI of HEA programming.  After the 2008 amendments — that attempted to remedy the problem – the biases have only gotten worse. The Saudis continue to pour millions of dollars into many Title VI-funded Middle East Centers and faculty, resulting in extreme anti-American and anti-Israel biases in their classroom instruction and materials that they use in their teacher-training workshops, which are mandated by the Title VI legislation.”

Stern added, “I applaud the Department of Education for taking the matter of the misuse of funding under Title VI of HEA seriously, and for taking the significant step of emphasizing the “diverse perspectives” requirement, which may help remedy the abominable political biases within some of the programs. When the universities who have applied for these taxpayer funded grants in this cycle are turned down, they will receive an explanation as to why. If it is because they have not demonstrated a capacity to teach from a diversity of perspectives and a wide-range of viewpoints, perhaps they will be more careful to hire faculty who are not quite so monolithic in their biases against the United States and the State of Israel. The change in the anti-American and anti-Israel atmosphere will not happen overnight, but incrementally, we hope that this will create a much less hostile environment in the college classroom.”

About the Author

The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) is a Washington, D.C. based think tank and policy center with an unabashedly pro-America and pro-Israel stance. EMET (which means truth in Hebrew) prides itself on challenging the falsehoods and misrepresentations that abound in U.S. Middle East policy.

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