Wednesday, June 18, 2003
It so happens that I have a friend who joined the USIA � the United States Information Agency � in its infancy. Before that, she was a Ph.D. student and then a teacher at Columbia (and Barnard). At lunch the other day, I asked her how she happened to leave academia to begin a Foreign Service career. She said, "I had a lot of foreign students, and I was appalled at how ignorant they were about the United States. I thought they were actually dangerously ignorant. So I thought I had to reach these people earlier � to spread the word about the U.S. and democracy before they reached adulthood. I wanted to do something, to have a part in this. So I leapt at the USIA."This quote rocked me today. We teach a required course on this campus on Democratic Citizenship which is taught across a number of departments. Here are two examples (one and two). I could write pages about those two syllabi, but I invite you to simply draw your own conclusions. Then compare those with what Nordlinger's friend seeks to teach. I wonder to myself: Where would I be better employed?
Not many people are as idealistic, clear-eyed, and just plain good as my friend � but truth about the United States is more important than ever, particularly in the Middle East, as we all know. A glance at MEMRI.org � site of the Middle East Media Research Institute � is enough to tell us that.