By Robert Weissberg
Is it possible to stop the relentless promoting of anti-Americanism on campus? Let's forget about donating millions for a patriotic "American Studies" program. Recall the Bass family's sad experience at Yale--the $20 million donation for this purpose was eventually returned. Similarly forget about a governor (e.g., Mitch Daniels) or trustees trying to meddle in classroom instruction. "Academic freedom" will end that. The obdurate reality is that today's faculty and their mendacious leftish pontifications are beyond reach. Better to target students and bypass the faculty.
Begin with a familiar reality--few appreciate the U.S. until traveling overseas, especially if returning from a squalid Third World country. Better yet, ask Russian or Cuban escapees about what it means to be an American.
Now here's my plan. The Koch brothers will secretly underwrite a version of the traditional "Junior Year Abroad" with a strong Peace Corp component. Have students live among the locals, on small stipends, eat their food and so on. University credit will be given and everything will be totally free, including transportation. Meanwhile, there will generous "supervision" fees (i.e., bribes) to the university and professors. For a start, send out perhaps a hundred students from each of the top 25 universities.
Rapists of Mother Earth
The program will target smart, idealistic youngsters convinced that capitalism is evil, corporations are raping Mother Earth, America is hopelessly racist, primitive people are in intimate contact with nature, the police are brutal oppressors and all the other evils condemned by today's trendy professor.
We'll use a seductive name --"Promoting Economic Justice, One Village at a Time" or "Peace Through Understanding." What could be more multicultural? Put campuses in rural Somalia, Bolivia, Uzbekistan, Namibia and Cambodia, to mention just a few possibilities. Locals, including the wise village elders will teach the courses with lots of hands-on experience working in the fields harvesting crops, clearing brush and similar Peace Corps-like activities (recall the early 1960s glory years of helping in the Cuban sugar cane harvest was the ultimate liberal status symbol). For pedagogical purposes, illnesses will be exclusively treated with traditional, natural remedies (no Big Pharma pills, no greedy doctors!) while all disputes will likewise be settled in accord with indigenous customs. Critically, students will be told that they are there to learn, not proselytize Western values, and so if men beat their wives, don't criticize; try to understand. The model is participant-observer anthropology, not the Western missionary.
Academic credit will be based on summarizing these experiences and contrasting them to what now occurs in the U.S. This formula is standard for off-campus internships. For example, a professor might ask students to compare access to village health care in Angola where everybody is treated equally to American cities where the poor must wait hours in chaotic public hospital emergency rooms. Required essays will surely touch on economic policy, for example, how local self-sufficiency outshines elaborate carbon-heavy transportations networks.
Diseases the Few Can Spell
What might be impact of these Third World experiences? I'd guess they would be transformative, and many students would surely remember them fondly. They would certainly be learning experiences. But, idyllic remembrances aside, this Third World reality encounter will cure any utopian Socialist fantasy.
Many students would return home not only with a much needed dose of reality, but conceivably with malaria, leishmaniasis, schistoosomiasis, onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, Chegas disease and dengue (among many others) all acquired thanks to filthy water, horrific sanitary practices and all else that makes millions of Third Worlders risk their lives fleeing to Europe or the U.S. No doubt, upon clearing customs, the stampede would be to the airport McDonalds for calorie-rich Big Macs and salty super-sized fries. Sadly, however, this would quickly bring a race to the bathroom followed by a steady diet of bananas, yogurt and antibiotics but the Big Mac and fries would be cherished, never again to be condemned.
Back in school they would regale still naive classmates with horror stories of corrupt police, rampant petty thievery, daily bribery, garbage everywhere and a world where few things actually work and kleptocratic governance gives " economic inequality" a whole new meaning-- a nearly starving people while top leaders toured in chauffeured Mercedes. Similar tales would be told of inept foreign aid and officials made fat by selling off oil drilling rights without any regard for environmental protection. Then add lurid tales of violent ethnic rivalries. And on and on.
All and all, not only would these returning students be more appreciative of the good old USA, but they would surely make their new-found views known in class. Picture their reaction to a professor raving and ranting about capitalist medical care ("profits not people"). A graduate of the Promoting Justice program would quickly respond with--just try buying aspirin in Namibia let alone prescription medicine!! Others might add, "If you think water pollution under capitalism is bad, just visit the community well in rural Cambodia. Dead cats!"And so on and so on.
I'd predict an uptick in xenophobia and patriotic fever. The oft-repeated school messages about appreciating "differences" and diversity would be a hard sell to those who've decided that it's better to live among one's own, especially where there's law and order, are relatively honest public officials and big Macs.
Then We Send the Professors
Robert Weissberg is Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, at The University of Illinois-Urbana.