November 12, 2001
Global studies more crucial than ever
Lailee Mendelson is communications coordinator for the Office of Inertnational Affairs
Professor Kristen Brustad may know she is making an incremental contribution
to international understanding when she stands before her Introductory
Arabic class. But she may not know the U.S. government will soon celebrate
her work. The same can be said of all educatorsboth at Emory and
nationwidewho work daily to encourage international education.
The reason is that the week of Nov. 1216 has been designated International
Education Week by the U.S. departments of State and Education. Established
by former President Bill Clinton to promote the practical benefits of
world knowledge, the week has taken on increased significance since the
events of Sept. 11.
Today we live in a global community, Clinton said in an April
2000 executive order, where all countries must work as partners
to promote peace and prosperity and to resolve international problems.
One of the surest ways to develop and strengthen such partnerships is
through international education programs.
The memorandum called for increased support of initiatives that promote
understanding of the cultures, languages and governments of other nations.
These include study abroad programs, exchange programs, high-quality foreign
language studies, in-depth area studies programs, and the preparation
and support of teachers in their efforts to interpret other cultures for
This years International Education Week has now assumed even greater
meaning as an observance of the role of knowledge in building mutual understanding
across the globe.
In an Oct. 17 statement, Secretary of Education Rod Paige said, Knowledge
about the culture and language of our neighbors throughout the world is
becoming increasingly important in the daily lives of all Americans. The
events surrounding the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 underscore that point.
Paiges comment reflected an Oct. 11 New York Times article
revealing the price being paid for Americans lack of global awareness.
The article reported that U.S. intelligence services face a critical shortage
of Americans with in-depth knowledge of the languages and cultures of
Afghanistan and its surrounding regions. According to The Times,
linguistic deficiencies have forced the FBI to issue urgent appeals for
citizens fluent in Arabic and other languages.
On a more positive note, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy
and Public Affairs Charlotte Beers spoke recently of the successes of
U.S. international education programs. Over 50 world leaders are
alumni of our exchange programs, Beers said in testimony before
Congress. These long-term relationships help us deal with international
challenges at a time when the United States is seeking to build a coalition
of nations against terrorism.
Across the nation, Americans have turned to those in the teaching profession
to better understand the causes and contexts that lie behind the acts
of terrorism committed against the United States. National Public Radio
recently reported on the large numbers of universities that rushed to
add Middle Eastern studies courses to their fall schedules.
We need to give our students at all levels an international education
that meets the highest standards, Paige said. International
education means learning about the history, geography, literature and
arts of other countries, acquiring proficiency in a second language, and
understanding complex global issues.
Ildiko Flannery, associate director of Emorys Office of International
Affairs, agrees, but she is quick to add that international education
is not just for American students. Preparing people to cope with
international challenges and to benefit from international opportunities
is a must, Flannery said. And this has to occur globally.
All nations must learn about each other if we are to avoid misconceptions
Marlene Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Foreign
Student Advisors, an association of international educators, hopes the
country this week will celebrate programs that prepare Americans for a
global environment and attract future leaders of other nations to study
in the United States.
Our nation, now more than ever, must reach beyond its borders toward true engagement in the world, Johnson said. It is only in gaining a deeper knowledge and appreciation for our global community that we can hope to build a more peaceful world.