From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
The budget deal, which would finance federal agencies until the end
of September, would slash funds for these Department of Education
programs by 40 percent, or $50-million, reducing their allocation to
"A cut of that magnitude to such small programs really has a huge
impact," says Miriam A. Kazanjian, a consultant with the Coalition for
International Education. "It would be devastating."
In particular, she says the teaching of "critical" foreign languages,
like Arabic and Farsi, and studies of various regions of the world
would suffer, hurting America's national security and competitiveness in
the global economy. ...
Ms. Kazanjian says she was surprised that the Title VI and
Fulbright-Hays programs were the focus for such deep cuts. The programs,
some of which began 50 years ago to counter research gains made by the
Soviet Union, received increases in federal dollars after the September
11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when the government wanted more graduates
with fluency in Afghan languages like Pashto.
The budget deal "rolls these programs back to 2001 levels," she says.
Much like the International Affairs budget, which includes funding for the Dept. of State and USAID, funds that support the study of critical languages should be understood as part of our national security expenditures. I myself was the recipient of a 2007 fellowship that allowed me to spend a summer in Morocco in an advanced Arabic program* that helped get my Arabic up to the level I needed to pore through newspaper archives in Beirut while researching a dissertation on Hizballah. And I would happily pay a little more in taxes to keep these programs going.
But hey, it's probably safe to cut funding for these languages. It's hard to see Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or anywhere in the Arabic-speaking world causing issues in terms of U.S. national security interests anytime soon.
*Some of my classmates in this program are not currently doing anything remotely related to U.S. national security, I should add. I should also add, though, that some of my classmates in this program are now doing really important work in the U.S. government in jobs related to the Arabic-speaking world.