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Does US Punditry about Europe Have a Future?

I think it's great that Political Science professors testify in Congress from time to time. This happens far to rarely in Germany! The quality of Stephen Walt's testimony on the future of the EU, however, is underwhelming.

He describes at length five well-known EU problems/facts and then presents three scenarios. His most likely scenario for the EU is to muddle through as in the past. How brilliant or surprising is that? He also warns of the scenario that the EU might gradually unravel. He describes an optimistic scenario for a reinvigorated EU, that he considers unlikely.

Foreign Policy magazine apparently feels the need to maximize profit with clickbait, so they use the headline "Does Europe Have a Future?" for Walt's article based on his testimony. Professor Walt seems to distance himself from this sensationalism by tweeting a clarification: "To be clear: Europe does have a future. But as I told Congress, just not a very bright one."

Five quick comments and questions:

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Today is World Teachers' Day

Why do public school teachers have such a bad reputation in the US and get little pay?

That's one of the things I don't get. It's quite different over here. The job is well paid and respected by most folks. As a country with little natural resources, Germany depends on innovation and a smart work force. Education is good for democracy, happiness etc. The children are our future, yade, yade.

The US has more natural resources and is better than Germany (Europe) in attracting the smartest brains from all over the world, but still it needs a well educated general population to compete in the 21st century.

To improve the level of education in the US requires many reforms (as it does in Germany), but it seems quite elementary that more pay and more appreciation is necessary to encourage smart, talented, creative and committed young people to choose the profession of a teacher and then to stay motivated in this tough job to provide excellent education.

Since today is World Teacher Day, here is a shout out to teachers world wide!

Watch the trailer of the new documentary American Teacher below:

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Tomahawk Missiles Instead of Fulbright Scholars

After 9/11, the US Congress realized the need for in-depth knowledge of world affairs and advanced language proficiency and increased the Fulbright-Hays budget. This program "supports research and training efforts overseas, which focus on non-Western foreign languages and area studies."

Apparently the post-9/11 era is over now. A few days after Bin Laden's death, the 2011 Fulbright-Hays dissertation fellowships have been cancelled due to budget cuts. $5,800,000 had been estimated, when the US Department of Education invited applications in September 2010, while pointing out that "the actual level of funding, if any, depends on final Congressional action."

It's a disgrace that this prestigious and important fellowship program does not have secure funding.

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Atlantic Review Used for MA Thesis

An Irish student emailed me that he his going to reference an Atlantic Review blogpost in his MA thesis: Are Americans More Willing to Make Sacrifices Than Europeans?

It was one of my better blogposts, written in 2007, but still up-to-date. I was discussing transatlantic attitudes towards war and sacrifice and concluded that Americans are more optimistic than Europeans and that Americans are moving towards a post-heroic society, in which Europeans already live.

On the one hand, I am honored that this blog post will be referenced in an MA thesis, even though the reason might just be that I was discussing an issue with the prefix "post." Academia loves terms like post-constructivism, post-Cold War era, and now post-heroic. On the other hand, I am not sure, if it is a good sign for academia if blogposts are used as references. Next, someone will use a tweet to argue that the Pope is Catholic.

Israel Does not Allow Fulbright Grantees to Leave Gaza (UPDATED)

The State Department has taken Fulbright scholarships away from eight students in Gaza, because of Israeli travel restrictions imposed on the Hamas-ruled part of the Palestinian territory.

Sounds like a PR disaster for Israel and the US due to the lack of cooperation among bureaucratic. The New York Times talks about "longstanding tensions" between the US consulate in Jerusalem and the embassy in Tel Aviv and also says that the Israeli defense department and prime minister's office disagree whether a Fulbright grant is a "humanitarian necessity."

How shall there be any economic and political development in Gaza as well as some pro-American sentiment, if students are not allowed to leave the Gaza prison strip? The New York Times also points out:

Some Israeli lawmakers, who held a hearing on the issue of student movement out of Gaza on Wednesday, expressed anger that their government was failing to promote educational and civil development in a future Palestine given the hundreds of students who had been offered grants by the United States and other Western governments.
"This could be interpreted as collective punishment," complained Rabbi Michael Melchior, chairman of the Parliament's education committee, during the hearing. "This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules."

Related posts in the Atlantic Review:

More Iraqi Fulbrighters Seek Asylum
Experiencing America: New Book by Fulbrighters
• Fulbright Workshop on Implementing a Digital Library for the Maghreb

UPDATE: Open Letter by Fulbrighters: Reinstate Fulbright Grants to Students in Gaza

The Petition Site: Help Palestinian Fulbright Grantees Get Exit Visas from Israel.

The BBC reports that the State Department has reinstated Fulbright grants. (HT: Omar)

The Pentagon's Embedded Scholars in Afghanistan and Iraq

The army enlists anthropologists and other social scientists in war zones, writes David Rohde in the NY Times: 
In September, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates authorized a $40 million expansion of the program, which will assign teams of anthropologists and social scientists to each of the 26 American combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan. (...)
Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division unit working with the anthropologists here, said that the unit's combat operations had been reduced by 60 percent since the scientists arrived in February, and that the soldiers were now able to focus more on improving security, health care and education for the population.
Some academics criticize it as "mercenary anthropology," but I think this is great applied social sciences. Research should make the world a better place rather than fill libraries.

UPDATE:  Erkan's field diary has news round-ups on this topic, including this quote from the Tabsir blog:
In a video on the [NYT Times] website, an American officer explains that his soldiers no longer routinely break down doors of houses and violate the cultural space of Afghan homes, but let their Afghan counterparts knock first while they wait respectfully outside. While I am not sure it takes an anthropologist to point out what should be obvious through simple experimentation, the basic argument of the article is that the military is being coached to listen and work with the local population rather than play knee-jerk mercenary search and destroy games.
Tabsir also links to Chronicle of Higher Education article from September about a petition urging anthropologists to stop working with the Pentagon in Iraq War.

Does Europe Have Education Envy?

This is a guest blog post by our long-time reader and commentator Pat Patterson, who has studied Classics and Ancient History at the University of Southern California has been and currently is a teacher in the Orange and Los Angeles counties for the last 16 years:

Judging by the recent article in Businessweek by Jennifer Fishbein titled, Europe Falls Short In Higher Education, one could assume that Europe's leaders are desperately casting about for ways to emulate the international recognition for superstar status accorded to US and UK universities.  The basis for this view rests primarily on the recently released results of the Shanghai Jiaotong University Academic Ranking of World Universities.  Of the top twenty universities in the world only Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and Tokyo University in Japan were represented and all the rest were in the US.  This should hardly be surprising as the independence, competitiveness and deep pockets far eclipses most other universities.  But it should be noted that the methodology used is heavily weighted by counting up the citations, written in English, in three areas, Science, Social Science and Arts & Humanities. The reliance on English citations would certainly predispose that universities that were part of the Anglosphere would have a big advantage.

Alas my beloved USC staggered in at 50th but as of Sunday night we are still 1st in football.

However this ranking is a very slender branch to sit on to claim that,  "...Lack of financing is a key weakness."  And to continue that the EU spends 1/5 as much per pupil as the US does and also to call for an increase of 1% as a way to close the claimed gap between what the US spends and what the EU spends.  The article mentions the figure of 1.3% for the EU and 3.3% for the US but these figures completely contradicts the Digest of Education Statistics (pdf) which show that the gap between the major European nations ranges from the low of 4.4% in Germany to 5.4% in the UK and France with 5.8% (which is the same percentage as the US).

So obviously the percentage can't be the problem but the size of the respective economies is where the US has a huge advantage.  The US can spend almost 16% to 20% more per pupil even when taking into account the relative size of the populations. The article goes on to claim that the European nations recognize this problem and are now beginning to try different solutions.  Increases in funding tied to performance and autonomy are argued as the best solutions. 

But the kind of autonomy that US universities have, either private or public ones financed by the individual states not the national government, would seem to be non-starters in Europe owing to the very nature of the central governments.  To let a president, rector, chancellor or provost of some university in Europe determine where to spend the funds from the state and any funds that his university might raise would mean that a group of trained bureaucrats would have to give up that power.

New Fulbright Documentary and Fulbright Discussion on Iraq

The J. William & Harriet Fulbright Center has a new homepage and presents a new documentary highlighting Senator Fulbright's "role in the founding of the United Nations, his opposition to the McCarthy investigations, and his questioning of American policy in the Vietnam War."

And Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith questioned American policy in the Iraq war in a speech to Fulbright Alumni at Harvard last week. According to the Harvard Crimson, Galbraith predicted that Iraq would not be able to weather the ongoing civil war and would eventually split along sectarian lines:
Galbraith—who was never a member of the Fulbright program—was invited because of his support for the program during his 14 years as a senior advisor to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The Iraq war has not served a single national security purpose,” Galbraith said. “Iraq cannot be put back together again—there is actually no way to stop the civil war in Baghdad.”
Despite the fact that most of the assembled scholars strongly backed Galbraith’s comments, one Iraqi woman took issue with his prediction that Iraq would fracture along ethnic lines. She said that the fault for Iraq’s divisions lies with politicians who are dividing people for their own ends, and that the populace is less divided than Galbraith claimed. "We are all Iraqi,” she added. But an Iraqi Kurd said that he supports autonomy from the Baghdad government for the Kurd-controlled region in the north.