Set Thine House in Order

America’s Love Affair with Guns & the Potential Impact on International Student Recruitment

We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere in the world.

US President Barack Obama

Exceptional indeed.  Another day in the US, another mass shooting.  Aside from the tragic fact that another 14 innocents were slaughtered and 17 people injured, physically and psychologically, in an attack at a San Bernadino center for people with developmental disabilities, no less, and all of the pain and sadness that entails, including the psychic suffering that survivors and their family members will have to endure for the rest of their lives, there is also a ripple effect that spans the globe for those considering the USA as an overseas study destination and those who recruit these students.

The US or Not the US:  Perception & the Element of Chance Trump Reality

maslows hierarchyIn Vietnam, for example, these massacres are reported in the media the same day they occur.  Safety and security, a key component of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which includes five motivational needs, are obvious concerns for parents even without the mass shootings that have become standard fare because the US lacks the political will to address this epidemic of violence.  This is on top of the usual run-of-the-mill violent crime prevalent in certain areas where there is a strong correlation between poverty and such crime, the kind of information included in many international student orientations.

Recently, I have been hearing more questions about personal safety than in the past.  One parent recently chose Canada for her child because of concerns about violence in the US, by which she meant mass shootings as a common occurrence.  Can I assure her that it will not happen to her child? Not with 100% certainty.  With easy access to personal weapons of mass destruction, e.g., military grade assault rifles (as opposed to 18th century muskets) designed to kill large numbers of human beings in a short period of time, it could happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.  It’s clear the US has long since reached a tipping point. Inaction is still action and one with dire consequences, in this case.

I can only tell a parent that the chances of it happening are slim but, of course, not as slim as in Canada, Australia and other countries that do not have this problem for various reasons, including legislative action taken to prevent such incidents.  Chalk up safety and security as a “selling point” for countries other than the US.

They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love?

gun shutterstock_279383699Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s statement at an early December student convocation at Liberty University, whose motto is Training Champions for Christ Since 1971, is not the solution and only serves to pour more rhetorical gasoline on an already raging fire.

“If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now …,” he said while being interrupted by louder cheers and clapping. “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he said, chuckling.

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he said, “and killed them.”

“I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

Long-Term Impact?

This orgy of violence and anti-Muslim sentiment and actions fueled by the likes of Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Donald Trump have the potential of making it increasingly difficult to “sell” US higher education abroad, one service sector export I am proud to promote. (Update:  Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. endorses Trump.  Two peas in a pod.)  While I know that the issue of international students studying in the US is not a high priority in the wake of the latest mass shooting du jour, it could very well have a decidedly negative impact on the status of the United States as the world’s leading host of international students and an industry that contributed $30.5 billion to the US economy, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.


One thought on “Set Thine House in Order

  1. Reblogged this on Wanted: ESL Students and commented:
    This is an interesting blog post by Dr. Mark Ashwill on his blog “An International Educator in Vietnam.”

    The reality of violence–particularly gun violence–in the USA and how quickly and widespread that this news is disseminated in media outlets around the world is definitely a factor that we face as we recruit international students.

    For my part, it is embarrassing to be at an international recruitment event when I have to face a potential student or their parents ask me about safety, about the issues of mass shootings on college campuses, etc. What do you say to someone who is afraid to send their child to the USA, even to a community as safe as mine?

    Even more embarrassing and concerning to me are the anti-Muslim rhetoric and racist sentiments that are pervasive among our local and federal leadership, as well as other public figures. Their comments certainly make my already-challenging job much more difficult!

    The current global economic and political climate are already presenting major challenges for international recruitment. Between lower oil prices that are decreasing revenue in Middle Eastern nations–several of which provide government-backed scholarships, economic turmoil in markets like China and Brazil, the high cost of education in the USA, etc., international recruitment is certainly challenging enough. But when you add xenophobic rhetoric from public figures to the mix–as well as a basic standstill in DC when it comes to dealing with these problems–we basically have our own leadership working against us.

    Even those who do not have a personal passion for international education can at least look at the industry logically and appreciate what international students do for us. Besides the social and cultural contributions that these students make in our classes and activities, we also should remember that these students make a major impact on our economy (see the NAFSA International Economic Value Tool, For many of us, our livelihoods depend on international students–so xenophobic rhetoric and policies are not the appropriate response to what is, at a basic level, a problem with our domestic policy.

    Thank you to Dr. Ashwill for posting such interesting food for thought.

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