I was intrigued by the title of this article, hoping it broke new ground. It didn’t. The author trotted out the same tired old arguments in support of international students, including economic and political. These are some of the same arguments that activist international students have criticized because they are viewed primarily as cash cows and political pawns. We – as a profession – must move beyond these utilitarian justifications.
For example, the author highlighted the economic impact of international students with the usual talking points, e.g., $41 billion contribution to the US economy and 450,000 jobs. She even went so far as to say that this story “needs telling in the good times rather than waiting for the bad.” NAFSA, et al. have been hammering away at this point since time immemorial, including during era of Trump. I can assure you that the outgoing idiot-in-chief and his racist and xenophobic MAGA supporters don’t care, especially the millions who are among the 130 million functionally illiterate US Americans.
She also states that “US universities also need to point out more aggressively the ‘elephant in the room’ that is China. The ability of the US to dominate global economics and build strategic alliances is partly based on the soft power it is able to exercise through having US-educated leaders in government and industry around the world.” Why does the US need to DOMINATE global economics and indeed the world? Is that really the purpose of this particular dimension of international education? That dog don’t hunt with those of us identify as global citizens with or without national affiliation.
Oh, and just because you studied in the US doesn’t mean you will toe the US party line. That’s not what international educational exchange is about. Exhibit A is this quote from Sen. Fulbright that I used to kick off a July 2020 article Promoting study in US universities in trying times: “There is nothing obscure about the objectives of educational exchange. Its purpose is to acquaint Americans with the world as it is and to acquaint students and scholars from many lands with America as it is – not as we wish it were or as we might wish foreigners to see it, but exactly as it is…”
The only point with which I agree is the need to get “the basics of visa and post-study work right.” The entire system is broken and needs to be reformed. It’s one of many examples that the most formidable enemies of the US are internal not external.
The essay was overly US-centric and could easily have been written by the US State Department or NAFSA. I was left wondering “Where’s the beef”? If one were to only follow the author’s three recommendations, the eagle would barely get off the ground, let alone soar.
Shalom (שלום), MAA