“Saudi in the Classroom” By Stanley Kurtz

Unless we counteract the influence of Saudi money on the education of the young, we’re going to find it very difficult to win the war on terror. I only wish I was referring to Saudi-funded madrassas in Pakistan. Unfortunately, I’m talking about K-12 education in the United States. Believe it or not, the Saudis have figured out how to make an end-run around America’s K-12 curriculum safeguards, thereby gaining control over much of what children in the United States learn about the Middle East. While we’ve had only limited success paring back education for Islamist fundamentalism abroad, the Saudis have taken a surprising degree of control over America’s Middle-East studies curriculum at home.

Game, Set, Match
How did they do it? Very carefully…and very cleverly. It turns out that the system of federal subsidies to university programs of Middle East Studies (under Title VI of the Higher Education Act) has been serving as a kind of Trojan horse for Saudi influence over American K-12 education. Federally subsidized Middle East Studies centers are required to pursue public outreach. That entails designing lesson plans and seminars on the Middle East for America’s K-12 teachers. These university-distributed teaching aids slip into the K-12 curriculum without being subject to the normal public vetting processes. Meanwhile, the federal government, which both subsidizes and lends its stamp of approval to these special K-12 course materials on the Middle East, has effectively abandoned oversight of the program that purveys them (Title VI).

Enter the Saudis. By lavishly funding several organizations that design Saudi-friendly English-language K-12 curricula, all that remains is to convince the “outreach coordinators” at prestigious, federally subsidized universities to purvey these materials to America’s teachers. And wouldn’t you know it, outreach coordinators or teacher-trainers at a number of university Middle East Studies centers have themselves been trained by the very same Saudi-funded foundations that design K-12 course materials. These Saudi-friendly folks happily build their outreach efforts around Saudi-financed K-12 curricula.

So let’s review. The United States government gives money — and a federal seal of approval — to a university Middle East Studies center. That center offers a government-approved K-12 Middle East studies curriculum to America’s teachers. But in fact, that curriculum has been bought and paid for by the Saudis, who may even have trained the personnel who operate the university’s outreach program. Meanwhile, the American government is asleep at the wheel — paying scant attention to how its federally mandated public outreach programs actually work. So without ever realizing it, America’s taxpayers end up subsidizing — and providing official federal approval for — K-12 educational materials on the Middle East that have been created under Saudi auspices. Game, set, match: Saudis.

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The Stealth Curriculum
There’s certainly something troubling here. And once you grasp the Saudi connection, it begins to make sense. Stotsky didn’t quite put all the pieces together, but she came very close. Her stint at the Massachusetts Department of Education, and her bad experience with Harvard’s Center for Middle East Studies prompted Stotsky to publish The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America’s History Teachers under the auspices of the Fordham Foundation.

Introducing Stotsky’s study, Fordham Foundation president, and noted education expert, Chester Finn, calls the use of teacher-training seminars a “vast dark continent within our public (and private) educational system.” According to Finn “interest groups and ideologues” have used these seminars to “fly under the radar” of ordinary curriculum safeguards, promulgating “bias, misinformation, and politically charged conclusions, though never acknowledging their semi-covert agendas.” All too often, says Finn, those agendas include viewing “the history of freedom as the history of oppression” and urging students “to be more sympathetic to cultures that don’t value individual rights than to those that do.” It’s a sad commentary on Title VI subsidies to American universities to think that this high-profile federally-funded program has become the parade example of a much broader educational scandal.

Even in 2004, Stotsky had more than an inkling of Saudi financial involvement in Title VI outreach programs. In The Stealth Curriculum, she wrote: “Most of these materials have been prepared and/or funded by Islamic sources here and abroad, and are distributed or sold directly to schools or individual teachers, thereby bypassing public scrutiny.” Stotsky goes on to note that after 9/11, the Saudi government sent U.S. schools thousands of packages of educational material that, for example, attributed the Middle East’s problems to Western colonization.

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