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Sloane ’76 on Classes in the Rubble

Wick Sloane ’76 has a somewhat utopian piece entitled “A Katrina-Like Outpouring for the Mideast?”

Imagine. No interruption of study and research for all students and faculty in the Middle East shut out in this latest war. Lebanon. Israel. Gaza. Iraq. Everyone.

Why not? Education is cheaper than war.

John Waterbury, president of American University of Beirut, who was stuck in the United States when war broke out, is in Washington seeking federal aid and hopes to soon be on his way back to his campus. I’ll bet he and all his Middle East colleagues would welcome help from us.

Never mind U.S. visas for now. We have the Web, satellites, cell phones and air drops. Imagine seeing on CNN: classes and seminars and students studying in the rubble.

Good plan. Also, this is not what happened post-Katrina. There were no classes in the flooded streets. Instead, students and professors were moved out of New Orleans. Is that what Sloane suggests for Lebanon?

Now. On all sides of all borders. People from around the world showing life will go on. Saturday, I listened to a friend describe the ballet precision of his evacuation from Lebanon last week. With thousands of others. The U.S. government can do such things. Punch the “Reverse Route” button. Of course, this is difficult.

Hurricane Katrina was an act of God. American higher ed scrambled to help. This Middle East war is of man. (And Yale at that, given higher educations of U.S. leaders Bush, Cheney, Bolton and Bremer, at least.) Are U.S. colleges and universities planning to help there, too? Mustn’t we try?

Go ahead. Just don’t take the dollars that I give to Williams and divert them somewhere else. If proposed item X is not directly related to the quality of the undergraduate education which the College provides, then Williams should not spend money on X.

I wrote to a few of the higher ed presidents and panjandrums I know. These places claim a tax benefit for producing leaders, not just wealth. Roger Mandle, president of Rhode Island School of Design, has told me several times that the field of design has to move to illumine intractable social issues. What would solutions here look like?

I wrote Rick Levin at Yale and Morty Schapiro at Williams, my schools. Ruth Simmons at Brown, where I pay tuition. Mike McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation. Roger Mandle. Clayton Spencer at Harvard and John Strassburger, president of Ursinus College. What plans are under way? What is the obligation of U.S. higher education here? AU-Beirut has not heard, so far, from American higher ed.

No reply so far from Levin at Yale, whom I met when I was a student and he a professor at the School of Management. Schapiro, of Williams, says he is trying to come up with some ideas.

Morty is quite skilled at mollifying goofy alums with crazy ideas. [And you should know! ed. Correct.]

Anyway, sending in, say, Mark Taylor to run a seminar on Foucault is obviously neither likely to happen nor what Lebanon needs.

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#1 Comment By derek On August 1, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

Plus, he is lumping all Middle East wars into one, which seems dubious at best, but more accurately is just intellectually sloppy. And while I hardly am a supporter of this administration, his statement(s): “This Middle East war is of man. (And Yale at that, given higher educations of U.S. leaders Bush, Cheney, Bolton and Bremer, at least.)” is gratuitous and wrong in the case of Lebanon. Unless Bush, Cheney, et. al. somehow infliltrated Hezbollah, kidnaped Israeli soldiers and started launching bombs into Haifa and elsewhere and we don’t know it, this guy sort of loses all credibility just because of a desire to be snarky.