The Spine

Higher Learning?


I know that the internationalization of our universities is high on everybody's wish list, at least with everybody who makes a living in our academic institutions. Probably, however, much of this is just a scam. "The higher learning" is not everywhere the higher learning. So, many mediocre intellects come from foreign countries to less than mediocre colleges and graduate schools, and the most one can say about these enrollments is that they are a favorable cash transaction for the U.S. You may recall those eight male students from some place in the Middle East who came to study I forget where and never showed up at the registrar's office to enroll. Of course, some very brilliant intellects come here--maybe even
many--and they end up making significant contributions to the life of the mind, the spirit and the economies of America and their places of origin.

This morning's Boston Globe, in an article by Farah Stockman, tells the chilling tale of a venture initiated by do-gooding Governor Mike Dukakis to bring young Iranian scientists to study at MIT. And they came. The program was intended to build a cadre of nuclear physics and nuclear engineers to help the Shah build nuclear power in his country. When the Ayatollah came, the Shah left ... and so also did a few of the MIT PhDs. But many of them remained behind, and some of them are responsible for the weapons with which Ahmadinejad is now imperiling the world. This is a case of unwanted and unexpected outcomes. I wonder if these contingent results are ever part of the discussion. Are there Egyptian nuclear proto-experts now at MIT or Cal Tech or Stanford learning the dangerous trade?

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