Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A plea: Don't slash the Fulbright program

Hi, everyone. As you know, I'm about to head off to South Korea through the Fulbright Scholarship program, which is significantly funded by Congress through an appropriation for the State Department every year. I'm writing publicly because the White House's proposed budget for 2018 would cut this funding by 47%, from $250 to $117 million. That may seem like a lot of money. But in perspective, $250 million is a little fraction (1.3%) of the NASA budget—which in turn is a little fraction (half of one percent) of the federal budget. So if you do the math, the Fulbright program is about 6.5 hundred-thousandths of federal spending for the year. Cutting it by half would be like cutting $0.33 out of $10,000 to try to save money. It won't do much. 

What does the United States get for that $250 million every year? (Again, think of that as $0.65 out of a stack of $10,000.) We get tremendous amounts of international goodwill for relatively cheap. Schools across the world are really excited to get to host young Americans as English teachers. And if we want to preserve American influence around the world, it's in our best interest to encourage other countries' curiosity about English. We send thousands of Americans abroad to learn about other countries and bring their knowledge back into both the public and private sectors. And we bring thousands of scholars and students from other countries into the U.S., where they make friends with American teachers and classmates and teenagers and grandmas, and learn about our culture and values, and maybe that they're not so bad as what they see on the news. If you're looking for a way that America can continue to be a world leader without spilling a single drop of American blood, you could do worse than programs like the Fulbright program—and the Peace Corps, and any number of other goodwill programs run by the State Department. 

Slashing programs like the Fulbright will not save nearly enough money to make any kind of dent in the budget deficit, even added up together (a deficit which, at $440 billion in 2017, is actually pretty modest). It will cripple an initiative founding on some of the noblest American ideals in the hopes of helping the world heal in 1946 in the aftermath of one of its bloodiest wars. Senator Fulbright said his program "aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship." Cutting it would strike a needless blow against all these things: knowledge, reason, compassion, peace, friendship. Please consider calling your representatives about this issue among many others. 

(These views are entirely mine and don't represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations.)

No comments:

Post a Comment