Academia loves to dress up its appeal to international students in uplifting prose, but a veteran professor suggests the move may be more than just a bit calculated towards self-preservation.
“The historiography of education is very boring,” Wilfred McClay of University of Oklahoma said at the Philadelphia Society’s regional meeting in Indianapolis last weekend. “It’s always crisis.” The Philadelphia Society is a group of conservative intellectuals that was formed in the wake of the Goldwater defeat in 1964.
“Where would the students come from to fill those magnificent buildings constructed since V-J day?” Dr. McClay asked at the Indianapolis confab. “It found and created new markets for its supply.”
“In response to the crisis of the 70s, higher education redefined itself with the aid of the federal government, including taking more foreign students.” Of course, Pell grants and other student aid for the native-born also helped to fill this void.
“We went from 34,000 foreign students in 1954 to 723,000 in 2011, and growing, paid for with personal loans or money from their [the students] own countries,” Dr. McClay noted. “Universities allege that this is because American universities are so desirable that foreign students want to come here.”
The trend also reinforces the image that academics have of themselves as “citizens of the world.” University of Chicago law professor “Martha Nussbaum prefers cosmopolitanism to patriotism,” Dr. McClay noted. “Actually the cosmopolitanism of Martha Nussbaum is a form of provincialism.”
“True cosmopolitanism will have a sense of its own limitations.”