September 18, 2021


True Conservative Viewpoints

Weak Curriculum Hurts America’s Foreign Policy

The degraded college curriculum that leaves so many students with prodigious gaps in their knowledge of the world hurts us in many ways. In today’s Martin Center article, Shay Khatiri and Daniel Samet argue that one of those ways is that graduate students in foreign-policy programs are poorly equipped to understand strategic decision making.

The authors write, “That lack of focus on America presents a notable problem in some academic fields. In strategic studies, net assessment—the art of comparing the strengths of two adversarial states—is of utmost importance, rooted in Thucydides and popularized by Sun Tzu’s quip, ‘Know thyself and know thy enemy, and you will not be defeated in a hundred battles.’ But net assessment should begin not simply by assessing one’s hard power capabilities, but rather by a thorough understanding of oneself.”

Unfortunately, say Khatiri and Samet, American students have scant background in our history, our civics, and our fundamental institutions, and thus are a poor match for strategists elsewhere who have a better knowledge of themselves and of us.

They conclude, “Your country is the United States, Secretary of State George Shultz repeatedly reminded new ambassadors. International relations scholars must bear this in mind as they educate the next generation of strategists. Reviving American civics will help revive American foreign policy.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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