Thursday, July 30, 2009

Some Notes on the International Education/Public Diplomacy Activities of the United States in the Immediate Years Following World War II

Recently I’ve been posting some of my old research notes to IHEC Blog that I think readers will find of interest. To continue that trend I’m posting today about the international education activities of the United States during the immediate years following World War II:

During World War II the Offices of the Secretary of State, Secretary of War and the Provost-Marshal General developed special intellectual diversion programs in the Allied prisoner-of-war camps to re-educate prisoners and provide English language training.
[1] It is estimated that approximately 350,000 German prisoners-of-war participated in the re-education programs and they took what they learned in these programs and from their exposure to America back to Germany where many became teachers and some even returned to the United States while participating in future exchange programs. Upon Germany’s unconditional surrender in May of 1945, officials in the United States Office of Military Government began planning for the re-education of German citizens. In 1947 the United States Office of Military Government in collaboration with the United States Department of State initiated a new foreign policy program that would bring almost 10,000 German citizens to the United States to learn about democratic principles and the American way of life.[2]

One afternoon in late September, 1945 during a routine session of the U.S. Senate, the freshman Senator from Arkansas, J. William Fulbright, introduced legislation sponsoring exchange programs for students and faculty between the United States and foreign countries that was eventually signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on August 1, 1946. Senator Fulbright proposed to fund these exchanges through the sale of surplus United States property (primarily from the military) to allies and other countries at the conclusion of World War II. Senator Fulbright proposed a Bill to amend the Surplus Property Act of 1944 to designate the Department of State as the disposal agency for surplus property outside the United States, its territories and possessions, and for other purposes.[3] The first participants in the program from the United States received funding to study in the 38 countries that received money and/or equipment as a result of the Lend-Lease Act of 1941. Additionally, students from these 38 Lend-Lease countries received Fulbright Program funding to study in the United States. Fulbright stated that “it is…fair to say that the Exchange Program is an instrument of foreign policy, not just for the Untied States, [but] for all participating nations.”[4] The Fulbright Act of 1946 set in motion a great history of international education exchange between the United States and the rest of the world and a continuation of the United States use of soft power.

In 1948 the United States Congress passed The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act.
[5] In addition to bringing the Voice of America[6] and other operations under the Office of International Information of the U.S. Department of State, The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act was established to promote better understanding of the United States among the peoples of the world and to strengthen cooperative international relations. The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act also expanded the Fulbright program to include countries other than those Lend-Lease countries originally specified in the original Fulbright Act of 1946 and facilitated the establishment of bi-national centers around the world to coordinate the exchanges between countries. Ultimately, the impact of The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act on U.S higher education was minimal; however, expanding the number of participating countries in the Fulbright Program beyond the Lend-Lease countries only two years later was an important development of the program.

This short historical piece is in many ways a continuation of a previous IHEC Blog post from last December entitled “First Public Diplomacy Effort of the United States?” You can read that blog post here.

[1] Cummins E. Speakman, Jr. International Exchange in Education, (New York: The Center for Applied Research in Education, Inc., 1966), 16-17.
[2] James F. Trent, A Brief History of the German-American Fulbright Program, 1952-2002 (German-American Fulbright Commission, date unknown), 1.
[3] Walter Johnson, and Francis J. Colligan, The Fulbright Program: A History. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1967).
[4] J. William Fulbright, “The Most Significant and Important Activity I have been Privileged to Engage in During my Years in the Senate,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 424 (1976): 2
[5] Also known as The Smith-Mundt Act.
[6] The Voice of America is the official external radio and television broadcasting service of the United States.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Great post! You have shared good insights and knowledge in your article. Keep sharing the useful information