Monday, January 26, 2009

Post-World War II Federal Interest in International Education Exchange

As I was organizing many of my research documents on my computer I came across the following text I was working on some time ago that never found a home so I thought I’d post my notes to the IHEC Blog.

The post-World War II higher education environment in the United States had changed considerably from the first half of the twentieth century. Upon the conclusion of World War II there was a fundamental shift in orientation of the foreign policy of the United States. The Presidents Committee on Higher Education (1947) reported that:

"the need for maintaining our democracy and peace with the rest of the world had compelled our initiative in the formation of the United Nations, and America’s role in this and in other agencies of international cooperation requires our citizen’s knowledge of other people, their political and economic systems, and their social and cultural institutions"

As the Committee’s purpose implied, the GI Bill (otherwise known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944) was a way to maintain our nation’s democracy while maintaining peace with the rest of the world. The United States and her citizens took on a new sense of responsibility in world affairs. During this time period, the United States worked to build bridges to connect her higher education system to the rest of the world. In 1945, as a direct response to the tragedy of World War II, Senator 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. Further, the international educational exchange and foreign language components from additional legislation such as The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (also known as The Smith-Mundt Act), amendments to The Mutual Security Act of 1951, and The National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958 were consolidated into The Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961 (better known as The Fulbright-Hays Act). The Fulbright Act set in motion a new and renewed focus on international educational exchanges between the United States and the rest of the world.

Higher Education for Democracy: A Report of the President's Commission on Higher Education. (New York, 1947)

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