JMU Professor’s Op-Ed in NYT

Lindsay -- April 8th, 2010

The New York Times published an op-ed by JMU professor of engineering Karim Altaii about the desolation of the once world-class higher education system in Iraq as a result of war, and the steps needed to rebuild.  Conducting a study for the State Department, Altaii recently “…visited with 200 faculty members and administrators in Iraq…” and gives a compelling account:

…and I saw firsthand how cynical some have become. “You destroyed Iraq — why are you here?” one asked. Another professor looked at me, paused, and, with his hands folded, said, “Occupy us with your knowledge and advances, not with your guns.” I immediately understood his hostility — my personal security detail that day included more than 20 armed guards.

Altaii outlines current efforts by the U.S. and other countries to rebuild higher education in Iraq as beneficial, but not enough “to live up to the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement, which called for Iraq and the United States to ‘promote and facilitate cooperation and coordination in the field of higher education and scientific research.’”  The editorial concludes with a call to action based on Professor Altaii’s personal and professional experiences.  Read it in its entirety, here.

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5 Responses to “JMU Professor’s Op-Ed in NYT”

  1. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    It’s hard to know how to help the academics in Iraq, but they certainly did have a strong higher education system. Many of the Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Kurds in our area have very impressive educational histories. Iraq was also fairly progressive (comparatively to the region) in promoting higher ed for women.

    So what should be done that’s not already being done by the US?

  2. Renee says:

    Just so it’s clear for locals/JMU-ers, he’s actually a professor of Integrated Science and Technology :)
    (not your error, linz)

    Really interesting article, and I agree that putting some funding into the Iraqi educational system is one of the best ways to help the country recover.

  3. linz says:

    I think there’s plenty more the U.S. could and probably morally should do, but then again we are broke (talking of cutting funding to our own higher ed) and sadly will be lucky to even end the war in the near future much less rebuild what’s been destroyed. In the mean time I think it makes sense to allow and provide safety for the more grassroots efforts described, connecting professors with students in protected areas.

  4. Renee says:

    I agree that we shouldn’t divert any money from US schools, but I think we should divert some of the military spending there for it.

  5. linz says:

    I agree it would be money well spent, and from the sound of things, we owe it. Education > Guns.

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