The Fulbright scholarships are prestigious awards, funded by Congress, to hundreds of US academics and others to provide opportunities for study abroad. It is administered by the US State Department. A reader recently underwent a short course preparing incoming Fulbright scholars for their overseas deployment. He is going to study in a developing country. He tells me he was shocked by the instruction in gender ideology his group was put through as part of their briefing. They were instructed, he said to think about how they can be “an ally” to sexual minorities abroad.

He reports that his group sat through a speech about how backwards most foreign cultures are on sex and gender, and how they would all be ambassadors for cultural change in those benighted societies. Said the reader, “Any sensitivity toward differing cultural norms was couched entirely in pragmatic terms, relating, for example, to personal safety.”

He is a scholar with extensive experience living in the developing world, and this offended him. “The truly insane part, as I see it, is that this is a cultural exchange program. Ostensibly we are supposed to be fostering mutual understanding. [But] the message was clear: we are the tip of the spear of American cultural imperialism, and we are going to change these backwards traditional cultures whether they like it or not.”

He sent images of the handouts he and his fellow Fulbright scholars received. For example:

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And:

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And this:

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What any of this has to do with going to work as a scholar in foreign countries around the world is not clear to me. I am told that the gender ideology component is a new feature of Fulbright prep, and was not there as recently as 2014. Writes the reader:

While the Fulbright program has a lot of stakeholders, including foreign governments and private nonprofits, it gets about 60% of its funding from Congress via the State Department, and it is managed overall by one of the Bureaus at State, which has its seal on the program schedule. They’re careful to keep pointing out that we (as grantees) are not employees of State per se, but even so this is de facto a program being funded and administered by the federal government. Social justice gender identity ideology is now the official policy of the U.S. government, and receiving indoctrination in it is now mandatory for people receiving the most prestigious—Congressionally funded—foreign research grant in the US.

He’s right that it’s official US government foreign policy under Obama; see this publication by the State Department.

In this 2012 interview, Tara Sonenshine, then the Undersecretary of State in charge of public diplomacy, explained the new policies under the Obama Administration. Excerpt:

NCRM QUESTION: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made “people to people diplomacy” a top priority. And she pronounced that “gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights”. How do you see doing your job in support of these strategies and principles with the LGBT community both here in the US and abroad?

ANSWER: Using social media and personal engagement can amplify messages. U.S. Embassies and consulates worldwide are declaring support for the human rights of LGBT people through innovative public diplomacy, including: publishing op-eds; speaking on radio programs; using social media; hosting film screenings and performances; hosting panel discussions and round tables; and actively participating in local events. The Department supported this outreach by posting approximately 100 articles, texts, and transcripts amplifying remarks by senior administration officials and important events related to LGBT.

In addition, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is poised to issue two new policies to advance LGBT rights: (1) the ECA Bureau-wide diversity statement-which lists groups of underrepresented individuals encouraged to participate in its exchange programs-is about to expand to include LGBT persons; and (2) the Fulbright scholars program will begin offering the same benefits to committed same-sex partners that are currently being offered to other dependents. ECA exchange programs offer LGBT persons who work on LGBT-related issues from around the world opportunities to meet and collaborate with their American professional counterparts. In particular, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), has already brought groups to the United States focusing on issues important to the LGBT community and has planned future projects on LGBT-related topics. Other IVLPs already incorporate meetings with LGBT advocacy groups on programs that cover human rights, civic participation and gender issues.

According to the official requirements for Fulbright applicants for both teaching positions, have to provide statements answering these questions (among others):

  • What experiences have prepared you to teach in this country? Experiences that indicate your collegiality, adaptability, cultural sensitivity, ability to serve as a cultural ambassador.
  • How you will adapt your materials to the culture and language of the host country?

So now the Fulbright scholars, though not formally State Department employees or agents, are being prepared by our government and encouraged to go to foreign countries as Social Justice Warriors “cultural ambassadors” of gender ideology, via “people to people diplomacy.” Some forms of cultural imperialism are laudable, it seems.

Will Fulbright scholars do this? Who knows? But this is what the State Department now wants them to be prepared to do: aid in the fight against heterosexism, transphobia, and the rest around the world. Our government wants them to be missionaries for post-Christian America, apostles of liquid modernity.

UPDATE: Think of it this way. Many Fulbright scholars teach and/or do research in countries that lack full religious liberty in the Western sense. Is the State Department briefing those headed out on Fulbrights on the basics of religious liberty, and encouraging them to be allies of those in country who are advocating for religious liberty? Somehow, I doubt this is happening — and, as someone who strongly believes in religious liberty, I don’t think it should happen at the level of Fulbright scholars. Or take freedom of speech and the press. Those are hugely important American values, but I don’t think Fulbright scholars going to countries where these are restricted should be encouraged by the US government to agitate, or to help local activists agitate, for expanded free speech and free press rights. And so forth. It’s just a terrible idea to politicize the Fulbrights this way. But these crusaders can’t help themselves.

UPDATE.2: The reader who alerted me to this comments:

I am the guy who sent these (poorly scanned because all I had was my phone) handouts to Rod.

What I would like to emphasize is that these SJW ideology sessions took fully 1/3 of our day. This was time that could have been spent talking about the religion or culture or history of the regions we’re going to–many Fulbrighters have never been to the country they’ll be doing their research in, and could absolutely use a primer. Yet the State Department decided it was more important to stick self-described LGBT activists on a stage than it was to give people a meaningfully informative orientation about the region.

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