The Genesis of Reeducation
WHEN FORCED to handle the occasional contentious cabinet meeting, President Woodrow Wilson would often relate his recollections of a Princeton faculty gathering which was riddled by such discordant views that agreement seemed impossible. And yet, Wilson marveled, having committed themselves to a process of dialogue and rational discussion, the members of this splintered and quarrelsome group were able to reach a common solution. “To Wilson, ” historian Emily Rosenberg has observed, “Princeton might have been the country or the world. Its conference rooms offered realistic lessons about conflict: consensus was possible if rationality prevailed. … National and international interests could be harmonized as thoroughly as the different academic factions in Wilson's Princeton anecdote.” 1
Wilson's university parable was more than mere rhetorical flourish. The United States was, after all, a nation of immigrants, in which the social and political acculturation of newcomers was often approached as a pedagogical enterprise. Such representations of political objectives in educational terms were by no means restricted to domestic issues. Beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the school as a political symbol appeared prominently in the country's first hesitant forays in foreign policy.
Driven by a mixture of evangelism and power politics, altruism and imperialism, a series of privately endowed yet government-sanctioned American colleges sprang up in various corners of the globe ranging from India to Egypt. These educational institutions abroad symbolized what the American political establishment viewed as the fundamental difference between American expansionism and old-world imperialism. Americans sought to enlighten rather than conquer, persuade rather than subdue. Even though government endorsement of international education was never more than a token reminder of American aspirations, it reflected a widely held assumption that moral influences and persuasion could eliminate the need for naked power in the management of global affairs. 2
The harsh realities of twentieth-century world politics did not, at first, destroy resilient convictions in the benefits of marketing American political objectives through educational projects. Global conflict merely suggested