“It Changes Me from Nothing to Something”: Identifying Educative-Psychic Violence in a Public Diplomacy Program for Nonelite Youths
Keywords:social studies, citizenship education, diplomacy, international education, youth programs
Since 2004, the English Access Microscholarship Program, a U.S. public diplomacy initiative, has impacted at least 150,000 nonelite youths. U.S. Department of State employees created the program in response to suicide bombings committed by Moroccan youths at international sites in Casablanca. The program later expanded throughout the Middle East and then across the world, eventually operating in more than eighty-five countries for students aged thirteen to twenty. [Author’s name] examines images promoted by the program associated with the mission for students to develop an “appreciation for U.S. culture and democratic values through cultural enhancement activities” using critical concepts such as educative-psychic violence and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s description of education as a cultural bomb. Troubling content promoted by the program features students depicting themselves as lacking dignity and worth paired with portrayals of gaining dignity and worth through their participation in the program. Additionally, the program’s “cultural enhancement activities” intended to promote “appreciation for U.S. culture and democratic values” often occur in communities deeply impacted by the U.S.-led War on Terror and amid dramatic economic and military power differentials. Finally, [the author’s] analysis encourages academic engagement with policy makers on the use of education within public diplomacy initiatives.