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United States Information and Educational Exchange Act (1948)

United States Information and Educational Exchange Act (1948)

Shala F. Maghzi

The United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (IEEA) (P. L. 80-402, 62 Stat. 6) is an educational exchange initiative established to "promote better understanding of the United States among the peoples of the world and to strengthen cooperative international relations." Prior to the act's passage, exchange programs in the United States were conducted infrequently in a few select countries. In 1940, for example, Nelson Rockefeller, the Coordinator of Commercial and Cultural Affairs for the American Republics, initiated the exchange of persons program with Latin America, inviting 130 Latin American journalists to the United States. The scope of the exchange activities soon broadened to include a wider array of countries.

In 1948, following World War II, Representative Karl E. Mundt (South Dakota) and Senator H. Alexander Smith (New Jersey) introduced the Smith-Mundt bill in Congress. This act, later known as the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act, was passed on January 27, 1948. According to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the act established an information agency for the first time in a period of peace with a mission to "promote a better understanding of the United States in other countries, and to increase mutual understanding" between Americans and foreigners. The act recognized the importance of educational and cultural exchanges sponsored by the government and the need to build up a corps of well informed intellectuals and opinion leaders in the political and social infrastructure. Section 2 of the act lists several "objectives" to be used in achieving its goals:

  1. an information service to disseminate abroad information about the United States, its people, and policies promulgated by Congress, the president, the secretary of sstate and other responsible officials of government having to do with matters affecting foreign affairs; and
  2. an educational exchange service to cooperate with other nations in the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills; the rendering of technical and other services; and the interchange of developments in the field of education, the arts, and sciences.

Following its passage, the IEEA went through a series of modifications and amendments. In 1953 President Eisenhower submitted Reorganization Plan Number 8 to Congress which established the United States Information Agency (USIA) to consolidate information functions administered by the State Department and other agencies. In 1961 the Fulbright-Hays Act reaffirmed the objective of increasing mutual understanding between Americans and the people of other nations.

Among the provisions of the 1948 Act was "the creation of an information service to disseminate abroad information about the United States, its people, and policies." A major vehicle to achieve this objective was the development of the international broadcasting station, the Voice of America (VOA). Prior to the passage of the act the VOA was transmitted in 1942 by a network of fourteen private shortwave transmitters. According to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, following the act in 1948 the VOA grew to include transmission in twenty-four of the world's languages. That same year, sixtyseven information centers and libraries stocked books, displayed exhibits, and showed films about the United States through a network of seventy-six branches in the world.

The IEEA made a significant contribution to the exchange of students and professionals from all parts of the world, and it has served to increase understanding between the United States and other nations. By 2003, according to Patricia S. Harrison, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), among the activities carried out under the auspices of the act included teacher training programs, HIV/AIDS educational exchange with teachers in Africa, and exchange between Kazakh religious leaders and American leaders through an International Visitor program. According to Assistant Secretary Harrison, the activities carried out under the act "are working fordemocracy, peace, prosperity, and the non-negotiable demands of human dignity, engaging today with a new generation who will be part of the partnership for the future."

See also: Foreign Service Act of 1946.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. "International Visitor Program History." <http://exchanges.state.gov/education/ivp/history.htm>.

"Message from Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Patricia S. Harrison." In Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs: The Exchange Vol. 2 (March/April 2003). <http://exchanges.state.gov/education/newsletter>.

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