Education and National Security

OWU professor studies how to create successful collaborations

EDITOR’S NOTE: In his paper, “From Sputnik to Minerva: Education and American National Security,” Ohio Wesleyan University professor and global security expert Sean Kay, Ph.D., says the time has come to “reinvigorate higher education for the 21st century.” In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama also urged America to rise to the challenge of its “Sputnik moment.” Kay’s paper was released two years ago. Read more about it in this reposted Connect2 OWU article from January 21, 2009.

Professor Sean Kay was honored last fall with induction into Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District’s Alumni Achievement Hall of Fame. As part of the honor, Kay was introduced at the homecoming football game by Steve Thomas, a fellow Chagrin Falls alumnus. (Photo courtesy of Sean Kay)

In 2006, only 10 U.S. employees working at the American Embassy in Iraq spoke fluent Arabic—an increase from 2005, when just six were fluent.

“This kind of significant gap in applied educational capacity got me thinking bigger about how education relates to national security,” says Sean Kay, Ph.D., chair of Ohio Wesleyan University’s International Studies Program and author of a new paper titled “From Sputnik to Minerva: Education and American National Security.”

The paper was published this month by the Center for Technology and National Security Policy, which is based at the National Defense University and is part of the U.S. Department of Defense.

“U.S. military leaders say their success depends, in part, on having personnel with appropriate language skills and cultural awareness,” Kay says. “They don’t appear to be getting what they need. … The time has come to reinvigorate higher education for the 21st century.”

Kay is quick to point out that he is not advocating for higher education to become security-centric, but he does believe that global security needs to be a component of a modern education.

“Education is key in military success,” Kay says. “This includes elements such as creating and implementing exit strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan by having the capacity to train effectively local army and police forces as well as rebuilding local schools and educational institutions. We need to understand the culture, history, demographics, and, of course, the language.”

Kay’s latest research examines how the United States has paired education and security historically, including the rush to educate more scientists and engineers after the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik in 1957.

He says he is optimistic that the new Obama administration will work to address education-security issues. He is equally optimistic about the potential of the Department of Defense’s “Minerva” program, an initiative of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Named after the Roman goddess of wisdom and warriors, the Minerva program awards grants to involve evolutionary psychologists, demographers, sociologists, historians, and anthropologists in security research.

In addition to “From Sputnik to Minerva,” Kay recently completed a separate paper on missile defense policy and strategy, which he will present next month at the International Studies Association Annual Convention in New York. This article will be included in a forthcoming book on NATO’s new strategic concept to be published by Georgetown University Press.

For his work in higher education, with NATO, and in global security, Kay was honored last fall with induction into Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District’s Alumni Achievement Hall of Fame.

A 1985 graduate of Chagrin Falls High School, Kay is the youngest graduate to be inducted into the district’s Hall of Fame. In 2007, he also became the first Chagrin Falls graduate to participate in the district’s Alumni Speaker Series, where he discussed the ties between education and national security. Chagrin Falls High School has been ranked among the best secondary schools in the nation.

“It was an honor to be recognized by Chagrin Falls,” Kay says, adding that he’ll never forget being introduced to his hometown crowd by the current senior class president.

“The student told the audience that the first piece of advice I gave him was he should attend Ohio Wesleyan,” Kay says with a smile. “The whole crowd applauded.”

Click here to read “From Sputnik to Minerva.” (173k PDF)

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