The Necessity of Higher Education in Public Diplomacy

by mflash16

In his article, Public Diplomacy Scholars and Practitioners: Thoughts for an Ongoing Conversation, Bruce Gregory described how “[w]rong ideas can ruin lives, and useless ideas “can waste precious resources.”” For me, this state captures the most daunting of the obstacles facing Public Diplomacy Officers. And one such decision/resource is education and training. I was surprised when Gregory articulated the State Department’s lack of push for hire education among diplomats. Perhaps it is because my only exposure to PD is through higher education, but it seems to me that an acute understanding of the scholarly work on PD, such as issues in evaluation, best practices, etc., is critical to all potential PD Officers because it forces a broader conversation about PD that expands a practitioner’s knowledge beyond their own personal experience. Much like how social media creates a platform for a wider discussion on trending news topics and current culture, the network of academia creates a platform for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of PD.
And without higher education, who could a PD Officer know what practitioners who went before them consider to be, “necessary skills”? As Scott discusses, the necessary skills for a PD officer are, “(1) a mastery of language and rhetoric, (2) an aptitude for narrative…, and (3) a heightened awareness of the elements that contribute to allegiance.” While all of these things may appear to be common sense, parsing them out to precise skills and aptitudes requires not only the training to recognize what the included skills are, but also learning the actual skills. I would argue that high education allows a PD Officer to recognize the necessary skills and on-the ground training provides them.