Thursday, December 3, 2009
Education and Freedom
Today is Freedom Friday. Are you wearing blue today in support of our troops? I believe that education is very important for obtaining and retaining liberty and freedom. I particularly believe that girls and women need education in addition to boys and men. I once heard a statement that went something like this: "When we educate a man, we education only a man. When we educate a woman, we educate an entire family. I believe this statement is true, particularly because mothers do most of the teaching of their children. I believe that it was the educational level of our Founders that assisted them in writing the United States Constitution as they did. I believe that it is because of their education that they knew about and understood the evils that bad government could bring upon the Americans. The Founders used their knowledge in a way that is a blessing to us today. Afghanistan is a good example of what happens in a country that does not encourage education for both their boys and girls. In the mid-1990s about 20 percent of "all Afghanistan's people 15 years of age or older can read and write. The law requires all children from 7 to 10 years old to go to school. However, many of these children cannot attend school because the country does not have enough schools or teachers" (Riffat Sardar, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p 95). In 1993 Greg Mortenson staggered into Korphe, a tiny village in Pakistan. He describes how he "watched 82 children scratch their lessons in the dirt with sticks" (Parade Magazine, No. 22, 2009, p 8). A young girl asked him to come back to her village and build a school that would be open to all children. Three years later he returned to Korphe and built that school. His organization, the Central Asia Institute (CAI) now has 91 school houses in the mountains of rural Pakistan. There are 19,000 students - three-quarters of them girls - being taught in those schools. CAI crossed the border into Afghanistan and opened its first school there in 2004. The 39th school was opened this year. Including tent schools in refugee camps, there are 39,000 Afghan children, mostly girls, being educated there. "Yet my commitment to educating girls has only grown stronger. Indeed, we hope soon to complete a 200-mile line of girls' schools directly through the heart of Taliban country. "Young women are the developing world's greatest agents of progress. Just one year of schooling will dramatically raise a girl's later economic prospects, and where girls get to fifth grade, birth rates and infant mortality plunge. Teaching girls to read and write reduces the ignorance and poverty that fuel religious extremism and lays a groundwork for prosperity and peace. In military parlance, educating girls is a `force multiplier.' Thus the flame that burns at the center of my work, the heat around which I cup my hands, are the stories of girls whose lives have been changed by education" (Parade, p 8). Mortenson reported that in 2000 only 800,000 Afghan children were in school - no girls. Now there are 8.5 million Afghan children in school, including nearly 2 million girls. The people of Afghanistan recognize the importance of education and are willing to pour scarce resources into schools. Mortenson is the author of two books. His first book, entitled Three Cups of Tea, published in 2006, is now required reading for all Special Forces soldiers deploying to Afghanistan. Military leaders, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, have turned to Mortenson for guidance in improving relationships with tribal and village leaders. Mortenson's second book, entitled Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was published December 1 by Viking. I saw copies of this book in Costco yesterday. "I have observed with my own eyes how America's welfare is tied to that of our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world - and, in particular, that of our youngest sisters. Their dreams of progress rest in our hands; our desire for peace rests in theirs" (Parade, 10).