Pencil's, Not Missiles

Pencil's, Not Missiles

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As I write this, it's been nearly four months since the terrorist attacks changed this country. To date, I haven't covered the topic in my monthly letter, and the magazine has not devoted much space to this story or the fallout it has caused, and will continue to cause.

This was by design, of sorts. When I stopped to think about that day's impact on me and on the education system in this country, I felt inadequate. I wasn't sure what I, or this magazine, could intelligently add to all the words written about these acts.

But the other day, in my inbox, appeared an unsolicited e-mail that finally tapped into something that I felt deserved a broader audience. Before I share the contents of this message with you, I'll put my cards on the table. While the actions of Sept. 11 were horrific, I'm in the minority because I was much more concerned with the suffering created here than the rush for retaliation. While I support our country's attempt to bring the leaders of this act to justice, more of my thoughts have been spent on the pain of families directly involved and how to avoid similar acts of terrorism.

One conviction I have, that I know all readers share, is that your job of education is an important one. That's why I think the following message is an important one that should be shared among educators.

AMERICA STRIKES BACK WITH PENCILS, NOT MISSILES

Educating children in Pakistan and Afghanistan could be the ideal, long-term solution to terrorism, says Greg Mortenson. He's the founder of the Montanabased Central Asia Institute and has worked for nine years in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Through years of building relationships one community at a time, Mortenson and the institute have built 22 schools in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sixty-four proposals for girls' schools by the institute now hang in the balance. These are some of the most inhospitable, remote regions in the world, where the infant mortality rate (33 percent) is six times higher than the literacy rate (5 percent).

Mortenson sees what many Americans do not-children desiring to learn who without education have no future. "At least a handful [of Taliban soldiers] I talked to said if they had a job, they wouldn't join the Jihad," he said in November. "The seeds of terrorism are unemployment, lack of education, poverty and inequality."

The Central Asia Institute is a nonprofit organization that promotes education and women's vocational training in remote regions of Central Asia. For more information, call Greg Mortenson at (877) 585-7841 or visit the group's Web site at www.ikat.org.


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