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robertogreco : gregmortenson   6

Three Cups of Fiction
[also here: http://carolblack.org/three-cups-of-fiction/ ]

[previously bookmarked here: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:8d8c57761fd4 ]

"The reality is that there are few better ways to condemn a child to a life of poverty than to confine her in a bad school, and a very high percentage of schools in low-income areas are and will remain bad schools.  Many NGO’s as well as international programs like “Education for All” are focused on the body count, on getting more and more children into classrooms.  What happens to those kids in those classrooms is harder to quantify or to track.  One thing that seems clear is that an awful lot of them learn very little. A Brookings Institution study of education in Pakistan by Rebecca Winthrop and Corinne Graff reports that “the education system produces many unemployable youths with few skills for economic survival…..In a recent survey of Pakistani youth, half the students say that they believe they lack the skills necessary to compete in today’s labor market.”  A World Bank Policy Research working paper indicates that, contrary to popular belief, money spent on education often increases inequality in a country. This is partly because those who already have substantial assets are better positioned to take advantage of educational resources than those who have their hands full trying to get food on the table.  But it’s also because from its inception school was designed as a sorting mechanism, a rigged competition where only one form of intelligence is valued, only one way of learning is permitted, and one child’s success means another child’s failure.  We forget that the structure of schools as we know them today was developed during a time when people believed in racist eugenics and Social Darwinism; modern schools were structurally designed to perpetuate a hierarchical class system, and – despite the best efforts of many dedicated teachers – that’s exactly what they still do, through the non-democratic, hierarchical ranking of children which is hard-wired into our entire system of grading, testing, and one-size-fits-all standards.  Until we change that – at home as well as abroad –  education will continue to perpetuate and justify poverty, not to ameliorate it.

Of course, even if everybody succeeded at school, you would just run into the fact that the current structure of the global economy does not provide enough good jobs for the growing number of graduates. As Winthrop and Graff say about Pakistan, “Many young people express fears about their ability to find employment, and they believe there are too few jobs available and that their prospects are getting worse, not better. One complains that ‘if you have an MA or an MBA you do not get a job. People are roaming around with degrees in their hands.’” Economists at the World Bank have a fanciful theory – a fairy tale much bigger than any of Greg Mortenson’s – that by schooling the world and expanding our “human resources” we will endlessly expand the growth economy to a point where we will all live in affluence. This is pure fantasy, of the “it’s-okay-to-buy-this-house-that-you-can’t-afford-because-the-housing-market-always-goes-up” variety. The planet doesn’t have the physical resources to sustain a middle-class lifestyle for a white-collar world, and in any case, who will mine the coal, collect the garbage, and work at Walmart when all seven billion of us have college degrees? China now has millions of unemployed college graduates, and it turns out they are as free to work in sweatshops as everybody else. As the New York Times reports, “While some recent graduates find success, many are worn down by a gauntlet of challenges and disappointments. Living conditions can be Dickensian, and grueling six-day work weeks leave little time for anything else but sleeping, eating and doing the laundry.” Zhang Ming, a political scientist and vocal critic of China’s education system says, “College essentially provided them with nothing…. For many young graduates, it’s all about survival. If there was ever an economic crisis, they could be a source of instability.”"



"The World Bank isn’t giving us any data on this. Girls’ education raises GDP, the development agencies all crow! Yes, but transitioning rural people from self-sufficient farming into sweatshops also raises GDP. Girls’ education lowers the infant mortality rate! Yes, but what if introducing school failure into rural areas also raises the sex trafficking rate? It’s commonly assumed that lack of education in developing areas is a risk factor for trafficking, but apparently the evidence suggests the opposite; according to the Strategic Information Response Network, vulnerability to human trafficking correlates with more schooling and the migration to urban areas in search of money that usually follows it. “Dream big,” Greg Mortenson exhorts girls from tiny villages in Pakistan. But what happens when those dreams don’t materialize, and a well-oiled international network that trades in girls not just for sex but for domestic servitude and sweatshop labor is ready to fill the breach? A multitude of pathologies, including suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, obesity, and diabetes go up when traditional cultures are disrupted and people transition rapidly from a land-based non-cash economy into the modern global economy, but news like this doesn’t get you on the bestseller list. The aid agencies cherry-pick statistics to prove that the impact of their programs is good, and the popular press repeats their conclusions without question the way they repeat much official propaganda."



"Most importantly, solutions begin with the truth. We can’t start working toward real answers until we stop lying to ourselves about what schools do to children – in the real world, not in our dreams. We need to acknowledge that no system that discards millions of normal, healthy kids as failures – many of them extremely smart, by the way – will ever provide a lasting or universal solution to anything. We need to innovate with learning here at home and abroad, to put our resources into developing the many promising models that already exist for sharing knowledge, skills and ideas without humiliating children or branding them as failures. We need to recognize the real value of the intellectual traditions of other cultures – including non-literate cultures – and look for ways to share useful information in both directions which does not completely disrupt or undermine the social structures, traditional livelihoods, and knowledge systems of those cultures.

And most of all, we need to stop falling for the popular fiction of schooling as a cure for everything and recognize that a romanticized idea of education is being used as a PR device and a smokescreen to obscure the real economic issues at play for powerful nations and corporations – who extract natural resources and cheap labor from weaker nations, and then turn around and tax their own citizens to provide “aid” and “education” to help “end poverty.” It’s an elaborate shell game, a twisted road to nowhere. It should be clear by now that the “rising tide” does not “float all boats” – that’s another fairy tale – and it’s time to start talking seriously about the underlying global economic structures which are creating poverty, so that people everywhere can educate their own children in the way they think best –– without charity.

Greg Mortenson’s second book, Stones Into Schools, revolves around his efforts to build a school for Kyrgyz nomads in Afghanistan. He built the school, and it stands empty, never having been used. Many development people, including Mortenson, would tut about this, and try to find ways to convince the Kyrgyz people of the importance of education for their children’s futures. But to me, this empty school is a small sign of hope. I mean, Greg. Hello. They’re nomads. Should they give up their horses and their high mountain valleys and their yurts and sit in a classroom for years so at the end they can look for work hauling bricks or driving trucks in Kandahar or Kabul? As it turns out, the New York Times reports that Kyrgyz parents want their children to learn to read and write; it’s just that they also want them to herd sheep. Mortenson’s representative in the region was frustrated by this: “The Kyrgyz only care about sheep and yaks…They say if we have sheep and yaks, we have success in life.” Hmm. Perhaps the Kyrgyz don’t understand the value of education. Or perhaps they still have a sense of what’s real and what’s not in this world. Sheep are definitely real; “big dreams” may not be. The Afghan government, to its credit, seemed to recognize this, and sent teachers to teach the children at home in their yurts. Apparently it’s working out quite well. I just hope the Kyrgyz remain unschooled enough to continue to be able to tell fact from fiction."
metrics  quantification  education  schooling  gregmortenson  children  schools  carolblack  unschooling  deschooling  nomadism  nomads  trafficking  failure  girls  worldbank  development  economics  competition  society  poverty  colonization  colonialism 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Lance Armstrong and Livestrong | Lance Armstrong | OutsideOnline.com
"If Lance Armstrong went to jail and Livestrong went away, that would be a huge setback in our war against cancer, right? Not exactly, because the famous nonprofit donates almost ­nothing to scientific research. BILL GIFFORD looks at where the money goes and finds a mix of fine ideas, millions of dollars aimed at “awareness,” and a few very blurry lines."
misrepresentation  fraud  awareness  via:rodcorp  billgifford  fundraising  charity  nonprofits  2012  cancer  livestrong  critique  lancearmstrong  gregmortenson  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  nonprofit  capitalism  power  control 
august 2012 by robertogreco
three cups of fiction | Schooling the World
[broken link, new bookmark here: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:cca28f5634e5
article now at: http://carolblack.org/three-cups-of-fiction ]

"…anything that causes humiliation & anger in men is going to cause increased rates of violence against women…the way education is currently framed means it does good for some children at the cost of doing great harm to many others, & this is not good for families, for communities, or for societies.  The answer is not to hold girls back…it’s to challenge the ranking-&-failure paradigm as the only way to help children learn."

"The bottom line is that the modern school is no silver bullet, but an extremely problematic institution which has proven highly resistant to fundamental reform, and there is very little objective research on its impact on traditional societies. When we intervene to radically alter the way another culture raises and educates its children, we trigger a complex cascade of changes that will completely reshape that culture in a single generation.  To assume that those changes will all be good is to adopt a blind cultural superiority that we can ill afford."
threecupsoftea  gregmortenson  afghanistan  education  unschooling  deschooling  learning  nomads  ngo  development  culturalsuperiority  culture  reform  teaching  systems  systemsthinking  2011  inequality  power  charity  economics  designimperialism  humanitariandesign  humanitarianism  stonesintoschools  money  failure  rankings  sorting  testing  children  women  girls  society  competition  hierarchy  class  onesizefitsall  grading  poverty  gender  colonization  carolblack  colonialism 
may 2011 by robertogreco
News Desk: What Mortenson Got Wrong : The New Yorker
"Rajeev paused for a moment. “It seemed to be mostly about the author, about everything he accomplished. And that story is about quantity, about the number of schools built.” Rajeev said his own work had convinced him that construction projects are overvalued, & sometimes can even have a negative impact on a community. People might become dependant on outsiders, & corruption can become a problem. Building materials & methods may be inappropriate, especially if money comes from far away & there’s little oversight. Foreign-funded structures have a tendency to overuse cement…can change local construction patterns in environmentally damaging ways…Rajeev believed that teacher training & other cultural factors often have more value. “A good teacher sitting under a tree can do more than a bad teacher in a new building. That’s why I don’t want to do school construction anymore. It might have been a mistake. It’s a good instinct, as you want to help, but maybe it’s not the best thing.”"
gregmortenson  centralasiainstitute  peterhessler  rajeevgoyal  building  schools  education  philanthropy  designimperialism  teaching  learning  imperialism  threecupsoftea  insteadofbuilding  environment  wastedenergy  wastedmoney  self-esteem  self-aggrandizement  humility  whoisitfor?  schooldesign  unschooling  deschooling  purpose  motivation  corruption  foreignpolicy  foreignaid  culturalimperialism  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  capitalism  power  control 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Three Cups of BS - By Alanna Shaikh | Foreign Policy
"While much of uproar has been over lies Mortenson peddled, I can't help wondering: Why, exactly, did we ever think his model for education, exemplified in Central Asia Institute, was going to work? Its focus was on building schools—that's it. Not a thought was spared for education quality, access, or sustainability. But building schools has never been the answer to improving education. If it were, then the millions of dollars poured into international education over last half-century would have already solved Afghanistan's—and the rest of the world's—education deficit by now.

Over last 50yrs of studying international development, scholars have built large body of research & theory on how to improve education in developing world. None of it has recommended providing more school buildings, because according to decades of research, buildings aren't what matter. Teachers matter. Curriculum matters. Funding for education matters. Where classes actually take place? Not really."
gregmortenson  schooldesign  developingworld  education  policy  teaching  curriculum  whatmatters  funding  CAI  centralasiainstitute  sustainability  accessibility  international  global  buildings  2011  toldyaso  missedopportunities  tcsnmy  lcproject  pop-upeducation  schools  schooling 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Spencer's Scratch Pad: Smaller Stories
"We want to believe in huge stories w/ insurmountable conflicts, bravely heroic protagonists & settings that are other-worldly…fairy tales & legends, but we want those stories to be placed w/in the non-fiction section of our bookstore…movie…"based upon a true story"…

We want to believe in these big stories, because we are convinced that our own stories are too small. All too often, the "small stories" are too subtle, too nuanced & too authentic for us to celebrate. What's the drama in pushing your daughter on the swing after realizing that you've been devoting too much time to work? Where's the inspiration in learning how to handle conflict without yelling or falling apart?

However, what if the most triumphant stories are the humble ones? What if the life-changing narratives are filled with small acts of courage & incremental moments of character development? …when you admit that you are broken and choose love over bitterness anyway?"
johnspencer  gregmortenson  truth  fiction  belief  humility  small  scale  simplicity  sustainability  otherworldly  inspiration  narrative  storytelling  2011  smallmoments  character  nuance  supersizedheroes  neighborsizedheroes  family  whatmatters  everylittlebitcounts  human  humanscale 
april 2011 by robertogreco

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