Central Asia Institute

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Building classrooms does not equal learning | 

Kenyan primary school students, in class.
Kenyan primary school students, in class.
Tom Murphy

Amid UNESCO’s jaw-dropping report on the immense challenge to education around the world is an important fact: Some 37 countries are losing half of the money they invest in primary education because students are not learning.

Even when children go to school, they are not learning. That is in part reflected in the statistic that an estimated 175 million young people cannot read a full sentence.

This problem is reflected in the language of the report and its accompanying release. The problem is learning, not education. Despite that knowledge, there is still attention on the basic goals of teachers and schools.

“We need 5.1 million teachers to be recruited by 2015, and we need to work harder to support them in providing children with their right to a universal, free and quality education,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

It is held that education is an important step of development. However, the evidence that spending money on education will not lead to job growth. Economist Francis Teal determined that more graduates is well and good, but they have nowhere to go if there are no jobs. Some may argue that better education can lead to the creation of working opportunities, but it appears to be that it is more about investing in connections to global markets.

Whether or not education can lead to income growth, the issue does not matter if students are not learning while they are in the classroom. Continue reading

Greg Mortenson offers three weak cups of defense | 

Wikipedia, Penguin

Three Cups of Tea

Greg Mortenson and his philanthropy, the Central Asia Institute (CAI), have offered up another incomplete defense against allegations of misappropriated funds, fabricated stories and a failure to follow through on humanitarian projects funded by donors.

Meanwhile, two Montana lawmakers are suing Mortenson and Bozeman-based CAI alleging fraud, deceit and racketeering.

Outside magazine, which initially gave first voice to Mortenson’s defense with an exclusive (and somewhat sympathetic or at least unquestioning) interview, published this article upon receiving an advance copy of the CAI’s newsletter in which the Institute and Mortenson rebut some of the critics. Continue reading

Ten sips from “Three Cups of Deceit” — starting in Seattle | 

Flickr, aubergene

Jon Krakauer describes Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Deceit,” and its Seattle origins.

By now, most of you have probably heard something about the allegations of literary fabrication and financial misdeeds of the celebrated humanitarian Greg Mortenson, author of the inspiring book Three Cups of Tea.

The accusations were aired on CBS last Sunday, on 60 Minutes.

Now, fellow mountain climber and author Jon Krakauer — one of the early Seattle supporters of Mortenson’s philanthropic efforts — has written a much more detailed, and potentially devastating, account of what he says went wrong with this effort to bring education and empowerment to the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It all began in Seattle. Continue reading

Greg Mortenson: Three cups to the wind? | 

Wikipedia, Penguin

Three Cups of Tea

Greg Mortenson, the celebrated author of Three Cups of Tea who has been perhaps the world’s leading advocate for girl’s education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, is facing some serious allegations of both literary and financial wrongdoings.

On Sunday’s CBS News 60 Minutes, Mortenson is accused of fabricating key parts of his story, using a high proportion of the funds raised by his philanthropy for personal benefit and misleading donors.

Fellow mountain climber and writer Jon Krakauer, who was one of the early donors and supporters of Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute, is interviewed on the TV news show and says of the story told in Three Cups of Tea that inspired the philanthropy:

“It’s a beautiful story and it’s a lie.”

Mortenson, who refused to be interviewed by 60 Minutes, sent out an email to supporters and staff:

“As those of you who know me and have supported my work over the years will recognize, the story being framed by ’60 Minutes’ to air in a few hours today — as far as we can tell — paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year’s (2009) IRS 990 financial, and a few points in the book ‘Three Cups of Tea’ that occurred almost 18 years ago.”

His Institute’s website has several responses to the 60 Minutes piece, including this response from the board of directors in which they respond in detail to the claims made against Mortenson.

The New York Times has a story that tends to focus largely on the allegations of literary fabrications or distortions.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle (where Mortenson lives and his philanthropy is based) has a story based on one of the few interviews Mortenson has given responding to the allegations.

ABC News has a story that leads with Mortenson’s rebuttal of the 60 Minutes’ claims.

Here is a link to the video of the 60 Minutes interview.