Monday, March 20, 2006

Greg Mortenson and "Three Cups of Tea"

This evening (3/20/2006) I had the pleasure of meeting Greg Mortenson in person at Kepler's in Menlo Park during a discussion of his book "Three Cups of Tea". He gave a great talk with about 250 people attending.

Some highlights that stood out for me:

1) Schooling girls has greater benefit then schooling boys for a number of reasons. Boys tend to leave the community and take their education with them whereas girls tend to stay with communities and help build them. Educated girls are more likely to raise educated families. When boys go off on a "jihad" (which is not necessarily a war, but can be any crusade or struggle to make a difference), it is supposed to be approved of by their mother to be socially acceptable. If the mother is educated she is less likely to approve of a warlike jihad and more likely to approve of some other endeavor.

2) Greg and some statisticians at the UN believe that the best way to to get over population under control is to educate women.

3) The amount of money that the US spent on the war in Iraq would have been enough to eliminate illiteracy worldwide (spending that much money on schools rather than the military). Imagine the kind of message that would give the world instead of making war.

4) Greg's group has set up 53 schools and these schools have educated 20,000 children so far.

5) Greg is a very humble guy who freely admits that he has made lots of mistakes -- and making those mistakes was necessary for him to learn. When his first school was being built he made the mistake of trying to manage things very closely to make every penny count. The town elder said the people loved him but asked him to back off and let the people build their own school. Greg was driving them crazy. They proceeded to finish their school just fine in 6 weeks. Greg said he learned it is important to give power to the people.

I now have a copy of Greg's book and hope to read it in the next few weeks.

For more details on the book please see:

For more on Central Asia Institute please see: