01/28/11 — Discussion group looks at role of education, youth in Afghanistan

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Discussion group looks at role of education, youth in Afghanistan

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on January 28, 2011 1:46 PM

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Carleigh Magee, a seventh-grade student at Norwayne Middle School, responds to a question by Wayne County youth librarian Brandon Robbins during a discussion of the Wayne County Reads selection, "Three Cups of Tea," on Thursday night at the Public Library on Ash Street.

Given a chance, the great majority of people living in Afghanistan would live peaceful lives and be receptive to changes that would ultimately improve their children's lot in life, said most of the students who attended a Wayne County Reads discussion Thursday night at the county Public Library on Ash Street.

This year's Wayne County Reads selection is "Three Cups of Tea," a book by author Greg Mortenson, who has dedicated his life to building schools in the region ruled by violent Islamic fundamentalists.

Students, teachers and parents attended a discussion of the book led by Brandon Robbins, the youth adult services coordinator at the library. He said one of the library's roles in the campaign is education and that education is another tool in the fight against terrorism, which is rooted in ignorance.

Some of the teachers in attendance noted the importance of mothers in the development of children and said that if they are able to pass along a love of learning, especially to the many girls who are denied a chance at an education, it can make a huge difference in how the next generation of Aghans.

"They just continue to believe what they've heard, without the true information to back it up," one teacher said.

"We don't have to hate these people," she said, adding that if the Afghans can become more educated then they will be able to better understand Western culture and reduce their fear and dislike of foreign traditions and culture.

Another teacher spoke about the media's portrayal of the war on terrorism and said that Americans do not always get a true picture of what life is like in Afghanistan because reporting focuses, naturally, on the American troops and the dangers they face daily.

"The average person over there is just like us," she said, "they want an education, they want a better life, but if you turn on the news, that's not what you see."

Carleigh Magee, a seventh-grader at Norwayne Middle School, said her reading of the youth version of the book gave her the impression that young people in Afghanistan have limited access to an education, especially girls. If American children had no chance at an education, they might become more prone to violence as well, she said. An education gives people hope, she said, of a better life.

"We see stereotypes," she said. "You can't judge people by the way they look. You can't really judge anyone until you extend your hand and talk to them."

Another teacher said it is important to break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty in Afghanistan. Once that cycle is disrupted, the Afghan people can begin looking toward the future that is changing across the world, she said.

Robbins noted that one of Mortenson's captors eventually donated to his school-building cause. And a tribal chieftain who had originally opposed Mortenson over the building of a school eventually came around to the American's point of view, he said. The man had come to appreciate the American's desire to help his country's youths.

Thursday night's discussion is just the lastest in the Wayne County Reads campaign. It continues Monday at 7 p.m. at the Arts Council with a panel discussion on the military experience in Afghanistan. The discussion will be led by Col. Roy Heidecker, historian for the 4th Fighter Wing.

On Feb. 8, Dr. Miriam Cooke of Duke University will speak on "Women and War in the Modern Middle East" at 7 p.m. at the Arts Council.