After reading Three Cups of Tea, I’d like to evaluate the notion that education is the key to better society. Greg Mortenson embarks on his mission to promote peace by building schools for underprivileged Pakistani children. Mortenson believes that if these children are educated, they will be able to help themselves to better their community. In theory, this sounds like a good idea. However, I don’t believe that education is the instant solution. Though it plays a key role, other factors, such as the economic conditions, subject matter, and personal motivation are essential co-components.

After visiting Kenya for several weeks, I learned that those who pursue education tend to end up with a lower quality of life than those who do not, mostly because of the poor economic condition of the country and high unemployment. Many people seek education because they believe that they will be able to get a job and make money, thus bettering themselves and their families; however, because of high unemployment, this is rarely the case. Most of the time, graduates end up living in slums on the outskirts of Nairobi in hopes of eventually getting jobs. Meanwhile, others who do not pursue education stay on the family Shamba and live a reasonably decent life raising a family and growing their own food. Theoretically, obtaining an education would be advancement and improvement, but because the job market and economy is not structured to handle job seekers, education is fruitless.

The subject matter that is taught in the schools is vital in determining whether the schools are helpful, useless, or detrimental. I believe Mortenson’s schools aim to teach the students useful information: basic language, arithmetic, and hygiene, all of which can be directly applied to a village’s structures, systems, and overall health. An example is of a girl who learned medicine and hygiene, and when she practiced it back in her village, the infant mortality rate nearly disappeared. A useless education is what we see happening in Kenya, where a community never sees the fruits of increased knowledge but sees the growing slums instead. A detrimental education is what Mortenson suggests is happening in the Wahhabi madrassas of Pakistan, which are “churning out generation after generation of brainwashed students and thinking twenty, forty, even sixty years ahead to a time when their armies of extremism will have the numbers to swarm over Pakistan and the rest of the Islamic world” (244), all in the name of “education.”

Finally, personal motivation drives whom education will benefit. As was brought up in class regarding the potential benefit of foreign exchange programs for students from lesser privileged countries to visit more privileged nations, personal motivation is key in determining whether education will benefit the community or only individuals. As is often the case with people from underdeveloped portions of the world, when they see the “western” nations, they become emphatuated with all that is glamorized about them. They consume ideologies such as “The American Dream,” “The Land of Opportunity,” and may spend the rest of their lives trying to get back to those countries to drink in those dreams and opportunities for themselves and their own families, rather than taking what they learn and applying it to their own homes. They abandon their desolate villages as they snatch up as much as they can for themselves elsewhere. For education, whether it be through a school system or an exchange program, to benefit a community, the students involved must have a personal desire help those around them and not just themselves. From what I understand from the book, it seems as though Mortensons schools are relatively successful at educating a group of children who do have the desire to improve their own villages.