Study Guide

Three Cups of Tea Education

By Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin


Haji Ali, avoiding Mortenson's eyes, said that the village had no school, and the Pakistani government didn't provide a teacher. (3.23)

When Mortenson hears this, he realizes that he is the one that has to build the school.  If a country's own government isn't going to help, then who is?

A dollar a day for a teacher, Mortenson fumed, how could a government, even one as impoverished as Pakistan's, not provide that? (3.26)

Mortenson is furious that a country that spends so much money on the military can't devote even a fraction of that to education. (Note that he's talking about Pakistan here, even though the same accusation could be leveled at Mortenson's own country.)

"They need teachers in Tanganyika. Let's go to Africa." (4.7)

Mortenson got his passion for education from his father, who was a teacher in Africa for most of Mortenson's youth.

Half an hour later […] Mortenson was kneeling with the children, drawing multiplication tables in the dirt with a mulberry branch. (8.74)

Mortenson isn't just a guy who builds schools, he's a guy who helps teach, too.

Hussein seemed to Mortenson immeasurably removed from his days of scholarship on the sweltering plains of the Punjab. He would be the perfect teacher for Korphe's school, Mortenson realized. He'd be able to bridge both worlds. (10.71)

However, a guy like Mortenson isn't enough. A good teacher, a really good teacher, is one who not only knows multiplication tables, but knows the kids' lives and can relate to them.

"Long after all those rams are dead and eaten this school will still stand. […] Our children have education forever." (12.110)

Haji Ali ends up bribing a rival village with a ton of livestock in order to keep his school open. He has a larger vision than most, seeing the long-term benefit of education, and how it outweighs the short-term benefit of delicious yak meat.

"The children of all those other villages that tried to bribe you need schools, too." (15.38)

Mortenson has to make difficult moral choices, like building schools in corrupt villages. He has to remember that the children aren't the corrupt ones, and they're the ones who will truly benefit.

"I don't want to teach Pakistan's children to think like Americans," Mortenson says. "I just want them to have a balanced, nonextremist education. That idea is at the very center of what we do." (16.73)

Mortenson's education isn't about propaganda, like the education in the Wahhabi madrassas. He simply wants to give students the basic building blocks—reading, writing, 'rithmetic—to grow and thrive.

"Yes, like the bee house. Wahhabi madrassa have many students hidden inside." (19.10)

It's easy to think that education = good, but in the case of Wahhabi madrassa, which train their students as though they're drones in radical Islam, that kind of education might be worse than no education at all.

"[Terror] happens because children aren't being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death." (21.73)

Ignorance breeds fear, and terror grows from fear. Mortenson hopes that his schools will help end the widespread ignorance toward the outside world in Pakistan, and that this will cut off terrorism at its roots.

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