Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Three Cups of Tea and Greg Mortenson

One thing that all students in this class should know is that the course syllabus has been passed out to education and development experts around the world, just to make sure that we're on target.

One thing a few syllabus-reviewers commented on was the Three Cups of Tea reading.  Wasn't the author discredited?  Why do we persist in assigning it in this class?  In fact, the entire Three Cups of Tea book was used as a course text in a previous version of AEE 400. 

I like this chapter because it shows an American going into a village in a developing country, witnessing the poverty, and jumping to the conclusion that a material good - a school building - will solve the problem of education there.  He's also an outsider, meaning that he is not from that country and does not understand the culture or context well.  The rest of the book chronicles the uphill battle he fought to get the school building built, install a teacher and to actually get kids to attend the school.

In short, this reading highlights many aspects of the diffusion of innovation model and provides fodder for discussion. 

The scandal that broke with the foundation that the author, Greg Mortenson does not diminish what we can learn from this chapter.  You can learn more about the scandal by searching for news articles or by watching this 60 Minutes segment.  It's a great example of how accountability with development projects is difficult to document, and how some projects can do more harm than good.

If you're interested in engaging with this reading more, you might consider filling out the worksheet passed out at the end of class using this situation as an example.  Also, the entire book is a great read and I encourage you all to pick it up from either Penn State Library or Schlow Public Library.

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