Educating Democracies

Our project is about giving kids a chance at getting an education, but I’ve only really been able to consider the results of what we’re doing in a general kind of way. I mean, I’ve been thinking (and saying) that getting these tools for education over there to the kids that need them will make things better—create better leaders, better communities, better living.  It’s true that these are both realistic and achievable goals that we are actually moving towards, but they are still have a kind of unreality that any future expectations have. They feel like ideas rather than facts. However, the recent events in Egypt (and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East) have shown some of the real effects that education can have.

I was reading the New York Times this morning and there was an article about what’s going on over in Egypt ( In it there was one particular line that just jumped out at me. A quote from a professor over at the University of Michigan–“There is a contradiction between educating a lot of your population and creating a white-collar middle class and then ruling with an iron hand.” I feel like this really describes what is happening there.  A large enough segment of the population became educated that those people realized that the cause of their social ills was in large part a result of their own corrupt government.  It reminds me of something my dad was saying a week or two ago. That governments like the one that ruled Egypt tend to educate their people in order to improve their economy, and create a bigger pool of money for rulers to redirect into their own pockets. The only problem is that educating people makes them wise to this, and educating enough people gives a whole group a sense of social power.

Demonstrators in Cairo rejoiced Friday upon hearing that President Hosni Mubarak had been toppled. (

Over in Afghanistan the case is pretty different, but there’s enough similarity that I can’t help drawing comparisons. The government over there has constantly been showing up in newspapers over here that talk about the problems of corruption. The uneducated population that has never felt a particular connection or reliance on that government might not care, but by helping the kids of today, we’re trying to end that. The idea is that we want the kids over there to be able to have an education and have a chance at affecting positive changes in their communities. But I start to wonder if there will be the kind of disconnect that existed in Egypt. If we succeed, will there be a rebellion of the disenchanted educated?

This makes me kind of nervous, but as I think about it, what’s happening in North Africa and the Middle East now is a grass-roots push for democracy. It’s not necessarily clearly defined or ordered or organized, but it is a vote of the educated mass in favor of a responsible and responsive government. If that sentiment—that people ought to have a say in how they are governed—is the result of an education (or an educated population), then that is what should be hoped for. Or rather that is what should be worked for.  In a place like Afghanistan, where imposing democracy from the top down has run into innumerable problems, it is surely time to work from the bottom up. And that’s what we need to send school supplies for. We need to give kids and young people over there the kind of inspiration that makes people want to invest in their own future, and the education that will empower them to do so.

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One Response to Educating Democracies

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