Friday, March 13, 2009

Tea Time with Dr. Greg

I recently had the chance to meet with Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, and founder of the Central Asia Institute. You can find a full reflection on The NYU Reynolds Program blog.
With a meek, modest, humble nature, Greg Mortenson radiates with a passion for education that bubbles just below the surface. Perhaps it's this mild and humble manner that allows Mortenson to so gently observe and respect the communities with which he has worked.

Mortenson's Central Asia Institute has the unique posture of working with communities to build ideal schools where much of the educational philosophy can be imagined, rather than fitted within an existing bureaucratic structure. While Mortenson could have taken any approach to education, CAI appears to have done the opposite of what is happening in the U.S. As hyper-standardization and rigid structure appear to be at the forefront of "education reform" in the States, Mortenson's organization builds community-owned schools in which communities have actual decision-making power, where spending is transparent. There is a contract with communities in which they decide how the schools will be governed.

Mortenson knows about the importance of listening. Asking: What are your community's priorities? Acknowledging the lived expertise of community members. While we privilege certain types of education and expression--for example written expression--these don't define education, knowledge, or intelligence. The ability to "read the world" can be just as powerful. Community members are experts in their lived experiences and can contribute to prioritizing and planning.
Why can't education be like this in the States? Do we think we are too advanced for an education that promotes community and peace? How can we re-imagine education?

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