Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,16 July 2013

The Snap:

I hate how we rush things: Halloween decorations in August, Christmas in October and “back-to-school” sales before vacation gets going. But this summer’s ads made me think of kids who would love to dread the first day of school. Save the Children recently reported that there were more than 3500 attacks on schools, teachers, and schoolchildren in 2012; nearly 50 million children have stopped going to school because of armed conflicts. What makes education — particularly the education of girls — so dangerous and how much longer will we sit by while cowardly extremists take aim at the world’s children for just trying to go to school?

The Download:

On 12 July, Malala Yousafzai spoke at the UN on the importance of education. I still can’t understand how the idea of her going to school and encouraging other girls in her native Pakistan to do the same so frightened the Taliban that they shot her in the head. Yet, she celebrated her 16th birthday not cowering in fear but defiantly saying, “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”

You may think that the education of girls halfway around the world doesn’t impact you, but you’re wrong. Want to lessen the threat of global pandemics or are you worried about overpopulation and insufficient resources? Educate the youth. In Indonesia, child vaccination rates are less than 20 percent when mothers are uneducated. Get those women through high school and the rates go up to nearly 70 percent. In Mali, women with secondary education or higher have around 3 kids while those with no education have about 7 kids. A study of women in Zambia found that HIV spread twice as quickly among uneducated girls as it did their educated sisters.

You don’t even need to look that far to see the benefits of educating women. Although I know it might not feel like it for recent college grads, education improves employment opportunities. In the U.S. the growth of female employment added 2 percentage points per year to GDP growth and in Europe, working women were responsible for 1/4 of the continent’s new wealth in the past 20 years.

Schools really scare the bejeezus out of religious extremists, albeit provoking very different responses. In the U.S., Christian fundamentalists encourage the banning of books, remove sex ed from schools, and emphasize theories like creationism and it’s-not-global-warming-it’s-just-increased-tanning-opportunities-year-round. In Nigeria, Islamist groups shot 22 students and a teacher at point blank range and set their bodies on fire to prevent the spread of “Western ideas.”

Education is power. It allows you to imagine things beyond the world of your immediate experiences and to learn how to make manifest your dreams. It helps you understand your past and see how to move forward. It frightens the small-minded who seek to control power rather than promote growth. That young girl with the clear eyes and steady voice, speaking with such passion at the UN, scares the Taliban more than Western armies with advanced weaponry. She can inspire and galvanize others.

What can you do?

Take Action!

Hat Tips:

ABC NewsSlatePopulation Reference BureauThe AtlanticNews-LeaderReuters, Image Credit: Flickr

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