In December, I found a tall stack of Greg Mortenson’s new book, Stones into Schools, in a local bookstore after hearing of its release. This book (currently #5 on the New York Times best seller list) picks up where Three Cups of Tea (a book that has sold 3.5 million copies in 41 countries) left off, yet Stones into Schools stands alone and tells a gripping chronicle of what it is like to bring educational opportunities to rural communities in war torn Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is a story that weaves history, landscape and inspirational accounts of bravery and fortitude as Mortenson, his team and villagers work to do what seems, oftentimes, impossible.
Yesterday, PBS stations aired Bill Moyers in conversation with Greg Mortenson. In addition to illuminating the plight of the Central Asia Institute (CAI) and the new book, the interview gives you the chance to hear Mortenson’s views on the deployment of 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan, a decision President Obama announced on December 1, 2009. To this end, one of Moyer’s questions to Mortenson was: “It costs us a million dollars a year to keep one soldier there. That’s $30 billion for the new 30,000 troops. How many schools could you build with that?” Mortenson responded, with “$1 million we could build 30 or 40 schools. And in one generation we could have over 20,000, 30,000 kids educated.”
Not to miss, one highlight of the interview came after Moyers asked Mortenson about the “men who showed up in black.” Mortenson described their goal of building a girl’s school in a Taliban-led region notorious for opposing education of girls. In an effort to gain approval, he invited the province’s elders to one of CAI’s schools. Mortenson described the visit as one where men “armed to the teeth” spent an hour and a half playing on the schools swings and slides. During the show, they flashed a photo of these men swinging while laughing and smiling. Later, after gathering for a village meeting, the elders said: “We want to start this school. Of course we want the playground built first.”