Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sorting out the Greg Mortenson Scandal

Listen to the WindI've waited a few days after the big scandal regarding Greg Mortenson's books (we've read both Greg Mortenson's Stones into Schools and Three Cups of Tea) and his non-profit work building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, to see what the fallout would be. Now I think I have a few useful links to share as we try to make sense out of the story.  First, of course there is the original 60 Minutes story and Jon Kraukauer's piece for Byliner.  Mortenson has responded via the Central Asia Institute's website and this interview in Outside. The news for Mortenson gets worse with the Montana Attorney General's office investigating and lawsuits in the wind.

For a more mixed view of Greg Mortenson and CAI from those who have met him and visited his schools, check out this this reaction from a reporter for MinnPost and the NYT editorial by Nick Kristof, Three Cups Spilled.  I also recommend, Peter Hessler's very insightful New Yorker piece, What Mortenson Got Wrong. Kristof worries about cynicism setting in regarding overseas charitable endeavors while Hessler wonders where the skepticism in the press has been for Mortenson and CAI over the past decade.  I've found myself wondering, where have all those now emerging to critique CAI been all these years?  I would gladly have shared that information as part of our discussion. It would have made for a lively debate!

The New Yorker's Book Bench blog comments with a sentiment felt by many readers of his books, I'm sure,
The Times talked to a military official in Afghanistan, who said, “We continue to believe in the logic of what Greg is trying to accomplish in Afghanistan and Pakistan because we know the powerful effects that education can have on eroding the root causes of extremism.” That’s an endorsement of an idea, not a person—the hope is that the idea can survive the person who gave it life, should that person be found wanting.
For the sake of the many school children who saved Pennies for Peace in the hopes of helping children in Pakistan, I too hope the message survives the man.
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