Taming Extremism by Promoting Education

Excerpt from “What Oman Can Teach Us,” by Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, October 13, 2010:

oman In short, one of the lessons of Oman is that one of the best and most cost-effective ways to tame extremism is to promote education for all.

Many researchers have found links between rising education and reduced conflict. One study published in 2006, for example, suggested that a doubling of primary school enrollment in a poor country was associated with halving the risk of civil war. Another found that raising the average educational attainment in a country by a single grade could significantly reduce the risk of conflict.

Sorry if this emphasis on education sounds like a cliché. It’s widely acknowledged in theory, and President Obama pledged as a candidate that he would start a $2 billion global education fund. But nothing has come of it. Instead, he’s spending 50 times as much this year alone on American troops in Afghanistan — even though military solutions don’t have as good a record in trouble spots as education does.

The pattern seems widespread: Everybody gives lip service to education, but nobody funds it.

Bringing Civility Back

Barack Obama, discussing health care reform with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes (September 13, 2009):

I will also say that in the era of 24-hour cable news cycles, that the loudest, shrillest voices get the most attention. I mean, let's take these town halls. As I've said, I had four of them. And there were people in there who disagreed with me. But all of them were courteous. All of them listened to each other. I kept on looking for somebody to yell at me, so that I could sort of sort of engage in these folks that you were seeing on TV. That wasn't our experience.

And if you go to a lot of members of Congress, and you ask them, "What was going on at some of these town hall meetings?" They'd say, "Eighty percent of the folks who were there were there to listen, to try to figure out how we can solve this problem." But you never saw those folks on TV, because it was boring.

And so, one of the things I'm trying to figure out is, how can we make sure that civility is interesting. Hopefully, I will be a good model for the fact that, you know, you don't have to yell and holler to make your point, and to be passionate about your position.

It's still a work in progress. No doubt about it.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Surrounded by members of Congress President Barack Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Bill with Lilly Ledbetter, at center behind Obama, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009, in the East Room at the White House in Washington. Others standing from left, are Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Me., and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. Associated Press © 2009 "Money could not have bought what I have had the last two years since I've been in this fight. I'm still basically the same person, but my life has expanded because I have met so many wonderful, great people. It's sort of shocking when I answer my phone and someone says, Will you please hold for the President-elect?”

~ Lilly Ledbetter, from “Fair Pay Law Strikes A Blow For Equal Pay,” by Nina Totenberg, Morning Edition (1.29.09)

His Own Words

From “Writers Welcome a Literary President-Elect,” Hillel Italie, Associated Press (11.06.08):

For Toni Morrison and others, the election of Obama matters not because he will be the first black president or because the vast majority of writers usually vote for Democrats. Writers welcome Obama as a peer, a thinker, a man of words — his own words.

"When I was watching Obama's acceptance speech, I was convinced that he had written it himself, and therefore that he was saying things that he actually believed and had considered," says Jane Smiley, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Thousand Acres" and other fiction."I find that more convincing in a politician than the usual thing of speaking the words of a raft of hack speechwriters. If he were to lie to us, he would really be betraying his deepest self."