The Illiterate Afghan Non-ComDr. Seuss and the Afghan Military
Many of our countrymen, convinced in 2003-4 and again in 2008 that Afghanistan was the "right" war, are now not so sure. It's taking too long.
Consider, then, the task of asking illiterate soldiers and even leaders to take on al Qaeda.
While some pundits still think the profession of arms to be for dimwits, the truth is that US soldiers and leaders are among the most educated and learned of our citizens. Almost no one else takes in the amount of classroom time our generals have, and it's not at all uncommon to find sergeants with masters' degrees. We won't hand you a rifle without both a high school diploma and very intense training--in everything from history to language to emergency medical care to ethics to street psychology.
Asking an illiterate Afghan force to stand in our soldiers' place, or even be trained by them, is a challenge indeed.
What does this say about general education in the US? It says we need to be training more self-reliant missionaries. People who can do more than process data and calls here in the US, but go out to the world and provide what people need, where they need it. That's not always what college tends to be about these days; it's often a culture of criticism (so-called "critical thinking") and entitlement.
What would a self-reliant missionary learn? Things like accounting and building and asking good questions. Cultural and scientific literacy. Lots of solid background knowledge to guide the questioning.
The article above talks about teaching Afghan soldiers to read. I hope, too, that there are literacy researchers tied to this particular mission. Think of what we can learn from studying how experienced adult soldiers face the task of learning to read.