Latest Reading: Three Cups of Tea – One Man’s Mission To Promote Peace…One School at a Time

I finally got around to reading Greg Mortenson’s book about his work in Pakistan. The book was on the New York Times Bestseller’s list for a long time. I won’t give a summary of the book but a few of my impressions. It was a good time to read the book to coincide with my trip to the Middle East. Mortenson is an “global nomad” having grown up in Tanzania and it shows in his ability to easily adapt to a foreign culture. He is being touted by the US media as the foremost authority of life in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the US military commanders are consulting with him. Is it that hard to take time to learn the language and customs of a country. He dives right into the culture of the Kashmir / Himalaya region by learning Pashtun, wearing the traditional costumes and figuring out the power hierarchy in the villages where he is trying to build schools. I think his global background gave him the mind set to do this very quickly, having grown up in a culture different to his own parents.

My Father-in-Law Buys Dates in a Market in Manama, Bahrain (December 2010)

I just don’t understand why the US foreign service and military doesn’t have an army of Greg Mortensons. It should be mandatory to use long-time in-country expats to understand how the US government form its policies and relationships with other nations. The US should be putting more effort and resources into developing people like him. I feel strongly about maintaining a strong military, but the US should put more into money into programs like Mortenson’s, like building schools in areas that need them. I feel sorry for those kids in the US Armed Forces that have never left the US, being thrown into situations where they need to interact with local civilians. We are going about it all wrong.

My visit to Bahrain the past two weeks has changed my perspective to the Middle East. I know that Bahrain is only a small part of the region, and is known for its tolerance, but this is a region that we can do much more to help, other than military intervention. They Muslims are ordinary people with normal hopes, dreams, fears, emotions, etc. Greg Mortenson has found this out, why don’t more Americans do so also?


Dangerous Book for Boys

Dangerous Book for Boys, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

I listened to the interview with author Gonn Iggulden about his book, “The Dangerous Book for Boys.” I bought this book last year and have enjoyed doing some of the activities with my sons Owen and Oliver. I highly recommend it.

The book is a response to the movement in education and society towards safety. Parents are overly protective of children. They have taken out most risk in the lives of children and this has especially hurt the healthy development of boys. Education has also moved in the last 30 years in this philosophy also. Teachers are very cautious when planning activities and field trips because fear of a student being injured and possible litigation. Increased media coverage has also given parents and exaggerated fear of all the possible dangers that can befall children outdoors.

“Better a broken arm, than a broken spirit.” Interviewer Glenn Reynolds ( from the response of early 1900’s educators against the notion that playgrounds are unsafe. This book is riding the pendulum swing in our society and education that the movement towards providing a totally safe, protected environment has hurt our children and having a bit of risk in their lives is good for them. I can’t agree more. I see many over protective parents, especially mothers, coddling their children to the point for hindering their development. My brother and I both have sons, and we often talk about how we don’t want our boys to grow up to the soft, pale, video game playing boys. We see it in the students that we work with. I learned from the interview that the original boy scout manual was written because the author believed that Americans were turning soft like the Roman empire. He was right on, and the trend did not stop, although scouting is a fantastic program. I am constantly fighting against “passive entertainment” of television and video games. It is so much more pervasive than when I was growing up. Getting the boys outside and doing stuff is a challenge these days!

The Iggulden brothers both are former teachers and feel the same way I do. They have done all the projects in the book and anything they couldn’t do, they left out. The book was a best seller in the UK where they are from and the American version is a hit too. They had to change the book slightly for the USA, getting rid of cultural references and history that don’t apply to us.

As a school administrator, I am on the front lines of helping this generation of boys to develop into functioning and healthy men. I know that over protective mothers mean well and they think what they are doing is best. But there is a balance between negligence and living in the plastic bubble. I believe our education system and society swung too far in the direction of plastic bubble. For example, a few years ago I had a day care mother suggest the children take their own sand to school for the playground so they would catch bacteria from the other children playing in the sand box. This is unhealthy and we need to give young people more responsibility and more “active entertainment” time. I am trying to do this with my sons and will try to promote this with the students and parents I work with. For more information you can go to the authors’ web site ( and you can also listen to the interview from April of 2007 below.