Bill to Bolster Education as Counterinsurgency Tool

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Earlier this year, legislation was introduced in the House that, as much as anything we’ve seen, strikes at the heart of some of the most challenging foreign policy, international affairs and security issues that the U.S. faces today. Nita Lowey’s “Education for All Act of 2010,” points out that almost half of the world’s 143 million primary and secondary school-aged children who do not attend school live in sub-Saharan Africa, and 40 million out-of-school children live in countries affected by conflict. The majority of out-of-school children are girls, with the highest proportion residing in the Arab states, Central Asia, South Asia and West Asia. The bill’s findings cite reports by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States and the Center for Strategic and International Studies that identify education as the best counterinsurgency tool available. The legislative sponsors state that:

“Basic education has been demonstrated to be fundamental to development. No country has reached sustained economic growth without achieving near universal primary education.”

The Education for All Act would ensure that the United States dedicates significant portions of its foreign assistance dollars to encouraging universal primary education for children. It would also commit the United States to playing a leadership role with bilateral and multilateral organizations to shepherd global resources for primary education. We have seen the benefits of a focus on education in emerging economies through our work with the One Laptop per Child Foundation, an international education non-profit which aims to bring opportunities for critical thinking and analysis to children in even the most remote and war-torn corners of the world.

To paraphrase a well-worn but timeless adage: “Give a child a fish and you’ve fed her for a day; teach a child to fish and you’ve fed her for a lifetime.” By teaching children, we not only enable them to feed themselves, but also to innovate, create, solve problems, and develop the tools necessary to resist recruitment by extremist ideologies that destroy nations and create global insecurity.

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