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Old 12-30-2009   #1
yamiyugikun
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Default Libraries and counterinsurgency

I've read about how eduaction is important for economic development. What about building libraries in Afghan villages besides schools and Mosques to help the population? I see libraries as important in raising the literacy rate and helping the people empower themselves. Does anyone know about libraries being constructed as part of the civilian surge in Afghanistan?
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Old 12-30-2009   #2
IntelTrooper
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We can't even muster books for the schools, let alone a public-style library. Flying MRAPs in on C-17s at $1 million a pair takes precedence.
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Old 12-30-2009   #3
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I think private groups like this are probably the best way to go for now.

http://www.cw4wafghan.ca/what-we-do/...es-afghanistan
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Old 12-30-2009   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yamiyugikun View Post
I've read about how eduaction is important for economic development. What about building libraries in Afghan villages besides schools and Mosques to help the population? I see libraries as important in raising the literacy rate and helping the people empower themselves.

They have to learn how to read first. It does appear to be improving but more in the cities than in the villages. You'd probably have to gauge the literacy rate on a village by village basis to (help) establish if it's even worth the effort.


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Flying MRAPs in on C-17s at $1 million a pair...
Wowwwww, now that explains why vehicles are often left behind...it doesn't take much for their book value to drop below that amount.
Sorry yamiyugikun, couldn't resist diverting from your thread.
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Old 12-30-2009   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yamiyugikun View Post
I've read about how eduaction is important for economic development. What about building libraries in Afghan villages besides schools and Mosques to help the population? I see libraries as important in raising the literacy rate and helping the people empower themselves. Does anyone know about libraries being constructed as part of the civilian surge in Afghanistan?
Access to the internet serves many of the same functions and many more that libraries serve. A library without good schools to guide the students is no more useful than an internet connection, imo. The internet is a bigger collection, open more hours, and easier to use.

There are obviously downsides of content that is more difficult to discern as truth or fiction, but most people seem to be focused on obtaining marketable job skills rather than verifying urban legends on snopes, so expanding internet access would seem to be something cheaper and more effective. Ashraf Ghani raised that issue in "Fixing Failed States".
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Old 12-30-2009   #6
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I scratch my head about schools.

In the early 19th Century, a fellow named Rosenwald decided to improve minority schools in the US by establishing a Sears Roebuck approach---a standardized school house.

The Rosenwald Schools were a real breakthough---standard design of two classrooms---and all the necessaries to go forward with basic education.

I watched one after another school house get custom designed and built in Iraq, often without any equipment, and with no standardization of materials, supplies, etc...

In the US, for example, most school systems use standardized facilities and equipment---solely to minimize maintenance/operations from school to school.

I assume an Afghan school is primarily going to be built with local materials, but some standardization should exist, from a facility standpoint---a kit of parts for a standard school. How big is a classroom? How many desks does it need? is there one chalk board per classroom? Etc...

What are all those millions of dollars of NGO funds doing in Kabul without starting, for example, a simple bookbinding operation (even with binders) that could print an Afghan equivalent of a MacGuffey Reader in any language, on demand, and with fairly short runs. Each new school starts with a shipment of school books.

Once you nailed a process for short runs of locally-produced educational materials in the appropriate language, how hard would it be to improve the content and build an on-demand library to support basic 1-12 level education in Afghanistan?

How hard does this have to be?

Steve
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Old 12-30-2009   #7
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Ashraf Ghani raised that issue in "Fixing Failed States".


Here he is in 19 minutes.
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Old 12-30-2009   #8
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Considering the high illiteracy rate of the population, something I'm pushing for in our part of that world is exploring the use of radio for education. India and elsewhere have had some success:
http://www.edc.org/newsroom/articles...good_reception
http://www.thebetterindia.com/398/en...-what-an-idea/
http://www.feelthevibe.org/digital-l...g/hello-world/
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_51761.html
Out in rural Afghanistan, radio is the primary means of communication, so the creation of educational programming would be catering to an existing audience. And military FM radios could also be used to re-broadcast recorded programming to the more isolated areas. Putting together xeroxed introductory readers would be pretty low-cost as well. And one could even start with maybe focusing on a more religious-themed story to begin with, like Khadijah.
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Old 12-31-2009   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
I assume an Afghan school is primarily going to be built with local materials, but some standardization should exist, from a facility standpoint---a kit of parts for a standard school. How big is a classroom? How many desks does it need? is there one chalk board per classroom? Etc...

What are all those millions of dollars of NGO funds doing in Kabul without starting, for example, a simple bookbinding operation (even with binders) that could print an Afghan equivalent of a MacGuffey Reader in any language, on demand, and with fairly short runs. Each new school starts with a shipment of school books.

Once you nailed a process for short runs of locally-produced educational materials in the appropriate language, how hard would it be to improve the content and build an on-demand library to support basic 1-12 level education in Afghanistan?

How hard does this have to be?

Steve
It's hard to build any schools when it takes months of PRT visits of 18-20 dudes a whack, 4 or 5 vehicles, ANP escort, photographers, KLEs every time, then the paperwork gets lost... well, then there's the matter of contracting the work, acquiring the materials, deciding on a reasonable timeline to have it completed... hiring a (that's right, one) teacher, arranging security... forcing some governmental agency or NGO to front the funds for continued operation...

It's all very hard, Steve!

Or, you could just have a couple guys drive down in a HiLux and set everything up, but that would be dangerous! Way more dangerous than having huge swaths of ungovernable terrain with thousands of disenfranchised, unemployable, easily manipulated youth for the foreseeable future!
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Old 12-31-2009   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandermunoz View Post
Considering the high illiteracy rate of the population, something I'm pushing for in our part of that world is exploring the use of radio for education.
Hi Alexander,

Are you military, NGO, American, Canadian...? What part of "that world" do you own?
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Old 12-31-2009   #11
Steve the Planner
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Trooper:

Agree. (hard)

Trying to figure out an easier way to do it. Canned books, or like Alex's idea--radio.

Not much of a believer in requiring school buildings. A good teacher can teach under a tree, but a few easy readers, or simple illustrated religious stories goes a long way.

UN says there is a ticking time bomb of Afghan high school students graduating with no jobs. Where is the Afghan solution????

Steve
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Old 12-31-2009   #12
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PS_

Waiting for word on the eight civs killed in Khost today. No doubt, this will impact activities, too.
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Old 12-31-2009   #13
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Default Lead by example library...

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Originally Posted by IntelTrooper View Post
Wishlist
Books are heavy, instead consider going digital:

MIT OpenCourseWare: Mathematics, Robotics (fun & hardcore), Languages, and for some-nirvana (difficult but, with the gift of military discipline, do-able)

Calculus references

Google Calculator

Save some space in your ruck for a graphing calculator. If you like RPN and a tough/quality product try a HP if you like a easier to use calculator try a TI

How about the Australian School of the Air as a case study?
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Last edited by Surferbeetle; 12-31-2009 at 02:13 AM.
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Old 12-31-2009   #14
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IntelTrooper: I'm with the American Army.

And, of course, another benefit of using radios for educational purposes is that it's a less obvious target than a school that the Taliban can just come in and destroy. Since the community managed to limp along for years without one, they might not even feel that much of a loss when it's ruined.

Coalition Forces are already using FM radios for information operation purposes, so working with some NGOs to create some Pashto Language educational materials shouldn't be too much of an additional burden.
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont...1.4c909a7.html
For bases not equipped with Radio In A Box, military FM radios could fill the gap until they're obtained, allowing radio programming to be broadcast from every base and outpost and parcel of real estate we own (as well as from patrols - it's not like they don't know where we are when we're out there). And if broadcast schedules were synchronized between bases, this would likely amplify the effects of select programming, while leaving local DJs plenty of air-time for more local programming. Decentralized but coordinated, difficult to target and destroy, and relatively cheap - insurgent thinking applied to radio for education.
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Old 12-31-2009   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Surferbeetle View Post
Books are heavy, instead consider going digital:

MIT OpenCourseWare:

Calculus references

Save some space in your ruck for a graphing calculator. If you like RPN and a tough/quality product try a HP if you like a easier to use calculator try a TI
Sure, make me look like a dinosaur!

Embarrassingly enough, an acquaintance of mine was the director of the MIT OCW Consortium back in 2007-2008. Thanks for the advice re: graphing calculators. I'm going to try to use my old TI-86 but may have to upgrade.

Quote:
How about the Australian School of the Air as a case study?
I'm with Steve, Alexander and you in this regard. Radio has been totally underutilized as an educational medium in Afghanistan, not to mention for "IO" purposes. I saw a documentary on the School of the Air and while it would take a certain amount of discipline and support from family (e.g., don't have kids digging ditches or let them run wild when the classes are being conducted), the materials could be distributed fairly easily (like the Reader proposed by Steve).
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"We are unlikely to usefully replicate the insights those unencumbered by a military staff college education might actually have." -- William F. Owen

Last edited by IntelTrooper; 12-31-2009 at 04:38 AM. Reason: I always mess up i.e. and e.g.
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Old 12-31-2009   #16
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While we're talking about the wishlist...

I would add, regarding the programming books, that you can skim through the books relatively quickly and then rely on online help sites as you work through problems (meaning you don't need to bring the books with you). Some books are now offered in .pdf or other e-book format at a reduced price if you buy the hard copy book (usually log onto a website and answer some question such as "what is the fifth word on page 255?"). E-books are nice when they're reference books, because you can run a search for key words.

In working on my site with MS Visual Studio, I have often run into stumbling blocks that I couldn't figure out even with the books. I've found that the easiest way to find the answer is to just input the search terms using the syntax or topic of what you're trying to do, plus the site-specific search in Google (recent example for me: XslCompile Xslt site:forums.asp.net) and you can pretty quickly find a forum where someone else has already asked a question about what you're trying to figure out. In the rare cases when I haven't found an answer, I've posted the question at forums.asp.net and then gone to bed. By the time I woke up, an answer was usually posted. I've hardly cracked the stack of books that I own in months - I just rely on the help forums.

And, yes, this is on topic for the thread. As I noted several comments earlier, the internet can be a far more powerful tool for learning than a library. My experience certainly confirms this. I've got a stack of about $300 of books on various programming and web development topics, yet I've come to rely on online help forums.
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Old 12-31-2009   #17
IntelTrooper
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While we're talking about the wishlist...

I would add, regarding the programming books, that you can skim through the books relatively quickly and then rely on online help sites as you work through problems (meaning you don't need to bring the books with you). Some books are now offered in .pdf or other e-book format at a reduced price if you buy the hard copy book (usually log onto a website and answer some question such as "what is the fifth word on page 255?"). E-books are nice when they're reference books, because you can run a search for key words.
I'm a big fan of the books that come with the reference CDs or links to the full text online. Generally, e-books are harder on my eyes and I like to spread out my workspace a little bit (plus, a lot of books on my bookshelf makes me look smart! or clueless, I'm not sure which...) but the search ability is a huge time and frustration saver.

Quote:
In the rare cases when I haven't found an answer, I've posted the question at forums.asp.net and then gone to bed. By the time I woke up, an answer was usually posted. I've hardly cracked the stack of books that I own in months - I just rely on the help forums.
There is definitely a large and dedicated community of programmers who use and contribute to the forums. For scatter-brained slow types like myself, I need a little more foundation before I can use them without getting more confused.

Quote:
And, yes, this is on topic for the thread. As I noted several comments earlier, the internet can be a far more powerful tool for learning than a library. My experience certainly confirms this.
I agree. While it's a double-edged sword (your young men could be using their ability to read to contribute to their community or to join a jihadi group online) I think the net effect of Internet access is liberalization rather than radicalization.
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