21 October 2010


TEXTBOOKS. Like a refreshing breeze comes the news that many college students still prefer paper textbooks over their electronic media equivalents. Their reasons parallel my own clear preference for books, especially hardcover editions. "The screen won't go blank ... There can't be a virus. It wouldn't be the same without books. They've defined 'academia' for a thousand years.'"

I've loved books since preschool days, and knew how to read before entering first grade (having had no access to kindergarten or academic preschools). There is something very satisfying about the weight of a book, lending substance to its contents. The smell of paper, the texture of each page and of the cover, the immediacy of being able to pick up a book and read for pleasure or enlightenment (or both) -- these sensations do not exist on a computer or electronic reader screen. Not to mention that any medium which radiates light eventually causes eyestrain, whereas the pages of a book reflect light, inviting the reader in.

Don't get me wrong. I love my computer, with its easy access to what I call the library of the world. And who knows, someday I may cave in and buy a Kindle reader. But my personal library will always consist of ... books.

DR. GREG. NYTimes columnist Nicholas D. Kristof has discovered something which I first brought to readers' attention on July 1 of this year -- the writings and philosophy of Greg Mortenson, whose life is dedicated to founding schools (especially schools for girls) in the most remote and often most dangerous regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. As Kristof notes in Dr. Greg and Afghanistan Mortenson's view is that schools are the first priority in helping locals to help themselves, and those schools can only succeed if they are staffed by native teachers and supported by native village leaders. If those criteria are met, resident villagers consistently defend their schools against the efforts of the Taliban to remove them. What better way to build lasting friendships with the peoples of the world?

Kristof expands this approach to include U.S. military strategy. Currently the war in Afghanistan is a colossal failure. I've commented frequently that we cannot expect to invade other nations with large conventional forces, and expect to subsume them to our values. Escalating guerrilla war is the inevitable result, whatever our intentions. If we are serious about countering terrorist groups, we must identify the true threat (Al-Quaea), and then couple surgical strikes using small teams of special operatives like Delta Force, along with training the Afghan National Army to bear the major burden of defending the country.

Here is a link to my original essay on Stones Into Schools. It is well worth reading more than once, as American casualties in Afghanistan mount daily, with no end in sight.

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