“I am Malala”: A Review of the Book and Its Implications for Education

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I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Little, Brown and Company, 2013

“I am Malala” is the true story of a fourteen-year old girl’s campaign for women’s right to education. In 2011 Malala was shot  by the Taliban in a bus on her way home from school. Two men boarded the school bus—“Who is Malala” they asked and fired gun shots; two lodged in Malala’s head. The series of events that followed, described in Malala’s voice, are remarkable—the politics, the media frenzy and her recovery. The shooting triggered a complex series of negotiations involving prominent political figures from Pakistan and England. It’s a powerful book. Malala’s story is remarkable in light of women’s role in her culture and the groups fighting to oppress women—in this case the Taliban. It was the Taliban that claimed responsibility for shooting Malala calling her crusade for education rights an “obscenity.” (Walsh, 2012).

Overview
The first half of the book Malala describes Pakistan’s history including the history of her ancestors and the northern region of Pakistan, Swat where she lives. Malala also shares stories of her family, giving the reader a glimpse into the culture of Pakistan from a young woman’s perspective. Many of the stories involve Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai. She describes his involvement in local politics, in the community and his vocal support of education for boys and girls. There’s no doubt Malala’s passion and courage to stand-up for women’s rights stems from her father’s actions and character. Ziauddin Yousafzai defied Taliban orders by running a private school that encouraged girls to attend. Malala describes the challenges and frustrations her father faced when starting the school. The motto over the school’s door read “We are committed to build for your the call of the new era”. Her father believed the school’s students could fight the enemy with pens, not swords.

Some reviewers claimed the book was poorly written, disjointed. It’s a valid point. The first half of the book does jump around, sometimes repeating facts. But I see this as a sign of authenticity; it’s written in a 14-year old’s voice, from her perspective. The first half of the book provides context for the second half. I could appreciate more about what happened to Malala after her shooting because of the background she included.

Education’s Value
In Western culture it’s unthinkable that women be excluded from education. Malala and her story are symbolic of education freedom and the book delivers a message to the world. Education, considered a right for many is used as a mechanism for oppression in some countries.

Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow.” Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human. —  Malala Yousafzai

Malala’s story emphasizes education’s value. Looking deeper it challenges readers to examine the role of education, its purpose and function within a society. Withholding education from certain groups within a society hinders progress, threatens peace and perpetuates poverty. These principles also apply to Western cultures where education is the starting point for eliminating poverty, reducing crime and violence in impoverished neighborhoods. There are parallels; it’s thought-provoking.

MOOCs and Education for Women Without Access
Daphne Koller founder of Coursera when launching the MOOC platform often spoke about MOOCs as a vehicle to bring education to those without access and MOOCs “democratizing education”. Though the chances that MOOCs will bring education to women In countries like Pakistan and empower them is questionable. How can MOOCs democratize education if a country’s government is unstable, when there is oppression of women and other groups? Or where there is no internet or access to computers or mobile devices? What about language barriers? MOOCs do have potential to deliver education to those without access, yet there are significant barriers to overcome.

Curriculum for “I am Malala”
George Washington University and the Global Women’s Institute developed a university-level curriculum based upon “I am Malala” to work across various academic disciplines. The tools focus on themes such as how education empowers women, global feminism, political extremism and youth advocacy. One of the goals of the program is to encourage college students and eventually high school students to get involved, to facilitate dialogue among various groups, and to influence public opinion about access to education and women’s rights.

Closing
“I am Malala” is a compelling read. Malala as an individual is a remarkable women who is a hero for women’s right to a quality education. With her father, Malala created the Malala Fund that supports education for women including the Global Partnership for Education. The book is a good starting point for learning about the complexities of women’s rights in some countries and education access. “I am Malala” delivers a message to each reader about the value of education. Education empowers.

Seven Must-Read Books About Education for 2014

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.”   Mortimer Jerome Adler

Many booksAt the close of every year I draw up a list of books I want to read for the upcoming one. When I was [much] younger the goal was to read as many books as I could—the more books I read the greater the sense of accomplishment I felt. I’m far more selective than I was in my youth; my aim is to read books that are worthy of my time, which is no doubt a sign of aging or crankiness, likely a bit of both. In this post I share with readers a selection of titles from my to-read list for 2014—the top seven related to education. This year [as in the past two at least] the number of titles to choose from was overwhelming. But I’ve narrowed it down to a mere seven. As the quote from Adler [above] suggests, I’m aiming for quality over quantity.

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
This book has been on my radar screen for sometime. I’ve read snippets from a variety of sources over the last couple of years, but it never quite made it onto my list.  I formally added it for  2014, placing it right at the top after seeing it made the number two spot on The Top 75 New York Times Best-Selling Education Books for 2013. The book has received numerous awards including Winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award in 2012,  The Globe and Mail’s Best Books of the Year 2011, The Economist’s 2011 Books of the Year, and The Wall Street Journal’s Best Nonfiction Books of the Year 2011.  Impressive.  Review by The Globe and Mail: The Heart of Reason, and the Reason of the Heart. Update: Read my review, ‘Thinking Fast and Slow and What it Means to Education‘.

2. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicolas Carr
The title alone is intriguing enough, but it secured a spot on my list given it was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. Author Nicolas Carr, technology writer is best known for his sensational article Is Google Making Us Stupid? which was featured as the cover story in the Atlantic Monthly in 2008. He’s written numerous books about technology, mostly about the negative effects of information overload and 24/7 connectivity. Carr appears to be a major cynic when it comes to technology; he describes the Internet as a medium based on interruptions, and how it’s changing the way we work and think for the worse. I look forward to reading it nonetheless. Review by the New York Times: Our Cluttered MindsUpdate: Read my review ‘What the Internet is Doing to Our Education Culture: Book Review of The Shallows

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Hardcover, 327 pages, Little Brown & Co

3. I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban, by Christian Lamb and Malala Yousafzai
The young woman Malala Yousafzai, both the subject and title of this book, made headlines in 2012 when shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for her activism in education rights for women. Malala began sharing her views at the age of eleven—in 2009 when she began writing a blog for the BBC under a pseudonym. Her blog documented life under Taliban rule and her perspective on women’s suppression and lack of access to education. For women living in the West it is hard to imagine being barred from pursuing educational opportunities, it is something we take for granted. Ironically, I am Malala raises awareness of women’s right to education in the Middle East, yet is banned in Pakistan by an organization representing 40,000 private schools.  Update: Read my review, “I am Malala”: Book Review and its Implications for Education.

4. Burning the Page: The e-book Revolution of the Future of Reading, by Jason Merkoski
I discovered Burning the Page when reading Jonathan’s Rees’ [blogger, professor, author] post, Reading is Fundamental.  In his post, Rees suggests that reading, specifically skilled reading is on the decline, and e-books are not helping.  My interest piqued, after a bit of research discovered the book is part history, part memoir of the author’s experience as a member of Amazon’s development team for the Kindle e-reader. It’s available in e-book format AND paperback. Click here to read my review on Goodreads.

“Jason Merkoski was involved on the development team for the Kindle e-book reader and, for a time became a “technology evangelist” for Amazon. This book is a combination memoir and thoughtful exploration of the future of reading in as we make the shift from “analog” to digital in books.” Bob’s Review

5. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green
A speaker at a conference I attended recently mentioned that Harold Jenkins, co-author of Spreadable Media is a modern-day Marshall McLuhan. I am a big fan of McLuhan— author, philosopher, professor, and he is responsible for coining the phrase ‘the medium is the message‘.  Spreadable Media also happens to be part of the PostMilliential Pop Series; a series that “strives to publish work that re-imagines scholarship on popular culture in the age of transnationalism, convergence and globalization.Update: Read my review:  ‘”Spreadable Media – How It’s Relevant to Education‘.

6. The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t, by Nate Silver
Though this work is not specific to education it’s geared more to business-minded readers, yet it is so very applicable the realm of education, more so with the advancement of our digital applications and devices. Also a timely read as the end of the year closes and we read more of the predictions for yet another.  Review: Nate Silver on Predicting the Unpredictable, interview [Podcast].  Review coming soon.

7. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown
A New Culture of Learning is another one that made the New York Times 2013 list. Yet it’s not only the book topic that’s of interest, but the process the authors followed to write and publish their work. Brown and Thomas describe the publishing approach as self-styled”, essentially mirroring the learning experiences outlined in A New Culture of Learning. The book’s editor cut the book in half from the original manuscript, eliminating any and all “academic jargon“.  In the spirit of a new culture of learning, the authors solicited ten times the reviews that an academic publisher would normally seek by “including a selection of eighteen short reviews of their final manuscript from an eclectic roster of academic and digital-culture all-stars, among them James J. Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan; Joichi Ito, chief executive of Crea­tive Commons; and Beth Simone Noveck, a professor at New York Law School” (Blumenstyk, 2011).  Update: Read my review, ‘A Not-so-new Approach to A New Culture of Learning‘.

“The book is designed to help teachers “cultivate the imagination of students,” says Brown. But equally, or more important, he says, it is also meant to inspire and challenge the teachers. Faculty might ask themselves, “how much do they manifest these cultures themselves?” Manifesto for a New Culture of Learning (Blumenstyk, 2011)

Conclusion
I look forward to another year and the good company of the books I’ll be reading.  I track my book list and reviews on the Goodreads platform, which you can find here.  If interested in viewing the previous books I’ve read and recommend on education, please click here for my education virtual bookshelf on Goodreads.

Further reading: