I’m Reading a Book…

Yes, this is a real book.  It has paper pages that you turn to see the next chapter.  I can take this book anywhere, and it never runs out of power so I can read it anywhere.  On a sunny beach, during take-off and landing, and in the bath if I’m careful.

reading-in-the-bathNow I happen to own this particular book.  But I also love to get books from the library too.  Thanks to Benjamin Franklin for creating the free library system, we can use books to travel to a new land, to imagine the impossible, to learn the story and lessons from important people, or to teach ourselves something new.  In fact, that’s why Benjamin Franklin created free libraries, so that poor people can get themselves out of poverty by learning a skill or trade.  At the time, books were only available to people with money who could afford to purchase them or join subscription libraries.

So books can help people lift THEMSELVES out of poverty!  But you have to be able to read first. Illiteracy prevents people from reading street signs and bus signs to get around efficiently, from doing simple accounting to make sure they are getting the correct change for a purchase, or from reading the religious manuscript that guides their life.

buildon-worldwide-mapI know a group that has built over 500 schools in rural areas of developing countries around the world.  Right now, 85,060 children, parents, and grandparents attend those schools and learn to read.  First, buildOn meets with the community members and they elect 3 men and 3 women to form a committee.   The committee works with buildOn to coordinate all the details.  Before the construction starts, all of the community members sign a covenant along with the buildOn members, that promises to send boys and girls in equal numbers to the school and other policies.  buildOn works with the local government to ensure that an educator is provided for the school.  After 22 years since the first school was built in a Malawian village, that community now has 4 more just like it that they built themselves.  Students from those schools are able to learn to be teachers, etc.   It has also improved the standing of women in the community, who are in turn speaking out against some of the awful practices committed against women.

So go read a book, and remember how lucky you are to be able to read.

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Equality in America and the Myth of Social Immobility

Living the American Dream… Unfortunately not everyone has equal access to achieving the dream. In some ways there is a social necessity for keeping people at the bottom. Not everyone can have the high paying jobs, and anyone who falls down the ladder will be more distraught than people who grew up in that social position. So unless everyone can move up the ladder, would it be better to keep some people at the bottom? I believe in the US we have enough money and knowledge to provide basic needs for all. And we should strive to improve upon that standard. But we absolutely need to know how to maintain that standard and avoid falling back. Winning $100 is great, but losing $100 hurts much worse.

The McLean Parlor

wealth and inequality

In The New York Times’ series on inequality in America, Columbia professor and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz recently argued that measurable social mobility in America is incongruent with the often ascribed “land of opportunity” label.  Stiglitz did reference data from a reputable source (The Brookings Institution) to draw his conclusions, but his interpretation of said data is perplexing.

According to Stiglitz, “only 58 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of income earners move out of that category, and just 6 percent born into the bottom fifth move into the top.”

The word “only” in that statement is an interesting rhetorical choice. I don’t know exactly what percentage of America’s poorest children the professor thinks should be moving out of the untouchable caste, but 58% seems pretty good. And while 6% seems rather paltry when I pay sales tax on a Burger King Whopper, the fact that 6 out…

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buildOn helps kids in the US and provides education abroad

I am moved by this speech from a High School student participating with buildOn, a non-profit group focused on building schools in developing countries that also ties in service programs for students in the US.   If you are interested in more information then follow the link to learn more about the program.

In reading the speech by Kasiemobi Udo-okoye, it reminds me of how easy my life has been and how many blessings experienced.