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Educators and the Three Cups of Tea Controversy

Like a lot of other people interested in the education of children around the world, I loved the story told in Three Cups of Tea of how Greg Mortenson became passionate about building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I recommended the book to you on this blog in 2008.

But you've probably heard by now that an investigation by "60 Minutes" and reporting by the well-known journalist, John Krakauer, have raised serious questions about whether we can believe key parts of his story told in Three Cups of Tea and his newer book, Stones into Schools. Even more serious are allocations that he misused funds collected by thousands of school children through his organization's program "Pennies for Peace."

Greg Mortenson himself doesn't defend all the facts in his books, telling Outside magazine that the time in which some events took place was compressed.

Education Week posted a story today that I wrote about what the fallout might be for educators. Says John I. Wilson, the executive director of the National Education Association, to teachers who may be facilitating fund-raising campaigns for Pennies for Peace: "Finish the project but hold on to the money."

A spokesman for the Central Asia Institute, which runs Pennies for Peace, said to me in an email message that all the funds collected by this program go for schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She said any funds that haven't been spent yet are sitting in a fund for future use.

I expect that the inquiry by Montana's attorney general of the Central Asia Institute's finances will give us more details about whether children's pennies have gone for peace or a less worthy purpose.

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