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A Reassertion of Goodness, Humanity and Courage

October 11, 2012

Malala Yousafzai

This fall, I am teaching King Lear to my V Form English class at St. Andrew’s. It is a relentless play exploring the terror, violence, and dislocation caused by a King’s desire to retire from the stewardship of his kingdom. My great Shakespeare professor Alvin Kernan taught me that the play reveals Shakespeare’s deep belief in the importance of human responsibility and courage. What Lear seeks to do in the play is to retire and retain the name, power, and privilege of authority. What he fails to understand is that the forces of evil, aggression, and violence are only too ready to fill the vacuum.

I thought of the play as I read recent accounts of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl who had the tenacity to assert her right and girls’ rights to an education in the face of a Taliban insurgency that threatened and ultimately attacked her.

We should not be surprised at the Taliban’s blatant and outrageous assertion of power, nor should we be surprised that they identify education as a threat to their worldview.

As in King Lear, it is time for the world to reassert goodness, humanity, and courage, and it is time for all of us to understand that education is the key to world peace and to a rejection of extremist philosophies and actions in the world. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has established himself as an American writer with particular expertise on the plight of women both in the United States and in the world. He calls upon Americans to recognize the real problem of sex trafficking in American cities, and he has called for worldwide investments in education for girls. He writes today:

“We also don’t appreciate the way incidents like the attack on Tuesday in Pakistan represent a broad argument about whether girls deserve human rights and equality of education. Malala was a leader of the group that said, ‘Yes.’ The Taliban understood the stakes perfectly. They shot Malala because girls’ education threatens everything that they stand for. The greatest risk for violent extremists in Pakistan isn’t American drones. It’s educated girls.”

The days following the attack have shown great promise:

  • Leaders throughout the world condemned the attacks and offered medical help to Malala.
  • Surgeons worked to remove a bullet that had struck Malala in the head.
  • Pakistanis condemned the attacks, and Interior Minister Rehman Malik said: “Malala is our pride. She became an icon to our country.”

Nicholas Kristof recommends that citizens of the world make contributions to Developments in Literacy and The Citizens Foundation, two organizations that build schools in Pakistan, and at the same time honor girls and community.

I will write a check today and continue to fight for the education of girls.

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