Here’s an article published in the New York Times on Egyptians learning English and at the same time learning about American culture and democracy. I really think this article demonstrates two things:
First, Arabs don’t hate America because of its values, culture, etc. This is an article about the power of education and how it gave so much hope to these students, something that politics could not do for them. Education is a great way to win hearts and minds.
Secondly, the main point of the article regarding the lack of follow-up once the course and training ends raises a very important point. And I hope that it sends a message that more needs to be done for these students in order to implement what they learned and for the program to have an impact on their own lives, communities and elsewhere. What is happening in some countries in the Middle East is what is being dubbed as training fatigue. I believe training is vital, but the implementation process must also materialize at least to a certain extent. Otherwise, people will become frustrated.
But what did the United States get for its investment in this young woman?
“The most important idea I learned is to respect differences,” said Ms. Yousef, with a big white smile.
She said this in English, expressing an idea considered rebellious in a society that prizes and encourages conformity. Ms. Yousef picked up her new language and thinking skills as part of Access, an after school English language program that is a small, almost invisible corner of the United States Department of State’s multibillion-dollar budget. It is a low profile, delayed-impact program that aims to promote change and understanding from the bottom up. Since its inception in 2004, it has taught 32,000 students in 50 countries.