Education, Literacy, and Terrorism

Developed by Jessi Rochel, Spring 2008

Cope, Bill and Kalantzis, Mary and Varnava-Skoura, Gella, eds. Learning for the Future: New Worlds, New Literacies, New Learning, New People. Common Ground Publishing Pty Ltd: Australia, 2002.

This text highlights three themes: the “new literacies” of new information technology, globalization, and multiculturalism. It deals with teaching and preparing students to not only be literate in the general way of knowing how to read and write, but literate in the sense of being prepared to live and work in a multicultural and global era. The chapters cover the following material: the failure of education to fulfill a long-promised goal; language-based racism and institutional discrimination; integrating “old literacies” (academic language and schooled knowledge) with “new literacies” (technology and multicultural, globalized skills); the darker side of private schooling and its implications; literacy policy and its flawed empirical basis; the connection between the literacy level of educators and the literacy level of their students; the learning future for Indigenous peoples; the International Multiliteracies Project in South Africa; the benefits of teaching in a non-school environment; analysis of linguistic and visual content of techno-scientific texts; and the way the English language has “marketed” itself in a global context.

This text is full of information pertaining to international literacy. I particularly found the discussion on the new literacy of information technology to be a significant source of information, as well as the research on what the future of education and learning is for indigenous peoples. The text highlighted a variety of issues surrounding literacy in a global sense, and therefore offered a well-rounded outlook on the issue.

Demaine, Jack. “Citizenship, Education, and Globalization.” Citizenship and Political Education Today. Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2004. Pgs. 200-211.

Demaine discusses the workability of “global citizenship education,” as long as it addresses the confines of the legal and political structures of the nation state and fellow member states of greater institutions (such as the EU). There is a wealth of material on global citizenship that may be utilized for teaching, and it is important to educated students today on the varying cultural, political, legal and economic structures around the globe.

This article tackles the issue of global citizenship-an important element in the fight against terrorism and the promotion of tolerant societies. It is a broad-minded topic and includes information on politics and the state as well. I found it a helpful guide for understanding the importance for, and the effects of, politically-minded education.

Freebody, Peter and Welch, Anthony R. “Explanations of the current international ‘literacy crises.'” Contextualising Difficulties in Literacy Development: Exploring politics, culture, ethnicity, and ethics. RoutledgeFalmer: London, 2002. Pgs. 61-72.

This article explains how “it is not uncommon for a crisis of the state to be exported onto schooling systems, such that they are . . . under pressure from governing ministries, industry, and the general public” (70). It explores the falling standards in education over the past decades, and cites four hypotheses as possible explanations why. The Slide Hypothesis explains that there has simply been a general decline in literacy competence. The Demands Hypothesis does not assert a decline in standards, but rather an increase in demands for literacy performance. The Credentials Hypothesis also cites an increase–this time in the rising expectation of the job market. The Invention Hypothesis claims that, like the idea of the “standards” themselves, both are purely social constructions to undermine new educational trends.

By focusing on the falling standards in education, this article is helpful because it offers possible reasons why education is failing our students, and thus offers background information to the topic of literacy. Failing education may be a root cause of failing literacy, and it’s important to be aware of the connections and the interrelated issues if one is exploring the broader topic of international literacy.

Friedman, Thomas L. “The Unflat World.” The World is Flat. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: New York, 2006. Pgs. 457-504.

Thomas L. Friedman’s The World is Flat looks at how globalization is changing the world-from the causes of it, to the subsequent effects, he covers it all in this book. This chapter specifically however, explores the forces that threaten his so-called flattening of the world-including terrorism. Friedman discusses the concept of humiliation and the “poverty of dignity” and the way these things are caused by being left out of the advancements of the most developed countries and may lead to embittered retaliations. Friedman writes, “It is when people or nations are humiliated that they really lash out and engage in extreme violence. When you take the economic and political backwardness of much of the Arab-Muslim world today, add its past grandeur and self-image of religious superiority, and combine it with the discrimination and alienation these Arab-Muslim males face when they leave home and move to Europe, or when they grow up in Europe, you have one powerful cocktail of rage” (488). Additionally, a friend of Friedman explains how they are “‘walking the streets of life, searching for tall buildings-for towers to bring down, because they are not able to be tall like them'” (488).

Overall, I think this is an excellent book and one that all Americans should read to become more aware of the changes around them-what caused these changes, what the results are, how our world is flattening around us at increasing speeds every day. As for its relation to my topic of literacy and terrorism, I think has some interesting insights-such as Friedman’s explanation of humiliation and its ties to terrorism. Humiliation is definitely a by-product of being left out and being left out often is a result of a lack of education, miseducation, or simply not being open to the changes occurring elsewhere. For example, as noted in Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea, many people in the Arab-Muslim world are being offered expensive educations-but at the extremist madrassas. Therefore, it’s not only education that is important, but a balanced, non-extremist form of education.

Hiatt-Michael, Diana B., ed. Promising Practices for Family Involvement in School Across the Continents. Information Age Publishing Inc.: Greenwich, 2005.

A collection of essays dealing with the relationships between families and schools in various places throughout the world, including the Scandinavian countries of Western Europe, Gambia, Russia, Quebec, Mexico, and East Asia among others. These essays collectively demonstrate, that the world over, parents care about their children’s education and wish to see them succeed. As a result, a few themes emerge-a need for shared power between parents and school agents, school choice, and support for mandated national testing. Overall, this text is a presentation on “family involvement issues and practices in diverse global situations” (9).

This text was an interesting read and different from all the other sources I found by its emphasis on the relationship between parents and education. It is helpful that it documented cases from all over the world, and then offers a simple, concise conclusion-parents in every area of the world care about their children’s education. Therefore, it offers insight into the need for better relationships between parents and educators.

Judith Torney-Purta and Wendy Klandl Richardson. “Anticipated Political Engagement among Adolescents in Australia, England, Norway and the United States.” Citzenship and Political Education Today. Palgrave Macmillian: New York, 2004. Pgs. 41-58.

An essay on the outcomes of a test and survey of the ways in which young people are educated to undertake roles as citizens of a democratic country-focus on civic-related education in the school within the context of family and community. The results indicated that political socialization occurs both within and outside the school, therefore it is necessary to provide an educational process that focuses on opportunities for active participation in the classroom, as well as sharing in the power of school-wide decisions.

Krueger, Alan B. and Maleckov�, Jitka. “Seeking the Roots of Terrorism.”

The Chronicle Review Online. 06 June 2003.


This article challenges the view that there are direct connections between poverty, education, and terrorism, and instead suggests that whatever links exist are indirect, complicated, and weak at best. Krueger and Jitka focus on sub-state terrorism and hate crimes, suggesting that terrorism is more often a violent political response, rather than an act born of impoverishment or lack of education. The authors state, “Instead of viewing terrorism as a response — either direct or indirect — to poverty or ignorance, we suggest that it is more accurately viewed as a response to political conditions and longstanding feelings of indignity and frustration that have little to do with economic circumstances. We suspect that is why international terrorist acts are more likely to be committed by people who grew up under repressive political regimes. There are many good reasons to improve education and reduce poverty in poor countries. Alas, reducing terrorism is probably not one of them.” To support their conclusions, Krueger and Jitka use data from Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Hezbollah militant activities in Lebanon.

When I first came across this article, I omitted it as its position ran completely contrary to my research. However, upon further consideration, I realized it was important to include since it showed the opposition point of view. In any research endeavor, it is vital to include both sides-you have to know what the counter-arguments are if you want to both prove and strengthen your own position. Thus, while this article maintains that there is not a strong relationship between poverty, education, and terrorism, the information contained in the article is still helpful overall.

Mortenson, Greg, and Relin, David Oliver. Three Cups of Tea. Penguin Group: New York, 2006.

This book follows the experiences of Greg Mortensen as he struggled against all odds to build schools in the most remote villages in Pakistan. After a failed climbing attempt on K2, Mortenson found his true calling: to promote peace and fight terrorism by building schools and educating the children of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I think that this book is an amazing resource about international education and literacy. It particularly stresses the importance of education for girls, and the importance of education as a deterrent against terrorism. It is moving and inspiring, but more importantly, it is based on true experiences.

Nelles, Wayne, ed. Comparative Education, Terrorism and Human Security: From Critical Pedagogy to Peace Building? Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2003.

This text explores the links between education, security and international relations research with critical pedagogy analysis in order to draw conclusions between how all forms of terrorism are connected back to, and reproduced through, education. Additionally, it seeks to offer alternative means for fighting violence and terrorism through nonmilitary strategies. Wayne explains: “Two theoretical premises inform most contributions. The first is that universal, global “human security” for all persons ought to be a principal moral goal for all governments and their citizens, not a narrowly conceived or poorly justified “national security that protects state power or personal interests of privileged elite. A second is an emphasis on nonviolent means for achieving personal or national security, preventing unnecessary violence or military conflicts, and building peace (preferably before, but also after wars) through education” (1).

This text is a good one to study as it discusses the peace process in relation to education, and how the latter can help foster the former. Rather than just discussing the links between education and terrorism, it looks at the other side and evaluates the connections between education and security.

Openshaw, Roger and Soler, Janet, eds. Reading across International Boundaries: History, Policy, and Politics. Information Age Publishing Inc: Charlotte, 2007.

Focused primarily on experienced in England and New Zealand, this text takes a three-step approach to international literacy. The first part describes the national policy initiatives that occur in light of reading discourses, as well as how those initiatives in turn shape reading. Part two follows professional contexts and how those policy decision directly affect teachers and children. Finally, the third portion explores the wider implications of policy and initiative in understanding reading as both a private and social activity. This text differs from others on similar material because of its international focus, and non-dominant viewpoints. Finally, this text “highlights the need for literacy debates to respond to the complex and dynamic set of practices connected with the evolution of literacy practices rather than merely focusing on basic skills and functional literacy” (xxi).

I believe there are pros and cons to this book. First of all, I think that it is well-written and compiled, and thus easy to follow and understand. It provides a wealth of information on the subject of international literacy–from the macro level of national policy and initiative, to the micro level of the personal experiences of teachers and students. However, that being said, the majority of information in this text is limited to English-speaking, highly developed countries. Therefore, this book is incredibly helpful, but in a limited way. Standing alone, it fails to provide insight into the less developed, or even underdeveloped, world of international literacy.

Peters, Michael A., ed. Education, Globalization, and the State in the Age of Terrorism. Paradigm Publishers: Boulder, 2005.

Peter’s book is just what its title implies-it looks at the ways education and terrorism are linked, and how globalization and the state impact both. It focuses on the way terrorism has impacted the concept and practice of education, globalization, global citizenship, feminist issues in a post-9/11 world, youth identities between America and Britain, democracy amidst a culture of war, and the current conflict in Iraq through a collection of essays.

I found this text during my revised search for specifically education and literacy and terrorism. Again, as implied by its title, it covers the exact topics I was researching, and as its publishing date indicates, it is incredibly applicable for its current information. It includes a broad scope of information on three significant and highly interconnected issues: education, globalization, and terrorism.

Sachs, Jeffrey D. “Why We Should Do It.” The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. Penguin Books: New York, 2005. Pgs. 329-346.

This book was written especially in light of the Millennium Developments Goals, which among other things, are intended to eliminate extreme poverty in the world by 2015. The chapter in question addresses the connections between poverty and terrorism and why we cannot fight the latter without addressing the underlying roots of the problem, namely poverty, along with education, unemployment, rapid population growth, hunger and lack of hope-all of which are tied back to poverty. Thus, Sachs is explaining how terrorism and poverty are inherently tied together, and as a result, so too is education (or lack thereof). Sachs explains, “Whether terrorists are rich or poor or middle class, their staging areas-their bases of operation-are unstable societies beset by poverty, unemployment, rapid population growth, hunger, and lack of hope. Without addressing the root causes of that instability, little will be accomplished in staunching that terror” (330-331).

This is an incredibly insightful book overall, and this chapter especially is helpful in understanding the connections between poverty and terrorism, and also how lack of education-which stems from poverty-also contributes. Without the capital to provide school, school supplies, and a steady education program, people have few if any opportunities to contribute to something bigger than themselves. And without that, frustration and anger are fomented, and terrorist activities may be the end product.

Singh, Michael, ed. Global Learning. Common Ground Publishing Pty Ltd: Australia, 2002.

This text is largely focused on the impact of globalization on literacy. Concerned mostly with Australia, “Global Learning” argues the “need to reconsider issues of ethnicity, gender and class in efforts to reinvent a version of multiculturalism that can contribute to global learning” (2). Other topics covered in this text include the role of the community in education; worker-centered education; learning styles, needs, and expectations of international students; internationalizing and technologizing curriculum; and intelligence–whether it is exclusively or inclusively defined, whether it is inherited, and whether any part of it can be measured with accuracy.

I think that the connections drawn between literacy and globalization were not only interesting but a really important component of international literacy. Globalization is a huge factor right now, and by exploring how it impacts or affects literacy, Singh was establishing an argument that is incredibly pertinent to any discussion on international literacy.

Further information can be found on these websites on Peace Education:

The Peace Education Network

International Education for Peace Institute (EFP)

United Nations Cyberschoolbus

Peace Education Foundation