Greg Mortenson Scandal May Be 'Tragedy' for Girls
Could hurt effort to educate females in poor countries: Michelle Goldberg
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2011 12:46 PM CDT
The cover of Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea, at top left.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – The allegations that author Greg Mortenson isn't quite the humanitarian he claims to be smacks of the James Frey memoir scandal, with one all-important difference, writes Michelle Goldberg at the Daily Beast. Frey damaged only his own reputation, but Mortenson could do far worse. He is, after all, "the single most famous champion of the transformative power of education for girls in poor countries," writes Goldberg. "If his downfall leads to skepticism about his cause, it would be not just a scandal, but a tragedy."

Remember that this scandal follows the collapse of Madonna's school-building plans in Malawi. "It wouldn’t be surprising if many people, watching all this, decide that feel-good school-building programs are giant cons," writes Goldberg. That's too bad because the overall cause is still a worthy one, even if the "White in Shining Armor Approach" rarely works. Getting successful schools running requres far more than just putting up buildings, and organizations such as the Afghan Institute of Learning and the Global Fund for Women are getting it done. "The problem isn’t that the world of development lacks real heroes. The problem is that they’re rarely the ones we hear about."

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Showing 3 of 4 comments
Apr 19, 2011 9:43 PM CDT
Please visit to learn more about the region where Mortenson started his school projects. We the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan, a region of former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir do have lot of respect for him for providing education to girls in that area. The region has one of the lowest per capita incomes and one of the lowest literacy rates and without support of NGOs like CAI and AKDN, education would be a dream for the majority as more than half of the locals live below the poverty line. Since Pakistan government has failed to provide for the educational needs of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, it is people like Mortenson who became the hope for us
Apr 19, 2011 3:43 PM CDT
I'm not sure, but I feel hoodwinked. I remember reading about the Afghan girls Ghosia and Siddre in Stones into Schools, that were top students and wanted to further their educations and become doctors for their villages. They were obstructed by family members out of jealousy and personal need to keep these girls from attending school further. The CAI offered scholarships to the girls and said they would hold them until the families allowed them to attend. Do these girls really exhist? If they do, what will become of them if the CAI is proven to be a fraud?
Apr 19, 2011 3:38 PM CDT
"If his downfall leads to skepticism about his cause, it would be not just a scandal, but a tragedy." Why would anyone become skeptical about the cause of educating girls in the developing world because someone involved in the cause may have committed improprieties? Greg Mortenson may be a symbol of the cause, but he is completely separable from it. Do I care less about this cause now that Mr. Mortenson and Madonna have been involved in scandals with their contributions to it? I don't think so. I have never put my money where Mortenson and Madonna's mouths were (unintended queasy image alert), as there are many other ways to support this worthy cause. For a partial list: UNICEF, Save the Children, UNESCO, CARE, the World Bank, UNIFEM, USAID, etc.