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

(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."

The cover of Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea, at top left.
The cover of Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea, at top left.   (AP Photo)
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