Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hope for improved journalism

A recent article (, excellent in its portrayal of hope, by Mr. Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, described the success of private schooling in Pakistan.

This blog, however, is more interested in the rules of logic and debate, rather than the nature of opinons expressed, and even this positive article appeared to have some flaws.

> One reason Pakistan is sometimes called the most dangerous country in the world is this:
> a kindergarten child in this country has only a 1 percent chance of reaching the 12th grade
> , according to the Pakistan Education Task Force, an official panel.

This appears to be misleading. A country is "dangerous" only if the growing child is killed, enslaved, starved etc. - if the child's guardians opt to remove her or him from the formal education system (for social, economic, religious, political, gender-based etc., i.e., self-willed reasons - many of which are commonplace in Pakistani/Eastern society), then the country is scarcely dangerous. The implication of the author's statistic is that children die (because of landmines, virulent outbreaks of communicable disease or terrorist attacks?) before they reach the age of around seventeen.

> We’ve propped up generals but not the lawyers’ movement for democracy.

Suggestive juxtaposition, as if the one involves violent generalissimos (the choice of word if one wishes to be disparaging), unloved of the people, and the other has to do with erudite and composed, except when called to the fore, gentlemen. The Pakistani army has often been disrespectful of its people, but this does not seem to be resented by most, curiously enough. Indeed, some non-staged dancing in the streets seems to have greeted every military usurpation of power. The agitation called the "Lawyers' Movement" also involved, especially in its extensions, bits that were brutal and undemocratic (i.e. without any respect for debate and consensus building).

> They (the Pak. middle class, members of) are enraged at the terrorists who have been
> tearing apart their country, they’re appalled by corruption and illiteracy, and they want
> peace so that their children can become educated and live a better life. Their obsession
> is college, not Kashmir.

Much of English language print media and Urdu language electronic media appear to contradict this. "This" appears to be reasonable and straightforward, indeed a banality ("Of course, one choses a loaf of bread to a Kalashnikov!") - but, as with all things cultural, it is obvious only given a certain cultural prejudice. If one truly (madly?) believed in a certain religion then the destruction of certain edifices (held by some to be valuable) or the killing of people (held by some to obstruct the march of righteousness on this planet) is perfectly justified. Most members of the middle class, if one is to believe the talk-show hosts and the journalists, do appear to be obsessed with Kashmir - but even more so with national politics (i.e. President Zardari, mostly), religion (i.e. Islam), geopolitics (i.e. the oppressed Islamic communities in Palestine and within the West; US dependence upon Pakistan), governance theories (i.e. should the Army take over power again; when? etc.) and cricket (i.e. the conspiracies to discredit the national team, with allegations of match-fixing, death threats etc.).

> So Zahida is now is a star in the 11th grade — speaking to me comfortably in English.

This bit was obviously not proofread by Zahida, who would probably have removed one of the instances of the word "is" from the sentence.

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