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This seems to be the lesson of the Taliban’s attempted murder of a 14-year old schoolgirl who had had the audacity to not only go to school and learn to read and write, but also to use her new-found knowledge to oppose the Taliban in public.

The Taliban – whose name ironically means “students” – don’t need people to be educated. They need people to be obedient to their masters, and they need people’s masters to be the Taliban.

And tyrants throughout history have known that educated people are harder to control than ignorant brutes.

Malala Yousufzai

Just like they have known that you don’t need well educated, wealthy subjects if you yourself want to live the high life. You just need enough subjects. A few million dirt-poor peasants can easily sustain a small ruling class. A few million technicians and computer programmers could perhaps do it better, but this isn’t needed. And it is more dangerous. To the leaders.

Educated subjects have the annoying habit of asking questions, questioning even so-called “accepted truths”. Educated people might, for example, question the Koran, or whether their Taliban leaders really believe in everything the book says, or what they say that it says. Or whether some divine power really, truly, has made them so wise and learned that they have a right to rule the rest of the people.

They might even learn to read the Koran themselves and question their leaders’ interpretation of it!

This is why Malala Yousufzai had to die. And why I hope she, and not least her spirit, survives in Pakistan.


(With apologies to Pink Floyd for “borrowing” a line from their classic song “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2“. On a side note, I don’t consider Pink Floyd’s song to be anti-education so much as anti-regimentation and anti-indoctrination.)