Stones into Schools: A Book Review

Author: Terrie Goldstein
Posted: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Greg Mortenson was a seeker of adventures when he tried to reach the summit of K2, second only to Mt. Everest in height. As he descended he became disoriented in Pakistan’s Karakoram Himalayas and almost lost his life before he was taken in and nursed back to health by the people of a remote impoverished village who found him. He asked the village elders what he could do in exchange, and they asked for a school for their children.


From this experience, Mortenson began an incredible journey, which he documented in Three Cups of Tea (2006). Mortenson returned to Pakistan with the $12,000 he raised for cement, lumber and other supplies to build that first school, only to learn that he had to build a road in order to reach the village. Undaunted, he persisted until the school was built. And then people from other villages sought him out.


Four years later, in Stones into Schools, Mortenson shows why books and schools are more effective than bombs in promoting peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is hard for us to conceive that in that part of the world $20 educates a first grader for an entire year, and $340 sends a girl through four years of high school and $50,000 builds and outfits an eight-room schoolhouse plus pays teacher’ salaries for the first five years. Think what our government has paid for a hammer ($400) and a toilet seat ($600). Then figure that you can educate three children for the price of that hammer and toilet seat.


In his introduction, Mortenson presents additional statistics that show why we should support efforts to educate girls: 1. One year of primary school helps increase the income of women 10 to 20 percent; 2. An additional year bumps the income another 5 percent; 3. In communities where a majority of girls are educated through fifth grade, infant mortality drops; 4. Educated girls marry later and have fewer children.


The group Mortenson founded, Central Asia Institute, has a simple mission: to help rural women with, according to Mortenson, their most frequent requests, which are to prevent their babies from dying and to help their children get an education. As of the writing of this book, they have built 131 schools in the most difficult to reach areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.


As Mortenson negotiates with corrupt bureaucrats and travels treacherous terrain, the story is as gripping as any tale of high adventure. And like its predecessor, Stones into Schools is a story with a deeper meaning at its heart: a longing to make a difference in the lives of people who live in the remote regions of a strife-ridden and illiterate society.

Stones into Schools

By Greg Mortenson

Viking Books




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