In this morning’s WSJ Michelle Obama asks us to help educate girls globally—Third World countries in particular—which is to say we are to shell out more of what’s left of our disposable income after six years of the Administration’s profligacy for this undeniably worthy cause. However, we know that more money spent on education won’t work abroad any more than it has worked at home.
A much better idea would be for Michelle’s husband to use his bully pulpit to advocate for girls’ education. He had a recent occasion to do so when he visited Saudi Arabia to mourn the passing of the old king and celebrate the passing of absolute power to the new king.
He might have said something about human rights in general. For example, he might have suggested that holding two beheadings in his honor during his visit was perhaps overkill, and that the more traditional killing of the fatted lamb might have been more appropriate in these modern times.
At the same time, he might have suggested more education for women. Educating young women and giving them some political power might see the emergence of a kinder, gentler consciousness that would eschew murder and mayhem.
As noted in the European Journal of Social Studies in connection with women’s education in Iran:
Since gender equality in education is part of gender equality in society at large, it is important to view the educational status of women within the broader framework of female participation in the social, political, and economic arenas. The active presence of women at all levels of public life, especially at higher levels of planning, politics, and administration where they are most visible will act as an incentive for younger women to seek further education. At the same time, an increasing number of educated women will, in turn, put pressure on the current leadership to provide opportunities in spheres traditionally dominated by men.
What holds true in Saudi Arabia, holds true also in Iran. And Michelle’s husband is now in a position to negotiate women’s education with the Supreme Leader, as John Kerry reverentially has taken to calling Ali Khamenei. (The latter has shown a certain fondness of Kerry, even going so far as to order his foreign minister to stop yelling at him during the nuclear pact negotiations.)
So this would be a very good time to raise the matter of educating more young women in a way that would allow them to take part in Iran’s political process. But then, Kerry is probably reluctant to evoke even more abuse from his counterpart.
Yet, as world peace is at stake, Kerry should put himself at risk and at least raise the issue next time he sees Mr. Zarif. Michelle Obama should instruct her husband to instruct Kerry to do so, for as Dee Dee Myers, former White House press secretary, argues in an article entitled “What if Women Ruled the World?” “Women are also essential to building and sustaining peace. Today, nearly half of peace agreements fail within five years in no small measure because half the stakeholders are excluded.”
This would go a lot further to improve women’s education and their equal place in society than sending more money to bloat overseas bureaucracies.