Viewing entries tagged
nonformal education


thanks to listeners like you

"It is because of NPR," my Uber driver told me this morning. "All because of NPR!"

He was referring to his knowledge of English, which he acquired almost exclusively from - you guessed it - National Public Radio. "I have RFI [French public radio] access on my phone, but my teacher and my wife said, 'No. You should listen to NPR.' And now? RFI? Never." (He added that his favorite host was Kojo. Obviously.)

I have no real new observations here, except that I love being reminded of how powerful effective media can be for educational purposes. When I hear stories like this one I think of my father, living as a child quasi-refugee in France, getting his first introduction to America from Tom Mix Westerns; of my old friend Yuriy, who once told me that he learned English from the reruns of DuckTales they broadcast in his city in Ukraine; of my host brother in Korea, who learned the word "undertaker" from the name of his favorite American wrestler. (Yes, really. And yes, I'm counting it.)

And, of course, now of this man, a former executive with Coca-Cola in Cameroon whose daughter is in the US Navy and who's working on a novel about the experience of the African immigrant in America.* I'm glad that the mediated, highly enunciated NPR accent has proven its worth. And I'm glad that we make it freely available to all Americans, new and old.


*It was a long ride. 



necessary but not sufficient

Daily Intel has a piece today on how NYPD officers are (theoretically) going to start carrying naloxone, the heroin anti-overdose medication, in an effort to stem the rising tide of opiate-related deaths in that city. Predictably, naloxone is a controversial treatment, particularly in this context; the rationale against it seems to be that if heroin users *know* that they can just overdose whenever they want and not die, they'll have no incentive to stop using. In that sense, it's reminiscent of the Bush-era PEPFAR campaigns that emphasized abstinence over condom usage, with the logic being that if people know how AIDS is passed on but you don't give them protection, then they just won't have the unprotected sex. Harm prevention vs. harm reduction.

Unsurprisingly, those AIDS programs didn't really work, and forsaking naloxone probably won't either. Now, I love behavior change and its related communications - there's a reason I've focused so much of my academic and professional career in that area - but, unfortunately, difficult problems generally require systemic, multi-pronged solutions. And while we should be working on the structural issues and individual choices that lead to problems as aggressively miserable as heroin addiction, in the meantime we have some people who are dying on our hands.

This is a domestic issue, of course, but the treatment of harm reduction vs. harm prevention as a binary instead of as a compliment has substantial relevance for the development world as well. No one is going to argue that an educational radio program is an adequate substitute for a well-run and well-resourced school, but building institutions takes time, and there are kids who need an education in the world we live in now. Not to state the obvious or anything, but the trick is figuring out how to balance the two approaches - not making ourselves choose only one.


(Another example of the need for a systemic approach to social change: this Onion article. I know, two in one day. With me, this is what you get.)