Dana Burde | Photo courtesy of the Grawemeyer Awards

Dana Burde | Photo courtesy of the Grawemeyer Awards

Author Dana Burde has been awarded the 2017 Grawemeyer Award for World Order by the University of Louisville. Her book, “Schools for Conflict or for Peace in Afghanistan,” examines United States-backed education in Afghanistan during the past three decades and how it may have contributed to the country’s extended conflict.

Burde spent eight years conducting field research in Afghanistan and Pakistan and has spent more than two decades of working on education in countries affected by conflict. The book examines how political bias in education in countries experiencing conflict can increase the likelihood of prolonged and escalated violence.

“I argue that instead of preventing conflict, U.S. aid to education in Afghanistan contributed to it — deliberately in the 1980s, with violence-infused, anti-Soviet curricula, and inadvertently in the 2000s, with misguided stabilization programs,” Burde wrote. “In both of these phases, education aid was subordinated to the political goals of strong states and used as a strategic tool — a situation made possible in part by humanitarians’ tendency to neglect education’s role in conflict.”   

In 2010, Burde wrote an Op-Ed in The New York Times critical of the “Three Cups of Tea” style of creating schools in Afghanistan — outside agencies coming in and building schools and educating teachers. That style was championed by Greg Mortenson, who won the 2011 Grawemeyer for Education. Mortenson later declined the award when reports called into question his honesty, with both his stories and the nonprofit’s funds. Burde said these pop-up schools actually put children in danger. She wrote, “They are very expensive and some provide the Taliban with easy targets.”

Burde is associate professor of international education at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and affiliated faculty of the Wilf Family Department of Politics. She also works with NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, NYU Abu Dhabi and Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. She is also the editor in chief of the Journal on Education in Emergencies.

All 2017 Grawemeyer Award winners will be announced this week for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology and education, and a religion prize jointly given with Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The awards, which come with a $100,000 prize, are given in honor of Charles Grawemeyer, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and graduate of UofL who died in 1993.