From November 22nd through the 25th, a delegation of Moroccan educators will undertake a tour of the Commonwealth, starting here in Louisville, then on to Frankfort, Newport and ultimately Hodgenville, site of Abraham Lincoln’s virgin birth. Under the auspices of an “international civic education collaboration,” delegates from the African nation will be meet with lawmakers, teachers, state bureaucrats and members of the Kentucky Department of Education — which makes me wonder: why in hell would they be interested in us?
Besides being the place that invented couscous, the fez and Humphrey Bogart’s career, Morocco has a so-so adult literacy rate (52 percent, less so for women). As for us? Here’s an excerpt from a report titled “Adult Education and Literacy in Kentucky,” (Click here for PDF) published in 2000 by then-Gov. Paul Patton’s Taskforce on Adult Education, which stands as the latest comprehensive set of data the state has on the topic:
Forty percent of Kentucky’s working age population ages 16 to 64 functions at the two lowest levels of literacy—not being able to read at all or having very limited to moderate reading ability. Statewide averages mask the reality that large numbers of Kentucky counties have levels of literacy comparable only to those of developing nations—not other states.
Developing nations? What do they hope to learn from us? Morocco has been a developing nation a lot longer than we have — since the 1500s, more or less, although the city of Tangiers used to host some killer drug parties for the Phoenicians way back in 6th century BCE. Morocco hasn’t even been a parliamentary capitalist society for a century, yet they’re already figured out how to sell their waterfront to large hotel companies, build a new sports arena and plan to construct a new “City Center,” a concept that sounds very familiar…
According to the KDE’s website, the visit “is designed to support an exchange of high quality civic education teaching and learning practices for the 21st century through Teen Court and a Project Citizen collaboration between teachers from the two countries. The partnering teachers use the Kentucky Virtual School’s tools and resources as the primary mode for communication in dealing with public policy issues in their communities.”
The Teen Court program actually sounds nifty, though: A group of teenagers become prosecutors, defense attorneys, members of the jury and the judge as they practice, hands-on, the art of jurisprudence — a relatively new concept for Moroccan youth. And the Kentucky Virtual Schools website, which allows rural Kentuckians the ability to access course material and complete assignments online, will greatly enable Moroccans to avoid al-Qaeda insurgents en route to the bus stop.
Any time two different peoples can come together and learn about their similarities in a climate of understanding and mutual interest is always a good thing, so we’ll get off it already. We just don’t want to export tooth decay if we can help it.