Would You Take a Bullet For A Math Test?


Seems a quirky thought, but not so. Day after day, I struggle with my 16 year old to get him to do his homework. In our home, education is a given. It’s never been if you go to college, but where will you go to college. We argue constantly about school: his grades, assignments due, academic expectations. I cajole and demand about getting up each morning to go to school. If he could stay home and sleep in, he would. Most days. Did you check the (math teacher’s) web page? I ask daily. “Yeah! I know!” He snarls in return. Did you read Huck Finn and take your notes? I push. “OK Mom! Geez!” He growls. Did anyone threaten to shoot you for going to school today? Are you worrying about me being beheaded for making you go? I asked today. It threw him for a loop. He looked at me sidelong, waiting for a catch. Well? Anyone put a gun to your head?  “Don’t be ridiculous. What are you talking about?” Not quite a snarl, but he’s pretty sure I’ve finally lost the last tie to sanity.

Girl, activist, blogger, Malala Yousafzai
image: parknews.pk

I’m talking about teen blogger and activist Malala Yousufzai, 14 who was gunned down this week for… going to school.  When I read the story, Wednesday, of the shooting that has left her in critical condition, from gunshot wounds to the head and neck, I was truly shaken. I remember reading about her a few years ago, when she first came into a small, but stunning spotlight. Malala is no stranger to the risks and threats of getting an education: she has been fighting the Taliban since she was 11 years old (probably before),  for the right to attend school in her small village of Mingora, in NW Pakistan.  In 2009, the Taliban had taken hold of their region, moving into the small school for girls that her father had built and run. He was determined to see young Pakistani girls get an education, his own included. His daughter embraced that idea early on, and was passionate about academics, saying that she wanted to be a doctor. She studied hard, and attended classes despite Taliban edicts that forbade girls to be educated. At the time, her father was threatened with beheading for sending her to school; she received death threats, and the entire family lived in fear of reprisals on a constant basis.

Later in 2009, the Pakistani military came into Swat District and pushed out the Taliban, in a battle for control of the area. After the school reopened, Yousafzai, not just content to get an education, took up the cause of Pakistani girls and their right to an education. She began blogging about the situation, an open challenge to the Taliban, despite threats to her safety.  In December 2011 she was awarded Pakistan’s first National Peace Prize, for person’s under 18. She has had schools named after her, and met with President Obama’s special representative to Pakistan, about the situation regarding girls and education in her country. This girl kicks serious butt, when it comes to courage and determination!  All in the name of something that so many kids here take for granted.

It takes true cowardice to shoot a child.
Image: Huffingtonpost.co.uk

In what I believe to be the ultimate in cowardice, Wednesday a group of Taliban soldiers stopped the bus that Malala Yousafzai was traveling home from school on. They demanded that Malala be identified, or they promised to shoot all of the girls. When the other girls pointed her out (imagine the terror they felt), the cowards shot this 14 year old once in the head and once in the neck. Two other girls were injured as well, one critically. Thankfully the bus driver, sped away, perhaps preventing further terror.  Malala was rushed to the hospital and later air lifted to a larger military hospital in Rawalpindi. The Government is making sure that she receives intense security, as well as covering all medical costs. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of this 14 year old girl, and stated that if she survives, they will kill her later. They further maintain that they oppose Malala, and sought to carry out Islamic law/ Shariah (death), not because she wants to go to school, which they state is propaganda by the media, but because she promotes secularism and modern ideas. It is a twisted faith, in my eyes. How do these men sleep at night? How can they look at their own children and not feel enormous shame? My mind spins the news around and around. 

Pakistan stands united.
image: csmonitor.com

Those questions, I know, are mute. These are people who hold to values that I do not and never will understand. It is not a matter of religion, or faith, despite what they claim. It is the position of extremist religion. Much of the Islamic world stands in support of Malala, as she fights for her life; they do not celebrate her fall. Malala’s father has promised to remain in Pakistan and continue to fight for the freedom of other girls to be educated, despite what has happened to his daughter, and the increased risk to himself. “We wouldn’t leave our country if my daughter survives or not. We have an ideology that advocates peace. The Taliban cannot stop all independent voices through the force of bullets.” (International Business Times) This catches my breath.  The girls at her school have stood up to say: “Every girl in Swat is Malala. We will educate ourselves. We will win. They can’t defeat us.”  (NYTimes) This brings tears to my eyes. All around Pakistan candlelight vigils are being held, and people are showing their solidarity with this brave girl. I stand with them.

While I blog in the comfort and safety of my home, putting out posts on everything from Malala Yousafzai to our chiweenie Gracie, Malala chose to use social media and blog as a means to share her experience with the world and educate others.  Each time she posted, she knew that she risked her life. Yet, she believes that the right of girls to be educated in the world is bigger than her own singular desires. It is chilling to me. Stirring beyond words. Her posts reflect the normal fears of a girl her age (11 at the time she started), as well as far more disturbing dreams and concerns about beheadings and violence in her small district of Swat. She paints a vivid, powerful picture of her cause and her life, in the posts she’s made. While we enjoy the freedom to prattle on about whatever we think will get us noticed:  for the sake of publication, readership, blog recognition, etc, Malala’s sole purpose for writing was to bring freedom to herself and others.

While I argue with my son to study for an exam that he has, Malala has a passion, a drive to study, and has lived under the constant threat of death, to herself, her father, and her family. Each day that she attends school, she faces that threat, but chooses to do so: literally, a gun to her head. Her father has long been an activist in his own right, running a school for girls is something that put a bull’s eye on him, long before his daughter took up the cause. He believes that girls have the the right to an education, just as boys do, in a country that is fighting to overcome the rule and influence of the Taliban, which adheres to strict and (I believe) twisted interpretation of the Holy Koran.

These girls want to study. That’s what Malala Yousafzai stands for.
image: heraldsun.com.au

It is impossible for my son to understand just how fortunate he is to live in a place where he is free to go to school. Where not only are the girls around him free to be there as well, they are equally likely to succeed. Taking a math test is a privilege he cannot appreciate; and I get that. I too take it for granted; most of us do. It is difficult to imagine that in other parts of the world, the most basic of freedoms are not a given. It is difficult to imagine a group of men pulling a bus over and shooting a young girl in the head, for wanting to go to school. But these things are happening and I believe we owe it Malala and all the girls like her, who struggle to be heard and treated fairly, to speak of this. To tell our own children that checking the math web site is a privilege, not just a task. While they may not get it, and they may not agree, perhaps they will stop a moment to think about those who can’t do it.

In the meantime, my sincere hopes are that this girl, Malala Yousafzai, does not become a martyr for “the cause.” That she does not need to die, for others to pay attention. I hope that she has a full recovery, and lives (safely) to study more, and become whatever she dreams of being. No doubt, her determination and convictions will serve her well as she struggles to recover. Please take a moment and leave a comment here. Share your thoughts.  Share this story with others; we should all take a minute to think about Malala Yousafzai.

If you are interested in reading more about Malala Yousafzai, check out the following links:  Diary of a Pakistani School Girl (BBC); Pakistani girl airlifted to hospital (NYTimes); Pakistani teen Bloggers shooting a ‘wake-up call’… (CNN); Malala in serious condition (Today’s newspaper); Malala Yousafzai (Wikipedia); We Can Do More To Fight Gender Inequality (; My Conversations with Malala Yousafzai (Christian Science Monitor); M.Y. Portrait of The Girl Blogger (BBC); **The Malalas You’ll Never Meet (Gail Lemmon, featured on CNN); read Half The Sky, Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl Wu Dunn; check out and consider donating to Half The Sky foundation or any organization that focuses on education for girls and women.

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
This entry was posted in 9/11, Awareness, Blog, Blogging, bullying, Daily Observations, Honest observations on many things, Life, News, Tales From the Motherland, Teens, Women, Women's issues, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Would You Take a Bullet For A Math Test?

  1. Lynn Carroll says:

    Very thoughtful piece Dawn. I think I’ll share it with some of my students as there are days they need a definite reminder of the privilege they have been given.

    Like

    • talesfromthemotherland says:

      Thanks Lynn. I totally understand why the kids we all raise, and who live here, would take their education for granted, but this story really drives the point home. It is a deeply moving thing to see what this young woman has done for the right to study! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Like

  2. Dawn, this story is not just powerful and moving –somehow those words seem inadequate. I feel an overwhelming sorrow that a battle is being waged over such basic human rights and that this little girl has become a poster child for this ungodly shame — The right to learn, grow and be challenged intellectually. “The glory of God is intelligence.” Her resilience, inner strength and fighting spirit is nothing short of remarkable and should stand as a reminder, that we each have the potential to change things that may seem insurmountable. What a courageous soul Malala has. It’s hard to believe this darkness exists in the world while we enjoy so many privileges and take so much for granted. We live in a very comfortable bubble. It really puts things in perspective. I’m going to re-blog this, if that’s okay? What you wrote is brilliant.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    Like

    • talesfromthemotherland says:

      Thanks Lisa! I appreciate your feedback and I’m honored that you would like to reblog this. I’ve never been reblogged. 🙂 This story really shook me, and I remember feeling shocked when I first read about her a few years ago… not shocked, because I know that this kind of darkness exists, but shocked that such a young girl would have the courage to stand up and fight so determinedly! Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend!

      Like

      • A Gripping Life says:

        What a contrast between the attitude of our kids and those in other parts of the world. My son was much like yours – I felt like I had to drag him over the finish line, like going to school was a favor he was doing for me. This is just a remarkable story. I heard it in the news but your words made it more accessible. Thanks! Have a great fall weekend!

        Like

  3. Reblogged this on A Gripping Life and commented:
    My friend, Dawn, (Tales from the motherland) has written an incredibly powerful post today. It’s written with passion and integrity. I hope you take the time to read it. Lisa

    Like

  4. Sure is amazing about her passion and courage. Yes, hard to impress on our youth who have grown up safe and entitled. When I taught I would bring in articles about elections all over the world- some countries that were first having their first elections, etc. We take our freedoms for granted. Great post.

    Like

  5. Addie says:

    I wept.

    Like

    • talesfromthemotherland says:

      Addie, thanks for taking the time to read my post. While I’m sorry to make anyone cry, this is as good a reason as I can think of! This story deserves to be considered and dwelt on, by those of us who are free to post and read as we like. Thanks!

      If you read some of my other posts, you’ll find plenty to laugh at however… check out the dog love story, earlier in the week, for smile.

      Like

  6. Pingback: Class Dismissed « Ashish's blogs

  7. Elia says:

    Thank you for recapping this news event and sharing the story with us! Often news like this is overlooked or understated…I caught a blurb about it on a radio station, but not until I read your recap/story, did I understand the significance of this shooting. Powerful story, powerful young woman!

    Like

    • talesfromthemotherland says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post Elia. It is a very important story, I believe, so I’m glad that my writing caught your eye and brought it to you. Malala is an incredible girl! We should all hold her in our hears and hope for a full recovery. Thanks again for stopping by.

      Like

  8. Harry says:

    Its was on the news here about this young girl, i hope she recovers.

    Like

    • talesfromthemotherland says:

      Yes, this is International news Harry, but a lot of people have missed it… or not gotten the magnitude of her courage and this issue. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post, and add a comment. I hope you’ll check out some of my other posts as well.

      Like

  9. sarafoley says:

    Reblogged this on Smells Good Feels Good and commented:
    Perhaps you, like me forget about how lucky we are in this country. Perhaps you, like me forget how privileged we are to be able to vote, to be educated, to have a right to a full experience of life. Not everyone does, and that is the sad truth.

    Like

  10. The Waiting says:

    I just heard about this today and I was dumbstruck. It makes me ill that this is the world we live in. I will be praying for her recovery and her family’s safety because THIS is the kind of child who gives me hope for the future.

    Wonderful post. Thank you for writing this.

    Like

    • talesfromthemotherland says:

      Absolutely! This is the kind of child that should give all of us hope for the future! She is a Rosa Parks in Pakistan, a Helen Keller, a Dr. King. Big titles, but amazing that this young girl has so much conviction and passion… for other girls, for her country, for her faith. Thanks so much for checking out my blog post. I really appreciate the feedback! I hope you’ll check out some of the other posts and let me know what you think. Have a great weekend!

      Like

  11. I am overwhelmed by your writing and sharing the story of this remarkable girl. How she summons the courage to follow her chosen path in the face of such violence and blind rage is beyond my comprehension. My heart goes out to her, her family, and her friends and loved ones.
    I have been enjoying your post for some time, and this is your best ever! Thank you for this story. Mike

    Like

    • Thanks Mike! I really appreciate your kind feedback. I feel strongly about this story, and had to write something. It just flowed. That said, I’ve been feeling a little down about my blog lately, and it’s really nice to hit on a topic that touches so many readers. It’s given me an unexpected boost. Thanks for taking the time to keep up with my posts, and share your thoughts; it’ s much appreciated!

      Like

  12. sweetmother says:

    ugh. this one disgusts me. why are closed societies so afraid of girls? it’s such a tragedy. such a tragedy. and you are right, every, single, child here takes their ability to receive an education for granted. the question is, how to change that? i’m not sure that i know… xo, sm

    Like

  13. Thank you, Dawn, for sharing this with us. You wrote a powerful post…and it is a message that needs to be spread globally. I’m sure most American kids think they would be filled with joy if they were told they couldn’t go to school…for a few weeks perhaps…then it would hit them…what was being taken away from them. I’ve shared this on FB and Google+ and Twitter!

    Like

    • Thank you so much for sharing my work Vivian! I am honored and very grateful. This story has really touched me, and I’ve been following it daily. Malala is now in the UK getting care. It will be a VERY long journey for her, if she survives… but it is amazing to see that the WORLD is uniting around her, and more importantly: Pakistan! Thanks for your support.

      Like

  14. Pingback: Would You Take a Bullet For A Math Test? « Positive Parental Participation

  15. Dawn, I also pressed it!

    Like

    • talesfromthemotherland says:

      Thanks Vivian! It isn’t being shown as “reblogged” (is that the same as “pressed”? But I see it on your page! Thanks. I really am honored.

      Like

      • viviankirkfield says:

        I actually think ‘Freshly Pressed” is ‘better’ than ‘reblogged’. I think if you go to WordPress and their ‘Freshly Pressed’ page, yours should be there as well….at least, I think. 🙂

        Like

        • talesfromthemotherland says:

          You gave me a heart attack there Vivian! I thought you were saying that I had in fact been “Freshly Pressed!” Ugh. Heart racing there. Thanks for sharing my work; I really appreciate it! 😉

          Like

        • talesfromthemotherland says:

          Unless you know something I don’t know! :-p

          Like

  16. Pingback: Malala Yousafzai: Taliban shooting victim travels to UK | Dont Dull.com Curator of latest Nigerian news , gossip entertainment, fashoin, politics and hot gist.

  17. livesinstone says:

    Awesome post. It’s so true that we take so much for granted that others in the world are still fighting for. The more we talk about it, the better chances there are for it to change. Thanks for posting this. 🙂

    Like

    • Absolutely! We take a lot more than education for granted, but when faced with a story like Malala’s you have to really think about what we value and what we would be willing to stand up for. I agree, the more we talk and share, the more we all grow! Thanks so much for checking out my post. I hope you’ll stop by again, read and share your thoughts. Your time and energy is much appreciated. 🙂

      Like

  18. Pingback: My Own Thoughts on Ms. Yousafzai’s Struggle « THE SCARECROW

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