The Brookings Institution has published a fantastic study on how education level and employment status correlate with radicalization in the Arab world. Here’s a part which I found insightful:
Our conclusion that unemployed or underemployed educated Arab youth are more likely to be radicalized is cause for serious concern, because unemployment in many Arab countries seems to rise with the level of education, and many new graduates are only able to find low-paying jobs in the informal sector. This underlines the importance of education and labor market reforms for preventing violent extremism.
More research on education in the Arab world is needed. Steer et al (2014) point out that, while Arab countries have succeeded in rapidly increasing access to education, the quality of education remains a problem. Using data from 13 Arab countries, they conclude that about 48 percent of lower secondary school students are not learning. They fail basic literacy and numeracy tests. Even those who learn are not equipped with the skills required in a 21st century market place. Curricula in Arab countries rely too much on rote learning and do not help students acquire skills, like problem solving and working in teams, demanded in today’s globalized markets.
The heavy emphasis on rote learning in Arab culture definitely explains why so many Islamic terrorists hold advanced degrees. This phenomenon has been studied elsewhere. But what does their higher education amount to? Not much, according to this study.
They find themselves shut out of opportunities to provide for themselves and their families. It can be very easy for them to look for another purpose in life; one which places blame on others and advocates the need for more extreme solutions.
I wonder how much of this is applicable to young, educated, and underemployed Americans. I’m not speaking about our Muslim citizens only; our neighbors in Dearborn, if you will. I mean all of them.
When I look back on the Kids Are All Left post from Thursday and the state of our Millennials, being the most educated generation in American history and with some of the worst job prospects ever, it makes sense that so many have embraced left-wing politics so far from the center. They blame the current system’s failures for their current situation and they want more security from life.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that your favorite year-round wool hat and scarf-wearing twenty-something barista at Starbucks is going to become radicalized and try to saw your head off. Though it is possible that some of her friends might riot against Trump and break the windows of said Starbucks. It’s not the point.
What I am saying is that I can see why frustrated young people who have played by rules will seek drastic societal change when they feel very little stake in society. In the case of American Millennials, they can embrace (relatively) peaceful activism such as #Resistance as an outlet because our society is free and allows for it. They have no need to resort to violence because such avenues are open to them. For the Middle Eastern Arab, they are not.
The study correctly identifies the necessity of improving education in the Arab world to provide young people with opportunities for good careers that make radicalization less attractive. Surprisingly, it doesn’t touch on the oppressive political environment and lack of freedom as radicalization factors in its conclusion.
Honestly, I think that we in the US should also examine what sort of education reforms we need to provide Millennials (as well as the next generation, who are now entering high school) to improve their career prospects. Even if I think the threat of violence from the little shits is low, we should aim to bring young people back to the political center. As discussed on Thursday, they’re getting to be “out there” and I hate to think how far they could potentially go.
The greatest educational lesson coming out of the Middle East is the vital importance of providing prospects to any society’s restless youth.