2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

TC Media Center from the Office of External Affairs

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Using the Past to Help the Present and Future

Current staff and faculty members met in April with members of TC's Afghan Project (which ran from the 1950s through the 1970s) including Carl Graham, Thurston Atkins and Kenneth Toepfer to learn how the original project was organized. The group collaborated on how TC can help the people of Afghanistan now and in the future.

"On September 12th, we began thinking and dreaming about how we could be helpful," said Ruth Vinz, Professor of English Education and Chair of the Department of Arts and Humanities, at the opening of the meeting. "We talked to David Ment about the wonderful collection of materials on the Afghan Project and tiptoed back through time. Now, we are asking Carl, Thurston and Ken to contextualize the past for future dreaming."

Graham, 82, traveled from his home in Pennsylvania to describe the original and what would be needed to start it up again. Times have changed. The 1960s was the greatest decade for international teacher education and TC was right in the thick of it, he said. And years later, Graham is still passionate about it.

"I tear when I see and hear what's happened to the people and statues of Afghanistan," said Graham who was Campus Coordinator for the last seven years of the Afghan Project. "It's so sad what they are going through. If TC wishes to be involved in assisting Afghan Education as it did in the 1950s to 1970s, there will be some down and dirty work that isn't necessarily just research and creating books."

There should be heavy emphasis on English language teaching and administration, he added. Then, TC faculty could take these positions and train others to fill the positions as they leave. However, this cannot be done without involving high-level Afghan leaders.

Atkins, a professor of education who was intimately connected with the Project in the 1960s, spoke about staffing it. "We need to find a balance between academic staffing from TC that will be equal or more than the staff of mercenaries," he said. "The new project will need people that are committed to education in the United States and abroad."

With support from the original project leaders and current faculty and staff members, TC can once again make a difference in the lives of Afghanistan children and educators.

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