Monday, October 29, 2007

Holy Education, Batman!! (or perhaps not-so-holy?)

In between all the cartoons I watched this weekend, something caught my eye: The King of Saudi Arabia is sinking $12.5 billion into a new university. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST, which will make for awesome T-shirts like "I got HOUSED at KAUST!", is being built from the ground up in Jeddah.

OK, that headline in and of itself won't pull many people from the draw of a Superfriends marathon, but here are a few points of interest that should:
  • The school will be co-educational. Revolutionary, right? Like many fundamentalists, the Kingdom's wahabi clerics aren't too keen on women's lib. Women can already attend some schools there, but they're not allowed to learn too much.
  • The country's religious police, the Mutaween, will be barred from the campus. The Mutaween are the fun guys who arrest people for not abiding by the sharia, or Islamic Law. Behavior that falls into this category includes dress code and dietary violations, as well as male and female socialization. Something tells me people are going to want to live on campus.
  • Funded by Aramco (and not the Kingdom's education ministry), the school's curriculum will apparently be geared towards Science & Technology, sharply contrasting education in the rest of the Kingdom, which of course focuses on Islam.
  • The King's reasoning for this endowment? This might be the juiciest of all: "The king has broken taboos, declaring that the Arabs have fallen critically behind much of the modern world in intellectual achievement." Broken taboos is right, and I have to say this is surprisingly ballsy for a monarchy that tiptoes around the Kingdom's clerics.
The bottom line is this: The Saudi King and Aramco dumping $12.5 billion into a university is no more newsworthy than Google buying another plane. The Saudis have historically opened up the never-ending checkbook to solve their problems. It's the exclusion of the wahabi element that raises the eyebrow.

And while the frat houses have yet to be built so they can be trashed, and the faculty has yet to be staffed (which the article wisely notes may be the biggest challenge), this is still a notable step in a direction entirely the opposite of most other nations in the region. A small step, to be sure, but in a fundamentalist nation such as Saudi Arabia, it is a path I will watch with keen interest.

And, of course, I can think of only two words with which to sum up the message of this post:



Mark said...



Marty said...

second...nice work mark....i can't believe google bought a new plane. Maybe we can take it to go to next years KAUST v. KAUST State game....that rivalry is HUGE!!....I am going to post this so many times....

Coovo said...

Tird. I said tird.

What state is Saudi Arabia in? Wikipedia says it's in the Middle East, but that doesn't seem to be anywhere near the Midwest.

Mark, work more, browse less

PS I tried to post this anonymously, but it wouldn't let me. I was trying to spark up intrest in the anonymous community