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WMS 8th Graders Weigh In on 'Three Cups of Tea' Controversy

Students Take a Stance on Recent Media-Exposed Conflicts

Eighth grade students in Mrs. Becky Stark's 8th grade language arts classes recently finished reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen.  

The book recounts the journey of Mortensen as he survived a failed climb of one of the world's tallest mountains, only to find himself faced with a greater mission: building schools in the most remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

It has come to light, largely through a story on the national news show "60 Minutes," that Mortensen may not have told the entire truth in his book.  

There have been questions raised about the actual number of schools that he helped finance and build, as well as a potential accounting conflict between the money raised from the sale of the Three Cups of Tea book, and fund raising money that was to be earmarked for building those schools.

Stark's students watched the "60 Minutes" television piece and then were asked to share their reactions. Many were clearly upset at the notion that Mortensen might be deceiving the public.  

David Schlichte compared the author's actions to lyrics in a song called "You Lied" by the alternative group Green Day: "The song reminds me of you. It talks about how this person told a little white lie and it grew into a great big one. I hate it when people lie."  

Leilani Perkins echoed those feelings, adding, "lying and exaggerating doesn't inspire people."

Other students were more focused on Mortensen's service in Pakistan and Afghanistan than on the controversy that is building here at in the United States. 

Chyanne Caniglia reminded classmates that "even if he only built one school, that is very helpful."  

Chase Rathke added, "I don't care if he lied. He's done a lot of good things."  

Hannah Marks said that the book was "very inspiring" and that it "teaches a wonderful lesson."

The Three Cups of Tea controversy hit the national airwaves just as the students were finishing the last chapters of the book.  

"Opportunities like this are exciting, teachable moments," said 8th grade social studies teacher John Harris. "Connecting a classroom lesson to happenings in today's world reinforces comprehension by allowing students the chance to personally interact with the text and the lesson."

Riley Stauffer wasn't too sure that he wanted to finish the book after hearing all the discussion, likening the recent events to a fish story.  

"I was really beginning to like the book until all those things came up in the news. When you catch a fish and then sometimes start bragging and stretching [the truth]... It's just not right," Stauffer concluded.

WMS 8th Graders Weigh In on 'Three Cups of Tea' Controversy

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