Three Cups of Tea: Does It Matter If It’s True?

We’ve just completed our study and reading of Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea (Young Reader’s Edition) as a unit in media criticism as much as reading non-fiction text. I’ll be sharing out the wide range of sources that we brought to our discussions about the story as well as the work that Mortenson has been doing to build schools in the Middle East. One of the topics that opened up long discussions with my sixth graders after watching and reading criticism of the book (via 60 Minutes and more) was the role that “truth” plays in a non-fiction “story.”

As part of our final assessment, I asked my students: Does it matter if the stories that made up Three Cups of Tea are true? Here are some responses, which shows some nice depth of thinking and critical analysis of both the story and the criticism of the story We talked a lot about the balance — of the work being done to help educate girls and the impact of a story on people, and how writers sometimes bend the truth to fit the narrative, and also, the concept of a ghostwriter telling someone else’s story:

“It matters that it’s true. It’s how you think about the book. If you were just looking for a book with heart and meaning, then it wouldn’t really matter. If you are looking for a true story that you can rely on, then, yes it would matter. It all depends on how you look at it.”

“It doesn’t matter if the Three Cups of Tea book is true or not. Why I think that is because it still shows other parts of the world that are very poor and they don’t have an easy life or an easy way to get educated. That was the main idea of the whole book so if it was true or not, the book still got that point across.”

“I think it matters — a lot! — if the story is true. Many people have given donations to the CAI (Central Asia Institute) and if the money goes somewhere else, other than the schools, then that is not good. It’s kind of like stealing and lying. Greg can say it’s fully true, but if it’s not, then it is a lie!”

“I personally think it is bad to lie, unless it is about something good. The book, Three Cups of Tea, may or may not be completely true. I don’t care if it isn’t true because it is teaching you to stand up and do the right thing. So, even though lying is bad, it is okay if it sends a good image to others.”

“I think it both does and doesn’t matter whether the story in Three Cups of Tea is true. Even if the story is a lie, Greg Mortenson still helped thousands of children, and people are still donating to a good cause. But it also DOES matter because thousands of dollars could have been donated because people thought they were supporting one thing but that thing may not exist. Greg Mortenson was made out to be this big, buff, mountain-climbing superhero, but what if he’s just a regular guy, who did some good?”

Peace (in being critical),
Kevin

One Comment
  1. This is so great. I am taking a Credential Class right now and part of our assignment was to create an inquiry driven unit plan. My unit was for eleventh grade and it was on the Things They Carried. The question I asked was ‘Is there such a thing as truth?’ It is so cool that you are able to ask and push these students to think critically at such a young age.

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