Teach Kids About Africa as if Our Lives Depend Upon It — and Maybe They Do

On top of the shear panic unleashed by the spread of the Ebola virus from West Africa, an astonishing amount of ignorance has reared its ugly head. As some havecommented, this ignorance may be more dangerous to millions of people than the actual virus, and the unfamiliarity could even make matters worse, by focusing our concerns in the wrong direction, and isolating people and places from technology, education, and healthcare.

When my family was getting ready to live in West Africa a few years ago, it felt like everyone would ask us about the animals — but that part of Africa has virtually no exotic animals roaming around and “it’s not the Lion King set!” as my then-11-year-old daughter would exclaim in exasperation. The other common reaction revolved around the astonishment that we were going to “Africa, Africa?!” “It’s so far away.” “I can’t imagine ever going there.” Or “That’s my lifelong dream to go there” (often followed by a sigh that it would never happen).

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