“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” the familiar holiday chime rings through the air. In the U.S., mistletoe hangs from doorways, trees are trimmed with ornaments and candy canes, and neighborhoods are lit with an array of lights. It’s a special time of year where so many go that extra distance to reach out to one another and to give to the less fortunate. But across the globe, a horrific scene has unfolded, a ruthless attack on school aged children, an attack with the greatest disregard to humanity.

On Tuesday, the Pakistani Taliban attacked a school full of young children, leaving 141 dead, 132 were children. As analysts try and drum up reasons for this act of terror against the most vulnerable — some say it was an act of revenge against the military that had targeted the Taliban’s families, others say it was to show that the group is still viable and powerful, yet another idea is that the group is splintering and this heinous act was a result of division — it seems really to boil down to a less than civilized society deprived of resources and education.

A friend of the girl who survived in the school that was attacked relayed the power of education and combatting such horrific acts of terrorism.

“Over time, schools are a more effective weapon against extremists,” Shireen Khalid Wadud said, trying to rationalize why the attack happened. “This is the only reason I can come up with. I mean, you target schools, you create a panic among students and this is how more and more people turn toward extremism.”

This isn’t the first time schools and children have come under attack in the Middle East. A brave Pakistani teenager by the name Malala Yousafzai was willing to risk her life so she could stay in school. In October 2012, at the age of 15, Malala had just gotten on a school bus when a Taliban gunman confronted her. She had known of the danger she would face by pursuing her education but her passion for learning exceeded any fears she might have over losing her life. While on the bus, the gunman pointed his pistol and fired three shots, two in her face. She survived the attack and then spent the next several years of her life relaying the importance of education.

“Let us pick up our books and pencils. They are our most powerful weapons,” she said, and this coming from a woman who stared death in the face and rejected it. For her efforts and commitment to ensure accessibility to education for all children, especially women who are so severely deprived of civil rights in her county, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

It’s disheartening to think in a country where we have so much freedom to consume all sorts of information, to better ourselves and how we relate to one another, but we have opted to dumb ourselves down with such things as memes and vines of the internet world. Malala, who was willing to die in order to keep on the path to better herself, and all those children who died this week in war to destroy knowledge should stand as role models in our civil and privileged society.