Recommended Documentary: “Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden” (A film by Carol Black)


“You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination…. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be.”  – Doris Lessing, 2007 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature

“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.”– Albert Einstein

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If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it?

You would change the way it educates its children.

The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers build schools in traditional societies around the world, convinced that school is the only way to a ‘better’ life for indigenous children.

But is this true? What really happens when we replace a traditional culture’s way of learning and understanding the world with our own? SCHOOLING THE WORLD takes a challenging, sometimes funny, ultimately deeply disturbing look at the effects of modern education on the world’s last sustainable indigenous cultures.

Beautifully shot on location in the Buddhist culture of Ladakh in the northern Indian Himalayas, the film weaves the voices of Ladakhi people through a conversation between four carefully chosen original thinkers; anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence; Helena Norberg-Hodge and Vandana Shiva, both recipients of the Right Livelihood Award for their work with traditional peoples in India; and Manish Jain, a former architect of education programs with UNESCO, USAID, and the World Bank.

The film examines the hidden assumption of cultural superiority behind education aid projects, which overtly aim to help children “escape” to a “better life” – despite mounting evidence of the environmental, social, and mental health costs of our own modern consumer lifestyles, from epidemic rates of childhood depression and substance abuse to pollution and climate change.

It looks at the failure of institutional education to deliver on its promise of a way out of poverty – here in the United States as well as in the so-called “developing” world.

And it questions our very definitions of wealth and poverty – and of knowledge and ignorance – as it uncovers the role of schools in the destruction of traditional sustainable agricultural and ecological knowledge, in the breakup of extended families and communities, and in the devaluation of elders and ancient spiritual traditions.

Finally, SCHOOLING THE WORLD calls for a “deeper dialogue” between cultures, suggesting that we have at least as much to learn as we have to teach, and that these ancient sustainable societies may harbor knowledge which is vital for our own survival in the coming millennia.


With Wade Davis, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Vandana Shiva, Masnish Jain and Dolma Tsering.

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4 thoughts on “Recommended Documentary: “Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden” (A film by Carol Black)

  1. Hi Eduardo, I also saw that film – it is very good. It builds on the thought of Ivan Illich, who already saw as early as 1970 these effects of our belief in schooling for everybody: making a few reach ‘good positions’ in the bureaucratic system, leaving the rest to be more poor in the city than they would have been in the village, and above that: feeling a failure… I wrote a post on his work here:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Angela, thank you very much for your message, which has awakened my intellectual appetite: I haven’t read anything by Illich yet, but I’m certainly interested in doing so very soon. Which of his books would you recommend me to get started into his thought? While watching this excellent documentary Schooling the World, I also remembered the work of a cult figure in Brazil, Paulo Freire, and his ideas expressed in a very important book for Latin American education studies, “The Pedagogy of The Opressed”. Do you know it? I strongly recommend it.

      Thanks again for your comment and hope to exchange ideas with you more times in the future here on the Blogosphere. I’m following and reading your blog too. See you!


      • Hello Eduardo, thanks for your reply.

        I would read ‘Deschooling Society’ for starters. As he foresaw the possibilities of the internet, it is surely in his spirit that some of his works have been put online.

        And, yes, others have also mentioned Freire to me as someone in the same sphere as Illich, at least with respect to education. I will certainly look it up when I return to the subject of schooling.

        Yes, let’s exchange some more ideas when the opportunity arises. I like your blog to and also started to follow it. Best, Angela.


  2. Pingback: “EXAMINED LIFE – PHILOSOPHY IS IN THE STREETS” (awesome doc!) | A W E S T R U C K _W A N D E R E R

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