The Sinister Purpose of Western Education

Schooling the World: the White Man’s Last Burden

Directed by Carol Black (2010)

Film Review

Schooling the World, featuring Indian environmental activist Vendana Shiva and Helene Norberg Hodge (producer of Economics of Happiness), is about the colonizing function of western education. The “White Man’s Burden” is a Victorian reference to the schooling of ignorant natives for the purpose of “civilizing” them.

Historically, the primary purpose of western education has been to facilitate the seizure of occupied land by destroying native language and culture. At present, however, its main purpose is to train children to use corporate products in a modern environment and to become compliant workers in a global industrial system. Thanks to western education, “backward” third world children transition from self-sufficient members of local economies to dependent cogs in the global economy.

The documentary gives three examples of this philosophy in practice: the historical outrage of indigenous Americans being kidnapped from their parents (in both Canada and the US) to have their language and culture forcibly stripped from them and modern day Ladakh and India, where rural parents experience intense pressure to send their kids to English schools.

In Ladakh, a Buddhist education teaching children compassion, cooperation and respect for nature has been replaced by an education valuing conformity, regimentation and love for money. Meanwhile many Indian parents sell their homes to pay for western-style education they believe will win their kids positions as doctors or engineers. In the end, the majority end up unemployed, with a lucky few finding entry level work.

Instead of teaching them sustainable living in harmony with nature, Western education teaches children to see themselves as separate from the natural world by locking them up in dark, airless, ugly spaces – and giving them books about nature.

The filmmakers challenge the wisdom of allowing the industrial north to force their educational model on the entire world when it clearly isn’t working for western youth. They refer to statistics showing that 16 million American young people suffer from depression and 1.6 million take psychotropic medication.

They also challenge that “development” (ie colonization) and western education lifts the “developing” world out of poverty. Historical evidence shows clearly that third world misery is a direct result of systematically stripping native inhabitants of their land, local economies, language and culture.

23 thoughts on “The Sinister Purpose of Western Education

  1. “At present, however, its main purpose is to train children to use corporate products in a modern environment and to become compliant workers in a global industrial system”

    This reminds me of my educational philosophy/psychology course, when I went back to get certified years ago. They attempted to indoctrinate us with the notion that our purpose as teachers was mainly to make the children better informed consumers. I was a musician, so my job was to make my music students “better informed consumers of music.”

    I remember walking out of those classes saying, “Fuck that!” And of course, I never practiced teaching with this end in mind.

    Is it any wonder we have the ignorant/brain-dead, uncultured and self-obsessed youth we see today, after twelve plus years of this kind of indoctrination/mind control?

    Oh, and we were also taught, in passing, that we should “never attempt to indoctrinate” our students. What the hell did they think making the students better consumers was?


  2. I see not much has changed in last 60 years, remembering nuns telling us native Indians where savages, not to play with protestants as you may marry one and your troubles will begin. I do thank the nuns for their horrible description of virgins being sacrificed that to this day any form of worship gives me the cold chills. a good lesson in todays religious wars.


    • Thanks for your comment, Oelsen. I googled Waldkindergarten and it looks like an interesting concept. I assume it’s privately run, right? It’s not a government enterprise.

      A group of parents here in New Plymouth has started a similar “Unschooling” approach that seems quite similar.


  3. Pingback: The Sinister Purpose of Western Education | One Tawny Stranger

  4. This stimulates some reflection on my early education, part Catholic, briefly all black schools. I learned loving. And it was a high school teacher who led to my leaving the Catholic church, explaining their direct contribution to colonialism. And also explains why I was a college drop-out and took almost 20 years to get a BA and after so many classes feeling disappointed and disillusioned. Yes, definitely food for an article here. I recognized early the dark side of American education, and before I was 25 I was being grateful I made it through when I did. Wouldn’t have if I had been born five years later. Education is just one reflection of this whole messed up illusive social-economic systems that have been corrupt and deceiving peoples for centuries. It’s the rebels, the visionaries, and yes the true carriers of spirit that keep this poor but beautiful planet floating.


      • Hi folks: Thanks so much for your interest in viewing the Schooling the World. The film is blocked on YouTube because it was posted there illegally; it contains music which is not licensed for public sites such as YouTube, but only for nonprofit sites devoted to social and cultural issues. (To license the music for public viewing would be prohibitively expensive.) I hope you’re aware that the vast majority of documentary films (including this one) never make back in revenues what they cost to produce, so unless you want all your media to be corporate media, it’s always a good idea to support your local filmmaker if you can. That being said, the film is available for free on the Films For Action website (, for a sliding scale rate of $5, $15, or $25 at, or, as stated above, for $3.95 on Vimeo On Demand. I hope that’s a good array of options. All best, lost people films


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