Schooling the World
Schooling the World is a documentary released in 2010 which intends to show the spectators the way the Western countries use the schooling system as a way to spread their values, codes of conducts and cultures at the expense of the locals’. This is one of the documentaries which had a big impact on my way to think in terms of teaching, and I am going to explain the reasons why.
The first time I watched this documentary was during my DI program, when my team had a study period which title was Teaching for the Power or the People, as an evening program. It was the first time that I was able to really see how schools were used as a weapon to assimilate a whole local population to the deeds of a foreign country. I was already well-aware of the brainwashing capacity of school curricula, as I have studied the totalitarian systems in detail during my University time, but I thought – without relevant reasons – that once world war II and the Cold War were finished (is it really finished, by the way?!), there were not anymore such things in our political Europe. Four years later, when I give the course to the February team about History and Philosophy of Pedagogy, I decided to teach it in regard to the evolution of the schooling system in the Western countries. While researching on the topic, I found out that there was an issue. The so-called “modern pedagogies” didn’t seem to question the concept of schooling too much and when I went to websites about education, it seemed that they tried to avoid the topic, despite that they call themselves “neutral”. However, with the data that I collected, I couldn’t help myself but think about this documentary, especially because I arrived to similar conclusions, and tell the DI’s about it when I was giving the course. And we ended up watching it as an evening program.
The sub-title of the documentary is the white man’s last burden. Yes, schooling as we know it today is a Western invention. It is a modern way to wage war, not physically but psychologically. This is what we can hear from the interviews with the different people in the film, anthropologists, historians and sociologists. Although they are the product of the Western countries school systems, they are very critical toward their education, which is surprising. However, they have a common point in their educational background: they are researchers and still today, their main work is to make research. It is somewhat sad to see that you are likelier to use your critical mind and challenge your own education when you are brought in a “favorable environment” and have been quite far in their studies (they all hold a Ph.D). Those who don’t fit in, especially if they are not born in a rich family, are the likeliest to be excluded. As schooling is promoted as the way to succeed, those who don’t fit in are “the Poor”, the ones who think and learn differently from the mainstream.
The documentary tackles its topic with captivating images of the local population’s culture and mentality and it is good that many locals gave their opinion about how school works. The main thing which came out from the different interviews is the concept of cultural alienation. Many feel that schools uproot the next generation from their culture. Worse it deprives them from learning important life skills. In India, it is for example how to milk a cow, growing your food and take care of your family and housework. In the future, it will even be how to speak your own language because children are forced to speak English at school. And speaking English will not give a job to the majority of them.
Another issue that the documentary conveyed was about International Aid. It was illustrated through the case of a German woman who was donating her time and money to build a private school in India. Despite the evidence shown that her actions were undermining the economic development of a big part of the population, she was really convinced that she was helping. She seemed to be thrilled by her “big contribution to the development of Education in India”. Yes, we all want to help to eradicate poverty in South countries but… are we doing the right things? Are we doing it for the right reasons? The way this German woman acts is shocking the spectator because the way the documentary is made allows them to spot the discrepancies between what she thinks (or the way she acts) and the reality; however, people acting like her are very common. In our latitudes, it is called the Savior’s complex or the Messiah’s syndrome and people have it because they need to feel useful and to give a meaning to their life and the overconsumption, the importance given to material abundance, power and money by our society deprived them of this feeling. We, DI’s and teachers who want to fight with the Poor, have to be aware of that, as we are from the same cultural background as this German woman.
To finish, I recommend to all the DI’s – and also you the reader of this article – to watch this documentary, even if it is not for studying purposes. It is always good to reflect on the way education is made, even with the best intentions. It is good to be aware that pedagogy is never neutral. Either it is to perpetuate the existing societal order, meaning teaching for the Power or it is to empower individuals, encourage them to take their own learning into their hand and change the world for the better, meaning teaching for the people. You have to choose and you cannot do both. And after watching this documentary, you will be aware of what is the best choice to make.