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Jacquelyn Smith


Professors Reinard/Carney

13 February 2019

Reflection- “Schooling the World”

It all sounds like such a good idea, doesn’t it? A magnanimous wealthy nation steps in to

provide job training and education to a nation with less wealth. The prosperous nation assists the

other culture with modernizing and shepherds them into our era. But… what’s so great about our

era and our technology? Who gets to decide which culture is truly richer? And if the “better off”

nation is profiting from the changes they’ve led, isn’t this exploitative? The hubris of any group

or nation colonizing another group our nation is, quite frankly, appalling. And when this

colonization and education is done while pointing a gun at the indigenous people, it’s criminal.

The title of the documentary includes the tag “The White Man’s Burden”. It is through this

martyring perspective that white people have historically justified the cruelties they’ve visited on

other nations.

To effectively stamp out a culture that conflicts or contrasts with what is perceived as the

superior culture, there are steps that must be taken. The first is the seduce the native culture. In

the documentary, we saw native people being sold on the idea that they would all somehow

become engineers or doctors with the new education they were being offered. They would enjoy

material success. Then a new religion is introduced. The natives would be able to discard the

superstition of their old gods and accept the new and correct gods. Compulsory education is then

mandated. They would learn the new language of their “friends”. The natives’ way of life

permanently changes. They would be “rescued” from everything they had ever known.
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They were sold a bill of goods. Instead of this magical wealth and equality that they

expected to receive, they were subjugated. They were fined for speaking their native language,

they were forced into compulsory prayers, they became cogs in an industrial system where they

were infinitely replaceable, they could never become fully equal, and they were forced to live in

squalor in the areas in which they were allowed to live. They were taught just enough to perform

their roles but were not encouraged to be audacious and change-makers in the world they had

been dropped into. They became disillusioned and broken “in-between people”.

The ego of their oppressors and their helpers is staggering. Nothing about the “western”

way of life is sustainable. It is certainly not a model of success with depression and suicide and

homelessness and poverty touching almost every family. Not everyone can be a doctor or an

engineer. To take people away from their holistic environments where they are more connected

to nature and their culture is a mistake. Many of these ancient native cultures have solved

problems that we still can’t even define properly. They have a defined path to adulthood through

regular exposure to the societal roles. Their children aren’t segregated from adults in schools that

don’t permit them to fully understand their society. They get to see adulthood in action on a

regular basis instead of having to figure it out on their own when they hit a magical age where

their mandatory education ends. Their citizens are independent and free to make choices. They

can honor their ancestors, legacy, and culture without judgement. They are able to manage their

lives and resources in a way that strengthens their environment and their families. They don’t

obsess over the “meaning of life” because they already know it. It’s connectedness with

everything around them.

European culture came in and subjugated and indoctrinated these beautiful, diverse

cultures. From the Ladakhi to the Native Americans to the Maori, this pattern happens over and
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over again. A culture that views the people of another culture as nothing more than a physical

resource eradicates their way of live to serve their own purposes for financial gain. Frankly, it’s

disgusting. And it’s happening right now, in some corner of the world. Some “helpful” tourist is

falling in love with a culture, only to facilitate its eradication in the belief that they’re somehow

“saving” them.

It’s appalling to be part of a culture and ancestry that has actively and continues to

actively practice these imperialistic colonizing behaviors. It is my fervent wish that we become

more self-aware of our role in the global community and start working to better understand and

respect the cultures we interact with.