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a film by Carol Black

Ladakh, India

(Ladakhi woman) My older daughter has gone away to the city to send her children to school. My
youngest daughter has also gone away to go to school in Leh. I stay here alone to take care of the
farm, water the fields, take the cows out to graze. Its not like it was before. They are all educated now.
So they dont stay. It would be happier if we were all here together. But they say they have to send
them to school.

(music: Look Back In)

An 1872 painting called American Progress shows a white woman floating across the plains of the
American West. White settlers follow her as Indians and wild animals flee. On her forehead she wears
the star of empire. In her right hand she carries a school book. As America moves west, thousands of
Native American children are forcibly taken from their families and sent to government-run boarding
schools. The overt goal is to destroy their way of life.

To civilize the Indiansimmerse them in our civilization, and when we get them under hold them
there until they are thoroughly soaked.General Richard Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian School

Let all that is Indian within you die.Carlisle Indian School commencement speech

In India, the British are also schooling a nation.

We must at present do our best to forma class or persons, Indian in blood and color but English in
taste, in opinions, in morals, in intellect.Lord Macaulays Minute on Indian Education

Next to be educated are the Cubans and the Filipinos.

The U.S. Army invades the Philippines. Over 500,000 civilians are killed. An army of schoolteachers is
sent to educate the survivors. A cartoon from the period shows a white man carrying a dark-skinned
figure to a school house. It is captioned, The White Mans Burden.


SCHOOLING THE WORLD: The White Mans Last Burden

(teachers voice) One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen,
fifteen, sixteen. Okay!

(school bell / childrens voices)

(Dolma Tsering) Traditionally, we were taught kindness and compassion, how to live by the teachings
of the Buddha. But now, with development, everyone sends their children to school. With modern
schooling, the old values of cooperation and compassion are starting to decline. Now people are
thinking, I have to be a doctor or an engineer, and the traditional ways of helping one another, of
kindness and compassion, are slowly dying out.

(Wade Davis) Through our cultural myopia, we think that we educate our kids, we send our kids to
school, we have a form of enculturating kids into our society, which is education, and peoples who
dont mimic those same patterns of education somehow dont educate their kids. Well, of course, that
is absurd.

Schooling the World Transcript 1

(Ladakhi woman) Before modern schooling, our education focused on the spiritual teachings. But now
the emphasis is on material success. People go to school so they can make a lot of money, have a big
house, drive a nice car. The whole idea of learning has been turned around to mean, How can I make
a lot of money?

(Helena Norberg-Hodge) Today, western schooling is responsible for introducing a human

monoculture across the entire world. Essentially the same curriculum is being taught, and its training
people for jobsvery scarce jobsbut for jobs in an urban consumer culture. The diversity of cultures,
as well as the diversity of unique human individuals, is being destroyed in this way.

the old missionaries (school bell)

Moravian Mission School, Leh

(Reverend Elijah Gergen, Principal, Moravian Mission School) Now this particular school that was
established, called the Moravian Mission School, was secular in the sense that of course some
Christian teaching was given as a part of an evangelistic outreach by the Moravians.


The Moravian Mission School was founded by German missionaries. It is considered one of the best
schools in Ladakh.

(Rev. Gergen) In 1887, when the school first started, there were certain perceptions that were wrong.
For example, a school started by the missionarieson a street cornermust have an ulterior motive. Of
conversion. Of teachings that are in conflict with the teachings of the traditional society. Of the

(students) Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven

(Rev. Gergen) And I have been told that children had to come by force to the school. They wouldnt
like to. People just wouldnt send children to the school.

(students) And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us

(Rev. Gergen) I strongly believe that a secular education system and a cosmopolitan school society
should not be at the expense of losing Ladakhiness.

(students) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the
power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

(Rev. Gergen) If you have lost your history, you have lost everything.

(Buddhist chanting)

A living culture is an ecosystem, a complex web of relationships between human beings and the land
they live on. As in any ecosystem, every element is intertwined with all the others. And, as in any
ecosystem, sudden changes have unpredictable effects.

(music: Youth of the Nation)


six thousand voices

Schooling the World Transcript 2

(Wade Davis, National Geographic Explorer) You know, the great lesson of anthropology is the idea
that the world into which you were born doesnt exist in some absolute sense but is just one model of
reality, the consequence of one particular set of adaptive choices that your lineage made, however
successfully, many generations ago. And the other peoples of the world arent failed attempts at being
you or, in our case, failed attempts at modernity. They are, by definition, unique facets of the human
imagination, and when asked the meaning of being human, they respond with six thousand different
voices. And those voices collectively become the human repertoire for dealing with the challenges
that will confront us in the ensuing millennia. We always have this idea of our society as not being
really a culture, but being the real worldand these other cultures, outside, those are the cultures. But
that kind of cultural myopia we really can no longer afford. You know, we arent the real inexorable
wave of history. Were just another set of possibilities. Were just another cultural reality with choices
that weve made. And thats why in the whole realm of child rearing and education I think it behooves
us to look at models of enculturation, of initiation, of bringing children into the realm of adulthood
that other societies have celebrated and developed over thousands of years of experience.

(Helena Norberg-Hodge, International Society for Ecology and Culture) There is no doubt that if we
look honestly at the traditional forms of education and compare them to todays modern education
system that the traditional forms of knowledge fostered sustainability. All these cultures were not
perfect. But they did know about their own specific climate, soil, water. And they did manage to
surviveindependently, in charge of their own livesfor generation after generation. In the modern
economy, and with the modern educational system, the children learn nothing about that, but instead
they learn how to use essentially corporate products in an urban consumer culture. So once theyve
been educated in modern schools they literally dont know how to survive in their own environment.

(Ladakhi woman) The ones who go away to school just stand around with their hands in their pockets.
They dont know how to take the animals up to graze; they dont know how to care for the crops. They
dont know how to do anything.

(Wade Davis) Education is not simply the transmission of information. Its by definition the
transmissionindeed the enculturationor one could say, more harshly, the indoctrinationof a
child into a certain way of knowing, a way of learning, a way of being. And again, when we project our
notions of what education is or what a way of being is overseas into other peoples lives we forget
that were projecting just something that we made up. And one of the things that I see in my work is
that different ways of knowing, different ways of being, different ways of learning really create
different human beings. If youre raised in Colorado to believe that a mountain is an inert pile of rock
waiting to be mined, youre going to have a very different relationship to that mountain from a kid
from southern Peru who believes in the fiber of his being that a mountain is an Apu spirit, a protective
deity that will direct his destiny throughout life. Now, the interesting observation is not whether that
mountain is in fact a spirit or whether its just a pile of dirt. The interesting observation is how the
education system into what that mountain is creates a different human being with a different
relationship to the earth. I was raised in the forests of British Columbia to believe that those forests
existed to be cut. That was the foundation of the ideology of scientific forestry that I was taught in
school and that I practiced as a logger in the woods. It was based on the idea that we had to eliminate
all the old growth to get some healthy plantations growing in their wake because, after all, the
incremental addition of cellulose would be higher in but this was a construct! But, critically, that
belief system made me a very different human being with a very different relationship to that forest
than my friends from Native communities who believed that that forest was the abode of Huxwhukw
and the crooked beak of heaven. Because of my ideology, my education, those forests no longer exist.

School forcibly snatches away children from a world full of Gods own handiwork It is a mere
method of discipline which refuses to take into account the individuala manufactory for grinding out
uniform results. I was not a creation of the schoolmaster: the Government Board of Education was not

Schooling the World Transcript 3

consulted when I took birth in the world.Rabindranath Tagore, 1913 Nobel Prize Winner for

macaulays children

(drums and music)

A general State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another:
and as the mold in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the
government it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the
body.John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

(mans voice) One, two, three, four! Five, six, seven eight! One, two, three, four! Five, six, seven, eight!
Nine, ten, eleven, twelve! Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen!

(Vandana Shiva, Navdanya / Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology) I think the
way western education has grown over the last few centuries, especially with the rise of
industrialization, was basically not to create human beings fully equipped to deal with life and all its
problems, independent citizens able to exercise their decisions and live their responsibilities in
community, but elements to feed into an industrial production system. They were products, with
partial knowledge. We moved from wisdom to knowledge, and now we are moving from knowledge
to informationand that information is so partial that we are creating incomplete human beings.

(Helena Norberg-Hodge) If we look back at the beginning of so-called education, the agenda was
very clear. There was an elite that wanted to train people to serve their needs, to essentially create an
extractive economy that served the few at the expense of the many. So theres very explicit literature
very clearly education was there to train a class of people to serve the needs of the elite.

(Vandana Shiva) When Macaulay came to IndiaI dont know how many of you know, but Macaulay
was the guy who created, in the Minutes of Macaulay, its called, Macaulays children. And
Macaulays children, he said, would be brown on the outside, but white on the inside. They would
basically know only one thing, how to rule India as if they were Europeans themselves.

(Manish Jain, Shikshantar: The Peoples Institute for Rethinking Education and Development) If you go
back to the sixties and you look at a lot of the modernization literature its very clearly written that
local language, local tradition, local customs are barriers to modernization. And for communities to
progress in the stages of development these things need to be eliminated.

(Helena Norberg-Hodge) 99 percent of all the activities that go under the label of education come
from this very specific agenda that grew out of a colonial expansion across the world by Europeans.
And now in different countries in the so-called Third World, the basic, fundamental agenda is the
same. Its to pull people into dependence on a modern, centralized economy. Its to pull them away
from their independence and from their own culture and self-respect.

Modernizationproceeds at a limited pace within a society still characterized by traditional low-

productivity methods, by the old social structure and values The population at large must be
prepared to accept training for an economic system which increasingly confines the individual in large,
disciplined organizations, allocating to him narrow, specialized tasks.Walt Rostow, The Stages of
Economic Growth, 1960

Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw materialschildrenare to be shaped and
fashioned into products. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of 20th
century civilization and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the
specifications laid down.Ellwood P. Cubberly, Dean, Stanford University School of Education, 1898

Schooling the World Transcript 4

In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands.John D.
Rockefeller, General Education Board, 1906

(school bell)

education for all

(Manish Jain) Theres actually a very big global program that is going on right now called Education
for All. And every person Ive met who is associated with it has basically no questions around its
agenda or intention, which is very disturbing. Its a program which is sanctioned by every government
in the world; its a program which the World Bank and the U.N. agencies support; its a program that
major corporations, McDonalds and many others, are also behind. And the agenda of the program is
to get every child into school. The claim is that, by going to school, communities will be able to
develop and theyll be able to become part of the mainstream society. Now I think we need to
question, What does it mean to become part of the mainstream today? And that for me is very much
tied to a very clear agenda of becoming part of the global economy and shifting ones own local
economy, ones own local culture, ones own local resources, both personal as well as collective, into
the service of the global economy.

(Helena Norberg-Hodge) So you will find prime ministers and presidents of countries regularly saying,
We have got to change our education system to make us more competitive in the global economy.
That means, We have got to train our young people so that they will suit the needs of giant, mobile

the new missionaries

(Julian Schweitzer, World Bank, Director of Human Development for the South Asia region) The
Education for All initiative is an attempt to redress what was seen as a serious imbalance in funding
for primary education. The intent really is to get every child into school.

The stated mission of the World Bank is to reduce global poverty.

(Julian Schweitzer) I think we see education as crucial. Its an absolutely necessary condition for
sustained poverty reduction.

But many have come to question whose interests the Bank really serves.

(Julian Schweitzer) The demand now for education is not just coming from people like the World Bank
and outsiders. Its coming from businessmen, who are discovering that they cant grow their factories
because they cant grow their businesses because theres a shortage of skilled workers.

BUSINESS HEADLINE: Indias New Teachers

But who really benefits when every child on the planet is educated in the same way?

(Julian Schweitzer) We need to be very careful about not being paternalistic to so-called ancient
cultures. We can help them and certainly not ruin or try to wreck their own cultures. But on the other
hand, I think we should be careful about trying to preserve their culture in a kind of cold storage. If
they dont want that, we should be there to help them.


(Julian Schweitzer) If you tour a tribal area in India and you sit with a group of women, and you say to
them, Why is education important for your children? I mean they look at you as if youre completely

Schooling the World Transcript 5

stupid. I mean, of course its important for our children. So you say, Well, why, tell me why? Because
we dont want them to live like we live.

so live like we live

(music: Living in America)


16,000,000 U.S. children suffer from depression and other emotional problems

1,600,000 are currently on 2 or more psychiatric drugs

69,000 girls between 13 and 19 regularly cut themselves

78 U.S. children have been killed or wounded in school shootings in the past 8 years

120,000 have tried to kill themselves in the past 12 months

55.5% of U.S. high school students believe the government should not be able to censor newspapers

32.5% believe the government should censor newspapers

12% dont know

Percentage of American public school students who FAIL TO GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL

New Orleans 46.6%

Detroit 78.3%

Dallas 53.7%

Pittsburgh 35.9%

New York City 61.1%

Kansas City 54.3%

Atlanta 54.0%

Chicago 47.8%

Los Angeles 55.8%

13,247,845 U.S. children live in poverty


As the mass of population are uneducated, illiterate, theywill remain backward and follow old and
religious superstitions.Ladakhi economic textbook

backward and primitive

As majority of people are illitrate [sic] and backward, their standard of living is low as compared to
their counterparts who are well educated and advanced.Ladakhi economics textbook

(Helena Norberg-Hodge) When modern western education is introduced into traditional cultures
around the world, it creates a huge sense of inferiority. The schoolbooks talk about a western, urban,

Schooling the World Transcript 6

consumer culture as progressas the only way to beand the end result is that children end up
feeling that their own culture, their language, their way of doing things is backward, primitive, and

(young girl) I heard from my grandmother that before the development, they dont used to go to
school, they just stayed in the house, and they went to like they they went with the cows in the
mountains. And they come back in the evening and they make food and other things.

(Manish Jain) One of the things Ive seen that education has really created is a sense of inferiority at
many levels, one at the level of elders. Ive visited many villages wanting to learn from elders all kinds
of traditional practices, and the first response is always: I dont know anything, go and talk to my son;
hes a tenth class pass, or hes a twelfth grade pass. And I dont know anything. I dont understand
anything. And so that has always, in my life, that has been one of the most painful things Ive heard
over and over in villages.

(Dolma Tsering, Womens Alliance of Ladakh) In the past, the women used to enjoy and respect their
work on the land. Now, with development, they think that education is only reading and writing. They
say, Im not educated. I dont know anything. But they had so much knowledge, more than those
who went to school. They knew how to run a house, how to grow food, how to spin wool. They knew
how to manage everything.

(Ladakhi woman) My elder son is in Leh. One grandchild is in Jammu. The other one is in Delhi. My
youngest son is in Delhi. What can I do? I have to stay here to guard the house, look after the land.
Once the children go away to school, they cant stay here. They have to make money. They have to go
away to make money.

(heavy traffic noise)


(Helena Norberg-Hodge) Theres a widely held belief today that it is through modern education that
were going to raise people out of poverty. But if we look honestly at whats been happening, well see
that its the advent of colonialism, development, and aid that have created poverty. In the pre-modern,
or pre-development, systems and economies you will not find the kind of poverty that you do in the
modern slums of Calcutta, Mexico City, Beijing. Today, in most traditional villages, whether it be in
China, India, or Africa, people are led to believe that the future is this modern, urban, consumer
culture. And they are going into debt; they are selling their houses, to give their child an education.
The great hope is that theyre going to get a good job as an engineer, as a doctor, in the modern
economy. Less than ten percent are succeeding. Ninety percent end up failures. They might get a job
as a servant, or as a car mechanic. But it is not the glorious life that people had hoped for.

(young boy) Most of the students of Ladakh, they dont do very well. Amongst ten, two will be good,
more than good. But about the eight, they wont be better.

(Dolma Tsering) A lot of the students arent getting work after they graduate, and they get very
depressed, frustrated, and angry.

(Manish Jain) One of the things that is most disturbing to me at a level of justice and morality is that
you have an institution that is in place globally that is branding millions and millions and millions of
innocent people as failures. Very brilliant, wonderful, talented kinds of people are always introducing
themselves in India to me, Oh, Im an eighth class fail, or Im a tenth class fail. And thats their
introduction. Whats amazing is that people who are claiming to be concerned with social justice
cannot see the huge kind of social hierarchy and inequity that is created through education, modern
education. Its mind-boggling for me how people dont see that. The other thing is a loss in terms of

Schooling the World Transcript 7

the kind of richness of imagination and cultural resources that people could bring because I think
those who are branded as failures actually have a wide variety of capacities to think in different ways.
And that is all being suppressed and lost, and so people who can only think in a very fragmented,
one-dimensional kind of way, those people are getting rewarded.

(shouting orders)

(Manish Jain) Anybody who claims to be concerned with social justice, we need to have a serious
conversation around that.

(Vandana Shiva) I come from the central Himalayan region, which is called Garhwal. And the women of
Garhwal worked very hard to make sure their kids would have schooling, but of course the schooling
was the institutionalized schooling of the kind that doesnt teach you anything about your local
ecology, your local culture, your local economy, or your ability to be productive. It basically teaches
you to be a semi-literate for another system to which you have no entry because you dont belong to
the right class, you dont belong to the right privilege, etc. I now go back to those same villages, and
the women say the worst mistake they made was to think that that kind of education would help. We
have a saying in Hindi [speaking in Hindi] that, you know, its the washermans dog who belongs
neither to the place where the washing is done, nor to the home. Theyre in-between people. And
theyre falling through the cracks of an in-between world.

(music: Tumbi)

Creating a new India.

See what life can be.


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What are you searching for?

mental aid

(jet landing)

(traditional Ladakhi drums/music)

(Helena Norberg-Hodge) Its just so sad to see how many westerners come out to remote, relatively
sustainable, relatively intact economies and cultures and fall in love with the place. They want to stay.
They want to come back. They love the people. They find the people incredibly happy, incredibly kind,
incredibly helpful. And then they want to help, develop, bring in western schooling to improve
the lives of these people.

(Western missionary) Well, my name is Heidi. I come from Germany, from the southern part. Thats
Bavaria. And as I live in Bavaria, I am keen on mountaineering. And that was the reason why of course I
wanted to go to the Himalayas. And as I was a teacherI was teaching English, German, ethicsthats
a kind of religionI was interested in schools. And so I happened to meet Lamdon School here.

(Instructor) One, two, three, up! One, two, three, up!

The Lamdon Model School is considered one of the best secular private schools in Ladakh.

Schooling the World Transcript 8

(Western missionary) And of course I got so much from the people here, from their religious belief,
from their mentality, the way of compassion, tolerance, that I thought, Well, I must do something for
this school. Step by step, I tried to find sponsors. I tried to collect money. For instance, Im proud.
Over there there is a hostel, a girls hostel, for a hundred pupils. And this mainly done, built, by the
money I could collect.

Thanks to Heidi, hundreds of children from villages all over Ladakh are able to leave their families and
homes to board at Lamdon School.

(Teacher) Here is a list of possible reasons why one uses a mirror. First, to check ones appearance. To
check ones appearance. Do you do that? Mirror for checking? And to look beautiful. To check
appearance, yes? You check appearance? You check appearance not only to see how you look, but
also how you are dressed up, okay? Right? How you are dressed up. And thento look beautiful. How
much important is it? Vanity. Beauty, Everybody cares for their looks, okay? Everybody cares for their
looks. How you look, right? How you look is very important.

(Western missionary) Even if they stay here for one or two years and sometimes they have to go back,
forced by their parents to work in the fields, to look after younger children, they gain something for
their life. Some go to military forces. Then they are good tradesmen. They open shops and sell all
those necklaces and sweaters and these things. Or they learn special jobs. And now mainly as I know
and as I hope in computer techniques. So they go to India and have a good chance. So I think they
have overcome real poverty here. And some people say, Well, why dont you go to Congo, or so?
but I think they still need help. Its not only to throw them into the water and then let them swim. They
need, they need everything from clothing to mental aid.

(from Rabbit-Proof Fence) For if we are to fit and train such children for the future, they cannot be left
as they are. And, in spite of himself, the native must be helped.

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

connecting the dots

(Helena Norberg-Hodge) When I look at the number of really well-intentioned people who are trying
to help other people with this package of schooling and aid, I really dont think there is any bad
intention behind that. I think its purely out of good-heartedness and a will to help other people. Its
just that they dont connect the dots; they dont often stay long enough to really look at the overall
impact. And they simply dont look broadly enough.

(young girl) I did my schooling from Moravian Mission School, which is in Leh, which I think is the best
school of Ladakh.

(young boy) Starting, I was in Lamdon Model School, Leh, until 6th class.

(young boy) I did my higher secondary school in Delhi itself. Ive been in Delhi for the past eight, nine

(young boy) When I was at the age when I did my first class, then I was shifted out here. I shifted out
here in Mussoorie, then Dehradun, and then in Delhi.

(young boy) I dont know about my culture very much. We are not very much aware about our
tradition and all.

Schooling the World Transcript 9

(young boy) Basically, when students come to Delhi to study, theyre exposed to an environment
which is very different from Ladakh. And they tend to forget their own culture. They even sometimes
they dont even know how to speak their own language. They forget their traditions. And I think that is
not a good sign for Ladakh.

(young boy) Nobody speaks the fluent Ladakhi, which was origin before.

(young boy) But we are here and follow the global tradition. We are trying to bewe are trying to
compete with them.

(young girl) Were just after money, money, money.

(Buddhist nuns chanting)

english commands the world

(Wade Davis) You know, the year that you were born, there were six thousand languages spoken on
Earth. Now, a language isnt just grammar or vocabulary. A language is a flash of the human spirit. Its
a vehicle through which the soul of every culture comes into the world. Every language, Ive always
said, is like an old growth forest of the mind, an ecosystem of thought, a watershed of social and
spiritual possibilities. As we sit here, half those languages are not being taught to children.

(Rev. Gergen) In some areas we are very strict. For example, speaking in English.

(young girl) My school is English medium school, and every children are speaking in English. And
when they are in the playground also they speak in English. In class also, everywhere in the school, we
have to speak in English.

(Rev. Gergen) We are strict that the children speak in English with the teachers in the class and with
each other.

(young girl) Yeah, if somebody speak the other, Ladakhi or Hindi, then teacher give him or her

(Carol Black, Filmmaker) What happens when somebody gets punished?


(young girl) Umm Yeah, its money. Yeah, its a fine. Money. Five rupees.

(Rev. Gergen) But that discipline inculcates a habit of English. And English is one language that
commands the world todaybe it the cyber world, Internet, anything, businessyou have got to
learn English in India.

(young girl) When we go to other countries, itswe have to speak in English. We dont have English
speaking, we cant go to other country and speaking, yeah. ItsEnglish speaking is very good. When I
graduate I will go to other countries.

(Carol Black) Where do you think youll go to study?

(young girl) In Delhi.

(Carol Black) Will your mom miss you when you move to Delhi?

(young girl) Yeah, I will miss her. Miss my mom.

Schooling the World Transcript 10

(young boy) I miss my home town, really. And my parents. Because I have been herenot here
properly but out of my townabout 10 or 12 years. And about a place called Ladakhyou have seen-
its a heavenlyreally it is heaven. I miss it. I miss Ladakh too much. Because home is home, right?

(singing, laughter)

human + nature

The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places. It is to master the
physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from
the external world.William Torrey Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889-1906

(bus engine)

(door slamming shut)

(Manish Jain) One of the great tragedies of schooling is how it has ripped people out from nature and
locked them up into rooms for eight hours a day. And I think the profound kind of damage that its
doing to us, only well recognize generations from now and then well look back and say, How could
we have done this kind of thing to people? Thinking that, you know, creating concrete jails and
locking people up into that and giving them books that tell them about nature is a better way to think
about life than actually spending time in nature.

(teacher) Why is it calledwhy it is given this name? Can you tell me? Do you have any idea why we
call it this name? The spelling is xerophytic. Its xerophytic. Why do we call this name? Xerophytic
vegetation. The type of vegetation that we have here in Ladakh is xerophytic. Now, can you cite me
the reasons why we call this type of vegetation as xerophytic vegetation? Anyone in the class?

(from Ferris Bueller's Day Off) Anyone? Anyone?

(teacher) Do we have heavy rainfall here? No. We have scanty rainfall here. So for that reason, we, as
we have discussed that we dont have good type of vegetation here. We cant expect to have, you
know, forests, good forests. We cant expect to have great vegetation here. And we are, here I just
wanted to add that with the distinct type of plants, animals, and the environment, human is also
included in the ecosystem. Understand? Now how is human included? Why do we say that human is
an integral part in the ecosystem?

(students turning pages)

(teacher) How do you think that human are involved in the ecosystem? Anyone in the class?

(from Ferris Bueller's Day Off) Anyone? Anyone?

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

What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.Henry
David Thoreau

(Dolma Tsering) Traditionally, parents taught their children to keep the water clean. We learned never
to dirty the springs or streams since people downstream need clean water for drinking, or for offering
to deities. Having learned this when we were very young, it remained in our minds forever. Now,
maybe it is development, or progress, or parents are not telling children about these things, or the
children are not listening to them. Everywhere, people are throwing things in the water and polluting
all the surrounding environment. The land is our real mother. The land is our bank. The land is

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something that we can keep safe for generation after generation. When we talk of education, we need
to pass our knowledge of the land and how to grow food down to our children. A lot of people who
leave Ladakh to study outside come back and say, What is there in Ladakh? Theres nothing here.
People say that tourists and foreigners are lucky. They are so rich and dont have to work hard. But in
fact, we have our own land. We have our own homes. We have our own food and traditions and
culture. Where has the development taken people to?

many sciences

(Wade Davis) The amazing thing, if you think about it, is that biologists have finally proven it to be
true, what philosophers have always dreamt to be true, which is the fact that were all brothers and
sisters. We are all, by definition, cut from the same genetic cloth. That means that all human
populations, all cultures, in general, share the same raw mental capacity, intellectual capacity, mental
acuity, whatever. And what that means is that, whether a people place their genius into technological
innovation, as has been the tradition in the west, or, by contrastin the case of the Tibetan Buddhists,
into spending 2500 years trying to understand the nature of existencein what we call, always, a
science of the mindand why do we use the word, science? Because what is science but the pursuit
of the truth? And what is Buddhism but the empirical pursuit of the truth? As Matthieu Ricard, a
Tibetan monk and former molecular biologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, always says, Western
science is a major response to minor needs. We spend all of our lives trying to make sure that we live
to be a hundred without losing our teeth or our hair, and in Tibet people spend their lives trying to
understand the nature of existence. He says, all of our billboards advertise naked young children in
underwear. Their billboards, which are mani walls, are engravings in stone of prayers for the well-
being of all sentient beings.

Real freedom will come only when we free ourselves of the domination of Western culture, Western
education, and the Western way of living.Mahatma Gandhi

(Manish Jain) One of the things thats always quite surprising to me is peoples understanding of
Gandhi. All over the world people claim to be big fans of Gandhi, and if you actually start to look at
what the man wrote, he was extremely, extremely critical of modern education. And particularly of
western knowledge. That was something that Gandhi was openly questioningWhat is the great
contribution of western knowledge actually to the well-being of life on the planet? And so people
misunderstand that, you know, they thought that Gandhi was against the British. And actually he said,
I have no problem with the British. But they need to understand that these systems that have been
created all over the world are fundamentally disempowering, dehumanizing, destructive, not only to
human beings, but to all life on the planet. And they cannot sustain themselves. He said this in 1909.
And he said, were not just trying to get rid of the British and keep their systemsHe used a very nice
phrase. This freedom struggle is not about getting rid of the tiger but keeping the tigers nature.

Education is a compulsory, forcible action of one person upon another. Culture is the free relation of
people. The difference between education and culture lies only in the compulsion, which education
deems itself in the right to exert. Education is culture under restraint. Culture is free.Leo Tolstoy

(Wade Davis) And, you know, we dont think of ourselves as a culture. Therefore, when we export
something like our economic model, we dont see it as what it is, which is just one option, one way of
organizing economic behavior. And yet when you think about it, all the indices of the development
paradigm say almost nothing about quality of life. People talk about per capita income quadrupling.
Well, what does that mean? It might mean that some farmer has gone from a non-cash agrarian
economy into a sweatshop in a slum in Delhi. Has his quality of life gone up because his income has
quadrupled? I mean thats another part of our cultural myopia. We put out this ideawhich I think is a
blatant liethat if people buy into the dictates of our economic paradigm that somehow they will
magically achieve the wealth that we enjoy in the West. Aint gonna happen. Just on energy resources

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alone, it would take four planet Earths to bring the whole global population to our level of
consumption. So, you know, we project this worldview overseas with this illusion that if people buy
into it theyll achieve what we have. And then you have to back up and say, well, what is it that we
have that makes us so spectacular? Many wondrous things. I mean, believe me, if I get in a car
accident and my arms cut off, I dont want to be taken to an African herbalist, I want to be taken to an
emergency room. Im not knocking our culture. But, on the other hand, you look at the way we make
moneythe way we earn our daily breadis based on an economic paradigm that by any scientific
definition is changing the biochemistry of the biosphere. This is not trivial. And it certainly doesnt
suggest that our way of life is a paragon of humanitys potential.

what is knowledge? what is ignorance? what is wealth? what is poverty?


(Helena Norberg-Hodge) The way for cultures to survive in todays world is not by isolating
themselves and cutting themselves off. In fact I believe that more than ever we need a deeper
dialogue between the West and the non-industrialized parts of the world. We need that dialogue
because the media and conventional education are perpetuating a lie, basically, about a way to
succeed and how we can all attain this glorious, wealthy, luxurious lifestyle. We urgently need to sit
down and talk to each other and communicate the fact that this model isnt even working in America,
which is the center of this dream.

(Wade Davis) And its really important that as we think of different cultures, theres this sort of idea
that these other peoples, quaint and colorful though they may be, are somehow destined to fade
away, as the real world, our world, moves on. Nothing could be further from the truth. These cultures
are not frail and fragile. On the contrary, theyre dynamic, living peoples, being driven out of existence
by identifiable forces. Why is that so important? Its important because culture is not trivial. You know,
culture is not decorative. Its not feathers and bells. Its not dances. Its not even ritual. Culture is the
blanket of moral and ethical values that we insulate the individual with. And if you want to know what
happens when culture is lost and yet the individual survives, a shadow of their former selves, unable to
go back to the comfort of tradition and roots, but cast adrift into an alien world, where generally the
destination is simply the lowest rung on the economic ladder that goes nowhere, you just have to look
at the seas of misery that are the demographic centers of the Third World.

(music: Vaishnava Janato)

the road to hell

(Wade Davis) There have been many cases in history where overt acts of the violation of human rights,
dislocation of peoples, have been absolutely motivated by economic and political interests of elites
and of vested power structures. No question about it. I think, in a strange sense, the greater threats
have come about through the good intentions of those who dont understand that those good
intentions may not be appropriate and may reflect just, you knowa projection of our own ideologies.
If someone goes to another culture and says, Im here to educate your children, I mean, thats one of
the most outrageous and audacious things you can ever imagine. If you go to that culture and say:
Hey, you know, weve got some skills that you probably could use To me, thats the sharing of
information that should be both reciprocal and honored. But its very different for me to go and say
your ways are no longer acceptable, you know, get with the program, educate your kids in this school,
get rid of your superstitious ideas and accept some of mine.

(Helena Norberg-Hodge) There is an assumption that western education, western knowledge, is

universally applicable, is something that is superior. There is a sense that we have evolved to a higher
level of being, and that these people, however lovely they are, theyre going to benefit from this
superior knowledge.

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(Manish Jain) The saddest state is of the NGOs, who actually think that they are going in and helping
communities by helping them lose their languages and helping them lose their self-sufficiency and
tying them into the global economy and getting them more cash, which ultimately leads to them
having less control over their own lives. A lot of them are very well-intentioned, good people, who are
actually thinking theyre doing something good for children and for communities. But they dont
understand, I think, the much larger game in which they are pawns.

(Wade Davis) The bottom line is were living through a time of transition that it just behooves us to
pay attention to. Its like what Margaret Mead said before she diedher greatest fear was that as we
drifted blindly toward this blandly amorphous, generic world, whatever its going to be, we would
wake one day as from a dream, having forgotten that there were even other possibilities of life itself.
These peoples, these visions, arent failed attempts at being us. Theyre unique answers to the
fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive? And many of those peoples, when
they answer that question, they answer it in ways that have allowed them to live sustainably on the
planet, for, by definition, generations. This species has been around for a long time. Who knows when
you want to say it began as a social form, 150,000 years ago? The Neolithic revolution that gave us
agriculture, thats only ten thousand years ago. Modern industrial society as we know it is scarcely 300
years old. That shouldnt suggest that we have all the answers for all of the challenges that will
confront us as a species in the ensuing millennia.

directed and edited by Carol Black

(music: Little Boxes)

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