Schooling the World

Pokud byste chtěli změnit cizí původní kulturu během jedné generace, jak byste to udělali? Měli byste změnit způsob, jakým vychovává své děti.

Vláda USA to věděla v 19. století, když přinutila děti z domorodých Američanů do státních internátních škol. Dobrovolníci dnes budují školy v tradičních společnostech po celém světě, přesvědčeny, že škola je jediným způsobem, jak dosáhnout lepšího života domorodých dětí. Ale je to pravda? Co se skutečně stane, když nahradíme způsob tradiční kultury učení a pochopení světa vlastním způsobem?

Dokument „Školíme svět“ si dal za úkol představit náročný, někdy vtipný, nakonec hluboce znepokojivý pohled na účinky moderního vzdělávání na poslední udržitelné domorodé kultury světa.

Schooling the World

Through our kind of cultural myopia we sort of think that you know 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 that don’t mimic those same patterns of education somehow don’t educate their kids. Well, of course that is….. absurd.

Today, western schooling is responsible for introducing human monoculture across the entire world. Essentially the same curriculum is being taught and it’s training people for jobs, very scarce jobs but 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. 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.

In 1887, when the school first started there were certain perceptions that were wrong. For example, a school started by the missionaries on a street corner must have an ulterior motive of conversion, of teachings that are in conflict with the teachings of the traditional society… or the religion. And, I’ve been told that the children had to come by force to the school, they wouldn’t like to. People just wouldn’t send children to the school. I strongly believe that a secular education system and a cosmopolitan school society should not be at the expense of loosing Ladakhiness.

If you have lost your history you have lost everything. You know… the great lesson of anthropology is the idea that the world into which you were born doesn’t exist in some abstain sense but that 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 aren’t failed attempts of being you or in our case failed attempts of modernity, they are by definition unique… Ahhmmm phaseouts 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.

You know… Helmi have this this idea of our society as not being really a culture but being the real world and these other cultures outside…. those are the cultures. But, that kind of cultural myopia, we really can no longer afford. And… You know… we aren’t the real inexorable wave of history we are just another set of possibilities. We are just another cultural reality with choices that we have made. And, that’s why in the whole realm of child rearing and education, I think it boohoos us to look at models of enculturation, of initiation, of bringing children to the realm of adulthood that other societies have celebrated and developed over thousands of years of experience.

There is no doubt that if we look honestly at the traditional forms of education and compare them to today’s 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 survive independently, in charge of their own lives for generation after generation. In a 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 they have been educated in modern schools they literally don’t know how to survive in their own environment. Education is not simply the transmission of information; it’s by definition the transmission and deviant enculturation or one could say more harshly the indoctrination of the child in to 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, it oversees into other people’s lives. We forget that we are projecting just something that we made up.

Right. 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 you are raised in Colorado.. to believe that a mountain is an inert pile of rock waiting to be mined,’re gonna have a very different relationship to that mountain from a kid from southern Peru, who believes in the fibre 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 now whether that mountain is in fact a spirit or whether it’s 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 a foundation of the ideology of the scientific forestry that I was taught in school and 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 way.

Because the incremental addition of cellulose would be higher in a plant. 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. And my friends from native communities, who believed that that forest was the a board of hokoo and the cooked beak of heaven. Because of my ideology, my education those forests no longer exist. I think the way western education has grown over the last few centuries especially with the rise of industrialisation, 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 information and that information is so partial that we are creating incomplete human beings. 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, there is very explicit literature.. very clearly education was there to train a class of people to serve the needs of the elite. When Macaulay came to India, I don’t know how many of you know but Macaulay was the guy who created in the minutes of Macaulay’s called „Macaulay’s Children.“ And „Macaulay’s Children“, he said would be brown on the outside but white in the inside that they would basically know only one thing; how to rule India as if they were Europeans themselves. Well, if you go back to the 60’s and you look at a lot of the modernisation literature, so, it’s very clearly written that local language, local traditions, local customs is a barrier to modernisation and for communities to progress in kind of stages of development, these things need to be eliminated. 99% of all the activities that go under the label of education come from this very specific agenda, that grew out of the colonial expansion across the world by Europeans.

And, now in different countries seen so called third world the basic fundamental agenda is the same is to pull people into dependence on a modern centralized economy, to pull them away from their independence and from their own cultural self-respect. There’s actually a very big global program that is going on right now called „Education for all.“ And it is, every person I have met who is associated with has basically no questions around it’s agenda or attention …which is very disturbing. It’s a program which is sanctioned by every government in the world, it’s a program which the World Bank and the UN agencies support, it’s a program that corporations are also now; major corporations – MacDonalds and many others are also behind and the agenda of the program is to get every child into school.

And, the claim is that again by going to school communities will be able to to develop and they will be able to become part of the main stream society. Now, I think we need to question. What does it mean to become part of the main stream today? And that for me is very much tied to a very clear agenda of becoming part of the global economy. And shifting one’s own local economy, one’s own local culture, one’s own local resources both personal as well as collective into the service of the global economy. 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 corporations. The education for all initiative is an attempt to readdress what was seen as a serious imbalance in funding for primary education. The intend really is to get every child into school. I think we see education is crucial. It’s an absolutely necessary condition for sustained poverty reduction. The demand now for education is not just coming from the people like the World Bank and outsiders it’s coming from businessmen who are discovering that they can’t grow their factories because they can’t grow their businesses because there is a shortage of skilled workers.

But, we need to be very careful about not being paternalistic to so called the ancient cultures. We could 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 kind of cold storage. If they don’t want that, we should be there to help them. 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 and you feel completely stupid.

But why?… Tell me. why? Because we don’t want them to live like we live. When modern western education is introduced into traditional cultures around the world it creates a huge sense of inferiority. The school books talk about a western urban consumer culture as progress, as the only way to be. And, the end result is that children end up feeling that their own culture, their language, their way of doing things is backward, primitive and shameful. I heard from my grandmother that before the women, they don’t used to go to school.

They just stayed in the house. And, they went to… They went with the cows in the mountains and they come back in the evening and they make food and other things. One of the things I have seen that education has really created is the sense of inferiority at many levels. One at the level of elders. I’ve visited many villages wanting to learn from elders and kinds of traditional practices and the first response is always „I don’t know anything. Go and talk to my son. He is a tenth class pass or he is a 12th grade pass or whatever.“

I don’t know anything. I don’t understand anything. And so, that is always probably my life that has been one of the most painful things I have heard over and over in villages. There is a wildly held belief today that it is through modern education that will raise people out of poverty. But, if we look honestly at what’s been happening we’ll see that it’s 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 and Mexico City, Beijing.

Today in most traditional villages whether it would be 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 they are going to get a good job as an engineer, as a doctor in the modern economy. Less than 10% are succeeding. 90% 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.

Most of the students of Ladakh… they don’t do very well. Amongst 10, 2 will be good….. more than good. But, about 8 won’t be better. One of the things that is most disturbing to me, in a level of actually justice and morality 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, “ Ohhh.. I am a eighth class fail or I am a tenth class fail.

That’s their introduction. Which is amazing is that people who are claiming to be concerned with social justice can not see the huge kind of… social hierarchy and an inequity that is created through education… modern education. It’s mind boggling for me how people don’t see that. The other things is a loss in terms of 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 wider variety of capacity to think in different ways.

That is all being suppressed and lost and so people who can only think in a very fragmented, you know… one dimensional kind of way, those people are getting rewarded. Anybody who claims to be concerned with social justice need to have a serious conversation around that. I come from the central Himalayan region which is called Gharwal. And the women of Gharwal worked very hard to make sure their kids would have schooling. But, of course the schooling was… the institutionalized schooling of the kind that doesn’t 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 don’t belong to the right class, you don’t belong to the right… privilege etcetera.

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 „Dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghat ka.“ That… you know.. it’s the washerman’s dog who belongs neither to the place where the washing is done nor to the home. They are in-between people. And they are falling through the cracks of an in-between world. This is 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 they want to help. Develop Bring in western schooling… to improve the lives of these people. Well, my name is Haedi. I come from Germany… from the southern part; that’s Bavaria. And as I live in Bavaria, I a keen of mountaineering… and that was the reason of course I wanted to go to the Himalayas. And as I was a teacher, I was teaching English, German, Ethics ; that’s a kind of religion I was interested in schools and so I happened to meet Lamdon School here.

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, I am proud; over there there is a hostel… a girl’s hostel for hundred pupils and this is mainly built by the money I could collect. 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 there are good treatment… 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 don’t you go to Congo also. But, I think they still need help. It’s not only to throw them into the water and then let them swim.

They need everything… from clothing to mental….. aid. For if we are to fit and train such children for the future they can not be left as they are. And in spite of himself, the native must be helped. When I look at the number of really well intention people who are trying to help other people with this package of schooling and aid. I really don’t think that there is any bad intention behind that. I think it’s purely out of good heartedness and a will to help other people. It’s just that they don’t connect the dots.

They don’t often stay long enough to really look at the overall impact and they simply don’t look broadly enough. I did my schooling from Moravian Mission School which is in Leh. Which I think is the best school of Ladakh. At starting, I was there in Lamdon Model School in Leh till sixth class. I did my higher secondary schooling in Delhi itself. I have been in Delhi for the past eight, nine years 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 Delhi.

I don’t know about my culture very much We are not really much aware about our tradition and all. Basically, when students come to Delhi to study, so they are exposed to an environment which is very different from Ladakh. And they tend to forget their own culture. Sometimes they don’t even know how to speak their own language. They forget their traditions. And I think which is not a good sign for Ladakh. Nobody speaks the fluent Ladakhi which was origin before. But we are here and follow the global traditions or we are trying to compete with them.

We are just after money… money… money. You know the year that you were born, there were six thousand languages spoken on earth. Now, a language isn’t just grammar or vocabulary. A language is a flash of the human spirit. It’s a vehicle through which the soul of every culture comes in the world. Every language, I have always said is like a 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.

In some areas, we are very strict. For example, speaking in English. 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 the class also…. Everywhere…. In the school we have to speak in English. We are strict that the children speak in English with teachers in the class and with each other. Ya, if somebody speak the other, Ladakhi or Hindi then teacher give him or her punishment. What happens when somebody gets punished?

Ya, it’s to get the money. It’s fine… money. Five rupees. But, that discipline inculcates a habit of English. And English is one language that commands the world today. Be it the cyber world, internet…. anything… business. You have got to learn English in India. When we go to other countries, we have to speak in English. If we don’t have English speaking, we can’t go to other countries. English speaking is very good. When I graduate I will go to… other countries.

Where do you think you will go to study? In Delhi. Will your mom miss you when you go to Delhi? Yeah! I will miss her. Miss my mom! I miss my home town. Really And my parents. Because I have been here… not here properly… but out of my town for about 10 or 12 years. And about a place called Ladakh you have seen it’s a heaven… really it’s heaven. I miss Ladakh too much. Because home is home… right! One of the great tragedies of schooling is how it does reap people out… from nature and lock them up into rooms for… 8 hours a day.

And I think the profound kind of damage that it’s doing to us, only we will recognise generations from now. And then we will look back and say how could we have done this kind of thing to people and thinking that… you know creating concrete jails and looking people up into that and and giving them books that tell them about nature is a better way to think about life then actually spending time in nature. The mazing 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 we are all brothers and sisters. We are all by definition cut from the same genetic cloth. That means that all human populations, all cultures in a general share the same raw mental capacity, intellectual capacity, mental acuity… whatever. And what that means is that whether a pupil place their genius into technological innovation that has been the tradition in the west. Or by contrast, into…. in the case of the Tibetan Buddhist into spending 2,500 hundred years, trying to understand the nature of existence.

And, what we call always a science of the mind. And 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 a former molecular biologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, always says that… Western Science is a major response to minor needs. We spend all our lives trying to make sure that we live to be a hundred without loosing our teeth or our hair. And Tibet people spend their lives trying to understand the nature of existence.

He says, „All of our billboards advertise naked young children in an underwear. There billboards which are many walls are engravings in stone of prayers for the well-being of all sentient beings. One of the things that’s always quite surprising to me is people’s understanding of Gandhi. All over the world people will 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 western knowledge; that was something that Gandhi was… openly questioning.

„What is the great contribution of western knowledge actually to the well-being of life on the planet?“ And so, people misunderstood that… you know… they thought Gandhi was against the British. And actually he says, „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, dehumanising, destructive not only to human beings, to all life on the planet… and they can not sustain themselves.

He said this in 1909. And he said that it’s not… we are not just trying to get rid of the British and keep there systems. He used that very nice phrase. He said, „This freedom struggle is not about getting rid of the tiger but keeping the tiger’s nature.“ And you know, we don’t think of ourselves as a culture. Therefore, when we export something like our economic model, we don’t see it as what it is which is just one option… one way of organizing economic behaviour. And, yet when you think about it, all the embassies of the development paradigm say almost nothing about quality of life.

People talk about per capita income quadrupling. But, what does that mean?… It might mean that some farmer has gone from a non-cash agrarian economy into a sweat shop in a slum in Delhi. Is his quality of life gone up because his income has quadruple? I mean, that’s another part of our kind of cultural myopia. We put out this idea which I think is a blate and lie, that if people buy into the dictates of our economic paradigm that somehow they will magically achieve the wealth that we enjoy in the west. Ain’t gonna happen.

Just on energy resources alone, it would take four planet earths to bring the whole global population to our level of consumption So, you know… we project this world view oversees with this illusion that if people buy into it they will achieve what we have. And then you have to backup and say, „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 don’t wanna be taken to a African herbalist. I wanna be taken to an emergency room.

I am not knocking our culture. But, on the other hand you look at the way we make money… the way we earn our daily bread is based on an economic paradigm that by any scientific definition is changing the bio-chemistry of the biosphere. This is not trivial and it’s certainly doesn’t suggest that our way of life is a paragon of humanities potential. The way for cultures to survive in today’s 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 is perpetuating a lie basically about 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 isn’t… you know… working in America which is the the centre of this dream. And it’s really important that as we think of different cultures… you know… there is a sort of idea that these other people are… you know quaint and colourful… well… they may be or 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 they are dynamic living peoples been driven out of existence by identifiable forces. Why is that so important? It’s important because culture is not trivial. You know…. Culture is not decorative. It’s not feathers and bells. It’s not dances. It’s not even ritual.

Culture is a 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 mystery that are the demographic centres of the third world. There have been many cases in the history where overt acts of violation of human rights, dislocation of people 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 the greater threats have come about… through the good intentions of those who don’t understand that those good intentions may not be appropriate and may reflect just… you know a projection of our own ideologies. If someone goes to another culture and says… you know… I am here to educate your children. I mean that’s one the most outrageous and audacious things you can ever imagine. If you go to that culture and say… you know… „Hey! we’ve got some skills that you probably could use.“

To me that’s the sharing of information that should be both reciprocal and honoured. But, it’s very different for me to go and say, „Your ways are no longer acceptable. you know… Get with the program, educate your kids into school, get rid of your superstitious ideas and accept some of mine.“ There is an assumption that western education, western knowledge is universally applicable. It 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, they’re gonna benefit from this superior knowledge.

The saddest state of this is the NGOs‘ who think that they are actually going in and helping communities by helping them loose their languages and helping them loose their self-sufficiency and helping them… you know… 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 that they are doing something good for children and for communities but they don’t understand… I think… the much larger game in which they are pawns.

The bottom line is, you know… we are living through a time of transition that just boohoos us to pay attention to. It’s like when Maragaret Mead said before she died, her greatest fear was that as we drift blindly toward this blandly amorphous generic world whatever it’s gonna be. We would wake one day as from a dream having forgotten that we knew other possibilities of life itself. These peoples, these visions aren’t failed attempts of being us. They are 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 in ways that will out loud them to live sustainably on the planet for by definition generations. The species has been around for a long time. Who knows when you want to say is began as a social form? A hundred fifty thousand years ago! The Neolithic revolution that gave us agriculture, that’s only ten thousand years ago. Modern industrial societies we know it is scarcely three hundred years old. That shouldn’t suggest that we have all of the answers for all of the challenges that are gonna confront us as a species in the ensuing millennia.

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes all the same
There’s a pink one and a green one

And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same
And the people in the houses
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes

And they came out all the same
And there’s doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same
And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university
Where they are put in boxes

And they come out all the same
And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky-tacky

And they all look just the same
There’s a pink one and a green one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same
Don’t try to understand