Continuing the discussion: “Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden?”

The following is an opinion piece.  It is less scholarly.  If you’d like to make the discussion more informed by articles/quotes/readings… please do!!!

I’m not going to lie, I had way more to say about Schooling the World than I really had to say about The Lottery.  I throw up my hands at times when it comes to U.S. ed policy.  When it comes to international education policy, though, I always have an opinion.

I had lots of bones to pick with Schooling the World.  It ONLY showed the village folks as happy, prospering people.  If they were so happy, then why do they send their kids to school?  They also ONLY displayed images of downside of “westernization”.  Pollution, drug use, teenage angst.  CLEARLY these kids were leaving their happy life on the farm and entering into an unhappy, dirty life in the city.  Ug, and all of the quotes from the colonial era.  Please don’t accuse me of being Lord Macaulay.  I don’t think most of the people who run schools for the poor in India are REALLY trying to strip them of their culture outright.  It may happen, but we are NOT living in the nineteenth century anymore.

It’s just not that cut and dry.  I thought the film made some good points about ripping these kids away from their culture and heritage.  Schooling could happen in a different way which incorporates more aspects of their background.  Textbooks should be changed so that they do not display a negative view of the village way of life.

What about the kids in the city slums, though?  They’ve grown up in the city.  Their only chance for raising above their situation is an education.  Should westerners be forced to stand by when they can help provide an education which will be useful for these kids?  I don’t think that industrialization/westernization can really be stopped.  In that case, don’t the slum kids deserve an equal opportunity to succeed as their middle-class counterparts.  In India, everyone who can afford it will go to a private school of some sort.  Kids left in government schools will get nowhere near the education they need to improve their lot.  Can we really criticize the nonprofits who have stepped in to provide a better education for these students?

As I said at the screening, what we need to realize is that there will be TRADEOFFS involved in any decision.  I guess the question is, do we think that what students gain from a “western” education outweighs what they might lose in culture?


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