Press kit



lost people films

PO Box 2400 Telluride, CO 81435

(970) 708-0900


(970) 258-1527


(970) 708-0900


TRT: 65 minutes


Aspect Ratio – 16:9 or 1.85


English, Ladakhi with English subtitles




If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it?

You would change the way it educates its children.

The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers build schools in traditional societies around the world, convinced that school is the only way to a ‘better’ life for indigenous children.

But is this true? What really happens when we replace a traditional culture’s way of learning and understanding the world with our own? SCHOOLING THE WORLD takes a challenging, sometimes funny, ultimately deeply disturbing look at the effects of modern education on the world’s last sustainable indigenous cultures.

Beautifully shot on location in the Buddhist culture of Ladakh in the northern Indian Himalayas, the film weaves the voices of Ladakhi people through a conversation between four carefully chosen original thinkers; anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence; Helena Norberg-Hodge and Vandana Shiva, both recipients of the Right Livelihood Award for their work with traditional peoples in India; and Manish Jain, a former architect of education programs with UNESCO, USAID, and the World Bank.

The film examines the hidden assumption of cultural superiority behind education aid projects, which overtly aim to help children “escape” to a “better life” – despite mounting evidence of the environmental, social, and mental health costs of our own modern consumer lifestyles, from epidemic rates of childhood depression and substance abuse to pollution and climate change.

It looks at the failure of institutional education to deliver on its promise of a way out of poverty – here in the United States as well as in the so-called “developing” world.

And it questions our very definitions of wealth and poverty – and of knowledge and ignorance – as it uncovers the role of schools in the destruction of traditional sustainable agricultural and ecological knowledge, in the breakup of extended families and communities, and in the devaluation of elders and ancient spiritual traditions.

Finally, SCHOOLING THE WORLD calls for a “deeper dialogue” between cultures, suggesting that we have at least as much to learn as we have to teach, and that these ancient sustainable societies may harbor knowledge which is vital for our own survival in the coming millennia.



CLICK HERE to view available production stills:

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PRODUCED BY  Neal Marlens, Jim Hurst, Mark Grossan

CINEMATOGRAPHY     Jim Hurst, Ben Knight


SOUND     Jim Hurst

CAMERA AND SOUND ASSISTANTS    Isabel Marlens, Marina Marlens

GRAPHIC DESIGN     Anjali Sawant

TRANSLATIONS     Rinchen Dolkar

IMAGE RESEARCH    Susan Ricketts

MUSIC CLEARANCES    Gillian Jones, Evan M. Greenspan, Inc.


Dolma Tsering

Tsewang Dolma

Rinchen Dolkar

The Women’s Alliance of Ladakh

The village of Hemis Shukpa-chen




Carol Black is an Emmy and Writer’s Guild award winning writer/director/producer of both entertainment and documentary television and film. She studied literature and education at Swarthmore College and UCLA, and for the past twenty years has been deeply involved in the unschooling and alternative education movements as a parent, activist, and teacher of writing and filmmaking.   Schooling the World is the culmination of many years of research into cross-cultural perspectives on education.





Jim Hurst is an Emmy-nominated cameraman, photographer, location sound recordist, adventurer, and filmmaker who has worked on many documentary films, from the award-winning environmental films Midway and  Uranium Drive-In to the National Geographic Adventure series First Ascent to the award-winning adventure film The Sharp End.  His work has taken him from the peaks of the Himalayas to Midway Atoll in the center of the Pacific Ocean, and he specializes in self-sufficient location documentary  shooting in places where a large crew would be impractical or obtrusive.





Neal Marlens is an Emmy-Award-winning writer/director/producer of both entertainment and documentary television and film, co-creator with his wife Carol Black of the television series The Wonder Years and Ellen, creator of Growing Pains and writer/director of the award-winning mockumentary, The Lost People of Mountain Village.   He has a degree in political science from Swarthmore College.

Left:  Neal with daughters Marina and Isabel in Ladakh.




Ben Knight is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker, director and cinematographer of the award-winning documentary films Damnation, Red Gold, Eastern Rises, and The Hatch.  He is noted for his inspired photographic eye and his ability to eat over 30 Ladakhi momos (dumplings) at one sitting and live to tell the tale.  Barely.


Left:   A rare sighting of the elusive Ben Knight.




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% don’t 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%

Chicago 47.8%

Los Angeles 55.8%

15,500,000 U.S. children live in poverty



“To civilize the Indians…immerse 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


“We must at present do our best to form…a class of persons, Indian in blood and

colour…but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, in intellect.”

– Lord Macaulay’s “Minute on Indian Education”




– William McKinley campaign poster


“School forcibly snatches away children from a world full of God’s own handiwork …It is

a mere method of discipline which refuses to take into account the individual…a

manufactory for grinding out uniform results. I was not a creation of the schoolmaster:

the Government Board of Education was not consulted when I took birth in the world.”

– Rabindranath Tagore, 1927 Nobel Prize Winner for Poetry


“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”


“Modernization… proceeds 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 materials – children – are 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


“In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands.”

– John D. Rockefeller, General Education Board, 1906


“As the mass of population are uneducated, illiterate, they will remain backward, and

follow old and religious superstitions.”

– Ladakhi economics textbook


“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


“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


“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


“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


“Education…makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.”

– Henry David Thoreau


“Real freedom will come only when we free ourselves of the domination of Western

education, Western culture, and the Western way of living.”

– Mahatma Gandhi


“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



‎”This exquisitely beautiful and gripping film shows how modern education puts a straightjacket on the mind. It shook me awake, letting me see more clearly than ever before, the tragedy it inflicts on us all — with its regimentation, its stultifying abstractions, its prison-like exclusion of the natural world. Added to these insults, for Ladakhis, as with other indigenous peoples, come clear messages of their cultural and linguistic inferiority, the more quickly to replace curiosity with obedience, self-confidence with conformity. And an age-old fabric of wisdom and ecological intelligence begins to disappear…. It’s an impeccable and gorgeous piece of work.”  ~ Joanna Macy, author, “World as Lover, World as Self: Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal”

“Schooling the World raises fundamental questions about the universal necessity and goodness of a particular form of modern schooling which has come to stand for education today. With a rare, philosophical sense for the truth, the documentary reflects on the alienating impact of schooling not just on children but also on adults in indigenous contexts such as Ladakh. The different yet equally devastating context of schooling in America is also highlighted. Poignant and deeply insightful, this is a must-see film for anyone interested in the meaningful upbringing of children and the future of human civilization.”  – Nosheen Ali, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

“An important and fascinating movie.”  – Sir Ken Robinson, author, “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything”

“Every teacher and prospective teacher should watch and discuss Schooling the World.”  – Bill Bigelow, Rethinking Schools

“Powerful, effective, direct, clear… and at the same time poetic, subtle, delicate, tender.” – Gustavo Esteva, education activist and co-founder, Universidad de la Tierra, Oaxaca, Mexico

“Painful, provocative, and oddly exhilarating.”  – Paul Campbell, Director, International Baccalaureate Conference of the Americas

“A film of profound insights and the quest for hope in the thick of much violence by mainstream cultures against the marginalized and the silenced peoples of the world …   Challenging, courageous and thought provoking.”  – Dr. Madhu Suri Prakash, Professor of Education Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University

“Those of us fighting for environmental or social justice, or even fighting for justice for indigenous peoples, too often feel that getting every child into school is a solution to the problems we face. This extraordinary and powerful film helps us see how school systems both reflect and amplify capitalism’s exploitative economy: the culture of objectification and control that underlies the economic exploitation of people and the planet is also deeply embedded in the industrial school system and its treatment of children. This film reminds us that universal schooling is rapidly unraveling saner ways of living all around the world.” – Derrick Jensen, author, Endgame, A Language Older than Words

Schooling the World should be obligatory viewing for international development agencies who send out young people to ‘educate’ the other world. The documentary shatters the myth that we cannot learn from developing countries and that our education system is the best.  It should also be viewed by decision makers in the developing world who think that everything ‘foreign’ is better. Having worked in China for nearly 20 years I am appalled to see how we are producing thousands and thousands of business managers with a western outlook, who will ultimately hit a dead end, without the jobs they built their dreams on, and thus produce a frustrated mass of population. This documentary asserts what I believe passionately –– that our world is an interesting place to live because of the diversity of culture and heritage.”  – Dr. Jayanta Guha,  Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences, University of  Québec

“Stunning! I couldn’t wait to show it to my students. It carries a compelling message to those of us here in a developing nation that is struggling against so many of the same issues portrayed here.  – Henry Ferguson, teacher at American International School of Mozambique

“If only I still had students… This is one of the days I wish I hadn’t stopped active teaching…  This is one of the teaching and learning opportunities for my English class I would have certainly grasped with my students to make them reflect on school and learning.”  – Sigi Jakob, former teacher and education blogger

“Wow. Incredible. I teach these texts and critical events to my highly privileged college students, and at first they are skeptical. This is so much more powerful… Visually, also  stunning.”  –  Kirsten Olsen, educator and author, Wounded By School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning

“Carol Black’s documentary prompts university students, who are often being encouraged to go and teach in the so-called “developing world”, to consider difficult reflexive questions while opening up vital lines of inquiry concerning the politics of cultural and developmental relations and the global implications of the capitalist-modernization project including the related education/schooling model (Education For All) being un-critically exported to these regions.  This documentary is both pedagogically useful and politically revealing for teachers and students alike, and is especially appropriate for graduate and senior undergraduate classes in education and the humanities and social sciences.”  – Dip Kapoor, Ph.D.,  Associate Professor, International Education, University of Alberta

“The implications of this short film are enormous, and the discussion it engendered … made it a highlight of the festival.”  – Charles Donelan, The Santa Barbara Independent

“Surely the most radical documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year.” – Volkmar Richter, Vancouver Observer


"Generations from now we'll look back and say, 'How could we have done this kind of thing to people?'"