Frequently asked questions


I was traveling in Africa / Asia / South America, and the people I talked to there all wanted modern schools for their children.  Are you saying they’re wrong?

No.  People everywhere are entitled to choose the educational setting they feel is best for their children. There’s an important context in which we need to view this phenomenon, however.

In a world with extreme imbalances of power and wealth, the more powerful partner in the cultural exchange sometimes embeds deep – often unconscious – assumptions of its own superiority.  When international development agencies, NGO’s, missionary societies, and volunteer groups travel to rural land-based cultures in order to “help” them, it powerfully projects the assumption of the superiority of the “developed” nations and the inferiority of land-based societies. Even the word “developing” implies a kind of evolutionary process whereby other cultures will inevitably “advance” to our superior level….

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Isn’t it equally paternalistic to say that people shouldn’t have schools if they want them?

Of course.  It’s not your job or mine to decide how people in other parts of the world should raise their children.  That’s really the central point of “Schooling the World:”  that we need to drop the assumption of superiority that inclines us to think that we can or should decide how other people should raise and educate their children…

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If you don’t think schools are the way to end poverty, then what do you think we should do?

Schooling the World is addressing the impacts of education programs on relatively intact land-based cultures — that is, cultures where people still live on their traditional territory, where they are able to produce healthful and adequate food, shelter, and clothing for themselves in locally self-sufficient ways, and where they enjoy the support of intact family, community and religious structures.  A person who makes less than two dollars a day in this setting is not “poor” in the sense that a person living in an urban slum on less than two dollars a day is poor…

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But isn’t education for girls important?

There are two main problems with the mainstream narrative about education for girls:

1. It tends to ignore or devalue the substantial knowledge and capacity of rural and Indigenous women, portraying them merely as “uneducated” and “illiterate” because they have not gone to school;

2. It tends to oversimplify both the problems facing rural and Indigenous women and the potential solutions to those problems, ignoring the role of industrialized societies in creating poverty through exploitative economic practices, and focusing instead on a “savior” role for wealthy nations.

Part of the appeal of the mainstream narrative about building schools and educating girls is its simplicity; through this one simple act, we are often told, we can end poverty, reduce conflict and war, and improve the status and living conditions of girls and women around the world.  The reality, however, is that when you intervene to change the way a culture raises its children, you create a complex cascade of thousands of changes which will radically alter that culture in a single generation. Inevitably some of those changes will be good and others not so good. What you find will depend on what you look for, what you measure, and how you attribute causality…

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Aren’t you just romanticizing traditional cultures?

 When people suggest that the film is “romanticizing” traditional cultures, they generally have one of two concerns:

1. That the film is patronizing traditional cultures by representing them in an idealized way in the tradition of the “noble savage” and proposing that they should be “preserved;”

2. That the film is presenting an oversimplified vision of traditional societies as uniformly idyllic and of school as a uniformly negative force.

Neither of these views is expressed in the film, which explicitly states that no culture is perfect or without its own problems.  What the film attempts to do is to provide a counterbalance to the dominant public discourse about universal education, in which school is romanticized

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  1. Elsa RuizElsa Ruiz02-12-2013

    When was this video produced?

  2. Carol BlackCarol Black02-12-2013

    Hi Elsa – The film was shot from 2006 – 2010 and released in October of 2010.

  3. MirandaMiranda02-25-2014

    Is education the source of the problem? What are the solutions you raise to the issues you talked about?

  4. AndiAndi09-07-2014

    Thank you very much for changing my life by issuing this documentary movie! I have seen that captions in many languages are already available online. Now my question is, are these captions also available for the download version and will they be available on DVD in the future using PAL instead of NTSC? God bless you.

  5. GwynGwyn01-31-2016

    Hi Carol,
    I have just watched the trailer–I’m a Waldorf Kindergarden teacher and wonder what your thoughts are about the Waldorf curriculum? I truly believe “we are spiritual beings learning to be human” and what the educational structure is a breakdown. “What does it mean to be human and alive?” seems to be answered daily in the rooms of our school because our commitment is stating that “At the heart of the Waldorf approach is recognition of the spiritual nature of the human being. Children are encouraged to remain open to the interconnectedness of life, and the entire education is crafted to support them in their growth as globally aware and socially responsible individuals.”
    I am just moved at what you are up to. I have not researched you or your site too much but feel that you are on to something very important. My main question is how can one advocate for something that is already available and working with the child as a human not as a piece to the economic puzzle when the systems is so deep and penetrating? Thank you for all that you are doing!!

    • Carol BlackCarol Black02-01-2016

      Hi Gwyn: Thanks for your comment and question. I think there’s a lot that’s great about Waldorf, the connection to nature, the later and more intuitive approach to literacy, the focus on understanding the cycles of life, working with your hands, growing and processing food, textiles, building, etc., and the focus on imagination, story, music, art, rather than abstracted text-based academics. I know all Waldorf schools are a bit different, but I’ve seen or heard of problems for some children — generally the more active, stubborn, or rebellious spirits — often boys — who don’t always adapt well to it, and need something more flexible that can accommodate their energy. It’s hard to design any “system” that accommodates all children, so we have to retain the flexibility to adapt to what each child brings to the world. And we should understand that we’re pretty far off course as a society, and it may take more than one generation to rediscover and refine ways of living and raising children that are more humane and less destructive. Whatever systems we come up with now, we should probably to assume they are a work in progress rather than a finished product, and plan on adjusting and tinkering as we go. That’s my two cents; I hope others will weigh in! best, Carol

  6. SamiaSamia01-31-2017

    This is a very important work, thank you for the eye opener!

    What era is the movie referring to? Is this form of imposed education taking place right now in India? Or is it a thing of the past?

    • Carol BlackCarol Black02-07-2017

      This kind of education is ongoing in rural and tribal areas all over India and indeed all over the world. (See the essays and videos in “Resources” for more information.) In some cases people participate willingly and in others only under duress. In some areas parents refuse to send children to school, and are viewed as neglectful or abusive and the children as truant, despite the fact that in many cases people are simply making the legitimate choice to raise their children within their own cultural knowledge systems and livelihoods. There is generally a complete failure to distinguish between genuine instances of abuse and neglect and resistance to colonization through schooling.

  7. VirginiaVirginia04-08-2017

    Where can one watch/find the entire movie?
    Thank you

    • Carol BlackCarol Black04-09-2017

      The film is available on the store page of this website at

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