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  • Raj Kanani

Erasing Cultures Through Schools

Updated: Dec 5, 2018

Why did various European empires spread its model of schooling throughout the world? What was the result? The result was the erasing of cultures, the creation of dominance, and the replacement of the previous cultures.

Carlisle Indian Industry School

What is the purpose of compulsory schooling?


The main purpose historically has been and presently continues to be to socialize and condition kids to fit into the society that they reside. The purpose is to maintain the status quo, or move it in the direction that that those in power desire.


Now, for some, this may be a valid, and even noble, purpose of schooling.


“Yes, kids should learn how to fit into this society,” they may say.


I strongly disagree… especially because we live in an unsustainable and unjust society; unsustainable and unjust in many different ways - socially, environmentally, mentally, etc.


What should kids be doing?


They should be doing what kids had always been doing before schools were widespread, and what kids still do today whenever they get the chance:

  • Playing and socializing with other kids of different ages

  • Exploring

  • Developing their own interests and passions

  • Making their own decisions as much as possible

  • Being themselves and discovering themselves

  • Developing a sense of community and culture

  • Envisioning and creating a new world.

  • Learning and living how the world ought to be

How has Western civilization spread? How has it destroyed cultures and people?


One way was through brute violence and force. And another way was through schools. Natives were forced into boarding schools or mission schools by the British, by the Americans, and by the Spanish in North America. Aborigines were sent to schools. Indians (in actual India), under British rule, were sent to schools.


Schools don’t seem harmful, and they actually seem benevolent, right? “Oh, we are building a school, so your children can be educated.” What was actually happening, though?

“ People of one culture were implicitly (or, often explicitly) telling another culture, “Our culture is better than yours. Send your child to school so they can learn our ways… better ways, so they can be civilized. It will help them. Trust us.”

But, did the people in power really want to raise equals? Or did they want to raise “competent” young men and women (mainly men) that would be of service to them, that would fit into their ways? That would not pose a threat to them?


Often, those in power realized that schools were a great way of controlling their subjects. Through schools, they controlled what entered the minds of their subjects. Through schools, they were able to destroy ways of thinking that threatened their power. Through schools, those in power were able to create a society of THEIR liking.


What are some of the outcomes of schools being built by NGO's and Western governments in traditional societies all over the world today?


These children become DISCONNECTED from their traditional culture and ways of being. They often think that their traditional ways are “backwards” and become embarrassed of those ways… embarrassed of the language, of the clothing, of the food, of the music, and even of the way of thinking.

“In our data-obsessed world, has anyone measured THIS data - how much knowledge has been LOST as a result of schooling? Usually, after a generation or two, the culture has been practically destroyed."

Oh yes, maybe the language might remain and a couple of festivals, but the way of life, and the worldview, is destroyed. The community has become “mainstreamed” into the Western World. McDonald’s and excessive consumerism are soon to follow.


Isn't what happened historically to indigenous people who were forced into boarding schools similar to what is happening to our Latino and other minority children and families right here in the United States today?


  • They usually only learn in English at school.

  • They have predominantly European-American teachers.

  • They read books from predominantly European-American authors, and even minority authors are often writing about Westernized lifestyles.

  • They learn to obey authority, and literally and metaphorically “stay in line”.

  • Their home culture isn't really valued.

  • Western culture is woven in throughout the education system - individuality, competition, evidence-based argumentative thinking, consumerism, etc.

Many minority parents are uncomfortable in this space, and often can’t help their children with academics in school. They feel marginalized from this world.



What is the impact on these kids’ identities, on their development, on their cultures, on their family structures, and on their communities?


What is the impact on their future generations?


What values are we passing on when "high academic grades → college → lucrative job" is deemed as THE “path to success”?


Are we helping our children be happy now and in the future? Are we helping them gain self-knowledge? Through schooling, the diversity of human cultures continues to be diminished and children continue to lose their sense of belonging.


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