Culture's Challenge

By : Aminah Donato

Cultures around the world are endangered. Schools are being built by volunteers all across the globe. Not only do these schools teach one how to speak, write, and read in the English language but Western ideology as well. What happens next?

The Challenge (Black, 2010)

  • Western education is glamorized, making empty promises of wealth around a poverty stricken world.
  • Westerners sell consumer culture to the rest of the world.
  • Having heard of this, people go into debt and or sell almost all of what they own to send their children to these remote Westernised schools.
  • Students go without seeing their families and friends in their homelands for long periods of time.
  • Students may be punished (usually paying a fine) for speaking their native language in these strictly English speaking schools.
  • Students are usually sent at a young age so they end up losing a lot of their native language or don't even learn at all, making it extremely difficult to communicate with friends and family back home.
  • Students taught Western ideology but live in a non-Western society.
  • 90% of students in these Westernised schools fail the curriculum, the other 10% find it extremely difficult to find work. Both usually develop depression, frustration, and other psychological disorders. Statistics are similar to that of North America except amplified.

"Comparing modern Western education and traditional education around the globe, traditional education tends to teach it's students how to sustain life in their society whereas modern Western education doesn't do that it teaches it's students how to use corporate products in an urban setting" - Helena Norberg-Hodge International Society for Ecology and Culture

No Education Is Better Than The Other

Without a doubt many of these volunteers who set out to build schools in other countries to educate other people, have good intentions. But they fail to realize that just because a people do not educate their children in the same manner as other people in other places do, it doesn't mean that they are not educating their children. Traditional societies, although not perfect, were knowledgeable in the needs of their people and conditioned their children and composed themselves in a way that sustained life.

What Does Not Work In The West Will Not Work Everywhere Else (CBC's DOC ZONE, 2014)

Western schools infiltrating Western ideology in foreign countries is dangerous. Most likely these countries' economies are worse than that of the West. 15 % of people in Canada are unemployed for recent graduates, one in three college/university graduates work a low skill job unrelated to their degree, and 60% of college/university graduates acquired approximately $27,000 in debt. These numbers are amplified in Third World countries. Think "The Lost Generation" and "Generation Jobless".

"In the past, the women used to enjoy and respect their work on the land. Now with development they think the only education is reading and writing. They say, "I'm not educated, I don't know anything". But they had so much knowledge more than those who went to school. They knew how to run a house, how to grow food, how to spin wool. They knew how to manage everything" - Dolma Tsering, Woman's Alliance of Ladakh

“One of the things that is most disturbing to me — on a level of justice and morality — is that you have an institution that is in place globally that is labelling millions and millions of innocent people as failures.” - Manish Jain

What Happens When Culture Dies?

Schools in which cultural variety isn't embraced, culture just dies. Sometimes it is a slow process but other times it is a quick one. You have to consider that the students that attend these schools are usually from remote areas and so they either move alone to be closer to school or they attend a boarding school. Thus, being isolated from their traditional society. And as mentioned before the success stories of these students who attend Westernised schools are scarce. That being said, what happens when schooling is done? There is a loss of traditional culture and so therefore they can barely return to that and then there is no progress towards the "Western Dream". Now you have a people floating in an in between feeling like failures and developing psychological disorders. Which may lead to further damage down the line, thinking of The Cycle of Abuse.

Making An Example Of North America's Aboriginals & The Relevance Of The Cycle Of Abuse (University of British Columbia, 2009)

  • Last residential school to close in 1996.
  • Reports of malnourished children in residential schools.
  • Children often died in these schools or died upon short arrival back home.
  • Several reports of physical and psychological abuse of children in residential schools.
  • Forced conversion to Catholicism.
  • Several reports of rape and other sexual abuses of children by staff members.


Physically Aboriginals weren't white and culturally they were no longer Aboriginal. They no longer spoke their language or executed Aboriginal customs. They were outcasts when they returned home and they were outcasts in school and in white society.


Many of North America's Aboriginals as a result of residential schooling committed suicide or turned to drugs/alcohol to cope with the abuse they underwent. Thus leading to further life problems such as unemployment. The Cycle of Abuse comes into play because this is still a prevalent problem amongst even today's generation of Aboriginals.



  • Among America's Indians/Alaska Natives ages 15-34, suicide is the second leading cause of death (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010).
  • 31 out of 100,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives commit suicide. That is 2.5 times higher than the national average for that age group (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010).

Countries feel the need to live up to the West's unattainable standards when the West reforms their education system and brings their corporations into their countries.

"Real freedom will come only when we free ourselves of the domination of Western education, Western culture, and Western way of living" -Mahatma Gandhi

"Education is a compulsory, forcible action of one person upon another …culture is the free relation of people... Education is culture under restraint. Culture is free" - Leo Tolstoy