A Knowledge Inseparable from Social Life


By Vinay ranjan saraswati (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
In modern state societies, there is formal education: schools and after-hour classes, in which specially trained instructors teach children material set by school boards, as an activity separate from play. But education in small-scale societies is not a separate activity. Instead, children learn in the course of accompanying their parents and other adults, and of hearing stories told by adults and older children around the campfire. For instance, Nurit Bird-David wrote as follows about southern India’s Nayaka people: “At a time where in modern societies children begin schooling, say at age 6, Nayaka children independently go hunting small game, visiting and staying with other families, free from supervision by their own specific parents, though not necessarily from adults. . . . Teaching, additionally, is done in a very subtle way. No formal instruction and memorizing here, no classes, no exams, no cultural sites [schools] in which packets of knowledge, abstracted from their context, are transmitted from one person to another. Knowledge is inseparable from social life.

–Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?

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