Monday, March 30, 2009

EDUCATION IN PRIMITIVE SOCIETIES

EDUCATION IN PRIMITIVE SOCIETIES

In its long march to the present, humankind developed skills of creating, sustaining, and transmitting culture. These cultural survival skills, which have persisted from prehistoric times to the present, became the basis of formal schooling. Preliterate persons faced the problem of survival in an environment that pitted them against natural forces, animals, and other hostile human beings. To survive, human beings needed food, shelter, warmth, and clothing. In order to transform a frequently hostile environment into a lifesustaining one, humankind developed life skills that eventually became cultural patterns.

For the culture of a particular group to continue, that culture must be transmitted from the group’s adults to its children. As the children learn the language, skills, knowledge, and values of their society, they inherit the culture. The earliest patterns of education involved (1) tool or instrument making, (2) the mores of group life, (3) and language learning.

As toolmakers, humans created instruments for their protection and for food gathering. Clubs, spears, bows and arrows, pottery, sleds and other instruments were means of gaining control over the environment. Whenever and wherever parents taught their offspring to make and use spears to catch fish or kill animals, informal educational forces were operating.

Primitive humans found scurity in group life, based on kinship and tribal patterns. Group life provided greater efficiency in gathering or growing food, in building shelters, and in protecting group members against enemies. Life in the human group was educational as children observed and learned from the older members of the group. Children were deliberately instructed in specialized tasks and roles by their parents, tribal storytellers, and priests. Over time, many of the patterns of group life became moral behavioral codes that were ritualized ways of dealing with the environment.

Important among the human being’s powers was the ability to use abstract thought. As toolmakers, human beings could fashion and manipulate instruments; as abstract thinkers, they could create, use, and manipulate symbols. Through gestures, sounds, and words, they could communicate symbols. Through gestures, sounds, and words, they could communicate with each other. When these symbols were expressed in signs, pictographs, and letters, human beings created a written language and made the great leap to literacy. Humanity’s powers to abstract, conceptualize, and communicate in oral and written language had tremendous educational consequences. Education involved an emphasis on language learning as children participated, in the songs, stories, and ritual that formed the group’s cultural inheritance.

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