I began this journey of investigation back in the early 1960s, when a world-devastating thermonuclear war was just button-push away. It was often said back then that such a war would throw us back into the stone age. I knew it would throw us much further back than that, because virtually none of us know how to make stone tools.
I was working as an editor in educational publishing—and thinking about the way we educate our children. The education of children of aboriginal peoples is complete by the time they’re thirteen or fourteen (and they’re ready to be initiated into the tribe as adults); when they “graduate,” their survival value is 100%. This means that if the rest of the tribe were suddenly wiped out, they wouldn’t have any difficulty surviving.
By contrast, when the children of our culture graduate from the citizen’s education at age eighteen, their survival value is close to zero (which is why they must immediately find jobs and start earning money); if our civilization were to disappear overnight (as in a thermonuclear war), our children wouldn’t have even the most basic skills needed to survive. Yet it is taken for granted that our educational system is infinitely more “advanced” than that of aboriginal peoples. In fact, however, it merely assures that our children will be forced into the marketplace that is the foundation of the cultural prison we inhabit.
The unquestioned assumption that the way we educate our children represents the acme of human development was the first whisper I heard of Mother Culture’s voice. I went on from there, constantly doing a reality check on the received wisdom of our culture. (An ongoing process, I might add.)