07/07/05 - children learning faster

In today's excerpt - the phenomenon of children learning faster than parents in literate society and parents/elders—particularly religious elders—being more responsible for passing on knowledge in pre-literate societies is highlighted:

"Most non-literate societies (but not all) will have teachers assigned to give instructions in religious matters and they may (or may not) lead in cult performances. They will not necessarily be consecrated priests. There may also be prophets who rise up spontaneously, persons inspired to speak out to guide or to protest. Prophets may be aristocrats, or come from lowly families; even women may be spirit-possessed (sometimes especially women). Whatever has been the case in the period before literacy, once literacy arrives, everything changes. The young will be quicker to learn than the old, as we have seen in our own history of information technology. But in the early stages there may be nothing to stop the older generation of the non-literate upper classes from holding on to power by paying scribes and secretaries. In the following generation, though by then everyone knows the current technology of communication, the old patterns of social advantage may remain intact—or they may be radically transformed."


Mary Douglas


'I thirst! Water I Beseech Thee'


London Review of Books


June 23, 2005


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