greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement

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No School: Maasai attitude towards formal education?

I'm really interested in the Maasai people of Kenya, and one of their ideas that interests me is their rejection of formal education. Theoretically, anyway, the Maasai try not to send their children to school. It's said that when the Kenyan government tried to force the Maasai to send their children to school, the Maasai would rent children from other tribes and send them to school in their own childrens's place, passing them off as Maasai. The Maasai can reject school because they live very simply, in dung huts, and live from the milk and meat of the cattle they herd. When you live like this, I suppose you don't need school. There's something nice about a child remaining in the bosom of the family, learning from their parents the skills they need to continue in the Maasai way of life. What does the TED community think of the rejection of school?

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    Nov 15 2012: I think I'll add another question to this question. I'm trying to figure out why, with devices, like, say a cell phone, it takes a whole lot more education to design one than to use one. For example, to design a cellphone, you'd probably have to have a Ph.D. But to use one, you can probably just be in elementary school. It's the same with so many things, computers, automobiles, on and on.
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      Nov 16 2012: Why is this surprising, Greg?
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        Nov 16 2012: Well, to create/engineer/design the innards of a cellphone takes great knowledge, probably a Ph.D. But to operate those same innards, well, an eight-year-old can do it. I can't quite put into words, but if the innards are so difficult to create, it seems like they would be difficult to operate. Of course, you can say the engineer makes them easy to operate, yet that doesn't quite answer it for me. To put it another way, it seems like to get the use out of something, you'd have to know how it was put together. But apparently that's not true: you can get the use out of something without knowing how it was put together. There's a disconnect there for me.

        Partially it's that with simple things, we know how they're designed, and we know how to use them. For example, I have an idea of how the innards of a pencil are, and I know how to use it. I have an idea of how the innards of a bar of soap are, and I know how to use it. But complicated electronic devices, or other complicated devices, for some reason, are different.

        By the way, Fritzie, if it happens that two people want to continue a conversation right there on the page after the thread has gone its three levels and run out, is there a way to do it?
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          Nov 16 2012: I can tell you what I do when I want to continue.

          Let's say I want to continue talking to you, but we are on our third indent. I would look back up in the thread to find anyplace you have posted where I see a "reply" button. I would reply to that one.

          To make sure you know which of your comments I am truly replying to, I'd start by writing," You wrote: "Well, to create engineer..."
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    Nov 13 2012: Having published this conversation starter, I'm asking myself what's so great about being able to read and write? Haven't there been people in America who couldn't read and write, and still had comfortable lives? Hillbillies and pioneers and such?
  • Nov 12 2012: I'm ok with it as long as the children make the choice themselves what they want to do with their lives. If people want to live like our amish then let them. Let them be happy with what they have.
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      Nov 14 2012: I'm curious, Ezra, what would you think if children didn't go to school at all, if they started working from a young age and learned the skills of life on the job? One bad thing about school is the kids are working, doing homework and such, but they're not producing anything. At a job they could produce something.
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    Nov 11 2012: I hope, for their own good, that their rejection of formal education is not a rejection of new methods altogether.

    It would be tragic for a people to believe that all the thinking pertaining to pastoral farming practices and equipments have already been done by the 'ancestors' and that the new generation of Masai need no change.

    But the Masai way could be loved and approved by a section of the TED community who think that schools waste too much time and 'inhibit' creativity.
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      Nov 13 2012: Would it be tragic if the new generation followed the prior generations and didn't change too much? Some people say there is a lot of "culture shock" associated with rapid change.
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        Nov 13 2012: There is a difference between change which is born of neccessity/expediency, and change for the sake of change.
        Assuming there is an outbreak of smallpox in a Masai community, and a vaccine has been proven to cure such, the neccessary thing to do is to accept help.(not to stubbornly insist that our ancestors never too these things).
        There are changes that are important for the progress of their work.
        There are others that are not neccessary. For example, same-sex marriage should not just be accepted because it is trending in the US, neither should democracy in the tribe, because they have a system that works without conflict.
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          Nov 13 2012: Feyisayo, what is the Maasai system of government, do you know?
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        Nov 13 2012: There is a difference between change which is born of neccessity/expediency, and change for the sake of change.
        Assuming there is an outbreak of smallpox in a Masai community, and a vaccine has been proven to cure such, the neccessary thing to do is to accept help.(not to stubbornly insist that our ancestors never too these things).
        There are changes that are important for the progress of their work.
        There are others that are not neccessary. For example, same-sex marriage should not just be accepted because it is trending in the US, neither should democracy in the tribe, because they have a system that works without conflict.
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        Nov 13 2012: There is a difference between change which is born of neccessity/expediency, and change for the sake of change.
        Assuming there is an outbreak of smallpox in a Masai community, and a vaccine has been proven to cure such, the neccessary thing to do is to accept help.(not to stubbornly insist that our ancestors never too these things).
        There are changes that are important for the progress of their work.
        There are others that are not neccessary. For example, same-sex marriage should not just be accepted because it is trending in the US, neither should democracy in the tribe, because they have a system that works without conflict.
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        Nov 13 2012: The Masai have the age-group system, youth council and elders council.
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          Nov 14 2012: Let me think about that. In the meantime, how are you able to put three of the same comment up?

          Maybe kids growing up to an agricultural family don't need school as bad? The Maasai are agricultural, and their kids don't go to school. What is it about kids growing up in the city that perhaps they need school more? Maybe there's just more idleness in the city?
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        Nov 13 2012: The Masai have the age-group system, youth council and elders council.
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    Nov 11 2012: I hope, for their own good, that their rejection of formal education is not a rejection of new methods altogether.

    It would be tragic for a people to believe that all the thinking pertaining to pastoral farming practices and equipments have already been done by the 'ancestors' and that the new generation of Masai need no change.

    But the Masai way could be loved and approved by a section of the TED community who think that schools waste too much time and 'inhibit' creativity.