I found myself one day staring at a brick.
Rose-colored, potted with tiny holes, perfectly cut. It smelled earthy.
But I realized in that moment something unfortunate. It felt like impending doom.
I pulled out a knife to scrape the brick, but then stared at it, too
My eyes went dry for lack of blinks. How do you make a brick? Where does metal come from?
I don’t know.
A brick? Metal? They seem so fundamental, so rudimentary. I don’t know about basic materials!
But I do know that falling objects accelerate at 9.82 meters per second squared without interference.
I know that Shakespeare is the godfather of English literature.
I know that the square of a triangle’s hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. I know that photosynthesis happens in a chloroplast. I know that 1776 is an important year, and so is 1945. I can name capital cities, I type really fast, and like a lot of young people I learn new computer programs quickly.
But I can’t tell you how to make a brick or a knife, or how electricity works or what brings it to my home. I use a radio but hell if I know what’s going on inside that box.
I drive around in a car! I fly on airplanes! I draw on paper! I eat FOOD!
Suddenly I realized that, were civilization to collapse, I wouldn’t know the first thing about restarting it
That realization hit me like a ton of bricks.
Our technology-obsessed civilization has gotten so far ahead of itself that we’ve neglected to teach new generations about the basic building blocks that got us this far in the first place.
Sitting in front of the computer with a light on, coffee in a ceramic mug, listening to music, elbow resting on a plastic armrest, taking notes on paper, wearing clothes… I feel ashamed and ignorant.
My knowledge feels wholly inadequate. I want to know how to create these things.
I want to learn about bricks.
Students pursue things they’re interested in, but they have to be exposed to the thing in the first place. Students need a practical class that spurs them to understand the origins of modern technology.
The only way to truly comprehend a technology is by understanding how its constituent parts are drawn from the Earth.
This is why I propose establishing a required course for all high school curriculums. We will call it:
It will expose students to primary inventions and discoveries that laid the foundation of civilization. This pragmatic class will inspire those student intellects otherwise untapped by traditional courses’ material. For those more interested in immediately actionable knowledge, How to Civilization 101 will be indelibly intriguing.
The subject-matter is readily observable in everyday life.
How to Civilization 101 will be a year-long course, with an involved syllabus:
How to Civilization 101 will be a favorite class. Parents won’t hear the end of it. And for some select students, it might even provide the academic direction they were lacking.
How to Civilization 101
The objective: Give students a pragmatic grounding in the elemental knowledge of civilization’s technologies.
The rationale: If you have to learn the alphabet to understand a novel, then you have to learn bricks to understand a building.
Inspiring resources to learn about civilization’s building blocks
The Knowledge – How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm by Lewis Dartnell – Within this consolidated collection of prime information is the most useful material for a proposed How to Civilization 101. By the end of this book, readers have a much deeper understand of our civilization’s composition. It is very well-written.
Primitive Technology – This Aussie trudges into the bush to engage in a hobby called “Primitive Technology”, wherein you essentially try to rebuild basic tech using only what you find in nature. His YouTube channel has two dozen wonderfully condensed videos (no dialogue; turn closed captions on for explanations). This is the one that drew me in:
How It’s Made – Airing on the Science Channel, this show has been going strong for 16 years, amounting to 27 seasons of intriguing, quick videos and explanations about how everyday things are manufactured. If you can’t access the program on your TV, you can download episodes.
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson – This book takes a look at how ideas are formed, with special attention paid to the liquid environments that encourage the kinds of interactions central to helping ideas flourish. I’m only half-way done reading, but I’d recommend it already.