The Herd

I am a Homo Sapien. So are you. We have been around for 200,000 years or so.  For ninety percent of that time, we were hunters and gatherers. It was only 12,000 years ago or so that some of us became farmers. And, it was only about 250 years ago or so that some of us launched the industrial revolution.  And, I am going to guess that it was only 70 years ago or so that a large numbers of us decided to fully participate in today’s highly specialized consumerist societies.

Before the mall, before the industrial revolution, and before becoming farmers:

  • If we wanted to be warm, we had to know how to build a fire.
  • If we wanted to be dry, we had to know how to construct a shelter.
  • If we wanted to eat, we had to know how to hunt and gather and cook our meals.

We could not buy our comfort. We had to make it.

We had to carve out an existence in a harsh environment.

If we were going to survive, we needed an education.

So, how did those who loved us most go about getting us to know what we needed to know?

Did they box us up in a room, separate us from reality and hand us a fully articulated syllabus?


We learned how to build, construct and gather by doing those things. The classroom and reality were one and the same. It included the woods, rivers, ponds and prairies. And, like reality, the classroom was full of hazards. We made mistakes. We fell down. We got cuts. We got scrapes. We got bruises. These things were expected.

It was early in our history, there were few well-trodden paths. We did a lot of exploring. And, our teachers explored with us. Learning was collaborative. We were student and teachers of each other.

Did it grow?

Did it hold together?

Did it light?

These were our test questions.

Reality was our judge.

We felt our failure.

We felt our education.

It worked.

How do I know?

We survived.

So, why did we stop using these methods?

There are number of different reasons. But, I’ll focus on the following:

The architects of our earliest educational systems were our parents and grandparents. It reflected their interests. They wanted to us to survive. We needed to know how to navigate a chaotic, dynamic and uncertain natural world. So, they designed an educational system that kept us a bit wild.

However, over time, our education was outsourced to other people. Other people’s interests rose to the fore. And, what did they want? They wanted large numbers of compliant workers. They wanted obedience.

They domesticated us.

They took us, sent us to school, and transformed that beautiful collective of individuality that we were into a herd of conformity. We are a product of that system. Our students are a product of that system.

We were trained to be passive and compliant.

Our students were trained to be passive and compliant.

And, to various degrees, we are anxious, afraid to make a mistake, and paralyzed by perfectionism. So are our students.

But, here’s the thing. The future is looking more like our past. It is chaotic, dynamic and uncertain. And, if our students are going to survive the future, if we are going to survive the future, we’re all in need of some Rewilding.