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Humans Hard-Wired to Teach, Anthropologist Says

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tags: genetics, anthropology, DNA



An anthropologist from Washington State University says that, based on his research into modern hunter-gatherer societies, the desire to teach is hard-wired into humanity’s genetic code.

Barry Hewlett began his study of modern hunter-gatherers around four decades ago, when he noted how the Aka people of the western Congo basin in Africa would provide their infant children knives, digging sticks and small axes to play with whenever the adults would stop between hunts to rest. While most parents in the developed world would never dream of such an action, Hewlett says that over the 40 years he’s been observing the Aka, not only has he never witnessed a child hurting themselves but he’s interpreted this behavior as a teaching method. This prompted the anthropologist to conduct a small-scale study of the Aka, the conclusion of which, according to Hewlett, is that pedagogy is built in to the human genome, he calls it “part of our human nature.”

In an interview with Laboratory Equipment, Hewlett noted that in small-scale groups such as the Aka, teaching exists in a much different way than it does in a formal setting in a developed region. However, he says that his findings indicate that the education the children of modern hunter-gatherers receive could lead to new insights as to how humanity educated itself through the majority of its history. As he has studied some of the last true hunter-gatherer societies left in the modern world, Hewlett has extrapolated the behavior of parents towards their children in these small-scale societies to how ancient humans handled education as they lived in similar or identical environments.

Read entire article at New Historian


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