Survival is defined as the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.

It seems to me that many schools may need to teach survival skills to prepare children for harsher times ahead. Survival skills could be combined with aspects of Religious Education, Anthropology, History, Geography, ICT, and problem-solving. In essence, we need a new subject that combines everything we need; not just to survive, but to understand each other better and try to resolve some of the major problems facing this planet (pollution, global warming, etc.). This post follows my previous posts on Reasonable Faith, Secular Morality, Heaven and Hell. It aims to bring about some serious discussions about how best to prepare children for an uncertain future. Here are some introductory ideas that could generate interest in survival skills.

Our past can help to shape the future

Anthropology is defined as the study of human societies and cultures and their development. Anthropology is the study of what makes us human. Anthropologists take a broad approach to understanding the many different aspects of the human experience, which we call holism. Anthropology considers the past, through archaeology, to see how human groups lived hundreds or thousands of years ago and what was important to them. Anthropology could be used to show the lineage of humans, the frictions between religion and technological development, and how we all need to put aside our differences and work together in a secular manner.

Richard Dawkins has openly stated we should keep “God out of the classroom”. However, Religion has had a very profound impact on humans and can not be ignored. I think from a cultural perspective children should know about the cultural aspects of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, etc as it helps them to be tolerant and appreciative. I think Richard Dawkins is right to say children should not be taught to be Christian or Muslim as I think it is important NOT to label them at an early age. That is actually harmful.

Our past is true and fascinating. We need to teach children valuable skills from the past (how to make fire without a lighter and how to navigate via the stars), belief systems, cultural and social studies, survival techniques in the wild, recognising plants we can eat safely and where to find water in a desert. and technological discoveries (some building techniques, roman heating systems etc.). Survival skills could be useful if some idiot started a nuclear war, etc.

I think far too many humans have become comfortable with modern life. They don’t understand basic skills and this is potentially harmful to our own survival. Darwin has proved that we could become extinct just like many other animals. We need to wake up and realise that arguing over which God is the right one isn’t going to achieve anything. We need to be more constructive. At the very least, every society needs to have some experts in many of the topics listen below…

Survival skills

If you go to places like Stonehenge in England, you can get an idea of what early mankind probably believed. The Midwinter Festival is very much to do with knowing when the sun is at its lowest point. It was a symbolic moment. Thereafter, days would get longer and the temperature would typically get warmer. It was useful to know this in terms of growing crops and looking after animals. So worshipping the sun was common. Early civilisations needed to live off the land. So, when looking at this period in time, children could be taught

  • how to make fire (without a lighter)
  • how to cook using fire
  • building a shelter on high land
  • how to make a flint
  • how to make a bow and arrow
  • how to catch fish
  • how to gullet a fish
  • how to find drinking water
  • how to clean yourself in the wild
  • how to clean water in the wild

Later, as humans became more developed and technologies challenged our beliefs, we moved on. The invention of the press led to the storing of knowledge in books. The Old Testaments are important as they document attempts to introduce rules to govern our lives. We now know they can not be read literally. Darwin’s theory of evolution and the discovery of gravity has effectively undermined the Old Testaments. So, when looking at this period in time, children could be taught

  • how to make paper in the wild and in the classroom
  • how to make ink in the wild
  • how to communicate long distances without modern technology
  • recognising the time without a watch
  • how to navigate using the stars at night
  • how to grow plants
  • recognising foods in the forest and recognising harmful plants, etc
  • creating paintings to communicate a message
  • making baskets
  • gathering around the fireplace to eat and discuss issues
  • why ancient civilisations prayed

So, when looking at a more modern period in time, children could be taught

  • how to resolve conflicts
  • recognising natural medicines
  • self-defence techniques
  • how to look after your own body
  • using a variety of technologies (morse code, CB radio and using the internet to find specific information, etc.)
  • programming and problem solving
  • differences in what people of faith believe. Cultural sensitivities, etc.
  • applying first aid
  • how to resuscitate someone
  • tying knots
  • sign language
  • staying warm
  • creating an insulated and waterproof shelter with a fireplace
  • making weapons
  • dealing with waste
  • gardening – growing and looking after your own vegetables
  • animal husbandry
  • how to kill animals humanely
  • being independent and fair
  • newer methods of construction
  • roman inventions (plumbing, sanitation, the newspaper, bridges, heating systems, surgical tools, concrete, roads, etc) and how they work
  • how long we can survive without water, food, air, etc
  • Keeping track of time and being organised in the wild
  • lessons learned from history (I think teaching history as a subject is rather pointless unless it actually has moral lessons for us to learn from. So, for example, teaching about the holocaust is in my opinion essential, because we must guard against the rise of fascism, racism, fundamentalism, etc)
  • discussions on how we can reduce global warming, how we can control overpopulation and other important topics affecting the planet. 
  • Modern inventions (the telephone, wifi, internet, etc) and how they work
  • Visual thinking (painting, cubism, perspective etc)
  • Making horseshoes and swords, etc.
  • How to make alloys
  • How to make musical instruments

I am sure I have missed a few important topics. This post is really meant to create some debate as to how humans can best prepare themselves for an uncertain future. I am not an expert in survival skills. In fact, I know almost nothing about it.

I have been a teacher for over twenty years and none of the schools I have ever worked for teaches these much-needed skills. I find that a bit worrying! It probably won’t affect me much, as I suspect I will die before then but, it could affect many people in the future.

I think it is dangerous to think we are safe. A new subject could be one way we prepare ourselves. The Backpacker website has a whole section on survival skills. I think a new subject can obviously be moulded in any way that society deems suitable. A new subject could combine be used to make education both useful and much more “hands-on”.