“What-teach-kids” in the Paleolithic Age
(The curriculum development process in H. Benjamin’s “The
Justine Leon A. Uro
‘‘‘What-teach-kids’ in the Paleolithic Age’’ by
Justine Leon Uro islicensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Philippines
To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.
org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ph/ or send a letter to Creative
Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco,
California, 94105, USA.
“What-teach-kids” in the Paleolithic Age
(The curriculum development process in H. Benjamin’s “The saber-tooth
curriculum” 1 )
Justine Leon A. Uro
H. Benjamin’s ﬁctional short story “The saber-tooth curriculum” presents
an interesting, panoramic, and forest-wide view of what the process of curricu-
lum development may have been during the Paleolithic Age. The vividness of
the author’s mind’s-eye account makes it seem like this cultural age of yore was
just a stone’s throw away! The more important details dealing with the process
of curriculum development are summarized below.
First and foremost, the hero of our story, New-Fist-Hammer-Maker, or sim-
ply New-Fist, had two attributes that are considered signiﬁcant in curriculum
constructing and that were rarities in humans during their time owing to their
simple way of life—he was a doer and a thinker. As a doer, and hence an ed-
ucated man during his time, New-Fist had not just a know-how of things that
the community needed done, but also the required energy and will for accom-
plishing these things. As a thinker, his wondering about the current ways of his
tribe and the ensuing dissatisfaction led him to think of ways that could better
the life of his community—his tribe, his family, and himself.
Secondly, the background of his current circumstances led him to realize “the
concept of a conscious, systematic education”2 and hence, to arrive at an edu-
cational goal. Observing his kids playing at the mouth of their dwelling-cave led
him to realize that their activities, pursued for the purpose of pleasure, should
1 Benjamin, H. (1939). The saber-tooth curriculum. New York: McGraw-Hill. (pp. 24-44).
2 ibid., p. 26.
give way to more purposeful activities—that the children’s activities played for
fun involving bones, sticks, and pebbles to protect themselves from boredom,
should give way to activities that will assist them in growing up as responsible
adults that work for security and enrichment of their lives, in activities that
involve food, shelter, and clothing, and that protected them from danger. In so
doing, New-Fist would be helping his tribe better its life.
Thirdly, New-Fist decided on the activities for the kids that would consist
of his educational goal. He decided on three fundamental subjects: (1) ﬁsh-
grabbing-with-the-bare-hands; (2) woolly-horse clubbing; and (3) saber-tooth-
tiger-scaring. These he decided on in answer to the question: “What things
must we tribesmen know how to do in order to live with full bellies, warm
backs, and minds free from fear?”3 This came to be known as New-Fist’s Saber-
Fourthly, New-Fist beta-implemented his Saber-Tooth Curriculum. He tried
it on his kids by aﬀording the kids a chance to practice the three subjects (ac-
tivities) at the same time that he would carry out his own activities.
Fifthly, New-Fist qualitatively evaluated the implemented curriculum by ob-
serving what it obtained for and attained in his kids and considering the opinions
of the other members of the tribe, especially the more conservative who thought
the curriculum unnecessary, arguing based on two points: (1) that what the cur-
riculum claimed to be able to attain in the children is, in fact, innate; and, (2)
that human nature is immutable. New-Fist noted that the children not just liked
to learn but also considered the activities more fun than playing with colored
pebbles for fun. Because the kids learned well, New-Fist’s educational system
3 ibid., p. 28.
was considered successful. To the arguments of the conservatives, New-Fist po-
litely replied that: (1) it was the Great Mystery (The Supreme Being-Creator
ﬁgure in the story) that willed that the kids be educated, caused them to want
to learn, and divinely assisted them since learning is possible only through the
power of the Great Mystery; (2) the will of the Great Mystery concerning ﬁsh,
horses, and saber-tooth tigers can only be understood with a good foundation
on these three fundamental subjects; and (3) human nature can be changed and
it was this that brought the Paleolithic culture to a high level, thus making their
community a great one. Thus did New-Fist gain the conservatives’ approval for
the new school.
Sixthly, the tribe adopted the curriculum developed by New-Fist and, con-
sequently, all the children of the tribe received this fundamental education in
the three subjects. True to its intent at its inception, the new curriculum as
it was implemented improved the life of the tribe as evidenced by the tribe’s
prosperity and the adequacy of the amount of meat, skins, and security.
Seventhly, although suplementally, New Fist and his tribe got the opportu-
nity to realize that the Saber-Tooth Curriculum will withstand the test of time.
New-Fist and his tribe discovered the following two truths later on in their cave-
man existence: that (1) “the essence of true education is timelessness” and
(2) there are some “eternal verities”5 as the Saber-Tooth Curriculum. New-Fist
realized these truths when they had to decide on whether or not to revise their
ﬁrst school curriculum in order for it to be more responsive to new needs brought
about by environmental changes. Because of the New Ice Age, they had to con-
sider whether the initial three subjects of ﬁsh-grabbing-with-the-bare-hands,
woolly-horseclubbing, and saber-tooth-tiger-scaring-with-ﬁre had to give room
4 ibid., p. 44.
for the more indispensable activities for modern living that included ﬁshnet-
making and operating (for catching ﬁsh in muddy water), antelope snare-setting
(to catch the elusive antelopes), and pit-digging (for bear catching and killing).
It was eventually decided that fundamentals education as contained in the ﬁrst
curriculum is more important than the training emphasized in the proposed
revised curriculum; that generalized agility obtained by ﬁshgrabbing and not
attainable by net-using, generalized strength obtained by horse-clubbing and
not attainable by a prosaic and specialized activity as antelope snare-setting,
and noble courage given by saber-tooth-tiger-scaring and not attainable by a
lowly activity as bear killing, should remain as the three subjects of their school
The New Ice Age with all its nuances, was, in a sense, a blessing in disguise
for systematic education in New-Fist’s time as it gave the members an opportu-
nity to realize the importance and timelessness of fundamentals education and
its diﬀerence with training, the essence of true education which is timelessness,
and the invaluable worth of the Saber-Tooth Curriculum as it is an eternal
— End of Summary—
Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
‘‘‘What-teach-kids’ in the Paleolithic Age’’ by Justine Leon Uro is
licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share
Alike 3.0 Philippines License.
To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ph/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171
Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.