Even "basic" is an enormous challenge.

How to divide all the world's most basic knowledge into teachable categories? What is included, and what is excluded? Cultural bias will affect curricula.

One way that we might begin is by looking at information classification systems as a model. Library classification systems are an attempt to organize all the world's information into a finite (actually very small) number of categories.

People in the West know Dewey and LOC, but Ranganathan's COLON classification might be better suited because it is descriptive rather than prescriptive.

In Dewey, for example, the "call numbers" for organizing materials run from 000 to 999.999... Every "hundreds" is a broad category with many sub-categories within. So the 200s is for religion. 200-290 is for Christianity. 290-299 is for "other religions" but actually focuses on other "religions of the Book" (Judaism and Islam). It's not until you get to 299 that there is space designated for the rest of the world's "other" religions. This is cumbersome.

COLON classification, by contrast, describes the subject and then assigns each subject a number/letter code. Although there is a static matrix of codes for subjects, the system itself is open-ended. Here is an example from [Wikipedia's entry]:

   The most commonly cited example of the Colon Classification is the classification for:
   * "Research in the cure of the tuberculosis of lungs by x-ray conducted in India in 1950s":
   * Main classification is Medicine
         o (Medicine)
   * Within Medicine, the Lungs are the main concern
         o (Medicine,Lungs)
   * The property of the Lungs is that they are afflicted with Tuberculosis
         o (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis)
   * The Tuberculosis is being performed (:) on, that is the intent is to cure (Treatment)
         o (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment)
   * The matter that we are treating the Tuberculosis with are X-Rays
         o (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray)
   * And this discussion of treatment is regarding the Research phase
         o (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray:Research)
   * This Research is performed within a geographical space (.) namely India
         o (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray:Research.India)
   * During the time (') of 1950
         o (Medicine,Lungs;Tuberculosis:Treatment;X-ray:Research.India'1950)
   * And translating into the codes listed for each subject and facet the classification becomes
         o L,45;421:6;253:f.44'N5

If we use such classification systems to organize knowledge into basic fields, we might look toward an open system like COLON as a model so that we avoid at least some of the Western cultural bias of Melville Dewey's system.

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic?[edit | edit source]

In a disaster scenario, priorities change. Literacy is crucial, but there are many kinds of literacy -- and sustaining survival will be of more immediate use than learning literary criticism or writing computational algorithms.

Should we start from the assumption that "eco-literacy" and "health-literacy" are as important, or more so, in such extreme situations than the the Rs are traditionally held to be?

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Created November 4, 2006 by Anonymous1
Modified March 8, 2022 by Irene Delgado
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