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Desert Diary


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For most of human history, learning was an on-the-job project. Our desert people learned by first listening and observing and later by helping out. The example of the older people was always before them. If there was formal education, it was by elders' story telling passing on traditions, or by apprenticeship to a local expert. Visitors from outside sometimes would bring in new tales to be absorbed. Such education bound the people together and allowed them to meet the vicissitudes of everyday life in the desert.

In all but the most remote parts of the desert—and perhaps nowhere now—this is no longer enough. With the Spanish came a flood of new input, drowning much of traditional lore. With the Anglos, another inundation of foreign knowledge. And now, with the cities and towns of the Chihuahuan Desert tied together by radio, television, and internet, everyone needs help in surviving the information overload. Grade school, college, and often now graduate studies are needed to obtain the good life—the life that many lived years ago with none of these.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

cap on bulletin board

After many years of formal education, a person gets to hang up cap and gown to become a productive worker. Photograph by A.H. Harris.