The 5-Minute Anthropology Course

My high school library science teacher taught the Dewey Decimal System through storytelling.  Apparently, I haven’t retold that story enough, since a recent trip to the library found me at the Help desk, shamefacedly admitting I wasn’t sure where to look for books on Botanical Latin – 400s for language or 500s for botany?

The volunteer didn’t know either, though he was interested in my description of how I learned the Dewey Decimal System. (500s was the correct answer.)

A quick review of the Dewey Decimal system and the story is once again in a memory file I can access.

Man becomes Self-Aware.  He wonders, “Who Am I?”

100 – Philosophy and Psychology.

Next, Man ponders, “Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  How did “here” come about?”

200- Religion

Man’s focus turns outward.  He asks, “How do I interact with others?  What behaviors will ensure our survival as a tribe? How do we choose to treat one another?”

300- Social Sciences

Man wants better understanding of and communication with his fellow tribe members.  “How do I get across my point?  How do I convey complex or abstract ideas?  How do I adequately express myself to another?”

400 – Language

Cooperation and sharing of ideas allow Man to work with others to better understand the world in and around him.

500- Science

Man takes this knowledge and discovers ways to increase both his quantity and quality of life through manipulation of himself (healing) and his environment.

600 – Technology (Previously known as Applied Sciences)

Since Man has figured out ways to keep himself fed, warm and healthy, without backbreaking labor 18 hours a day, he has plenty of time to pursue enjoyable leisure activities to bring additional beauty to his world.

700- Arts

Surrounded by abundance, comfort and beauty, Man passes his knowledge of how to achieve all to the next generation via stories.

800 – Literature

Man’s knowledge base is growing.  He learns to disdain fanciful tales.   Careful notation of facts learned through exploration, experimentation and discoveries replaces previous moral tales of heroes and adventures.

900- History, Geography and Biography

Centuries of knowledge and wisdom have accumulated and must be organized.   Since information is now the foundation of Man’s existence, and defies the ability to be completely learned during one lifetime, Man must now create a reference system for all humankind collectively knows.

000-Computer Science, Information & General Works (Previously known as Reference)

Not verbatim as I learned it – any story changes given 25 years of additional experience.

Our entire rise from our first moment of self-awareness to modern complex society is contained within the Dewey Decimal System.   If you don’t have time for an anthropological degree, you can still understand our journey just by reading through the classifications.



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