Day One of Applied A-Z World Building: A is for Academia
My first thought upon looking at the blank piece of paper (or blank word document to be more accurate) that comprises my current world and realising I need to design its academic system was: WTF am I doing?
My second thought was to resort to advice given out by Brandon Sanderson: Go with what is cool.
What's cool to me is Apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships give me automatic relationships for characters with their masters, former master and fellow apprentices.
Apprenticeships give me conflicts as parents had to struggle to get their child into good apprenticeships and the risk of specialised skills being lost as a master can only take on so many apprenticeships.
It allows me to start building my society. If all knowledge is passed on one-to-one then I figured that they would need to start early in order to educate enough people. I picked eight years old, at the moment just because it seems like an age where a child has enough maturity to learn but is not too late.
I also strongly feel that the current education system pushes a child to decide their future too early and I didn't want to enforce that in my world, especially when we come to the limited options for apprenticeships discussed further down. Because of this, I decided each child would undertake three simultaneous apprenticeships, one in each realm (Physical, Mental, Metaphysical (Magic/Spiritual)).
It gave me an insight into the cultural system. Cities, being more populous, would have more masters available and hence more educational opportunities. It made sense to me that city-dwelling families would accept 'foster' children from the more rural communities to compete for the good apprenticeships. That also gives the idea that these foster children would be tied socially to a more powerful family, perhaps indebted to them for life. More fodder for conflict.
More than that, if the only way to obtain knowledge is to learn it off someone who knows it then the acquisition of knowledge is automatically tied to travel whether the travel of the master or of the suitable apprentice. This led to the idea that many families would be forced to choose between a less illustrious but more stable apprenticeship or the high status but migratory profession.
I can recall reading a BBC news article about one of the African tribes that operates an apprenticeship system to the point of having separate languages and separate written languages to prevent the stealing of knowledge from one trade to another. I really like this idea as world-fodder hence there is no one written language in my world but a set of symbols per trade and even some within trades for particular masters who want to keep secrets between themselves and their apprenticeships.
This then led on to the fact that the magic system cannot be written down, being too complicated; composed of gesture, intonation and language. It's then I realised I was perhaps leaking the limits of World Building on just Academia (Only now, you may ask) and set my pen (keyboard) down for the day. It's a challenge not to go beyond world-building as even just at A characters are trying to form and push their way in. Can't wait to see the world by the time I get to Z!