Thoughts on education, age segregation, and politics
Huzza! The Instapundit has nailed it. All that he missed is that the deliberate gathering of the Gullible Young into politically-herdible cohorts was precisely what the early Soviets did by creating the Komsomol and Young Pioneers for the use by the Party as 'influencers' to preserve the purity of the mandatory groupthink.
"Pete was lucky because he got to experience something that too many kids don’t get to experience today—real work, outside school, with real adults."
For some years I tutored HS-age kids on film/TV/stage sets. Far from the 'showbiz brat' image, the kids were almost uniformly smart, well-mannered, and very good at navigating a world where time was a lot of money and that had little room for actors acting-up. So they showed up on schedule, knew their lines, hit their marks, and sat down to meals with a mostly-adult group of co-workers.
Of course, it also helped that they were paid decently and fully cognizant of how lucky they were to be working in a highly selective industry with some fun perks.
I agree that the aggregate effect of the various policies you describe has been to transform youth from an introduction to adulthood through participation in increasingly adult activities with and supervised by adults — lasting approximately from the age of reason (thought to be around 7-8 historically) into the early- to mid-teens — into a discrete period of increasingly less responsibility, interaction with the adult world (except as consumers whose consumption is paid for by others), and greater duration…lasting now into the mid-20s. I also agree that some of the impetus for these changes can be attributed to the sort of intentional manipulation you suggest.
On the other hand, as I understand the historical development, it was more organic, often widely more well-intentioned, and certainly less cynical than your discussion suggests. I’m not sure we’re well-served by painting theses developments with as sinister a brush; rather, we might be better served by examining what youth has become with an eye to restoring a more balanced and truncated youth period which would include (as you did and as we did with our daughters) work and adult interaction other than with professional educators.
Kids are able to deal with a great deal more than one would believe if using modern culture as a guide.
Getting them out of the house and into the unfiltered world is important to do while they still come home each day and can discuss what they’ve seen with their parents.
In nearly 20 years as a History professor, I have told many classes of students: "If you do not learn how to think for yourself, then someone else will do it for you, and they won't have your best interests in mind." If I were a student and heard a professor say that, then I’d start learning how to do it. I assumed they would too.
I was very naive.
From what I've seen, especially recently, most students in fact do not value independent thinking. It’s a weird paradox – they want to stand out by fitting in, so they loudly conform. Dissent is socially punished to such an extreme that none dare take the risk that an independent thought might pose. So they gladly give up their freedom and judgment in exchange for modest comforts and relief from hard work. Why learn grammar and composition when they have ChatGPT? Why struggle in a job market when there are so many good-paying jobs out there? In an age of super-abundant consumer goods and activities, why not just choose a life of pleasure? The Romans knew "The people need their bread and circuses" - but hey, why study History when you've got Wikipedia?
Above all, fit in. Alignment with a group, collective identity, or some “movement” is the ultimate expression of individuality in their “War is peace” mindset. Every “individual” choice is really just another opportunity to conform - yesterday’s oddity is today’s standard. You must be tattooed and pierced, speak in the latest cliches and catchphrases, do in public what was once mostly done in private – even problems of mental health, sexual depravity, addiction, and socio-pathology have been fetishized and commodified.
The elites must be thrilled – let the young play their video games and cosplay revolutionaries, while the elites gobble up real-estate, infrastructure, supply-chains, and energy grids. Young people have no idea that the platforms and “power” they’ve been given are making them pawns for life.
Without the ability to independently think and judge, they are in fact mostly powerless. It is easier to rule people when they have willingly given up their intellectual weapons. The best way to do that is to take over the education system, then cripple their minds and grasp of reality. The Long March in education is essentially complete.
How can it be fixed? With reason and logic? They do not work on people who have no concept of them, and they do not work on people who’ve rejected them in the pursuit of power. I like to think that anyone can improve their thinking skills at any point in life. A person needs awareness, desire, motivation, and tremendous, sustained effort. That’s too tall an order for most. As Glenn pointed out, their families have done, and society does most of the work necessary for their survival. Technological advances are exponential and the future costs of it all are a problem for the future.
When I lecture on child labor, I explain that throughout history child labor was as common as adult labor. Sure, it is easy to point out abuses during the Industrial Revolution, but not all child labor was coal mining and chimney sweeping. Some child labor benefitted the children and their families. Even after laws prohibited child labor, there were people like my parents who firmly believed in it. I had many household chores, which only ended when I left home, and as soon as I turned 12, I got a paper route, then at age 16, a job in a supermarket. Honestly, child labor was one of the greatest things they ever did for me. Bread and circuses might bring pleasure, but it is productive work and accomplishment that brings happiness. Unfortunately, too many young people will sacrifice happiness for pleasure. That’s where we are now.
"Of course, it works at home because the parents feel an attachment to their children, and a loyalty to them, that people don’t feel for strangers."
Also, parents can teach their children to have a role in the whole enterprise. Put the dishes away, help fold laundry, age-appropriate yard chores, etc. so that they transition into understanding how you can't just Free Lunch forever.
Gerhard Neumann, a jet-engine pioneer who ran GE's jet engine business, grew up in Germany and wanted to study engineering. A 2- or 3-year apprenticeship was mandatory before admission to university. Neumann apprenticed in an auto shop, his boss was very tough but Gerhard felt the experience was invaluable to him. He notes that the apprenticeship requirement did *not* apply to foreign students, the regime being eager for the tuition money and not caring about the quality of graduates who would not be working in Germany.
Neumann wrote a really good autobiography: 'Herman the German' (subtitled 'Just Lucky, I Guess', after the quip of a British courtesan who was asked by a journalist how she wound up following such a profession)
My youngest son had his first real "guys" hunting trip when he was 13 and the others were aged 81, 70, and 49(me). He recognized quickly that although he was being mentored by much older men, they were also treating him as an equal by also teasing him in a way similar to how his buddies teased each other regularly, and he later said this caused him to want to impress all of these older hunters with his ability to learn from them. He is now 19 and has taken that lesson with him to the US Marines.
As a father of three young kids, I would love a post with details on your and your daughter's POV on working and doing online high school. I'm intrigued by that option but need more info to determine if it's viable for us. Thanks!
As a teenager, I thought some kind of socialism would be good because capitalism was so flawed. Of course govt types (teachers) tell us this and appeal to our youthful idealism. Then they can have more power.
What I realized later is that all government systems are somewhat flawed, but in capitalism we have a chance to be free and to make corrections when needed, without bloody revolution. What we are going through now is ugly but it isn't Paris 1789 either.
(Love the Corbynomics chart. lol)
Brave of you to say “In ethnically homogenous countries, one sees a greater support for generous social benefits, because the populace is in some sense related; support for such benefits tends to drop when immigration renders those countries more heterogenous.” That usually gets attacked as a dog whistle for white supremacy. I hope your substack readership is smarter than that.