Martel‘s got a link-filled post about how modern society is basically ruining kids. Go play follow-the-link-chain. And then ask: Why aren’t you homeschooling yet? 😉
This is my thought: people need to feel like their lives have meaningful purpose. Now, a great deal of life is actually rather boring trivial tasks like cooking, cleaning, laundry, personal hygiene, etc. All that stuff that never ends and you just keep doing it as it comes up, because if you don’t, you end up like one of those old cat ladies who dies and isn’t found for three days because nobody notices and then they find a house full of trash and junk that basically has to be burned to the ground to be cleansed. Yes, chores are boring. Do them anyway.
But more than that, it’s every human being’s basic need to wrest their own survival from Nature. Do anything that breaks that connection between work and the basic need to survive, and Bad Things start happening in those people’s hearts and minds. The best self-esteem is the pride of accomplishment – but absent the sting of failure and the accompanying deprivation of a good, “accomplishment” becomes meaningless. Sure, you could work a boring job to eke out a living and have to scrimp and save and polish your skills – or you could go on “disability,” collect your special subsidies for everything, and use your food stamps to buy expensive cuts of steak while you sit at home and watch TV all day. Hmmm. Which option looks good in the short term, and which option actually has the potential for you to end up living in a McMansion and driving a Mercedes thirty years down the road?
The first commenter links to a very interesting interview talking about how every other animal, once it hits puberty, Ta-Da!, is an adult. Except, funnily enough, humans. Now, other social animals hang around in multi-generational family groups, so I think that is probably a good model for humans to go back to – we used to do things that way, sometimes. Back in the day, when kids were respected and given actual work on the farm or in the tribe that contributed to the family’s survival.
And if that means sixteen-year-olds are competent and confident and capable of pulling their own weight in their extended clan’s social group, then there’s no reason they shouldn’t be getting married. Perhaps that’s one reason why so many people are delaying marriage – because they don’t feel like adults yet. Everything around them tells them “you’re not ready, you couldn’t possibly be ready!” Where does that leave young people? Facing at least ten years of celibacy, which really only works for the extremely introverted (and people with extremely low sex drives) – or a decade of failed romantic relationships and all the accompanying emotional scarring? Nice track record there. Not to mention the all-you-can-nab buffet that socially-expected promiscuity at a young age gives to sexual predators.
I’m no expert on childrearing, though I got my first taste of having to be “the responsible one” very young, looking after my siblings after my mother died. And it was very clear from that experience that school was a form of daycare with a side of education just to give us something to do all day. So what would a good system look like? I’m not sure. Basic math and literacy, for sure. An introduction to the various types of literature and how to read and interpret them. Civics and in-depth examination of historical Western politics and culture. Some form of fine motor control practice, either handwriting, calligraphy, or another art. Physical education in the form of a sport. Keyboard typing, use of basic tools like word processing and Excel; how to wrangle whatever the current popular tech is. Housekeeping and cooking, with emphasis on its interactions between biology, health, and chemistry. Shop class: how to use power tools. Gardening: how to choose what to grow, how to plant it, how to tend it, how to combat pests, how to wait for nature to take its course. Religion, for those parents who are practicing believers; philosophy for all older students, specifically the real-world consequences thereof. Kids need to learn that the shiny promises of Marxism where everything is fair leads to a bloodbath and mountains of bodies. That the world is full of hard choices that they don’t even imagine exist, because their parents have been shielding them from it. (Although I’m not too sure on that not-imagining part. My five-year-old niece just last week dictated an original story that was positively Grimm-like in its fairy-tale gruesomeness. Apparently some kids like literary gore even from a young and supposedly tender age.)