08 December 2006

This Isn't Working Out Part I

Modern societies treat their children as if they are incapable of bearing the least responsibility until they have finished at least twelve to sixteen years of schooling--sometimes up to twenty-five years of training or longer. This is a huge mistake that is bringing a destructive rot to society from the inside out.

Our official assumptions about the nature of modern childhood are dead wrong. Children allowed to take responsibility and given a serious part in the larger world are always superior to those merely permitted to play and be passive. At the age of twelve, Admiral Farragut got his first command. I was in fifth grade when I learned of this. Had Farragut gone to my school he would have been in seventh.

Have you ever wondered why there do not seem to be people like Benjamin Franklin around anymore?

At twelve he was bound apprentice to brother James, a printer. After a few years of that, and disliking his brother’s authority, he ran away first to New York and soon after to Philadelphia where he arrived broke at the age of seventeen. Finding work as a printer proved easy, and through his sociable nature and ready curiosity he made acquaintance with men of means. One of these induced Franklin to go to London where he found work as a compositor and once again brought himself to the attention of men of substance. A merchant brought him back to Philadelphia in his early twenties as what might today be called an administrative assistant or personal secretary. From this association, Franklin assembled means to set up his own printing house which published a newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, to which he constantly contributed essays.

At twenty-six, he began to issue "Poor Richard’s Almanac," and for the next quarter century the Almanac spread his fame through the colonies and in Europe. He involved himself deeper and deeper in public affairs. He designed an Academy which was developed later into the University of Pennsylvania; he founded the American Philosophical Society as a crossroads of the sciences; he made serious researches into the nature of electricity and other scientific inquiries, carried on a large number of moneymaking activities; and involved himself heavily in politics. At the age of forty-two he was wealthy. The year was 1748.

Franklin was finished with formal schooling at age ten, and learned various trades working for his father and other relatives. He struck out on his own at a fairly early age, like most of his contemporaries, and made his own way.

You might object that there is a lot more to learn now than in Franklin's time, or even than your own grandfather's time. Surely in the complex modern world, children need to be sequestered in classrooms most of their first 18 to 25 years, before being allowed to take any responsibility?

Well-meaning parents and societies might want to provide a "worry-free" upbringing for their children. Make sure the child never has to "want for anything" in his early formative years. Bring them up like only the wealthy could afford to bring up children, before the last century. Except the wise wealthy never brought up children the way we are bringing up children. Only the insane would do that, knowingly.

Full literacy wasn’t unusual in the colonies or early republic; many schools wouldn’t admit students who didn’t know reading and counting because few schoolmasters were willing to waste time teaching what was so easy to learn. It was deemed a mark of depraved character if literacy hadn’t been attained by the matriculating student. Even the many charity schools operated by churches, towns, and philanthropic associations for the poor would have been flabbergasted at the great hue and cry raised today about difficulties teaching literacy.

Many college students today lack the reading skills that children in the early US possessed before they ever started school. Are children and college students today really that much stupider--or is the way they are treated today making them seem that way?


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Blogger Pastorius said...

I hope you don't mind me saying, this would be a great IBA post.

This is a rallying the troops post.

Sunday, 10 December, 2006  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks. I cross-posted to IBA at your suggestion.

Sometimes it appears to me that many of the folks at IBA are fixated on the surface phenomena--as bad as they certainly are--to the exclusion of some of the root phenomena that makes us vulnerable.

If there were more actual activity in opposition to the external threats to western civilisation, as opposed to mere talking, I would feel better about the situation. It seems to me that too many people are sitting back and waiting for governments to do something about the situation--when governments have created the circumstances where such threats are possible. Government bureaucracy and ineficacy make it unlikely that the solution will come from that quarter.

Monday, 11 December, 2006  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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