Before the 20th century in the United States, schooling until early adulthood was largely an optional pursuit, reserved for some portion of the middle classes and better, mostly being a social pursuit that many considered impractical. Because apart from in a few states, schooling was noncompulsory, parents had options about how to prepare their children for the rigors and responsibilities of adulthood.
Contrary to feminist cant, women in just about all social classes did need to learn productive pursuits. At a time when the industrial economy had yet to take shape, the household economy was still much more important. Being able to produce clothing, art, food, and maintain the household was of greater relative importance. And they were often high skill pursuits that required knowledge, dexterity, and people skills to master.
Rather than fixed ages of maturity, adults in the community would instead take stock of where a child was in their maturity, and then assign them work based on their capacity. Different children mature at different rates — often at significantly different ones — and in a community with little tolerance for waste, it was more efficient to assign children and near-adults who could work to jobs matching their capacities and inclinations.
What this also meant is that parents would exchange children with those of their relatives, associates, and friends — even at a distance — to encourage them to learn skills that would serve them well through adulthood, whether or not it was part of a formal apprenticeship arrangement. While this meant that educations weren’t standard, it also ensured that the training of young people would match the actual needs of local economies.
In the modern West, our education systems have failed. Only the pretense of function remains. People who continue to believe in the pretense will disadvantage themselves and their children. Those that accept that it is only a pretense will find new advantages.
Household economies are not as significant as they once were, in part due to technology, in part due to regulatory changes, and in part due to social change. But given that corporate environments are increasingly ideological and dysfunctional, it’s likely that smaller economic networks will start to supplant them again, especially because throwing yourself full-force into the corporate economy is more likely to result in substandard wages and enormous debts.
Natural economic selection is likely to favor those families that find more efficient, lower-cost ways to find economic niches for their children while only minimally touching the sclerotic education systems of the modern West. While the institutions are dysfunctional, it’s easy to meet professionals, gain access to relevant professional knowledge, and find relevant professional networks.
While the state has conditioned Westerners to expect long maturity periods for children as it relates to work (while simultaneously encouraging fast maturity periods as it relates to sexual activity), swapping the two is the advantageous strategy, at least as it relates to young men. If the youngster is capable of work, they should work — and just as on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog, so on the internet, no one knows that their subcontractor is 12 years old.
Childhood was a nice idea, but keeping the spawn of the middle classes in a childlike state until they get their MA in their mid-20s has taken the notion too far.
In particular, we need to increasingly separate practical knowledge from the abstract and intellectual. The modern West tends to treat the abstract as if it’s more important than the practical, and works to abstract even abstract knowledge so that it has no use or relationship with the practical arts. Bringing the two back together will be an enormously challenging project, but it needs to be done nonetheless.