Growing Up

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I remember, growing up, having the vague feeling that I wasn’t measuring up, that I should be doing more, achieving more.

Now part of this is the peculiar mind of set of “born owing money.”  You don’t think you are worth it just by existing, so you live trying to justify your existence.  I always thought this was the result of not being a wanted child, but I don’t think so.  My much-wanted and worked-for older son (both are wanted, but older took six years to get) has same issue.  He’s forever justifying his existence.  Considering my paternal grandmother was the same — she gave you an account of her work that day when she saw you, like she was defending her right to be here — it might be hereditary.

But that’s not all.  Perhaps it was because I read books set before world war II and what people could achieve at the ages I was — 5 to 10 — was amazing and I kept wondering why I wasn’t being asked to do the same.

Yes, I do have a theory on this.

I’ve also researched a lot of past times, including Elizabethan England, Medieval Europe and ancient Rome.

The one thing that seems to be common to all of them, compared to us, is that their kids could do amazing things at a very young age.

Yes, stuff like the founding fathers or Kit Marlowe graduating from college in their teens is explained away with “they had so much less to study” but that’s not… precisely true.  Did they?  No, they had different things.  A lot less time was spent on what we’ll call, for lack of a better term, desperate social engineering.  Sure, they learned a lot about Christianity, but a lot less on why smoking is bad, you must eat your veggies and meat is murder, for instance.  (The idiocies I had to take out of the boys’ heads.  For a long time Robert thought glass was a finite and about to run out resource.  They also were both trained to approach smokers and tell them they were bad people.  Thank G-d those bikers had a sense of humor and, having caught on to what was going on, I told both boys they weren’t the boss of anyone and it wasn’t their job to tell people how to live.)

The thing is that our kids are leaving school barely competent on the basic tasks of writing, reading and arithmetic, and please don’t tell the woman who keeps getting asked if Portugal is in South America (or told that Portugal is) that they’re learning geopolitics, history or anything related to the great world out there.  And let’s not — please — talk about their knowledge of science, because if you talk to your average high schooler, you’ll be shocked at how little they know.

Those who remember my blog getting invaded by high school juniors, remember how little of anything they actually know.  And one of those girls went on to be the valedictorian of her class and accepted to Harvard a year later, so we can all agree she’s fairly “normal”  And also that it was impossible for her to make up her deficiencies in that time.

So, no, it’s not “we have so much more to teach them.” It’s “We require so much less of our kids.”

Despite the fact that I probably went through a more rigorous schooling up to fourth grade than most people here, my age, because it was assumed that was the only schooling most people would get, I knew that I had no Latin, no Greek, and my writing skills weren’t up to those of 10 year olds of the past.  Also I feared I wouldn’t have passed that kind of rigorous schooling.

But it wasn’t just schooling.  I remember reading of a Colonial American father lamenting the death of his five year old, not just because the boy was starting to get proficient in Greek and Latin (think about it) but because he was such a help in looking after the chickens and the cows (!).

My mother went to school four years, after which she got apprenticed to a seamstress (what she made of it after that was just her own doing).  At ten dad entered the equivalent of high school (which was then four years, before college) and walked the three and a half miles into town every morning and every evening, for his schooling.  He was incidentally the last one in the family to have real schooling: Latin, the classics, etc.

To an extent we had a clash of worlds when I was growing up.  My mom couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t be responsible for cleaning the entire house and doing all the cooking at ten, because that’s what she’d been and done.  And she feared (obsessively) I’d never find anyone to marry me because of those deficiencies.  My best friends who were wealthier and therefore came from backgrounds closer to our time, thought that my mom was insane, and they did considerably less than I did around the house.

It’s not that people had less to learn.  It’s that more was demanded of them at an early age.

Now, is it possible that people were smarter in the past. Anything is possible.  But that’s rather a short time for that kind of evolutionary difference, and shouldn’t we be smarter, considering we have way better nutrition?

We do know that in the past human ancestors delayed their maturing more and more, which allowed us to transmit knowledge.

I have this very weird idea.

I know that there are epigenetic genes and things that don’t develop unless they’re needed.  I also look at my own sons — who btw were less mollycoddled than most of their generation because crazy libertarian mother and the kind of personalities who want to do things for themselves starting at two or three — and keep thinking they are more or less, in most things, 10 years younger than my husband and I were at their age.  Emotionally, intellectually, in personality.  They’re very accomplished, they’re just young.  And yet when I see them with their friends, both of them are “the old man” of the group, with the wise ideas and more comprehensive understanding of what life is about.

And I wonder: people used to be contributing members of the family or group by ten.  Many if not most old cultures considered 10 the age of reason, when you could shoulder responsibilities like an adult and when your character would be judged as though you were a grown up.

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare refers to “younger than she” (13?) are happy mothers made.  Certainly at thirteen even in my day we were considered responsible for protecting our virtue, or not.

Most thirteen year olds today?  Bah, they’re children.  And would you apprentice a 10 year old to something like a cobbler?  And send him to live in his master’s household?  Of course you wouldn’t.  NO one would.  And if you tried, the full force of the law would fall on you.

So….  A lot of people seem to never grow up.  More and more I’m reading stories where 30 year olds act like I did in college (or younger.) and it seems to be the accepted norm now.  30 year olds get treated not like adults at the height of their powers, but as “young adults.”

Where does it end?

If it is hardship that brings about maturation, and responsibility that makes you grow, what do we do?  None of us wants our children to go through hardship.  Responsibility is easier to apportion, of course, but still hard when the government doesn’t even want them to walk to school by themselves, and in many states (mine) you can’t leave them alone at home till the age of 14.  (When many of us babysat other people’s kids overnight younger than that.)

I’m starting to wonder, if there were other human civilizations, if they fell when we got so comfy no one ever grew up, and society slowly came unglued.

It’s probably me being gloomy, but when I look at colleges and college age people throwing elementary school tantrums, I worry.

What can be done to a society so wealthy, so prosperous, so gentle with its young that most people never grow up?

 

273 responses to “Growing Up

  1. It’s “We require so much less of our kids.”

    It is the distinction between “giving the ‘correct’ answers” and “finding the correct answers.”

    Education has become everything they claimed catechism was and very little about training one’s mind for rigorous thought.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      But we apparently expect them to vote now.

      • The biggest mistake this country ever made was lowering the voting age to 18. To the extent that the argument that those subject to the draft should have some say in the government drafting them (and why are 18 year old women allowed to vote?) things would have been far better served raising the draft age to 21.

        • If it’s any comfort, the draft age used to be 21…18 was an artifact of the peacetime draft of the 1950s and 1960s.

          • In South during the Civil War the draft age was lowered to 17, (the upper end set at 50) with white males expected to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy at 16. In the last years of the war, Colonel John S. Ford raised a cavalry unit in Texas for border protection made up of men and boys not draft-eligible. That is – a cavalry force made up of boys aged 16 and under, and men over the age of 50. Wrap your mind around that one …

            I had household chores from the age of seven or eight; laundry, mostly. Babysitting the younger sibs from the age of 12, and minded the little ones in the nursery during church. First outside-the house-no-kidding employment at 16. (My daughter also had her first outside-the-house paying job at 16: full-time child care, community pool lifeguard and sales associate in a department store. It’s been my experience that teens do crave more responsibility than they are usually given these days.)

            • “It’s been my experience that teens do crave more responsibility than they are usually given these days.”

              Agree 100% on this. One advantage of apprenticeship was that it cut a teenager out of the pack and surrounded him with older people. Who expected them to behave as an Adult, Junior Grade – instead of a Child, Large.

              FWIW, I was working full-time two weeks after my 17th birthday. Co-op student at the Naval Air Test Center. Ran my first test project (wrote the test plan, ran the test, and wrote the report) at 20.

              • “It’s been my experience that teens do crave more responsibility than they are usually given these days.”

                Scouting or other leadership programs, ours experience was through Scouting/Venturing (so co-ed). “Life ain’t fair. Step up & how are you going to deal with it?” Youth allowed, stepped up & you watched them grow. But it was amazing how many parents or other adults got in their way. Personally, I am used to being ignored in certain situations, but not when my son was along. When he was working on his Eagle project, I had to tag along (first as driver, then co-driver, adult in-charge — he was <16), they'd look at me, I'd just shrug my shoulders & walk away forcing them to pay attention to him. If more was needed "It's not my project" was my comment.

                • Gosh o’gee, I have this issue with my brother.

                  He’ll tell the kids OK, and then come and “talk with” me about them stopping…and he WILL NOT ACCEPT TALK TO THEM AS AN ANSWER.

                  Dude, they’re doing what you said was OK. Tell them to cut it out, it’s obnoxious, and they’ll listen.

              • I think that may be the bigger catch– the kids spending time around adults and modeling off of that, rather than the feral pack.

            • There’s almost universal conscription in Israel. When you graduate HS the very next thing is Armed Forces service. Some Israelis take time off after they finish service to wander a bit before they come home to start their lives.

            • Change comes thru adversity. You have to have opportunity to grow by failing or else you will have perpetual childhood. In my experience it seems jobs I held as a teen are held by older folks. And to get into college, having “president of band club” who had no real authority vs being one of the first on the list to come in and fill in at work or to solve special problems. I had customers at the chain store I worked at that specifically requested me. That counted less than scouting or drama club.

        • Worse than the EPA or opening China or anything else RMN inflicted on us? Perhaps, but especially egregious since the rationale was done away with 2 years later with the all-volunteer military, and the end of the draft in all but name.

        • Oh, I don’t know. Seems to me that 10 year olds 200 years ago were knowledgeable and responsible enough to vote.
          I was knowledgeable and responsible enough at 14 to go small game hunting by myself after school; much to the dismay of local squirrels and rabbits.

          • The exceptional ones that made it into the history books were, but we don’t design laws around the exceptional.

            • Not unless we’re on the Supreme Court. Or, some of the appellate courts beneath it. There, we design rulings with the force of law around the exceptional all the time.

    • In my opinion, the problem is that everything that should be rote is now “understanding” and everything that should be critical thinking is now rote (or “no right answer”).

  2. Hard things that no one can control will happen and cause them to grow up.

    • I know. I’ve seen some of that with my kids. But it’s a long process. I feel I’m less mature than my parents were at my age, too.

      • “I feel I’m less mature than my parents were at my age, too.”

        Part of that is acting. People assumed I was older than I was for quite some time as a teenager—not just because of my looks (strongly-defined features read as more mature), but because I acted with confidence and consideration. Just remember that interior doubt isn’t usually visible, and having your parents tell you when they were winging it does help explode the idea that they were necessarily more mature.

        • A few years back I took a First-Aid-for-First-Responders class where we had to do an entire week of hands-on testing to get all the cards. I was older than the rest of the students, but I was not any more accomplished in the medical stuff we were tested on, but I got consistent comments that I looked and sounded more confident. That’s just better acting skills – I was winging it as much as the younger students.

          But I also saw that many of those youngsters had some compulsion to communicate their feelz continuously, including when they were running through the individual testing, basically looking for continuous validation. I don’t know if that ‘s social media infecting them all, or the “group project” effect in a situation where they have to show individual competency, or what, but it was definitely a thing.

          • Both…combined with the lack of self-confidence characteristic of the young. Older people know we can cope. Or have more experience faking it.

          • Read an article some years ago, written by a woman who had completed a very advanced and selective post-graduate program at Harvard, who commented upon the military men who were sent to the class.

            She stated that she was dismayed that, reviling everything about the military and its members, she observed that the military men universally were the leaders that others flocked around to head group projects, were the most diplomatic of the the students, were the most self-confident and assured in their demeanor and performance, and cared less about others’ opinions than any of the non-military. She also commented upon the military men’s very active and successful social relationships.

            The woman was agonizing over her conflict in needing to reject all aspects of these military members and her first hand experience in admiring and responding to their leadership.

            • The woman was agonizing over her conflict in needing to reject all aspects of these military members and her first hand experience in admiring and responding to their leadership.

              Clearly her view of what military men were was formed in the absence of first-hand experience. It is always difficult when prejudice meets reality and your reaction is to cling to your prejudice.

        • Part of it is not just that, though. At my age, my mother was in charge of all the elderly in the family, including sitting vigil as they were dying, then bathing and preparing them for burial. I think I’d go mad if I had to do that. We outsource a lot of those tasks.

          • I would think a good portion of those unpleasant tasks would get done under the mental logic of “X needs to be done. It sucks and I don’t want to do it, but it has to be done, so I’m going to do it anyway.” My experience with 20- and 30-somethings is that a lot of them have that logic short-circuited and the only element remaining is “it sucks and I don’t want to do it”.

            Which, I think, is why so many 20-40 year olds complain about ‘adulting’ or are inordinately proud of having done simple tasks like making doctor appointments or paying bills and calling it ‘adulting’.

      • I think everyone feels inferior to their parents. With kids, says the childless woman, the question is: Can they take care of themselves and those relying on them?

      • I understand that. I know for me it is, in part at least, not having had children. I think being childless isolates you from certain phases of adulthood.

        • Absolutely.

          • Yes. Agree. Although having a pet, particularly a dog, can alleviate that somewhat. In some ways you have some flexibility, & others you have less. Example, you can’t leave a toddler alone at home all day, or longer (presuming the appropriate requirements are met), but you can a dog, without the legal consequences. On the other hand toddlers can’t be denied access to most places.

            Patience is something a dog will teach you & help when you finally have kids. At least it did for us. Kids you can hope they’ll eventually outgrow the need for you, as that is your job to provide, a pet never, ever will.

        • I’ve heard as a common response for ‘why I don’t want kids’ is ‘I don’t want to spend the best years of my life spending my hard earned money on grubby rugrats. I’d rather spend that money on myself.’ Followed by a rant about people who do choose to have children.

          I’ve heard lots of valid reasons for not wanting children, but that’s probably the most childish one. (For the record, I think ‘I am not good with children and would be an awful parent’ or ‘I don’t have the financial capability to’, ‘I don’t think I could handle the responsibility’ or ‘I just never wanted any’ are far better answers, and don’t make the person saying it sound like a whiny petulant child themselves.)

          • I wanted to be a father when I was younger. Finally got to the point where I realized that I was too old to be a father. Then stuff happened. I hate when the universe laughs at you. It’s the most annoying grating sound imaginable. Think of two continents grinding together….
            *sigh*

            • Hmmm. You mean like “okay family is not happening, lets go back to school & change careers because stupid spotted owl means we both can’t have the same career path & expect to get ahead …” to “how can you get pregnant your senor year?” As in born 2 weeks after last final. Answer “because someone upstairs (pick your theology) has lousy timing or sense of humor, take your pick.” I wasn’t suppose to be able to have kids, easily, without expensive intervention.

              • Yeah, let’s go with that….. truth is much more complicated and I still have a hard time believing it.

                • Ditto. Still can’t believe it & the kid will be 29; only managed it one time. Would have gladly taken twins or triplets or …

                  • The Squire turns three in June…. Got a long way to go yet.

                    • Bah. You blink and it’s past. I swear to you.

                    • I swear that the past two and a half hears have been a blur. Even though I have pictures of different stages and everything.

                    • Enjoy. They grow up to dang fast. Told my mom I would have asked how to slow it down, but she failed 3 times, so figured she couldn’t help. 🙂 FWIW, she laughed.

                    • Like the others said, it will fly past. It might not feel like it at the time (say, when you’ve got your 4 year old in the hospital with Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP) who can’t walk due to the pain), but it does. The young man with HSP turns 23 in May. He and his future bride are finishing up their junior year of college. My youngest turns 17 in 3 weeks (her 20 year old older brother STILL claims she’s the best birthday present he’s gotten – she was born the day before his birthday). She’s finishing up her junior year in high school. Me? I’m still trying to figure out where the little girl who wouldn’t go back to sleep at night until Daddy soothed her went. I’ve got pictures and video of her activities, but I keep thinking I blinked somewhere along the way. Daddy’s little girl has grown up on me. I’m very proud of the young lady that she’s grown to be, but there are days where I miss her climbing in my lap to watch the Giants beat up on the Cowboys or Redskins. Why yes, I am a Virginian that’s a Giants fan, you wanna make something of it? VBG.

                      Enjoy the little guy being little while you can. From my experience, little boys go from wanting to do everything with Dad to wanting Dad to just stay out of the way in the blink of an eye.

                      Dagnabbit. Where did all the dust in the room come from all of a sudden?

                    • There’s reasons this song has been covered by so many people*, and reasons it doesn’t seem so corny once you’re at the age of the singer.


                      Where are you going, my little one, little one? Where are you going, my baby, my own?

                      Turn around and you’re two. Turn around and you’re four. Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of the door.

                      Turn around. Turn around. Turn around and you’re a young girl going out of the door.

                      Where are you going, my little one, little one? Little dirndls and petticoats, where have you gone?

                      Turn around and you’re tiny. Turn around and you’re grown. Turn around and you’re a your wife with babes of your own.

                      Turn around. Turn around. Turn around and you’re a young wife with babes of your own. (Repeat line)

                      *The Brothers Four, Kingston Trio, Harry Belafonte and others

                  • we wanted triplets with Robert. Still sorry I don’t have them.
                    boys are 26 and 23. It’s weird.

              • We have two flavors of pregnancy in this house: while moving, and when husband is deployed/working in another state.

                If we’re lucky, this baby won’t be both. (Just to make up for it not being US moving, this time.)

                Himself has a really odd sense of humor.

                • If you can say where are you moving to?

                • My sisters’ (5, she lost 2) pregnancies were considered miracles by her doctors. Their oldest is adopted. The only difference with the surviving other 3 were “cheaper”, in that insurance paid for their delivery, adopted one, not so much (& the adoption was cheap by some standards).

                  My pregnancy, not considered miracle, was always possible, just not probable.

            • You’ll be fine. We wanted 11 kids. We finally gave up on more than two when I was 50. While still technically possible, we didn’t think we had the energy.

            • *wry sympathetic grin* I hear the universe laughing at me pretty darned often, and it makes you wish you could strangle the source of the noise.

              • Only strangle? Sometimes it’s something that would make the cartel killers blanche

                • Yeah, well, I didn’t want to get too graphic.

                  BTW, OT, I recommend Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. It’s good, which is why I think it’s worth watching, but the other reason is because of… well, I think the only reason why they got away with all the stuff they slotted in on the politics side of the story is because it was made in Japan, and was directed by Shinji Aramaki (the fellow who directed the original Ghost in the Shell animated movie.)

          • I think you’re right. Heinlein implied that actions taken to continue the human race were what constituted moral behavior. So having children and raising them to be responsible, self-supporting adults is pretty much the sine qua non of moral behavior.

            • Not the only thing.

              • No, not the only thing. Although I wonder if he felt that way because he had no children of his own? Many of us who can’t, or choose not to have children, can and do contribute to the growth and continuation of our species by helping others become responsible and self-supporting. Showing and encouraging them to dream and build those dreams.

                I think that’s one of the reasons I love the science fiction genre. Some of those dreams are nightmares of warning, “Here be monsters!” Some of those dreams are of a better world or universe. Of course some SF is just a dream rehashing the same old world, but with interesting or humorous twists.

            • Well, one of ’em. As I noted before, recognizing that one is too immature or irresponsible / careless / financially incapable to be themselves a parent is actually acceptable – it actually shows a willingness to look at oneself and recognize one’s flaws. As I noted below though, the ones who are jeeringly arrogant about it – and the ones who seem angry about justifying their reasons – are the ones who sound like sulky toddlers.

              (Watch ’em explode after their sweeping statements about parents, both good and bad, and you turn the tables around on them and say that they’re ALL responsible for a lot of the decline of society, including drugs, sexual diseases, erosion of moral fiber and relations between the sexes, etc, whereupon I’ve observed two responses: nihilistic hatred of humanity in general and an angry declaration that the planet would be better off without humans fucking it up, or angrily saying they’re not like that, and THEN not liking it further if you point out that they’re hypocrites for their willingness to broad-brush.)

          • Hubby and I decided not to have kids for several reasons: 1) Too old. We were 40 when we wed. 2) thought we’d be awful at it. 3) There were questions as whether I could have a kid safely.There were indications that the only pregnancy I’d have would be Fallopian and possibly die of it.

          • My reason was no woman wanted to have children with me. I very much wanted them.

            I have to claim that is a good reason because, well, there isn’t a way to have them without a willing partner, at least not a moral one.

            • I’m actually surprised. For some reason I thought you were a parent, and am shocked to find out you’re not, and that you’re not sharing your life. You’ve always struck me as a good, solid family man from your comments here.

              *hug*

              • Isn’t it weird when you hear women complaining that they can’t find a good man; and there are guys like herbn out there being ignored by them? Sometimes I wonder if the entire country has fallen prey to unrealistic expectations.

                On the other hand. I found my wife (or she found me) at a friend’s weekly D&D game. Now since I’m not an ogre, I didn’t ask her if she was like an onion, with many layers. However, I did ask her if she was a layer cake.
                Her reply a week later was a steak dinner with a beautiful chocolate, cream and strawberry layer cake.

              • Thanks.

                I am married but we got married when I was almost 50 and after she was diagnosed with Addison’s in her mid-40 so having kids, risky in optimal conditions at that age, much less ours.

          • For me it was a combination of two. I am not good with children, never really wanted any and with my depression issues would probably have made a bad mother, or at best still not a particularly good one. Now if I had ended up with a man who wanted to be a father and would have given the impression that he’d make at least a halfway decent one – yes, I would have just done my best. But if I had ended up with a man who would have given the impression he’d leave the whole parenting to me or would otherwise probably not make a good father I probably would have refused to have any. As I ended up as a spinster moot issue (no way I’d risk having a child as a single mom), but the first reason – I never had any pressing need to have kids and thought I would have made a bad mom – may have been one of the reasons behind my spinsterhood as I never had any need to find a father for my kids so I didn’t exactly spend all that much time looking for one (other reasons have to do with being an odd, having trust issues and a few other things).

            • That’s fine – all valid reasons. I’m not opposed to people choosing to not have children, or circumstances not allowing for it (which I sympathize with – I have angel babies); I live with a person who decided for a number of reasons that he shouldn’t have children – genetics being one of them. Awareness of flaws being another. (The Housemate, not my husband.) He makes a great uncle in all but blood though (nerf battles with the kids fill the house with laughter, and it’s really nice to hear.)

              The ones I have issues with are the ones who say they don’t want to spend money on children (which, I really don’t care about – your life, your choices – recognition that one is a eternal adult-child is good; and should not be inflicted on children) but phrase it in the most juvenile, selfish petulant way possible and then go on a tear about both irresponsible parents and responsible parents (There are people who get upset at the mere presence of children), and then rage about population explosion as if that were really a thing (getting a dig in at the responsible parents) and then acting all smug about having all the money that will pay ‘those brats for their jobs when they’re in a nursing home.’ It’s the latter part I have problems with, because it sounds like a strawman justification / excuse to get away with sounding like a selfish immature twat.

        • As someone who has children, let me rephrase your comment—while children are the most direct method, what makes for a new phase of adulthood is responsibility and investment in the future. For example, Elon Musk is demonstrating an investment in the future with his drive for private space exploration, though obviously that’s an extreme example. It’s the people who don’t care about what’s going to happen after they die (in a concrete way, not just “the world is going to pot”) that are displaying a more juvenile outlook.

          • I rather do believe in reincarnation, at least enough as a possibility to make me care about what happens after I die. I rather hope reincarnation is the way this works too, and part of that is, I’m afraid, Schadenfreude – if it all goes to hell everybody who caused that has to live in it too.

            • Reincarnation seems problematic. If I have no certain memory of prior lives they are of no use to me, therefore rendered meaningless. I wonder about the whole mechanism of Karma, as well. Who or what mechanism weighs the balance of my actions and assigns expiation of sins accordingly? All in all it strikes me as the same old problem of finding meaning in human existence, merely one step removed.

    • It’s much better if those things happen while still a youth, with their parents about to help them learn from it. Rather than after being tossed over the fence into the cruel, cold world to go it alone.

  3. I’m starting to wonder, if there were other human civilizations, if they fell when we got so comfy no one ever grew up, and society slowly came unglued.

    It is a generally accepted theory that such was a major contributor to Rome’s fall. When “service to the nation” becomes something subcontracted out the nation inevitably suffers. Not because the mercenaries aren’t loyal, but because the citizens lack those qualities instilled by service beyond one’s personal amusements.

    • Or the other side of that coin: At the end, the “Roman Legions” were mostly German dudes. Not even “mostly Gauls” or “mostly Hispanians” or “mostly North Africans” or “mostly Egyptians” or “mostly Syrian”- all conquered and integrated peoples under Roman rule, but “mostly young men recruited from outside the borders of the empire“. And yes, mostly signing up for the pay.

      I think that the western empire actually failed when it stopped offering land and citizenship to discharged veterans – even if they started out as Germans, if you give them land they become invested in the place their families live, and their kids are part of Rome. But if you just pay them off and send them back over the Rhine, how does that make the empire stronger?

      • You end up with a bunch of people who like the goodies of the Empire, know how the Imperial army works – or doesn’t – and who have the organizational skills the Empire is sloughing off. What could possibly go wrong for the Empire?

      • There was also an element of treating them poorly. And, when they came back to claim their due, Rome told ’em to take a hike. That tends to end badly.

    • If you won’t keep arms, you won’t keep power- because those people who bear your arms will eventually figure out they can give you orders.

      • That’s part of my standard answer to anarchists who claim that private security firms can take over for the functions of government. If that happens the private security firms become your government.

    • Even worse, the citizens tend to hold the mercenaries in contempt, which causes the mercenaries to hold the citizens in contempt. And you don’t want the person assigned to guard you to think of you that way.

      • Once you have an us vs them mentality you’ve set seeds for a lot of trouble. Add in that an enforcer goes against another enforcer everything will come down on him. No retirement, social outcast for family, ‘oops I didn’t hear the officer needs assistance’, etc. Meanwhile even if he commits greivous crimes against citizenry he still gets all the bennies. Maybe have to do a prison stint protected by the guards and separated. Think of the juxtaposition of that school resource monitor in FL. Outside and wait for the kids of the subjects. Gets six armed deputies to protect him once his actions are released.

        Now think how many enforcers would disobey an order knowing that.

  4. “What can be done to a society so wealthy, so prosperous, so gentle with its young that most people never grow up?”

    When society allows the children of wealth to never grow up, the children of whom much was demanded will take over. The Farm kid who was up helping hook the cows to the milking machine at 6am. The guy who joined the Marines on 9/12/2001 and stuck to it because it made him feel good about himself. The young woman who started a small hobby-business making dolls on eBay and stayed with it, and is now supporting herself and paying taxes (and Cussing out the idiot Democrats who want more of her money).

    Its happened before, but the children of wealth weren’t so big a portion of society. But I run into them all the time, and they strike me as sensible people. We’ll be OK.

    The Antifidiots, the Hobby Protesters, the Victim’s Studies fools? They better practice asking if we want fries with that.

    • The nice thing about being a nation of 300 million people is that you can have several million of them be complete idiots and everything will work out. Just as long as the system is designed to shunt fools out of the way. That’s China’s biggest problem, and now that Xi has been proclaimed Emperor I expect the progress they’ve made the last 30 years to stall out.

    • Our people aren’t out making noise and protesting because they’re busy being productive, being adults.
      And as time goes on, the adults will feel less and less obligation to give in to the tantrums of the perpetual children.

    • Some people do what they have to keep alive. And a bit more to thrive. When you have children you go into overdrive to keep things going. Some of today’s loafers will work intensely when times become hard. I think hard times and good times are cyclical. I think the story of lean cattle years and plump cattle years reminds us of this.

    • “The Antifidiots, the Hobby Protesters, the Victim’s Studies fools? They better practice asking if we want fries with that.”

      Except those jobs can and will be automated away. What, exactly, do you propose to do with them? Because they’ll still have one thing: the vote.

      • I propose rounding them up and shipping them off to Venezuela. Since they love socialism so much, I’m happy to help them experience it… elsewhere.

        • Heck, they think they’re pretty smart. Call it “fixing Venezuela”. And make sure their tickets are one-way.

    • By almost any standards, our poor are rich compared to most societies in the world. A friend of mine in a medical field had an intern from India who asked why American poor were all fat, while in India, the poor were universally thin.

      • I think part of it may be how Americans seem to approach systems– a week or two back, someone explained that one of the Really Freaking Awesome UK type cars had parts that had such wide tolerances that it took a lot of work to get pieces that all fit and functioned correctly, so it took forever to get a car that would work, much less work properly.
        The American version got the tolerances down to where if a part didn’t fit properly, it was a Really Big Deal, so every single one assembled worked properly. Not quite as well as the ones that were basically custom milled, but FAST and very little waste once the process was set up.

        The food related stuff– growing, selling, transport– in pretty much everywhere else is a lot more like the UK auto manufatory than the American one. We’ll change stuff to make the transport work better.

  5. Teenagers are mostly twentieth century phenomenon, as western society became wealthier the middle classes did not have to send their ten year olds to work and earn money for family like Mrs. Hoyt mom or my paternal grandparents.

    There was also a lot more death, a ten year old likely had experienced the death of at least one parent, and a bunch of siblings, and that would mature people.

    If I was in charge of designing school system, it would end by age of twelve with kids having learned three R’s and then they could either take apprenticeship or study topics that interested them like at university and all education would be done by eighteen.

    You can find on internet school tests they gave to kids before second world war and the expectations they had for children were way higher, much more demanding. Western society appears to be getting stupider because public schools mollycoddle kids now, it is extended daycare.

    • I don’t think it’s so much that we mollycoddle kids today as the system is regressing to the mean. The ones who make it into the history books are by definition extraordinary and the kids taking an eighth grade test 100 years ago are what we would call “academic track” today, their peers unable to handle the questions had long since dropped out and joined the workforce (or a gang).

    • I think they demanded about the same amount of work from their students, they just didn’t waste their time with gender studies, racial indoctrination, ableism, “mainstreaming”, anti-American propaganda, study halls, “activities”, counseling, and spawrts.

      Think of the poor children of the 1930s, who never knew they were “living life on the easiest setting”, or about their “privilege.”
      All their schools expected of them was “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic”. Why, their education had no Social Relevance at all!

    • Likewise, higher education during olden times had two purposes:
      1-To keep the children of the idle nobility contained during their wild years. Hopefully they would pick up some polish and knowledge that would be useful should they enter the House of Lords. Thus Liberal Arts was born.
      2-To turn the extra sons of the idle nobility into specialist tradesmen, such as clergy, doctors, lawyers, and engineers. That is if they wouldn’t go into the military. Thus the birth of the more tech orientated schools.

      America sort of copied this- Ivy League for the rich, and the State Ag & Tech colleges for the common sorts, because America really doesn’t have the same sort of idle nobility that Europe had. Either way, higher education was something that normal people had to sacrifice for.

      Then came the GI Bill, and the cargo cult idea that college was the automatic road to wealth. Higher education went from a privilege to a necessity to what people believe is a right. Meanwhile the cost go up, and the actual benefits go down.

    • Re: “…a lot more death,” My father-in-law like H. Ross Perot was named after his dead older brother, or, depending on your perspective, his father after the first heir to the name died. I heard Bradbury talk about when he was a child, the Sunday family outing was to the graveyard to visit your dead siblings.

    • And why did that system evolve? Along with child labor laws, etc.? One big reason was to sop up the productivity gains from technology so that most people would have SOMETHING to do besides sit around. Unfortunately, that sponge is reaching saturation.

    • a ten year old likely had experienced the death of at least one parent, and a bunch of siblings, and that would mature people.

      As the parent of children who’ve lost siblings, that’s rather true. I mean, the kids are… still kids. But they’re also more aware of some things, more careful. More mature than their peers in a number of ways.

      • Cousin watched his (much) younger sister get murdered (drunk hit-&-run driver, hit pedestrian, could not be proven, but driver just had left a party, either that or it was deliberate, take your pick) right in front of him. Took him a long time to get over it (killed her immediately, throwing her 20 feet, bumped two of the 5 survivors in the line). Since younger cousin was our kids contemporary, age wise, it affected our kids too. Especially when it finally came to them driving & drinking (as in not, ever, all 8 of them, will interfere with others choices to drink & drive). “That is what got Katie killed” is the phrase.

  6. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    In the second Brother Cadfael novel “One Corpse Too Many”, two sixteen year old “boys” are given the job to sneak a small treasure out of enemy territory.

    They run into problems but not because of their age. IE Their mission had been betrayed so the villain was able to ambush them. The only “factor” where their age played a part was that the villain was more experienced in fighting than them.

    No, in earlier times “children” were expected to “act as adults” allowing for their smaller size.

    Depending on their social class, it varied of course but IIRC the twelve-year old son of a shop-keeper was allowed to own/manage the shop after his father’s death.

    Oh, the Twenty-One age for Adulthood originally the age that a young man could become a full knight and that was only IIRC because it was thought that a man under 21 physically couldn’t wear the full suit of armor.

    • “it was thought that a man under 21 physically couldn’t wear the full suit of armor.”

      That’s actually reasonable. If you look at the visible physical differences between college freshmen and seniors—male—you’ll see that there’s a broadening that takes place during that time, and their frames gain a lot of structural strength.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Nod.

      • Which didn’t happen to me until years after that point. I shot up in height, but didn’t broaden until later. My wife mentions this when looking at our wedding photos, and I can’t wear the shirts and coats I wore then because my shoulders are that much broader.

        • I think I might be able to, but my waist and stomach won’t.

        • My mom’s neighbor boy/best male friend/lil’ geek who was defended by a 5’4 track star didn’t start growing until the summer after his first year of college, gained more than six inches of height and filled that out.

          Thankfully, it’s the kinda thing that happens relatively rarely!

      • Add in the effects of ill-nourishment. There’s been a significant shift in the age of puberty over the last few generations.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well, the young men who were to become knights were upper-class so they’d have somewhat better nourishment.

        • Teen boy peasants did significantly different work than men, where the girls did what the women did. This is because the men were plowing and other brute force things.

          • Um … did they? It was a common chore for farm boys to plow, and farm boys tended to do so quite young. My father talks about plowing behind a mule when he was a boy, as did my uncles, and my mother’s father had to go to work at the age of 9 when his father died. The only reason I didn’t follow a mule at that age was because we had a tractor.

            This raises the question of how different was the technology. Maybe very little. The plows my father, uncles, and grandfather used had more metal than their 12th Century counterparts, but were visibly much the same.Perhaps oxen instead of mules.So if a lad of nine in the early 20th Century could plow, why not one in the 12th?

            This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have been in the fields prior to that age. Where there isn’t a plow, there’s the hoe. Of course, this depend on the crops, and grasses like wheat and rye are different than row crops.

  7. Went to visit my stepdad in central Missouri when I was 15. Foster step brother (14) had a girlfriend (13) who tried to set me up with her friend (12) who was in danger, in that area, of becoming an Old Maid. Yikes! This woulda been late-’70’s, but still . . .

  8. Modern education… Where in colleges and universities (at least here in Ontario) they have “General Education” requirements before receiving your diploma. GE’s *spit* were introduced to make students more rounded. Apparently businesses were complaining that their fresh out of college/university employees only knew a small focus like what they were studying. So the GE’s were introduced which added a full semester onto your course (one or two a year depending) and the ones I saw were so much balderdash and pap it was mind numbing (Caribbean literature, Canada:Society and Change…)
    Now, I matured late in life. Perpetual adolescent working away to afford my playtime and hobbies. Something happened and I had to grow up and fast. Why didn’t I mature earlier? Didn’t need to. My parents were doing fine on their own and didn’t need my assistance. No large chores that they couldn’t do because of their elderly years. Nothing. Society is soft so everyone and everything is softer.
    Hard times lead to soft times. Soft times inevitably lead to hard times. Soft times might be coming to an end soon. Who knows? The Western Roman empire survived for over four hundred years or more. We will see how things shake out if we don’t step up now in bits and pieces.

  9. I have an alternate theory regarding that, that may be less sociological and more biological. And it’s simply that we’re living longer.

    Yes, yes, I’m aware that average age through the early-middle 20th century is badly skewed by infant mortality rates. Don’t matter, in my opinion, because even back then the ages of the oldest of us weren’t that old.

    So I think we’re looking around, seeing that each generation can (and is) living longer, and feeling much less urgency about life. What is true at the end, would also be true at the beginning. It’s not even a planned thing, it’s just… a thing transmitted by observing parents and grandparents.

    You know that you’re still young at 30, and that you’ll still be doing things you want to do with lots of life left at 50 or 60. I mean, if there’s old ladies that smoke cigars and drink whiskey on a daily basis that hit 110, what can fit people without the “bad habits” reach?

    • No doubt people are looking younger longer. Go look at photos of 40 or 50 year olds – from the beginning of photography, and they look like 80 year olds do now.

      But which is the cause, and which is the effect? Maybe it’s just consistent nutrition: My family had significant periods of not-a-lot-to-eat during the Great Depression, and who knows what genetic switches that flips?

      And then there’s the stress that an entire society faces when all the young men get sent off to war – not just to the men sent over there, but to those who stay home and worry. I’m sure there are a lot of epigenetic switches flipped when that happens every twenty-five years forever.

      And then there are the switches that we are flipping on purpose – getting thrills at amusement parks, scary movies, and in gaming, with an immediate absence of stress, have to do something to the way humans develop. A couple hundred years back, if you got a fright it was something really frightening, but not so much now.

      All of these do things to us that we don’t yet understand. And figuring that out might end up leading to an extension of more than a couple decades in lifespan. When we can end up living to 200 or so, that might justify 30-year-old children.

      • My Nana was old in her late 60s. And that’s not just my memory as a young child; I have pictures of her with snow-white hair and wrinkles and missing teeth. Mind you, she did not take care of her health at all—no exercise, smoking, bad diet for her conditions, the whole shebang. But she was OLD when she died in her early 70s.

        My mom is in her early 70s. She laments the loss of certain physical abilities as she clocks in her miles for the day (she walked the Camino de Santiago over her 71st birthday, all the way from France.) She has all her teeth. Her hair may be white, but it’s still reasonably thick, and though she has wrinkles, she doesn’t look half as old as her mom did when her mom was younger. (Admittedly, not mother by blood, but choices make a huge difference.) I’m 40 and have gotten mistaken for late 20s/early 30s. (And… a large part of that is not too much sun for a decade. Sun exposure ages skin.)

        • I agree. Observing the huge differences between my mother and her mother at similar ages…my mother is in her mid sixties, and–particularly when made up, etc–could still pass for mid-forties to fifty. I’m 38, and it’s only the in the last year or two that people have stopped mistaking me for being in my early 20s or even late teens (depending on how I wore my hair.)

          But when grandma was in her mid-sixties, she was old. She looked old. And she continues to look so now that she’s well into her eighties. But then, in her worldview, when one turns THIRTY, one is supposed to begin having the old lady haircut/old lady clothes, because thirty-forty is OLD.

          (It’s also telling, I think, to observe the marked difference in the nutrition that the older generations–such as those who lived through the Great Depression here in the US, for example–and their descendants. My great grandfather was barely 5’5″ (and much shorter by the end of his life). Pretty much all of his great grandchildren were well above that, and most of us neared or cleared six feet–that Irish blood responds to regular nutrition by growing like a weed. I frequently grumble about not being able to wear actual vintage clothing–which I do love–because I’m a giant compared to most women prior to the 1940s or so.)

          • I’m the same height as my mom—5’8″—but when I tried on her wedding dress, it wasn’t just the waist that was too small, it was the shoulders. Maybe a two inch gap at the waist but over three at the shoulders. And that’s not even getting into my hand size, which is a XXL in women’s gloves on the exceedingly rare occasions that they have them. (Men’s gloves are far too wide. I’d have to be doing regular grip exercises to even get a fraction of the width.)

            • You need custom made gloves.

            • Ugh, gloves. I have freakishly long fingers and palms–as large/larger than many men’s (I could do an octave and a half on the piano once upon a time!). So women’s gloves are right out–but I can’t wear most men’s glove’s either, because my hands are also quite slim. So men’s gloves might be long enough, but they’re too big. Sigh.

              (And I have freakishly short pinkies, so even if I find fingers that fit everywhere else, there will be a good quarter-to-half-inch of empty space in the pinky.)

              My solution is to further improve my knitting skills and KNIT a pair of custom fit gloves. ::scowls::

              I sympathize on the shoulders as well. I have very broad shoulders for a woman, and I thanked all the powers that be when shoulder pads FINALLY went entirely out of fashion. (Prior to that–even going back to pre-puberty days–I’d been ripping shoulder pads out of things for years because they made me look like a linebacker.)

              • The shoulders are less of a problem now that I’m wearing Tall sizes. Turns out that I’m proportioned to a six foot body… except for my hips, which think I’m 5’2″.

    • Came up in conversation recently that my grandmother had twins because of advanced maternal age– so I wasn’t worried about it.

      Did the math… she was like 32 years old….

  10. Alas, everyone I see hopefully things about our youth, the stupid then comes in and tries to overwhelm. Typing with their thumbs (*sigh* like I’m doing right now) seems to be their only life skill, and many are worse at it than I. Then I see the kids on TV who built his own mini tank with a Spud cannon building a 4 wheeled minibike I try to take heart.

    • I think my phone fights to place the wrong words in autocorrupt.

    • Yeah, you can do all sorts of nifty things if your parents are footing the bill…

      • Even just the drive to try it out and do it is a great positive. I’d much rather have a bunch of kids trying to build a BMX ramp or go kart versus nomming potato chips in front of daily show. The former at least has some skin (and bone and blood and brain) involved. This can be any number of ways but passive vs active childhood in terms of engagement seems important.

        I may be biased but I’ve tended to see a marked difference in kids I’ve known who even just helped at vfd clambake, nevermind joined up as soon as legal. Some of it’s parentage since that department is somewhat hereditary, but still it’s better than the ones that only went home for Video games and tv with no other drive to do things.

  11. There are two societies that believe in taking the young, and putting them through a heavily structured process for growing up that puts them in a completely different environment and culture, and demands they do the work and take responsibility – the military, and the mormons going on mission.

    Both groups still have people who are spoiled, screw-ups, shirkers, hypocrites, and idiots (they’re composed of humans, after all) – but by en large, they’re much more competent, reliable, adult, and got their act together at 25 than your average non-mormon civilian.

    Interesting, that.

  12. I keep thinking of that commercial featuring “Pajama Boy” touting the benefits of Obamacare.

  13. “I’m starting to wonder, if there were other human civilizations, if they fell when we got so comfy no one ever grew up, and society slowly came unglued.”

    Here’s Walter Miller, in A Canticle for Leibowitz:

    The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for them, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn. Well, they were going to destroy it again, were they?–this garden Earth, civilized and knowing, to be torn apart again that Man might hope again in wretched darkness.

  14. Just recently I was reading about how, not too long ago, offspring generally had to move out and find some arrangement – for women, they had to find an acceptable husband, or for a few, a position as maid or cook in household service to a wealthier family; for men, any job – because there was no way that kids could continue to be supported at home by their parents. Life used to be a lot closer to the bone, and there just was not margin in a typical family to feed a clothe offspring past the minimum required to render them “ready enough” for adult life.

    Now we have so much that the 30-year-old child living in their parent’s basement is economically feasible, if perhaps societally undesirable.

    And then we have the recent news stories about the mass unfitness of the current generation for military service – to the point that male recruits cannot reliably throw a grenade, never having learned to throw (!) as children.

    I’m not sure what this all adds up to is good for us.

    • Depends. Traditionally, the oldest son would stay with the parents, and eventually take his father’s trade or farm and property- and with that the responsibility of looking after his aging parents.
      The other kids had to move on.
      Now the kids stay without finding any real work at all- extending their teenage years as far as they can. Sad, really.

      • Depends. If the farm was only large enough to support one family, ultimogeniture was common. The oldest son had to leave in order to marry, because it could not support his children and his siblings. The youngest’s children wouldn’t come until there were no siblings.

        • That was the pattern for my dad’s family, although the expectation was that the son wouldn’t marry at all and would eventually go to the household of a niece or nephew.
          Mom’s family one of the girls would take care of mom, and get the house.

    • DW, a middle school teacher, now retired, has commented on the evaporation of physical fitness that she saw in her teaching career. And opines that, even at the beginning of her teaching, kids were simply not fit.

      Her basic observations are that (1) kids don’t walk anymore, (2) kids are fat, and (3) physical activity, particularly by boys, has been eliminated by removing recess in elementary school and playgrounds from elementary and middle schools.

  15. Good one! r/K in a nutshell

  16. “Yes, stuff like the founding fathers or Kit Marlowe graduating from college in their teens is explained away with “they had so much less to study””

    Yeah, this is a very damaging view, but unfortunately a common one. Years ago, I saw a post from someone who quoted a teacher as saying encountered a teacher who said “Kids learn so much these days. Did you know that today a schoolchild learns more between the freshman and senior years of high school than our grandparents learned in their entire lives?”

    I coined the term ‘temporal bigotry’ in response to this sort of thing, and responded as follows:

    What, precisely, is this wonderful knowledge that high-school seniors have today and which the 40-year-olds of 1840 or 1900 were lacking?

    The example of knowledge that people usually throw out is “computers.” But the truth is, to be a casual user of computers (I’m not talking about programming and systems design), you don’t need much knowledge. You need “keyboarding skills”–once called “typing.” And you need to know some simple conventions as to how the operating system expects you to interact with it. That’s about it. Not much informational or conceptual depth there.

    Consider the knowledge possessed by by the Captain of a sailing merchant ship, circa 1840. He had to understand celestial navigation: this meant he had to understand trigonometry and logarithms. He had to possess the knowledge–mostly “tacit knowledge,” rather than book-learning–of how to handle his ship in various winds and weathers. He might well be responsible for making deals concerning cargo in various ports, and hence had to have a reasonable understanding of business and of trade conditions. He had to have some knowledge of maritime law.

    Outside of the strictly professional sphere, his knowedge probably depended on his family background. If he came from a family that was reasonably well-off, he probably knew several of Shakespeare’s plays. He probably had a smattering of Latin and even Greek. Of how many high-school (or college) seniors can these statements be made today?

    Today’s “progressives,” particularly those in the educational field, seem to have a deep desire to put down previous generations, and to assume we have nothing to learn from them. It’s a form of temporal bigotry.

    As C S Lewis said: If you want to destroy an infantry unit, you cut it off from its neighboring units. If you want to destroy a generation, you cut it off from previous generations. (Approximate quote.)

    How better to conduct such destruction than to tell people that previous generations were ignorant and that we have nothing to learn from them?

    • C.S. Lewis had the term “Chronological Snobbery” for the same idea.

    • If you want to destroy a generation, you cut it off from previous generations.

      And this seems to be happening. I’ve related more than once that I often get a response of “That’s before my time.” Well, it was often before my mine as well, but I had some interest, so…

    • Have you heard of Work Ready programs? These seem to have dropped off radar around here, but they are testing and certificates where job hunters can show employers that they can do entry level work.

      For whatever reason, we had to take the test here, and it proved most interesting. I saw nothing on it that a kid entering the 6th Grade should be unable to answer. In other words, if you had a 5th Grade education, you should be able to obtain Work Ready certification.

      Two things are immediately obvious. The first is that elementary education used to end after the 5th Grade. Anything after that was for prospective employment that required it. The end of the 5th Grade was when people could get entry level jobs. The other is that a high school diploma is no longer seen as evidence that the bearer can perform entry level work. The implications of that is pretty clear.

      Therefore, if kids now graduate knowing more than their grandparents and great-grandparents at that age, why do employers want a certificate proving a prospective employee can do 5th Grade work?

      • Because so many of the public school kids, relatively speaking, can’t do third and fourth-grade work, especially reading and writing. And given how Common Core is much more word-problem oriented, wham! Big problem.

      • Because “graduating” high school merely means they spent their required time in school. It has nothing to do with learning anything.

        A high school diploma is of so little value, no application I ever filled out asked about it. A couple asked “where did you attend high school””, but never asked if I graduated, because ordinarily that’s automatic.

      • FeatherBlade

        The funny thing about the proverbial “8th grade education” is that it ended at age 16 (at least in my neck of the US).

        The difference was that kids didn’t start going to school until they turned 7 or 8.

      • Part of it is the competitive aspect of the job market. A job might only require high school education to perform. But if everyone applying for the job has a four year college degree, then the one applicant who didn’t go to college will be ignored.

        • There’s also the legal aspect: for example, Federal contracting and civil service rules will mandate college degrees for positions. I’ve seen people with 20+years of actual experience be unable to get jobs because of it.

          • Several years back, a contract position that I was doing (and doing to the satisfaction of the customer/program manager) was turning into a GS-12 position with the EXACT same duties/requirements. I’d been doing the job for 6 years, at that point. I was told that I wasn’t qualified for the job I’d BEEN DOING because I didn’t have the degree specified. A degree that wasn’t required when it was a contractor position.

            Drove me up the wall.

            • Someone was screwing with you; being in the position gives you an automatic waive of the requirements when it’s converted over.

              My husband’s job was that way, he did it as an activated reserve and then as a GS-didn’t-fit-the-requirements-but-had-been-doing-it-X-months.

              • It wasn’t even anyone local that put the kibosh on it. It was someone up at the Department of the Army. Both the local manager and his boss were fighting for it so hard that they BOTH ended up with a written reprimand over it. Which sucked.

                • Ugh, I wonder who the PTB up the way wanted put in there… that definitely sounds like they got stuck with someone’s trash.

                  Especially since you’re not supposed to be able to be reprimanded for that…. but then, it’s the Army. A lot of their higher ups think regulations happen to other people.

                  • Civil service PHBs in DA could get VERY vindictive at the slightest whim. I’m sure that it’s not gotten any better.

                    I’ve seen too many jobs that were advertised only because they HAD to advertise it if they wanted it filled. If the opening wasn’t advertised, it would stay empty until it did. Most of those didn’t even pretend to interview people. I witnessed one on another project in the same building where they job posting went up and 5 minutes later it was closed as filled.

                    • Air Force’s DoD regs require *all* positions be advertised– even ones like yours, which SHOULD have been filled by the guy doing the job rigth then.

                  • ” A lot of their higher ups think regulations happen to other people.”

                    And this would be different from non-Army bureaucrats… how, exactly? 😎

        • I ran into that in 1976 after retiring from the Navy. A power company gave a test open to anyone who wanted to take it for a co-gen plant operator. The room was packed. Over 200 people tested for 2 positions. GE had just laid off a bunch of engineers, many of whom were there. I was one of the 5 people interviewed. The interviewer told me flat out if it was up to him he’d hire me, because I wouldn’t be looking for a better job as soon as I was hired. But everyone else being interviewed was a laid off degreed GE engineer. And human resources would hire them over me because of the degree. Two years later they were hiring again, but I was in a different part of the state.

          • And that type of thing is why a number of years back, after almost a decade experience in software development, I went back to college and finished a bachelor’s degree. It may have been in the interesting-but-near-unmarketable field of anthropology, but it checks the “has college degree” box HR departments often use as a filter.

            • ‘filters’….the use of excessively-long checklists has become way too common in hiring, WSJ referred to this as “hunting for the five-pound butterfly.” Apparently, ridiculous checklists are also in use in dating/marriage, especially by women from what I have heard. I discussed the problems with both types in my post The Five-Pound Butterfly Revisited:

              https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/12370.html

              But maybe this is changing….just the other day, a WSJ article reported that many companies are scaling back the checklist and credential excesses in the face of employee shortages.

              • Back in the Eighties there was a great weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of clothing amongst women of a certain status*, complaining that “All the good men are taken.” Lost in this great cry of commiseration was the idea that those women might need to offer something to attract men willing to marry them. Sorry, ladies, but you are not entitled to a husband and, frankly, as wife material goes (and not in the old-fashioned misogynistic way you’re thinking) you ain’t much of a catch. Truly amazing that so many bright women thought their standards for what makes a woman a desirable mate should be used by men.

                *single, generally professional.

            • Yes. Computers, for whatever reason, require that degree box to be checked off. At least now you can get one without actually stepping on campus. Not sure how that works for group projects, not that I was ever involved in one after graduation, but still.

    • True…but the captain of a sailing ship was considered a highly skilled professional. Merchant captains still are. It’s about like being an airline pilot…a truckload of schooling followed with years of experience.

      My own opinion is that the schools ARE fading. Leaching out value. And more and more, geared to a student with an average IQ of 90 or so – and utterly incapable of handling a student with an IQ above 120.

      On the other hand, the intellectual distance to the “frontier of knowledge” has grown. During the Renaissance, the frontier of math was what we teach as Algebra I. By 1700, we had differential calculus…but integral calculus would not be really developed until the 1800s. And to get to the frontier of knowledge, you had to learn everything leading up to that frontier. So there IS more information that has to be mastered. And the hard sciences are even worse, they are effectively only 250 years old at most.

      • But, would the average recent high school grad be able to work out the proof to the Pythagorean Theorem?
        While it is true that there is more available knowledge from the hard sciences, it is also true that students aren’t taught the basic stepping stones to get to that knowledge.

        • Or the humanities. We’re cut from primary sources because “dead white males” All we learn is the “problematic” bullshit.

          • It’s easier to swindle a poorly educated person. You can matriculate from the School of Hard Knocks.

        • Over at TOFSpot, much gripe about the lack of education in math ensued.

          Things like “Wait, sine and cosine and tan MEAN SOMETHING?!?!”

            • I don’t remember much of math class, but I’m pretty sure I would’ve remembered if they HAD included that bit– I remembered the whole a squared, b squared, c squared thing for a triangle, because it is made sense and I could apply it.

              That said, it was taught by the guy who insisted it wasn’t his job to teach, and I ended up doing most of the teaching. From the book. And I am not good at math, just at following directions.

              The main thing I remember is having to prove theorems or something like that in the last few weeks of class, and it made no sense at all, and about a decade later when I finally bought a formal logic class I recognized what we were supposed to be building on.

              One of those “integrated math” programs that assumed you already had gone through the prior eight books.

              • I went to the link and read the comments. Math was never my best subject, but it was clear that sine, cosine, and tangent are ratios, and that made them handy things for calculating the lengths of sides of triangles. If something of a known size looks yay tall at arms’ length, how far away is it, and stuff like that.

          • And the cultural something-or-other of using a mnemonic like “Chief Sohcahtoa” too.

      • … utterly incapable of handling a student with an IQ above 120.

        That’s what Ritalin and Adderall are for.

        • Oh no they aren’t. (Speaking as the parent of a child actually diagnosed with ADHD—a separate issue from the kid with diagnosed ASD.) Those two are stimulants. The reason they work the way they do with kids with that condition is that it’s like there’s a big pipe in the brain that is getting repeatedly hit with stimuli—and the stimulant plugs it up.

          You give Ritalin or Adderall to a kid without ADHD and they will be bouncing off the walls. In fact, that’s the confirmation of diagnosis—give a stimulant to a kid with supposed ADHD and they calm down, and you’ve done the right diagnosis. Give it to them and they get more crazy, you’ll have to figure something else out. (Give it to them and they turn into a drone—the physicians will react with horror and stop the prescription. There’s some potential side-effects that are very bad, including loss of appetite.)

    • Re: Computers, I remember seeing an interview with a high school computer science teacher who was saying that people tell him all the time, “Oh, I bet the students know more about your subject than you do.” He was constantly answering, “Nope. They know how to hang out on Facebook. They don’t know Jack Diddly about how the computer actually works.”

      • Would the average kid be able to explain what makes the stuff inside the smart thingy work and communicate with the outside world, in a way that doesn’t use science in the same way as one would use elf magic?

      • And, even if they can “write apps”, they’re often almost entirely writing using an application. They’re not really programming, they’re assembling computer legos.

        • Which means they have no clue on how to test it and no clue how to fix unintended consequences.

    • Club got donated PCs from middle schools. They were loaded with software designed to teach math. I messed with it a bit, and noted that it didn’t teach any actual math, but it did teach how to get the program to spit up the desired response.

      • Most “educational software” is gimmick laden junk. The exceptions are things like Kerbal Space Program that 1.) force the students to figure out physics problems loosely based on the real world (i.e. does my rocket have enough thrust to reach orbit), and 2.) instill in the kids an interest in becoming real world rocket scientists.

        • Third type– mechanizes the rote. Think the much loved “oregon trail typing game.”

          Especially– *shudder*– learning songs.

          I do not mind singing something twee and cute, like “The U in up go uh-uh-uh, uh-uh-uh, uh-uh-uh. Look at Us Up in the bUs, Star, fall, bUs!”

          Once or twice.

          ….do you have any idea how many times a two year old will watch, listen and sing along with that?

          Or Peg + Cat’s “counting candidate” song? (The Empress marched around singing “two, four, six, eight, I’m your counting candidate” for a good twenty minutes this afternoon. Instead of watching the Little Mermaid. She hasn’t seen that cartoon in about a month and a half, which is kinda impressive for a two year old.)

          And the Duchess didn’t exactly learn place value from one of the other games, but when she ran into it in her lessons and I walked her through it, she suddenly lit up and identified it as “just like that game I use to play!” (Actually, it could be one of three….) Once she got that connection, she zipped right along.

          Starfall is really bad for the “get the game to give you the answer” thing, but very good on songs; education dot com is not as good on songs, but is designed with an eye on preventing tricking the games into giving you the answer and scores you on the wrong answers; the free with a book scholastic(school zone? not positive which company is which) programs are all over the place, but very good for hand-eye coordination without feeling guilty.

          Thing is, all of these are things that have to actually get people to buy them, voluntarily– and they’re ALL a form of constant demand, being two subscription services and a workbook company.

          I have yet to see a modern “learning game” from a school that I’d buy.

          • The thing about Kerbal Space Program is that it’s not designed as “educational software”. It’s just a game or toybox that happens to be much easier to play if you understand physics. And because it involves building rockets and shooting them into space (and sometimes even recovering the crew alive!), it tends to get the interest of kids and teens, and sometimes make them realize just how interesting studying physics (particularly rocket science) might actually be.

            There are other video games that can similarly inspire kids, though few are as obvious about the educational aspects as KSP is.

          • For what it is worth, CodeCombat is both a somewhat interesting game and does train coding skills….

          • I do like Peg + Cat. In terms of “educational” shows, it has an awful lot of entertainment value aimed at the adults. (I dislike some of them quite a bit. Splash & Bubbles is a more boring version of Dinosaur Train.)

            • It annoys their dad, but I mostly roll my eyes; at least most of it actually rhymes.

              If you can avoid it, don’t watch that genie show from Nick. Mind numbingly dumb, I want to destroy the good guys just because they’re rather nasty jerks who are trying to be cutsey. Shimmer and shine, I think it’s called.

    • Yes. Regarding computers, think about what kids today (and their parents generation) for example, know about *cars* compared to those who grew up earlier. I used to think that it was evidence of the advancement of vehicle technology, but am less sure now that I have watched the same progression vis-a-vis computers. Computers are easier to program now, and it is easier to make them do amazing custom things.

      • Part with computers is that now you don’t need to know (alright, didn’t back when, either, really) how to program. The OS is there or can be put there readily, and a few downloads and one can be productive.. or sedated. (I know the irony of typing that sentence on this service, thanks.) But there was the thing that in those Ancient 8-bit Days, Basic was there and just waiting. A great language? No. Not even a common language – so many implementation differences. But a readily available one.

        I do suspect a bit of disadvantage was an advantage. The first computer in the house was more a trainer board as it would be seen now. Hexpad, 7-segments, LED, a few switches, and a whopping 256 byte (I have NOT dropped a prefix) of memory. Not even an assembler. Machine code was it. And… I learned.

        But that was at the advanced level, or so it seemed then. I was not turning transistors into logic gates, or gates into adders and shift registers, after all.

  17. I remember, growing up, having the vague feeling that I wasn’t measuring up, that I should be doing more, achieving more.

    I still do…in fact, once I reached 50 this became more constant in my mind than it had been since my 20s.

    Now, is it possible that people were smarter in the past. Anything is possible. But that’s rather a short time for that kind of evolutionary difference, and shouldn’t we be smarter, considering we have way better nutrition?

    I suspect we were smarter on the whole not because the middle and top got dumber but for about two generations in the US and maybe more in Europe we have subsidized the less intelligent by taxing the more intelligent. This is how you get families below replacement size in the educated and well above replacement in the indolent.

    Evolution is driven by the rate at which a set of genes is passed on. Intelligence has a strong heritable component. We subsidize the less intelligent and penalize the more intelligent meaning the latter have fewer children than the former. It doesn’t take many generations to skew the mix of genes in the population. Add in an increase in selective mating on intelligence and those genes get less broad distribution resulting in something of a flatter normal curve or maybe even a double humped distribution.

    I don’t have the data to prove it but I consider it a strong enough hypothesis to justify data collection if anything related to intelligence and genes wasn’t so fraught.

    • Oh, and re: schools…since our youth schools in the US are much more “we must be designed for the lowest common denominator” over recognizing different speed or even designed for the median.

      That means the kids who would be finishing college at 14 are more and more forced to advance at the rate of the one standard deviation below the mean kids.

      So we might not be dumber but we are required to act like it.

      • scott2harrison

        And the whole “lowest common denominator” quote is and example of it. If you think about it what is meant is the highest common denominator as the lowest common denominator is always 1.

        • Son, I don’t think you thought this through.

          The phrase “the lowest common denominator” refers to dumbing down something so that everyone in a population can handle it. That is, it insures the least capable is able to do it.

          We rate things on scales starting at 0 or 1 normally. IQ, for example, is in integers, usually as multiples of 5 in my experience but the scale is integers center on one. Given any set of consecutive integers will only have a factor of 1 in common. Saying the lowest common denominator in this case is strictly the same as saying “reducing it to something that can be handled by someone with an IQ of 1”. Thus it is exactly the correct phrase.

          A colloquial usage of highest common denominator would imply optimization so only the smartest could do the school work.

    • > This is how you get families below replacement size in
      > the educated and well above replacement in the indolent.

      see also: Idiocracy

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiocracy

    • Cyril M. Kornbluth wrote a story called “The Marching Morons” about a 20th-century man who woke in the far future resulting from centuries of most of the children being produced by the low-IQ part of the population. The relatively small group of normal and above-normal IQ population had to work several jobs just to keep things from collapsing.

    • We subsidize the less intelligent

      When stupidity and ignorance cease to be contra-survival traits, experience ceases to be learning experiences for those who will learn by no other means.

      • This! (Thinks of late-60s relative who hasn’t quite grown up. Still gets bailed out by mother-with-a-soft-heart. This also means grandmother-with-a-soft-heart for the next generation. This isn’t going to end well; I don’t know of any others in the family with the requisite characteristics to keep the bailout going.)

        • OMG you could be channeling my Aunt & Uncle who just passed away. They were 86. Their kids have never been in trouble legally. But financially, get bailed out every time & they have MONEY (not 1%er’s, but still 7 to 14 million estate). What is happening now with the kids, is not pretty; most the grand-kids (so they did something right somewhere) & rest of family are distancing ourselves. Youngest is 55 (?).

          • uh, that *is* 1%er….

            • Top ten, yeah, but the top 1% of houses sold each year in several different cities are over 5– and don’t get me started on stuff like agricultural land. (Or the houses that are supposedly worth X amount, but sit there unable to sell at much less.)

            • Don’t know what constitute 1%’ers. Do know that is a drop in the bucket for my sister’s husband’s sister & her husband (so my sister’s in-laws). I joke we are the “poor” side of the family. That being said, we are comfortable, both retired at or before 60, & not many can do that. Doesn’t matter, we aren’t seeing any money from either source. I’d get pop corn & watch cousins go at it, but it is really, really, sad; I know mutual aunt is devastated to watch her sisters kids do this.

      • Which is why I’ve advocated returning bears and wolves to the urban environment for decades now. Make those traits contra-survival once again.

        • Hey, they think wolves are great for rural counties, let’s get a bunch wandering around Salem and Portland.

          OTOH, a few fatalities & injuries among hikers and cyclists from mountain lions hasn’t deterred the PETA-droids in California.

          • “Hey, they think wolves are great for rural counties, let’s get a bunch wandering around Salem and Portland.

            OTOH, a few fatalities & injuries among hikers and cyclists from mountain lions hasn’t deterred the PETA-droids in California.”

            FWIW. No shortage of mountain lions in/around Salem, Portland, or Eugene; let alone Corvallis. Just no fatalities or injuries; smarter mountain lions? Dang it, still never seen one outside of zoo.

            • Different environment. most of the hiker fatalities in CA are mountain ridges that are in or immediately around the L.A. basin proper.

              • Maybe. I do know there are “beware of” Cougar notices around Eugene/Springfield at Dorris Ranch, with it’s ridge running East from the river; Spenser Butte; Pisgah & ridge running east & south; & South Ridge Trail, north & south on west side of valley. There has always been the same signs posted around McDonald Forest which Corvallis has been extending into for the last 40 years. Granted it has (had?) always been locked out, but bicycles & hikers can use it. Portland metro is heavily extended into it’s surrounding mountain ridges, especially Forest Grove.

            • They capture those and ship them up to my dad’s home town.

              Yes, really– when I was a kid one of the gals’ mom worked in the forest service, and they had a double-walled dog cage out back where they’d keep mountain lions that had become a “pest” and were being shipped up to be released in the wild.

              ….now that I think about it, they were probably at her house (in the middle of town, nosy neighbors) because a tragic lead poisoning accident would happen if they were kept at the forest service office, and nobody would’ve seen nuthin’.

  18. When one grandpa was 12, his dad left the family for 3 years to go on an LDS mission. Five kids at home. He had uncles to help with the heavy work, but he took over much of what his dad had done. My other grandpa was orphaned completely by age 15. He was the youngest child. He spent some time with older married siblings but his jobs and his living locations were his choice. All of my grandparents grew up in farming and ranching communities and had chores at an early age. They also learned cooking, cleaning, sewing, etc. to take care of things themselves. None of them served in the military, my oldest grandfather’s number was called up for WWI but the war ended just before he had to report and he was older with children in a government job and farming by WWII and my other grandpa was born during WWI and had epilepsy so he was exempted from WWII, but all of them had children, siblings and others who served and they supported their efforts.

  19. In the US they can’t work on farms like I did (and I started late at 10 or probably 12) before age 16, mostly, because the farmers are under contracts banning “child labor.”

    • It’s not a matter of contract; it’s state and federal law. First one I came to:

      http://www.oregon.gov/boli/WHD/CLU/pages/w_clu_whminag.aspx

      • Applies to “volunteer” activities too. Or at least scouting prevents any use of mechanized tools by anyone under 18. Son’s Eagle project included removal of a tree, which required a chain saw. He laid out the plan for the tree removal & put people in charge of following out the plan but could not physically oversee the tree coming down & being sectioned out/delimibed, while the chain saw was running. All that had to be included in the plan. By (Eagle award) definition, he was <18; as it worked out he was also under 15.

        BUT, the industrial class, where the students built electrical derby cars, they used welders, & wired the electrical. Since it was educational/vocational, they could use the equipment at 15 (typical age of a junior at start of year). Couldn't drive the cars unless they had their drivers license, but they could build them.

        • We used axes and a crosscut saw. I noticed my father bought a chainsaw after I moved away from home.

          • That would be the same time that my own dad finally bought a gas-powered lawn mower.

            • Dad got an electric mower, and I got the lawn cutting duties after his second heart attack. (The old Toro never wanted to start…) I would have been 12 or so.

          • FWIW. Chain saw in question was over twice the kids age. It was an old saw that was my in-laws. Tree was too big for hand saw, misery whip 🙂 would have worked, & would have been educational, but didn’t have one of those available.

        • My dad taught me to use a gas chainsaw after my first summer as a camp counselor (when we had a big tree fall year.) Turns out that I didn’t need that knowledge then, and I’ve only used electric chainsaws since (small form, but I took apart most of a fallen tree with the 10″ sucker. Still need to get hold of a bigger one to deal with the last sections of trunk.)

          I remember when someone online freaked out over any non-professional going up on their own roof (he’d fallen off his own, I get it.) I didn’t mention that I’d been in far more hazardous situations in the mountains, or that I’d spent one Sunday afternoon on my roof wielding a chainsaw on a pole. (The neighbor was replacing our shared fence, and it meant I could drop a limb in the empty space.)

          • Didn’t say kid didn’t learn to use the chainsaw safely & early; & other equipment, also older than he is. Just he & the other under-18 volunteers couldn’t be around it while it was in use on his Eagle project. After tree was down, in clean-up condition, & saw put away, yes; the tree was only a small part of the project so not like there weren’t other details for him to over see & directly work on.

    • Cousins, who are a lot younger than me, both worked the farm for their dad, at “when you can reach the controls” age. 12 for her, 10 for him, she’s a pixie. Yet, my son could not be hired by his great-Uncle (10 years younger than his kids), because neither of us work on the farm or have any ownership. Great-Uncle’s grand-kids however could, because the parents had some co-ownership in the farm. So, “child labor” – it depends.

      • It got tightened up (even more) about five ten years ago because a pair of girls were being really dumb and got maimed by a horse while “working” on a horse ranch.

        My folks lost their best sprinkler changer to it.

        • I came along when you learned to drive a tractor as soon as your legs could reach the peddle. That said, I knew of a boy who lost his legs to a grain augur.

          • I’m obviously a lot younger, but I was very proud when I was old enough to be allowed to run the inverter– none of the hired hands were allowed to, because they couldn’t figure out the physics involved in where the hay was flipped to, and kept “fixing” it so it broke. I would’ve been about 14, and we’d been driving tractors since we were old enough to grab the wheel. (When there were no littles available, the job went to a bit of bailing wire, but even a kid was better for the “drive near BUT NOT ON the hay from yesterday” job.)

          • A sudden, chilling, realization: I’ve known of more kids killed in three and four wheeler accidents than farming accidents.

        • Cousins in question are now 38 & 40; but then my uncle is only 8 years older than me.

          Just before my son was born there was a local outcry because a 10 year-old was lost while out helping rounding up family cattle in the coast range. He got lost heading back to vehicles after getting cold. Ultimately not a good outcome, they found his horse, finally about 3 months latter, him not for a couple of years.

          Fast forward, the troop had 5 boys, take a left, when they should have taken a right, while everyone else was setting up camp (planned activity), & go on an unscheduled 10 mile hike; in the same area. Other than scaring the heck (hell) out of all the adults & parents, they were okay & made it back (more or less, hitched a ride from homeowner in area who knew where they were suppose to be) on their own before Search & Rescue were on-site (mobilized but not there yet).

          • Oh, that poor family… we were NEVER allowed to ride anywhere out of sight alone (much easier in some areas than others) because it’s so dang easy to just get turned around, and that’s before the mostly human predators get involved.

            The kid might’ve walked into a grow or trade-off operation and never even known it, and with that long they wouldn’t be able to even tell….

            • Yes. Tree farm. Supposedly not that far from the rigs. Letting him go back alone, was a bad choice. Did not walk into grove, etc., although that was one of the original fears. He got turned around. Did the right thing; stopped & setup to wait to be found; the general area where finally found was searched, but speculation was it was already too late by the time the search had widened that far.

              FWIW, when the scouts got “miss placed”, the same fears were on everyone’s mind, that taking the wrong turn, they’d wander into an illegal grow, they didn’t, but still. They DIDN’T do the right thing, stop, & wait, they were lucky to find a road & not get turned around (next watershed over & 10 or more miles away). BUT they did stick together & despite heavy rain, they were all dry.

            • Family was devastated. Was not the first time kid had helped or even the first time that year, in that area.

  20. I suspect too that because we don’t expect children to be able to do things (thank you, Victorian and later ideals of childhood), we don’t push children that hard during the very period when it is easiest to teach coping mechanisms for certain wiring quirks, and when it is easiest to learn fundamental “ways to learn” skills. I have very limited working memory. What makes it possible for me to write is having been made to do cursive exercises three-four days a week in 5th and 6th grade. I had to move writing from active to rote memory, into muscle memory. That freed up brain space, literally. At the time I hated it. Now? It saved my bacon.

  21. In writing my “April” series of books I have had constant comments that my main character who was about to turn 14 was so unbelievable it jolted people out of the story into disbelief.
    I’ve pointed out that in the era of sail good families sent their sons off to be Midshipmen at 13 years old and even 12 sometimes. If they had not learned both ship-handling and the discipline of command by 16 it was regarded as likely they never would and would wash out. They had to pass a board of three experienced captains to advance.
    Myself, I both carried a pistol and had my own business at 11 years old. I bought my own airplane tickets and flew alone between states. I spent a summer hitch-hiking all over Colorado at 14.
    Yet parents, mothers in particular, assure me they can’t leave their 13 year old children alone at home for fear they will burn the place down or some equivalent. If that is really the case I have to ask – where did you fail?

    • My nine-year-old and my seven-year-old are allowed to go home from the park when I still have the littlest playing—but not forever. That’s not because I’m worried about them, but because I’m worried about other people worrying about them. (My neighbors are mostly fine with these things, but I don’t want to push it.) You just don’t want to get CPS involved. (I am SO glad to be in a neighborhood that sees groups of kids going places from time to time. It’s almost a lost art.)

      It’s possible, given the timing, that they’ll be flying alone (escorted by airline personnel*) this summer. We’ll see.

      *It’s a specific fee, applicable to kids 6 and up. They otherwise wouldn’t be allowed to travel without a reasonably-aged attendant.

      • Our eldest likes to sit in the car reading when I’m in the store.

        So I have print-ups of the local laws about that, all needed details, an order to LEAVE ME ALONE, and she’s got a radio.

  22. I think the big issue is expectation. Today, our culture expects very little of young people. Low expectations, combined with a lack of consequences. Both negative consequences (botch this and you’ll be caned), but also positive consequences (show you’re capable and you’ll be promoted). Can’t whip the failures, can’t reward the successes…so we infantilize the youngsters.

    On top of that, there IS more to learn. At least if you want to work on the frontiers of any field. We speak reverently of the Renaissance Man…and forget that in 1500, mathematics extended to what we teach as Plane Geometry, Spherical Geometry, and Algebra I. Science? Middle school level, at best. Even foreign languages…spelling and grammar rules in the days before standardized dictionaries were a lot looser. A modern high school graduate who went through a college-oriented program would have been considered weak on Latin, but extremely well-educated in math…and armed with scientific knowledge three centuries ahead of his time.

    • The level of specific information has increased, while the general level of knowledge has not. Ask a highschool grad to work out a math problem or give out a bit information without the use of a smart thingy sometime.

  23. I recall reading that 8 is the age of reason, also the age when one could reach over his/her head and grab the top of the ear.

  24. About Romeo and Juliet and how “younger than [Juliet] are happy mothers made,” I’ve read that that’s actually supposed to be a bit of values dissonance. Shakespeare’s audience was supposed to roll their eyes at those wacky Italian Catholics who were marrying off their daughters at 13 and agree with Capulet when he says, “Don’t even think about it until she’s at least 16.”

    Overall, though, I agree with your point. Even over the last generation, it seems that things have deteriorated quite a bit. I remember looking over some of my old Babysitter’s Club books and being shocked by how many things in them just couldn’t happen now. I’m not even talking about the fact that there would be general horror at the idea of hiring 13- and 11-year-old girls to take care of the neighborhood kids while Mom and Dad went out to dinner. I’m talking about little things like the fact that their trips to the mall couldn’t happen because a number of the club members would have to be in car seats for the drive over.

    • Maybe. But when I was young the age of consent for women was 12.
      MAYBE because it’s a play of impatience. BUT Shakespeare’s Nan was an old maid of 21 when he married her.

      • It’s also a newer cultural innovation that love or choice had anything to do with marriage, especially for the upper classes. Marriage was more a tool for alliances and securing property, and the choice was most often made by the parents.

        • There’s a rather perennial issue with kids saying “no” to the chosen spouse, and the Church going “they get a say, you know. Holy matrimony.”

          Very good way to get very unpopular very quickly.

    • Old Babysitter’s Club books? See if you can lay hands on Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books from over the years and notice how the vocabulary, grammar and characterizations have been dumbed down over the generations. Same stories, same target audiences, vastly simpler reading over the years.

      It might prove an interesting research study for some needy grad student.

      • From what I’ve read in stories in the blogosphere, I think it would be the kiss of death to that student’s career at a conventional university. SJW capture is not going to let such evilcrimebadthink go unpunished, even though it’s probably true.

        I look at Huckleberry Finn going from required reading (mid 60s for me) to forbidden.

        Now, if it’s done through Prager or similar, it could happen.

  25. I just finished a book, Deconstructing the Administrative State, that makes the claim that progressives deliberately took the classics and hard sciences out of education, in favor of local topics closer to their experience; and deliberately changed education through lectures from expert texts into “experiential learning” whereby students are expected to come up with the answers on their own, with (minimal?) guidance. This obviously takes longer and so means that much less can be taught. The book was maddeningly light on specifics, but still very interesting.

    • “progressives deliberately took the classics and hard sciences out of education, in favor of local topics closer to their experience”

      Reminds me of a passage in C S Lewis’s ‘That Hideous Strength’, in which his protagonist, a sociologist, is confronted with a matter of life and death:

      “It must be remembered that in Mark’s mind hardly one rag of noble thought, either Christian or Pagan, had a secure lodging. His education had been neither scientific nor classical–merely “Modern”. The severities both of abstraction and of high human tradition had passed him by: and he had neither peasant shrewdness nor aristocratic honour to help him. He was a man of straw, a glib examinee in subjects that require no exact knowledge (he had always done well on Essays and General Papers), and the first hint of a real threat to his bodily life knocked him sprawling.”

      • CS Lewis held much of modern (at the time) education in contempt. The beginning and ending of “The Silver Chair” make this quite clear.

  26. I do wonder if the overzealous nerfing of the world is due to the fact that deep down, a good part of our society really doesn’t like kids, and is overcompensating?
    People who like things will 1) have as many of them as they can get 2) spend as much time with them as they can. But can we say that about most people’s attitudes towards children? Even the affluent people who don’t have the excuse of needing to work long hours will shove their kids off on someone else- child care, babysitters, school, afterschool programs, summer camps, and so on. And even if they are together in the same space, there’s the likelihood that the parent will give them some ethingy to play with, as to avoid any real interaction.
    So, in order to compensate for this benign neglect, society tends to spoil the kids- to give them stuff instead of time, and to compensate by overprotecting them.

    • *reads nerfing as in video games, where a thing is re-written to be less challenging, and has a sudden vision of patch notes for the world based on who whines the most*

    • “Even the affluent people who don’t have the excuse of needing to work long hours will shove their kids off on someone else- child care, babysitters, school, afterschool programs, summer camps, and so on. And even if they are together in the same space, there’s the likelihood that the parent will give them some ethingy to play with, as to avoid any real interaction.”

      Speaking as a parent, some of that is sheer exhaustion from literally being “on” 24/7. Some distance from the child is necessary to keep from going utterly mad. I can go for days without any real adult conversation (and much longer for adults unrelated to me!) I love my kids, but oh lordy let me sleep.

  27. Captain Comic

    One of the saddest moments of my childhood was when I admitted to myself that I would never be a Heinlein Juvenile teenager…

    My fault for dreaming that big…

  28. It’s interesting that when I finally married at 31, I married a man that was 14 years my senior because I felt older than my generation. I couldn’t look at the boys my age and imagine them as husband material. It might have had to do with the responsibilities I had before I left home.

  29. 11B-Mailclerk

    Hard times make hard folk.

    Hard folk create soft times.

    Soft times make soft folk.

    Soft folk create hard times.

  30. I turned 18 in 1973. In September when all my friends went off to college I went through Navy boot camp. All our fathers had come of age during WWII or Korea. Most were veterans. Come Christmas break we were all back home.

    All my friend’s parents treated me as an adult, one of them. And treated all the college kids as kids. I had gone through the same rite of passage into adulthood that they had. We all noticed it.

    There aren’t many good rites of passage anymore for kids to go through. Gangs have them, but not society. Hanging from your knees on the monkey bars. OMG, a child could get hurt! Walking to school for the first time by yourself. OMG a child could kidnapped! Most kids get bussed today. Getting the training wheels off your bicycle. Most kids today never learn how to ride a bike. Parents don’t want to get fined because OMG their kid didn’t have a helmet on and now they’re under investigation by CPS for being lousy parents who should never have been allowed to reproduce. Jumping off the low dive, followed by diving off it, to be repeated on the high dive. When was last time you saw a diving board? They’ve been sued out of existence. I could go on and on, but if you’re my age, so could you.

    • Most kids today never learn how to ride a bike

      I must be living in a strange backwater sort of place…. oh, right, rural-ish flyoverlandia. Kids have bikes. Even ox have bike, but he ancient.

  31. you’ll be shocked at how little they know
    No, I’m not. (And I’m especially not “shocked” – disappointed and bothered, yes, but not shocked.) They’re teens in a world of extreme wealth and ease – they “know” *everything*. But I am bothered by how little of what they “know” can be backed up by any sort of reasoning, actual data, or real world events. And how much of what they “know” is actually immune to those standards of the enlightenment.

    And one of those girls went on to be the valedictorian of her class and accepted to Harvard a year later
    Something like 60+% of my son’s graduating class was “honor students”. And I knew some of them – not the fastest buses on the motherboard. Some of them were actually in remedial classes.

  32. “What can be done to a society so wealthy, so prosperous, so gentle with its young that most people never grow up?”

    If we’re not allowed to let at least some of them die by stupidity then the only thing left to do is pray for a manageable zombie apocalypse.

  33. The (first) time DW had a formal racist complaint filed against her was right after Parents Night at the middle school where she taught history. One mother asked why she wasn’t teaching Hispanic history. DW replied that she did, beginning with the Iberian age of exploration, which included Spanish history and the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The parent replied that Iberia and Spain had nothing to do with Hispanic history. You know, Hispanic.

    DW was befuddled, especially when it became clear that the mother had absolutely no idea that there was an Iberian peninsula or a nation called Spain and who seemed to think that there was an oppressed nation and people named, perhaps, Hispania. And that DW was a racist for refusing to teach it.

    The mother then went to the principal and filed a complaint of racism.

    But, it gets better. In her last decade of teaching, DW was continually approached by new history teachers asking for teaching material and asking questions about the State mandated history curriculum. She quickly realized that the newly graduated history teachers had no grasp of US or state history. Because some had taken no courses in those areas. They had women’s history, and minority history, and oppressed people’s history, and Black history, and underrepresented voices in history. But no actual history. DW was views as some ancient crone who had all of the arcane knowledge of the world in her dusty tomes.

    • There are no actual history courses in the college my kids attended. Only various kinds of “oppressed people” histories. No history of Rome. No history of Europe. No history of the US. There IS Chinese history…..

    • “Ah good, he’s waking up.”

      *blink*blink*

      “Where am… not Hell… not Heaven… not dead. I.. survived? That?”

      “Yes, uh Mr. Thompson, you survived ‘that’… whatever it was, and were placed in cryo-stasis… ages ago. Not sure how long it was, records get lost. But we think you are mid-21st century….”

      “Cryo-stay…. ages… so I’m alive and everyone I know.. knew… is dead. There’s an encouraging thought.”

      “Can’t be helped, alas. We have people you can talk things out with, but no promises of feeling great soon. We do have hope you can help us.”

      “Historians, huh? Everything I know is likely obsolete, or so common as not to matter.”

      “Historians.. yes, that’s a good way to put it. Historians with a lot of questions. Manuals and guides say a lot, but not everything. We have a fundamental problem. There’s an awful of stuff that you figure is routine, that we don’t know and have found we’re really bad at guessing about. Here are some images of a few things…”

      Projections.. holos? flashed up… assorted mundane things of earlier times… a few he couldn’t identify, but mostly… just things he never really thought about. They were just there.

      “Alright. What is it you want me to do?”

      “Could you, please, tell us… how the h— this s— works?! We’ve been going nuts trying to figure it out.”

      • “Could you, please, tell us… how the h— this s— works?! We’ve been going nuts trying to figure it out.”

        “It’s a sex toy. If you’ve a woman available I can demonstrate its use.”

        N.B., t the creative mind, everything is a sex toy.

    • At least they felt their lack?

  34. ? Found in the youtube sidebar, answering the question we’ve all wondered:


    Who’s the better dancer: Thor, Loki or Starlord?