Unlike some animals, human beings are not born with an instinct to guide our actions.
Like all primates, we require a prolonged period of learning from role models to guide our development into civilized adults. The human phenotype can only express itself adequately in a proper social environment.
In the 1960’s American psychologist Harry Harlow proved that infant monkeys who do not receive physical affection were severely and permanently psychologically disturbed. This need does not end in infancy.
It is now widely recognized that single motherhood has been enormously destructive to American society, leading to poor educational outcomes, poverty, crime, and future family instability. Human beings must have positive male and female role models to understand what behavior to model and what values to look for in a mate.
The majority of American children will live in a single-parent home at some point in their lives. A significant cause of this is the welfare system, which has made single-parenthood financially feasible, but money cannot meet children’s psychological needs.
But there is another under-appreciated cause for our development problems: mass schooling.
Children require older role models to demonstrate emotional self-regulation, resilience, value-orientation, etc. Schools force children to learn from same-age peers, denying them of vital developmental experience.
In the early 2000s, a tribe of adolescent bull elephants in Pilanesberg National Park began behaving abnormally – experiencing heightened aggression that was dangerous to themselves and others. The rangers introduced three mature bulls to the population. Within hours, the adolescents calmed down and started behaving themselves.
We see the same behavior with human adolescents. Without older role models, competition for social dominance takes precedents over everything else, making schooling a miserable experience for many. Mass schooling has been a complete failure at socializing children. Their adult role models can only teach them rote obedience, while their peers teach them that social dominance is the only value worth pursuing in life. They are desperate to please their teachers or peers, while their natural self-motivation and curiosity have been driven out by the need to confirm to the regimented schedule and the standardized curriculum.
Parents who delegate the formation of responsible adults to schooling should not be surprised when their offspring behave like spoiled children in college. College should be a means for mature adults to develop the skills they need to pursue their careers. It has become an extension of 12 years of babysitting.
This is why homeschooled children tend to be far more emotionally and intellectually mature: they build relationships with different-aged siblings and have a much broader relationship with parents than with teachers. They also rely more on the community for learning and begin to take on adult responsibilities from an early age.
I remember a family-run fruit stand near our apartment in Shanghai. Quite often, their eight-year-old daughter ran it while her parents were away. By the time she is 18, she will have ten years of experience running a small business and interacting with thousands of other adults. She will have faced many errors and disagreements and learned how to overcome them with confidence. Compare this to the typical American teen, who has learned nothing about self-control, conflict resolution, financial management, or adult interactions by the time he is thrust into adult responsibilities.