On Bullying

I’ve been trying to get away from posting about The Devouring Mother, if for no other reason than to avoid sounding like a broken record. Last week’s Djokovic fiasco, however, was too perfect to avoid, especially as I live in Melbourne. This week has provided another topic that I want to address as it’s one of themes I decided to leave out of my book on the subject. But, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s central to the dynamic with particular reference to the acquiescent children aka The Orphan archetype.

The idea occurred to me on seeing this video which has been doing the rounds on the internet the last few days. It shows a couple of children, perhaps twelve years old, on some television show in Canada encouraging setting the police onto the unvaccinated and, in the words of the young girl, pressuring the unvaccinated until they “submit”. The presenters of the show and the audience appear delighted with the children, one even referring to them as “future politicians”.

The video felt to me like another one of those microcosm-macrocosm symbolic moments that have occurred so much in the last two years. What the children are advocating for in the video is bullying. Of course, the bullying of the unvaccinated is precisely what has been happening for about the last six months and it’s been intensifying recently. These young children picked up on the zeitgeist and knew what the adults in the room wanted to hear. Look at the big smiles as they get rewarded by the adults.

The quip about the children being “future politicians” is kind of fitting. Bullying is part of the job description of a politician. Most of the time, the politicians are bullying each other or some hapless public servant and that’s all part of the game. What has happened in the last six months is that we have had the spectacle of politicians bullying the public, specifically the unvaccinated. That’s problematic because in a democratic society a politician is supposed to be a public servant. We pay their salaries and last time I checked we weren’t paying for the service of being gaslit, scapegoated and pilloried. The unvaccinated are still required to pay full taxes despite being banned from a number of public services. There’s even been talk of banning them from health care. None of that makes sense on a logical level. But, we know that what is going on is not logical but archetypal. Bullying is a core trait of The Devouring Mother. That is why our politicians have been bullying the public and that is what the youngsters of Canadian television intuited. It’s open season on bullying the unvaccinated. Step right up, folks, and take a turn.

The sight of young children joining in the scapegoating would be distasteful enough at the best of times. But what makes it symbolically poignant for corona is the fact that bullying has become a hot button issue in the last decade or so. Like the idea of “hate” and the entire subject of biological gender, bullying is a taboo subject. The Victorian department of education and training has a whole website on bullying where it says that bullying is “never okay”. Really? The Premier of the State of Victoria has been giving us a daily masterclass in bullying for almost two years now. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration, in fact, to say that corona has been the greatest display of bullying in history. Certainly it’s the greatest display of bullying of supposedly democratic leaders towards the public. I’m sure none of the people who work in the education bureaucracy have noticed, though, because taboo subjects, of which bullying is now one, inevitably give rise to psychological complexes and that in turn leads to projecting the shadow. A stereotypical case is the raging homophobe who is really a closet homosexual. But it’s the same psychology that leads the people who rail against “hate” to behave the most hatefully and the people who rail against bullying to be the biggest bullies. It’s all just projecting the shadow. In the case our political leaders, they are projecting the shadow which is The Devouring Mother; the societal shadow. That is why they have been behaving as the opposite of public servants.

Bullying is at the heart of The Devouring Mother concept. With all bullying, there is a bully and a victim. Where the mother is the bully, the victim is the acquiescent child aka The Orphan archetype. The rebellious children have learned to deal with the mother’s bullying, almost always by removing themselves from the relationship. Thus, the subject of bullying turns out to be a core dynamic at the heart of the archetype and has something interesting to tell us in particular about the rise of The Orphan archetype.   

To return to the Victorian government’s website, they state that bullying is “not a normal part of growing up.” This is, pardon my French, complete bullshit. Practically everybody experiences bullying when going through school. Almost every story or movie in the coming-of-age genre features bullying as a major theme. Let’s take just one example: the movie Back to the Future and its sequels. The hero of the story, Marty McFly, must learn to deal with the school bully, Biff Tannen. The dynamic between the two is literally the core of the story and drove the movie to be one of the most popular of the 80s. The reason it was so popular is because the theme of bullying is as good as a universal of society.

The universality of bullying extends beyond humans to almost every animal species with a dominance hierarchy. That’s why chickens have a pecking order. The pecking is the bullying. Same goes for dogs, gorillas or what have you. Another coincidence here is that it was Jordan Peterson who introduced the dominance hierarchy to our modern discourse. In doing so, he did nothing more than state the obvious but stating the obvious is necessary these days when you have governments proclaiming blatant falsehoods. Of course, Peterson is a leader of the rebellious children and he became the bete noire of the kinds of people who run the Victorian education bureaucracy who want to insist that bullying is “not natural”.

Another way to think about bullying is that it’s part of the process of forming dominance hierarchies. Justin Trudeau, or Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews are at the top of their respective dominance hierarchies. So, they are really good at bullying. Just ask any of their colleagues, although they’ll probably use a less polite word to describe them than “bully”. The movie Back to the Future explores the correspondence between bullying and dominance hierarchies in great detail because it shows alternative timelines. In one timeline, we see what happens when McFly doesn’t learn to deal with the bully. He ends up in a crappy job with low self-esteem. In the other timeline, McFly gets it right and becomes successful, confident and rich. He even has Biff working for him.

In nature, the dominance hierarchy forms mostly around physical superiority but even then there is room for non-physical factors. Ask any chicken owner and they will tell you the top chook is not necessarily the largest. Even with chickens, the concept of “spirit” plays a role. You could say the most spirited chicken is at the top rather than the physically largest. In Back to the Future, Biff is physically bigger than McFly, but that doesn’t stop McFly from rising higher than him in the hierarchy as long as he learns how to deal with the bully.

The reason bullying features in practically all coming-of-age stories is because learning how to deal with the dominance hierarchy is a core feature of becoming an adult. But learning how to deal with bullying also seems to function as a nexus of a number of important psychological lessons too. The age old advice that you should “stand up to a bully” really means that you must not be intimidated by the bully. Because bullying is part of our animal nature, becoming intimidated is natural when we are confronted with somebody who is or appears stronger. By learning to overcome that natural reaction, you are learning to control your emotions through exercising you will power. You learn to control your instincts rather than have them control you. You subordinate your unconscious to your will. That is a powerful lesson to learn.

You also learn something about the appearance of strength versus the underlying reality. This is another trick used by animals. A male duck or chicken, for example, will put on a show of aggression even to a much larger animal like a human but immediately back down when challenged. Their bark is worse than their bite, as the saying goes. Same with bullies. Almost all bullies back down when challenged. By standing up for yourself you learn that lesson too. In doing so, you learn something about bullying as a phenomena; namely, that is almost always a cover for insecurity. It is precisely the people who lack self-esteem who engage in bullying as a way to compensate. (Note: this is also the underlying driver of The Devouring Mother’s bullying behaviour. She is terrified of her children becoming independent).

So, by learning not to be intimidated by a bully you condense a number of important life lessons into one. You learn how to control your emotions, how to exercise your will power, how to navigate a dominance hierarchy and something about the psychology of the bully.

If all this is true, what can we make of the “war on bullying” that is currently taking place in schools in the West? This is where we have to again differentiate between the ostensible concerns and the unconscious drivers. The ostensible concerns are obvious. Bullying can result in violence and can be traumatic for those who fail to learn how to deal with it. We want to avoid those outcomes wherever possible. The change in “philosophy” that has occurred, however, is the move away from tough love. Tough love knows full well the difficulties involved in confronting a bully but allows it to happen anyway on the understanding that it’s better in the long run. Behind this is the understanding that one way to reduce bullying is to let kids learn how to deal with it. Once enough kids learn to stand up to a bully, the bullying goes away because there’s nobody left to prey on. If the goal is to reduce bullying, letting kids deal with it themselves is a viable, in fact the best, strategy.

Note that this process is almost identical to respiratory viral infection. Learning to deal with bullying is like becoming naturally immune to a virus. That doesn’t mean it goes away entirely. It doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with bullying ever again. Bullying, like cold and flu viruses, is a natural fact of life. Any place where there is a dominance hierarchy of human beings, there is a potential for bullying. By learning to deal with bullying, you learn to recognise it and also recognise your own response to it. Those of us who haven’t completely lost our minds in the last two years have seen as clear as day the bullying behaviour by our leaders and have been better able to formulate a response. We also know that bullying behaviour comes from weakness. The outbreak of bullying reveals the underlying weakness of our society in spiritual-psychological, political and economic terms.

What if we had never learned how to deal with bullying?

This is the outcome that is being pursued at the moment in our education system. The goal is not to expose children to bullying at all on the assumption that is it “not natural” and “never okay”. But the child who has not learned how to deal with bullying has no “natural immunity”. In addition, we can infer that they have missed out on the other lessons to be learned from bullying i.e. how to control their emotions, how to exercise their willpower, how to deal with a dominance hierarchy. This sounds like a very good description of the millennial generation. It’s also a very good description of The Orphan archetype whose primary trait exactly is that they missed out on stages of development; stages of development like learning how to deal with a bully.

Viewed in this way, the desire not to expose children to bullying is the desire to prevent them learning the developmental lessons involved. But stifling development of the child is exactly what The Devouring Mother does. The archetype that results is The Orphan.

None of the bureaucrats in the education department would be conscious of the fact that the system they are running is set up precisely to produce archetypal Orphans. Our modern school system doesn’t consciously produce any type of person and the whole idea that it should is anathema to it. This is very unusual by historical standards and formed one of the critiques of the modern education system by thinkers as far back as G.K. Chesterton. The old British public school system, for example, was deftly configured to produce the type of the English gentleman. The educators in that system were accutely aware that that was what they were doing. The education provided was about producing a type of person. As such, it was as much about learning manners and dress sense as about book learning. You had to learn how to behave as a gentleman. The same idea held for Catholic schools and even the old trade schools although they were producing a different type of person.

Our modern schools aim to produce no specific type of person and yet they clearly are producing a psychological type: The Orphan.

This reminds me of another line from Chesterton who said that the problem with the person who stops believing in God is not that they believe nothing but that they believe anything. I think we can translate this into psychological terms as follows: if you don’t act consciously, you will act unconsciously. It’s not that the you will believe anything, it’s that whatever your profess to believe is irrelevant because your psyche is now being run by the subconscious. That is, of course, what is going on right now in western society and especially in Australia and Canada. It’s for that reason that the behaviour in the last two years has been so incredibly uniform and has coalesced around the archetypes of The Devouring Mother and The Orphan.

If that’s true, then the number one task to redress the problem is to return to consciousness and to ask the question: who are we and what are we doing? There’s going to need to be an awful lot of soul searching in the years ahead.

37 thoughts on “On Bullying”

  1. Instead of BranDAN it seems to have naturally morphed to Bully BranDAN. I cannot go as far as Mother BranDAN!

    Keep up the great work Simon.

  2. Some minor synchronicity here. I listened to the latest Christensen podcast this morning, and it happens to be about just that: who we are and what we are doing. We meaning Australians.
    https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/this-is-a-crazy-moment-in-our-history-with-dr-stephen-chavura/id1508102034?i=1000548586981
    Interesting and unflattering.
    On another note, i wonder if we unvaxxed perform an essential service. After hate being prohibited for many years, finally there is a release valve. You can hate the unvaxxed all you want and still be a Good Person.

  3. Kelvin – I have seen a couple of “Karen Andrews” memes i.e. Dan Andrews as a Karen, but a quick internet search has failed to find them. He is a Karen at heart, though.

    Roland – came across this today, by coincidence – https://twitter.com/AussieVal10/status/1484444520653914118

    I haven’t watched breakfast television since I was a teenager so have no idea if this is unusual, but teasing another foreign tennis player on live tv? I think xenophobia is making a comeback here.

  4. Several thoughts.

    (1) That video borders on child abuse. Those children are obviously just parroting whatever they heard from adults. That’s not the children’s fault: developmentally, there’s not much else they could do on this sort of subject. But here they are, on the Internet, for people to watch their parroting essentially forever. If you want to know what the adults around those kids think (which is all the kids are telling you), then how about you leave the kids alone and ask the adults?

    (2) “Bullying” is difficult to discuss because it’s an almost infinitely stretchable term. Someone calling you a name once is “bullying.” Three kids twice your size beating the crap out of you is also “bullying.” Obviously, those are very different things and need to be handled differently. But if you put a bureaucracy in charge, with no-one (teacher, principal…) ever being allowed to make a judgement call (‘coz, gasp, they may make a wrong call), then “bullying” is never allowed, which in practice means kids are never allowed to be jerks toward other kids, which, by extension, means kids can never be left more or less unsupervised because there’s a chance someone will act like a jerk.

    (3) As a practical matter, I’m not sure how one stands up to the bullying by politicians. There are ways to do it collectively, but what’s an individual to do? One can just ignore them, of course, but that may mean you lose your job, lose custody of your kids (and even visitation rights), etc. And now Germany has even abolished democracy:

    https://www.spiked-online.com/2022/01/21/germany-is-excluding-the-unvaccinated-from-democracy/

  5. Just finished reading your book, The Devouring Mother. Plenty of interesting hints, although I am not so familiar with archetypes and the like. Will have to explore that — I am planning to read Jung’s essay that you mentioned. The one on Wotan. I think I’ll mention that in a future post on The Seneca Effect

  6. Irena – good points. Cold/flu (and now covid), are also very stretchable terms. Can include everything from no symptoms to a runny nose to a full blown pneumonia. Now what happens if we treat every case like a life-threatening pneumonia? We try to eradicate it which works about as well as trying to eradicate bullying. What you could do instead is focus your resources on the serious cases i.e. pneumonia and bullying involving violence. Which is what we used to do before The Devouring Mother took over.

    I think the way to stand up to bullying by politicians is the same as other bullies. You have to have a source of “real power”. Real power can also take many forms but one of them would collective worker action i.e. strikes. Looks like something like that is happening in Canada at the moment with the truckers protesting. That will be an interesting one to follow.

    Ugo – great. I look forward to reading it.

  7. How does one stand up to this bullying? – by taking to the streets and protesting in the face of the government and MSM. However, most people (Australians) do it by not QR coding in, wearing a semi-slung mask on public transport) and illegally ‘associating’ (Boris style). Interestingly, I’m hearing of an increasing number of people who are saying no to the 3rd jab. Not sure if the Vic govt is hearing this yet. Talked to one high rise construction worker (40) who said “we took the double vax cos we had too, but I’m not having a third, and there are others like me”. When I ask 3rd jabbers if they’ll get the 4th (which I presume they will be eligible to after 3 months); hesitation.

    Who’s the school bully here?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlI6trtvhys

  8. Craig – we seem to be hiting an inflection point now between two types of societies. Ones that are doing the common sense thing and getting back to normal: UK, USA, Ireland, even France (surprisingly) and ones that seem to be going right off the deep end: Australia, Canada, NZ, Austria, Germany. I didn’t think it was possible to go any further off the deep end than we already were but we’re having a red hot go. Did you see Ardern just made it so that household contacts will have to isolate for almost a whole month. How can that possibly work? Don’t they have an economy in NZ? Similarly, I can’t believe they are pushing the booster here in Vic. We already know from Israel it doesn’t work. Andrews must think he has the support. There’s an election later this year, after all. Weird.

  9. Just learned a new term: ‘mass formation psychosis’. Folk I know who subscribe uncritically to mainstream media outlets seem especially susceptible. But apparently the theory’s been discredited (through association w/ conspiracy theorists) – doesn’t appear in the DSM-5. However, there’s a real thing (see appropriately peer-reviewed studies?) called ‘mass psychogenic illness’, also anxiety-based, which apparently can affect some folk who’ve been vaccinated.

    The idea that bullying is never OK seems to me connected w/ political correctness & our culture’s focus on identity politics – to the extent that the line between walking social-justice talk & virtue signalling gets blurred. If the virus/vaccine narrative turns around, w/ the help of the right, I can imagine the left going nuts over any slurs against the oppressed unvaxxed minority.

    It doesn’t seem like so long since everyone wanted to emigrate to NZ. LOL.

  10. Shane – the irony is that political correctness/identity politics is a form of bullying. It uses ideology to determine the dominance hierarchy. Hence, why so many people get sacked on nothing more than ideological grounds. That’s one less person at the top of the hierarchy.

  11. Simon: “Ones that are doing the common sense thing and getting back to normal: UK, USA, Ireland, even France (surprisingly) and ones that seem to be going right off the deep end: Australia, Canada, NZ, Austria, Germany.”

    France??!! Normal??!! You call that normal?? Look, I’m something of a Francophile, and I’m horrified by what’s goin on in France. It’s really quite a shame.

    Oz and NZ are, to a large extent, victims of their own success. My condolences. I don’t know what the hell Canada, Austria, and Germany are thinking.

    As for the US: gotta be careful there. Some states seem to be completely normal. NY and CA are still crazy, though. Of course, one could argue that they (especially CA) were crazy long before anyone had even heard of Sars-CoV-2, so that nothing much has changed…

  12. Irena – I saw a thing saying France had dropped all restrictions except the passports (similar to Ireland) but didn’t verify it. Sounds like I was wrong. I disagree that what is happening in Australia and NZ has anything to do with our original “success”. We’re now into a very pure form of the archetypal takeover divorced from reality. Of course, that was my contention from the start: none of this ever had anything to do with reality.

    Ugo – thank you.

  13. @Simon

    Re: France

    “Napoleon” has declared the uninjected “non-citizens.” If you’re uninjected, you cannot do, well, anything really. That doesn’t sound normal to me.

    Re: Oz/NZ

    Sure, they may have been overtaken by an archetype, and the current actions are utterly divorced from reality. But I doubt it would have gotten quite this bad if the virus hadn’t successfully been kept out for so long. But then again, who knows? Austria, Germany, and Canada are utterly mad, even though the virus has been circulating there for much longer than in Oz/NZ.

  14. Irena – that’s my point. Australia, Austria and Canada have had completely different experiences in the pandemic and yet they are pursuing absurd policies two years on. Meanwhile, New York and Florida or California and Texas have had almost identical numbers throughout but are responding in different ways. Thus, it’s not about “reality” any more.

  15. @Irena: You’re right. Viewing the transcript of the interview I saw, now, I see it’s the interviewer using the word ‘psychosis’, not Desmet. In fact, the first time I saw ‘psychosis’ tacked onto ‘mass formation’, the intent appeared to be pejorative, & what it also does is sensationalise the theory. Almost as if some of Desmet’s most fervent fans are unwittingly undermining his credibility. I must try to read & listen more mindfully. Thanks for the Peak Prosperity link, where Desmet even talks about speaking to others, including those w/ different views, respectfully.

    @Simon: Obviously I’m fascinated by the archetypal perspective. And/but the youth, hence short memory, of our dominant culture, along w/ geographic isolation & the luxury of low population density, has fostered our legendary complacency, including the expectation (or fantasy) of luck or success. Which may relate to what Ugo wrote about doubling down? Meanwhile I keep hearing of more double-vaxxed people who’ve now had Covid at least once & not always mildly, & who take a dim view of an endless program of boosters. What does it take to break free of the grip of an archetype?

  16. Shane – “what does it take to break free of the archetype”. Unfortunately the answer seems to be total ruin or a catastrophe of some other kind. Plenty of options for those right about now eg. financial collapse, war with Russia, supply chain breakdown. Hopefully we can get out of it another way which would be to watch places like the UK return to normal. That should, in theory, create a pressure for us to follow suit especially once enough people have had covid and realised it’s not going to kill them.

  17. @Simon

    Early success might not be a necessary condition for going COVID-crazy, but maybe it’s a sufficient one. Are there any counterexamples? A country that “defeated COVID” early on, and then just sort of returned to normal?

    China is fascinating in this regard. They seem to be locking down one megapolis after another, as they discover a couple of cases (to be counted on the fingers of one hand). Well. If the rising hegemon manages to self-destruct over a respiratory virus with a .3% IFR, it’ll be a fascinating case study for historians for generations to come. Incidentally, has China been overtaken by the Devouring Mother, too, or is it a different archetype?

  18. Irena – I’ve been fortunate to travel to China a few times for work. The Chinese government fits The Devouring Mother archetype to a tee. It is arbitrary and capricious and citizens have no rights in law against it. There are no “rebellious children” in China. They just disappear one day never to be seen again. Or they do what Ai Weiwei did and get out. It would be fascinating to know more about how the Chinese are justifying to themselves what is going on there. What chance of finding a Chinese Jungian scholar writing in English?

  19. @Simon

    Re: China

    Thanks for the info! I’ve never been to China, so all my information is second hand.

    Re: bullying

    I was thinking about this: “What you could do instead is focus your resources on the serious cases i.e. pneumonia and bullying involving violence.”

    Here’s the thing, violence is a typical feature of male bullying. Female bullies are much less likely to physically attack their victims. Instead, they set out to destroy their victim’s reputation. Incidentally, mental health (including self-harm and suicide) in Gen Z has been tanking long before COVID: it’s far worse than for previous generations. And the decline has been a lot worse for girls than for boys. Some psychologists (such as Jonathan Haidt) believe that this is due to social media, because social media greatly exacerbates female-typical bullying. In a sense, giving Facebook to a female bully is like giving a knife and a dagger to male bully.

    It may, in fact, be a good idea to ban under-aged kids from social media (though this has some downsides, too). Beyond that? It’s tough. You don’t want adults to get involved every time two girls have a spat. But do you really want to let a popular, mean girl socially destroy her target? So, it’s hard to tell when and how to get involved, and it boils down to a judgement call (just the sort of thing bureaucracies, educational ones most definitely included, despise).

    And then there’s this whole other thing about grouping kids in rigid age groups, which apparently makes them much more likely to compete with each other than to help and rely on each other. This sort of thing is very new in human history, and it’s really just a feature of mass schooling.

  20. Irena – interesting. We’ve given young people trying to sort out their dominance hierarchy their own tools for propaganda against their “opponents”. As somebody who found high school irredeemably boring, I think it would be a really good thing if the school system would implode out of corona. Maybe not entirely. But I think a movement to home schooling would be a net positive. That seems to be happening in the US. Although I heard the little dictator in France made home schooling illegal. So, I guess it’s not going to happen everywhere.

  21. @Irena: Surely one of the worst aspects of bullying on social media is that you can’t leave it behind or erase its tracks by changing schools? But this is also adversely affecting the mental health of countless adults.

    Does closeness in age provoke competition between kids or do too-large groups oblige them to compete to get any attention, let alone of a positive kind?

    @Simon: Home schooling might be really great if your family is functional & your home is stable & your parents are literate &/or can afford good tutoring & resources. But for some kids, their best, most perceptive supporters & mentors are teachers. I hated school w/ a passion but, as the child of a devouring mother, it probably saved my life.

  22. Shane – that’s a good point. Although, the job of intervening when the parents are not up to the job can also be carried out by extended family, community, church etc. But, yes, there does need to be a mechanism in place for that and we got rid of the alternatives and made the state the only one. More specifically, the state made itself the only alternative.

  23. @Shane
    @Simon

    Re: home schooling

    One problem with home schooling as an institution is that the Devouring Mother type is particularly likely to want to home school, in which case, gods help the kid. Every time I read discussions about home schooling, the most ardent advocates sound, well, rather controlling. It is, of course, possible that they’re not representative of home schooling parents in general (most vocal is not the same as most representative), but it doesn’t strike me as encouraging.

    @Shane: “Does closeness in age provoke competition between kids or do too-large groups oblige them to compete to get any attention, let alone of a positive kind?”

    In reality, it’s probably both…

  24. Irena – I think most of high school is irrelevant for most people anyway. If I were the king, I’d keep primary school and then have kids go straight into work apprenticeships or university preparation or whatever. Probably the only good thing about our current system which would be hard to reproduce is that it allows a lot of time for mucking around and partying. Maybe there should be a mandatory two years of partying at age 18.

  25. @Simon

    Whether or not high school is necessary is a separate question from the Devouring Mommy Dearest issues. That is: that sort of mother would still be disproportionately likely to home school.

    As for high school: Daniel Quinn once pointed out that both long formal education and retirement were mechanisms for keeping people off the job market, so as to keep unemployment from skyrocketing. So, there’s your primary function of post-puberty formal education. Sure, some people have an insatiable desire to learn and/or can most efficiently pick up practical skills thanks to that education, but that’s only a minority.

  26. Hi Simon,

    I’ve only just landed on this blog now and am working through it, but I must say the first and overwhelming response is relief, that I am not alone in my despair.

  27. Irena – In that case, we’re going to need six years of mandatory partying.

    Chris – welcome aboard.

  28. Simon: “In that case, we’re going to need six years of mandatory partying.”

    Ugh. Any special arrangements for people such as myself, who’d rather go to a dentist than to a party…?

  29. Ok. We’ll go with six years of doing whatever you want as long as you don’t go to school.

  30. @Irena: My very limited experience of pro-homeschooling parents – which reflects your point re devourers being enthusiasts – suggests they’re very critical of school as an institution, & fair enough. But protecting the child from it can’t prepare them for entry into a society that often feels & functions like a macro version of school (although more & more of said society is shifting online). Also, being home-schooled as an only child may be somewhat different to & more isolating than learning in the presence of siblings – a consideration w/ single-child families on the rise?

    @Simon: As someone who left school at 15, I like the idea of work apprenticeships. But aside from any potential for exploitation of tender adolescents, & the Dickensian images evoked in my mind, how many places would be available, given the promise or threat of, for one, robotics phasing out countless adult jobs, & the growing prospect of mass obsolescence & a UBI?

    @ Irena: I hate parties too. All reading recommendations welcome.

  31. Shane – true. There’s no perfect system. We all just have to make do with the cards we’re dealt.

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