Discover more from Foundation Father
12-Year-Olds Are More Capable Than We Think
We just don't demand enough from them.
Watching Master and Commander, I was struck by the youth aboard the British ship and the expectations put upon them. Back during the Napoleonic era, it was not uncommon. Boys as young as 12 were given heavy responsibilities, and sometimes even command, during dangerous, life-threatening situations.
Not only that, but older men would obey their commands and follow their leadership. Indeed, Sir Francis Drake was such a boy who saved the day back in 1578. Boys who planned to enter the Navy started their training early, and the better they were, the faster they got to sea.
Two of Jane Austen's brothers attended the Portsmouth Academy. Francis Austen enrolled there in 1786 at the age of eleven, and he was a model student, going to sea two years later. His brother, Charles, who was sent to the Academy in 1791 was not so assiduous in his studies, and he did not leave the Academy until he had served the full term of his work there, in 1794 when he was sent aboard HMS Daedelus. Both of Austen's brothers would in due time become admirals.
What kind of culture raises boys to be this capable? The answer is simple. Any culture that takes boys seriously, that sees them as future men.
Our current culture does not see boys this way. Mostly, it sees them as a nuisance. As defective girls. We don’t expect anything from them. In fact, we have this whole category of “teenager” that we have made up where we expect them to rebel, be lazy, and fail to live up to their potential. Our boys have certainly risen to this lack of a challenge. Fewer and fewer teenagers are getting their driver’s licenses, which used to be a symbol of freedom and responsibility.
Honing a boy’s strength and drive is certainly hard work, but it can be done. It has been done in the past, and it can be done again. Demand more of them. Ask more of them. Have appropriate expectations. Consider coming up with a rite of passage so your sons know when additional responsibilities will be laid upon their shoulders.
I know a 14-year-old kid who started a non-profit for foster kids. I know another one who started his own lawn care business. Many children raise their own pigs and sell them at a market. I once worked for a few guys who had started their tech company when they were 16 years old.
Boys can become as capable as we train them to be.
Foundation Father is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.