A tale of two Americas

This is a new analogy for a phenomenon I have seen for a while:

One of the peculiar features of our country is that we produce incompetent 18-year-olds and remarkably competent 30-year-olds. Americans at 18 typically score lower on standardized tests than 18-year-olds from other advanced countries. Watch them on their first few days working at McDonald’s or behind the counter in chain drugstores, and it’s obvious that they don’t really know how to make change or keep the line moving. But by the time Americans are 30, they are the most competent people in the world. They produce a stronger and more vibrant private-sector economy; they produce scientific and technical advances that lead the world; they provide the world’s best medical care; they create the strongest and most agile military the world has ever seen. And it’s not just a few meritocrats at the top: American talent runs wide and deep.

Why? Because from the age of 6 to 18, our kids live mostly in what I call Soft America–the part of our society where there is little competition and accountability. In contrast, most Americans in the 12 years between ages 18 and 30 live mostly in Hard America–the part of American life subject to competition and accountability; the military trains under live fire. Soft America seeks to instill self-esteem. Hard America plays for keeps.

The article continues into the effect that government education plays in this, and this is one of the main reasons that I support the seperation of school and state. When schools aren’t accountable — and government schools are most certainly not accountable — you turn into Soft America. When students into competative schools — universities — they start learning. No one in America is educated because of government schools, they are educated in spite of government schools.

This is an important subject in relation to individual liberty. A free America can be nothing but a Hard America. There is no way to provide for individual freedom without individual responsibility. When someone else is responsible for your needs, then that person is no longer free. The only way for everyone to be free is for everyone to responsible for themselves — and being responsible for yourself is hard. To quote Dennis Leary: “Life sucks — get a helmet.”

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