Obsession with provisioning and protecting children is a trend in the norms of WEIRD societies. In a certain type of person this often leads to an array of strange, inconsistent beliefs. Some complain non-stop about the adult abdication of grown-up responsibilities and simultaneously claim that a 16-year-old engaged in active sexual pursuit of an adult is by definition a victim of child molestation. Others bleat on about the dangers of what they call helicopter parenting while asserting that a mother’s decision to leave her child in a daycare for 8 hours of the 24 in a day is tantamount to a form of child abuse. One may see the concrescence of these stupidities in a recent New York Times article about the harassment of so-called neglectful mothers by public busybodies.
Kidnapping and child molestation are and always have been rare, so this obsession is new albeit no one knows when it began exactly. Likewise, genetics has long since set the record straight on the relevance of parenting to adult behaviour: it barely leaves a dent except in cases of extreme abuse or neglect. Dote on your children or not; they are who they are. Thus, the discourse on how to treat children ought not to focus on how it affects them, but rather what we know to be pragmatic and efficient for both parents and children.
Bryan Caplan argues that education is primarily about job-market signalling, hence the phenomenon of credential inflation and repeated efforts to pour more money into teaching even though it is well known to have weak long-term effects. This means that almost no one remembers much of what they are allegedly learning, and what they do remember is of little use to them in their work lives. Formal education is in actual fact useless to anyone but the mid-witted. Geniuses tend to be self-taught and already know a thousand times more than their classmates by the time they get to school, meanwhile the borderline intellectual functioning struggle through it all and come out at the end with very little signalling currency (i.e. grades).
Formal education before the age of 10 need not exist. It is glorified babysitting. I do not recall learning anything substantive in school for that period of my life, and I know no one who reports otherwise. Child care need not even exist unless the child is very young. Why not just let the kids run free? If this sounds alien and horrifying to you, please note that there are already places on this planet where children as young as 7 may perform most of the functions of daily life with no adult supervision and commute around gigantic megalopolises either alone or in troupes with other children. It requires an intelligent, high-social-capital society where crime is freakishly rare, which can be facilitated by homogeneity, embryonic selection for IQ (since IQ is linked to all things good), and deliciously brutal punishments for the disruption of public order and safety.
Another reason for the alleged necessity of early education is that a child must be socialised, which is to say interact with other children, and this speaks to the age-segregation trend of the First World. It hits high-IQ children the hardest: “He needs to learn to be with people his own age!” No one ever asks why, because no one actually knows why. Children who are adept at talking to adults are probably doing so out of frustration or boredom with other children, especially if they are bright, and it is not as if this “skill” is something they will carry with them for long – once they become adults, they (especially males) will be forbidden from socialising with children lest they be accused of child molestation.
In the days before institutional education was widespread, children socialised with other children, and adults, in their locale with no school, state, or bureaucracy sticking its nose in. Given the aforesaid prerequisites of high social capital, this is achievable to an even greater degree today. Smartphone addiction in children ought to be encouraged; it is the way of the True Aristocrat. Especially, encourage them to use it to get in touch with other children near them, on the same street or what have you, and then get on with their fun and games – no adult oversight needed. A nursery or daycare where I am from is often no more than a repurposed house in a residential area, much less fun than the setup I have described. This will make for less miserable childhoods and fewer put-upon and harassed parents, which, I think we should all agree, are good things.