Konner on Child Labor and Vain Dreams
By Bryan Caplan
In the Six Cultures Study child rearing and behavior were measured among five farming and herding societies (in Kenya, the Phillipines, Japan, India, and Mexico) and a New England town… There is almost a reversal of the relative proportions of work and learning when the industrial and intermediate-level societies are compared…
The difference between 17* and 2** percent for work and between 5* and 16** per cent for formal learning is substantial, but by most accounts this work is no more oppressive than school. Chores too entail learning and can be a main mechanism of cultural transmission – and also of expanding horizons. Many chores are outdoors, interesting, even fun – consider an eight-year-old driving a cattle herd to pasture… And school is certainly a chore for most children.
I’m also willing to hazard a guess where Konner lies on the jock/nerd spectrum:
Team sports teach ideals and behaviors like practice, discipline, skill, teamwork, fair play, and sportsmanship, but they may also cause pain and humiliation. When parents shout from the sidelines, publicly showing disappointment at children’s failures, team sports can be a coercive as child labor. Furthermore, children who work on their family farms are preparing for a career that they can have, while for most child athletes a career in professional sports is a vain dream.
* Average for the farming/herding societies
** Numbers for the New England town