In 1746, or thereabouts, the Earl of Chesterfield wrote to his then eight-year-old son the following:
It is unthinkable, today, that a child of eight would receive such a letter from his father, extolling the virtues of a serious intellect, decency of character, and hard work. So when should it come? It seems to me that we rather underestimate the capacity of children, with school curricula increasingly spoon-feeding watered-down knowledge into the gaping mouths of perennial babes even up to the University years. Little room is given for initiative, for individual expression, for self-reliance, or for self-education. Since children are not given the responsibility to do anything, they do not learn that there are consequences to actions, and that they must take ownership of them. In most schools, there is no scope for building character at any point up to the age of eighteen. I suggest that, from the age of eleven or so, boys be given increasing freedom to act, within certain boundaries: to succeed and take the honour; to make mistakes and pay for them. There is no fixed point at which the boy of good sense will emerge from among his silly peers, but when he does he will likely serve as a positive example, if he can bear his exceptional status with courage. Becoming manly takes time, but at some point the process must begin.