From 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann (in the paragraph below, “Dawnland” refers to the Massachusetts coast):
“Boys like Tisquantum explored the countryside, swam in the ponds at the south end of the harbor, and played a kind of soccer with a small leather ball; in the summer and fall they camped out in huts in the fields, weeding the maize and chasing away the birds. Archery practice began at age two. By adolescence boys would make a game of shooting at each other and dodging the arrows.
The primary goal of Dawnland education was molding character. Men and women were expected to be brave, hardy, honest, and uncomplaining. Chatterboxes and gossips were frowned upon. ‘He that speaks seldom and opportunely, being as good as his word, is the only man they love,’ Wood explained. Character formation began early, with family games of tossing naked children into the snow. (They were pulled out quickly and placed next to the fire, in a practice reminiscent of Scandinavian saunas.) When Indian boys came of age, they spent an entire winter alone in the forest, equipped only with a bow, a hatchet, and a knife. These methods worked, the awed Wood reported, ‘Beat them, punch them, if [the Indians] resolve not to flinch, they will not.”
Compare with my comments in “The Creation of Conscious Culture through Educational Innovation,”
All cultures prior to modern European culture were virtue cultures in this sense. Humans were raised understanding that they had a role and standing in society and that their entire life was a reflection of how well they fulfilled that role. Each culture had a vision of excellence. The very texture of day-today life provided a consistent, coherent template that taught young people how they were to behave. From time to time, a member of the society was sanctioned or expelled in a manner that made it perfectly clear what types of behaviors were not condoned by the community. Young people were brought up in a set of cultural circumstances that allowed them to practice the requisite virtues of that society, allowing them to naturally become respectable adults in such a society.
When Arnold Kling is skeptical of improvements in education, he is conceptualizing “education” far too narrowly. The entire game, from my perspective, is the creation of new virtue cultures focused on developing new habits, attitudes, norms, character-traits, and sub-cultures. This task is not really possible right now because we do not have adequate pipelines of talent (e.g. adults trained in the requisite virtues), we do not have a sufficiently large and open market to incentivize the development of such pipelines of talent, and similarly there is no payoff to creating a large branded educational entity that can profit from the development of such a branded pipeline of talent development.