On the Heinlein Scale of Competence, You May Not Even Register

Widely respected science fiction author Robert Heinlein stocked his novels with competent protagonists, who successfully dealt with all kinds of deadly dangers. He once provided a description of his idea of a competent human:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.” _Robert Heinlein

Fictional heroes such as James Bond or MacGyver, are often put into extreme circumstances where only competent improvisation can save them. But how does the hero — or you or me — become so automatically and unconsciously competent that we welcome almost any challenge?

The competent man, more often than not, is written without explaining how he achieved his wide range of skills and abilities, especially as true expertise typically suggests practical experience instead of learning through books or formalized education alone. _Wikipedia: “Competent Man

There is a reason why most fiction writers choose not to explain how “the competent man” became competent. Because they haven’t a clue themselves. In the modern age, the deck is stacked against the development of competence as well as against understanding how competence might be achieved.

When a person is mature, they are expected to have some type of competence or authority, whether they do or not. But it is becoming ever so rare for younger people to display competence beyond cursing, video games, binge drinking, cheating on exams, or reckless driving. What is a society to do when its best and brightest are having all their latent competence “dumbed” out of them by the system that is entrusted to prepare them for adulthood and responsibility?

When you run across a family of exceptions such as the children of Arthur Robinson, you can choose to believe that the six of them all have exceptional ability and drive, or you can think that Art Robinson taught them well in their ranch-based homeschool, or you can suppose that a combination of the two played a part in the apparent success of the family Robinson. Keep in mind that each of the Robinson kids performed at least one vital role in the household and on the ranch while growing up, displaying important practical competencies.

Children who grow up on successful farms or ranches and plan integral parts in the operation of those family concerns learn competence in basic skills early. The same goes for children who grow up learning any number of family businesses and craft/technology operations. They may not make a life out of those early skills, but the confidence that comes from having learned them will play a role in later ventures.

The Al Fin Dangerous Child Method of Education and Child-Raising is all about teaching practical competence as well as cognitive skills and innovative habits. This is a topic of concern that was widely written about on the original Al Fin blogs, and it is natural that it became one of the central pillars of the Dangerous Child Method.

Articles about childhood competence from the original Al Fin blog

Articles about competence on the original Al Fin blog

One of the many reasons that Dangerous Children are dangerous, is that they develop competence in techniques and practices that an unskilled person may not survive. Things from surgical procedures to wilderness and cave rescue to the construction and demolition of buildings.

How Old Should a Child Be Before Being Taught to Make a Pipe Bomb?

On the topic of edged weapons, firearms, archery, and explosives, experts at the Al Fin Institute of Advanced Childhood Educational Studies agree that all children of sound body and stable mind should be taught these deadly skills. The main point of contention among these luminaries is the exact age when children should become competent at such dangerous practises. All are agreed on the point that such skills should only be taught within a philosophical matrix of the limits of and strict non-initiation of violence, using the best safety precautions available. _Original Al Fin blog

The philosophy of non-initiation of violence and a basic tolerance and kindliness toward others is integral to the Method.

An Al Fin Dangerous Child is not a vicious or violent child, unless hard put upon by bad characters. Under those circumstances, the “dangerous” aspect of the Dangerous Child displays itself in a highly focused manner.

Dangerous Children are taught competence in a wide range of skills, most of which are not directly involved in combat or mayhem. Being widely competent is one of the things that makes them dangerous to the established order. Despots would rather turn the masses into beggars, ’cause they’re easier to please.

We are living in interesting times. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Consider how dangerous you and yours may need to become in the future.

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