I have to disagree with some of the things you say in the first paragraph. I taught Hunter Safety with my Dad for 25 years. We got some kids whose parents were not hunters and would never hunt. These kids had friends who were hunters and had to pass the test to be able to hunt with their friends and parents. In these cases it is the only SOURCE!We have guys saying that kids need to be able to pass hunter safety tests - I suggest that if the kid is ready, he or she can pass the test without the class. Along with the 12 yr old law, the state passed hunter safety class rules - I took the test at 10 without the class because I had earlier hunting licenses and easily passed, the shooting aspect was easy as well. It isn't rocket science and contains stuff that folks should be teaching their kids - safety, the legal laws, ethics, etc. I've taken the hunter safety class multiple times with folks over the past X years and the instructors do a good job. Where I'm going here is that it should be a reinforcement of knowledge, not a source.
Not gonna tell you how old a kid should be. That's a direct result of your efforts with your child and your child him or herself. If the kid has self control, listens & obeys and can follow directions without issues, and wants to go - seems like he or she is ready whether they be 6 or 60 years old. I enjoy seeing kids hunting with dad and/or mom.
Not gonna get into the whole "taking a life" or if an animal has a soul either. You teach your kids as you will. NRA mag has an interesting article on how folks view animals - 35% think animals are like people. That's gonna come into play in the future I'm sure.
I was raised in California and never had to take Hunter Safety as it did not exist when I got my first Hunting License. After it became mandatory, anyone who already had a License did not have to take the class. You just needed to provide the existing license and number to the agent who recorded it and you paid for and got your license.