Most of our common social institutions do double-duty, triple-duty, or more; they serve many functions at once. While this makes functional sense, it also complicates the task of inferring their functions. School is a good example. Some oft-mentioned functions:
- babysit – keep kids safe via less adult effort
- match – help kids find compatible mates/friends
- practice – practice specific skills, habits
- 3 Rs – practice reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmatic
- be like us – adopt our styles of talk, dress, music, etc.
- learn to learn – practice practicing new skills
- remember – remember specific facts, claims
- dogma – remember approved social views
- norms – internalize behaviors, standards
- mark – show that students better than others
- sort – rank by ability, loyalty, personality, support
- legitimize – accept non-school rank via school rank
- submit – practice gracious obedience, ranking
- stiffen – strength self-control to follow norms
- harden – practice working long, hard, on cue
- soften – practice accepting new local norms, ranks
- entrench – keep the system going, grow it if possible
- impress – make a local society look good to outsiders
In the face of such complexity, I prefer to
- Collect stylized facts, i.e., simple patterns of behavior that might be clues to help distinguish theories.
- Instead of seeking ad hoc explanations for each clue, seek a simple package of assumptions that simultaneously explain as many clues as possible with as few assumptions as possible.
So I hereby declare my newfound interest in such clues. What ya got?