Seeking School Clues

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

  1. Collect stylized facts, i.e., simple patterns of behavior that might be clues to help distinguish theories.
  2. 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?

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