"This will remain true as long as you and your parents are highly genetically related..."

This genetic reductionism is rubbish. Don't adoptive parents and step-parents act the same way? And aren't siblings, who share MORE genes with each other than they do with their parents, display LESS tolerance for bad behaviour than do parents?

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"But seniors in high school have to ask permission just as much as kindergarteners do."

Not universally, agnostic -- my son is in a (public) middle school and is free to go anywhere within five blocks of the school on his lunch break. When I was in high school several of the public schools near me had "open campuses."

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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.

That sounds like the worst kind of rationalism, the kind that eschews data and defined testable hypothesis for deductive "models" that only apply to simple majorities of unscientific observations and are held to in the face of opposing data.

You are a credentialed economist and professor, surely you can provide empirical information instead of vague deductions presented as discovered truth.

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Babysitting makes a lot of sense. Kids are no longer needed for labor nowadays and would just get in the way of most modern jobs so school serves to keep kids occupied while their parents are away.

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John Taylor Gatto explored much of the "condition children to become cogs in the machine" area awhile ago. That's just one of many interesting points he makes about the educational system.

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I just added two entries to the list: entrench, impress

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related to this topic:

reading recommendation -Richard Arum & Josipa RoskaAcademically Adrift: Limited learning on College campusesChicago University Press, 2010 (forthcoming)

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Using longitudinal data with spring and fall tests, much of the SES related achievement gap is explained by relative summer falloff in performance by lower SES kids. --> Schools are somewhat successful in raising the relative achievement of lower SES kids.

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one would be hard pressed to show that disbelief in human evolution has a significant negative effect on life outcomes of students

This is debatable. Most of modern biology and even medicine (see e.g, pathogen resistance) can only be properly understood in the light of evolutionary forces. Plus, the evidence for macroscopic evolution is quite overwhelming nowadays, so teaching creationism outside of a religious studies class doesn't really make much sense.

Of course, this is a hypocritical stance, snce the advocates of teaching evolution do not apply the same truth-seeking approach to civics/political science, econ, history, social science, grievance "studies" etc. But hypocrisy is arguably better than not caring at all.

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Very interesting stuff, Robin.

I don't have much to add except to ask if you have children and, if so, how they are taught?

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Robin, I think the theory he's talking about is: Schools are mainly instruments of repression and control; it will be a lot better when we get rid of all these rules so kids can really explore and learn without all these boundaries imposed by The Man.

There are very different groups of kids in schools in the US. Schools serve very different functions for each group, even within a pretty homogeneous school.

No one in the post mentions what decent schools do for lots of people, including me: teach math, science, English, history, let people find out how good/bad they are in different things and with different people, and meet kids who are like them.

And no one in Washington DC sends their kids to Catholic schools for the religion. They send them for the rules, the discipline, and the insistence on work. Rules and hierarchies are terrible things in schools until the day you don't have them.

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Another clue:

People fight hard over what is taught in schools. Evolution is a big battle ground in schooling today but one would be hard pressed to show that disbelief in human evolution has a significant negative effect on life outcomes of students even less the lack of having it taught in school. People do learn in places other than school.

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Clues:A lot of education is recommended solely on the grounds that it prepares one for further education.

Schools teach much that is only of use to a very, very small number of people (i.e quadratic equations, and I don't count the people who only need to know it to teach it to others).

People go to school for 12 years and yet some very practical and easy to teach knowledge that would help them live a better life.

People often say that this or that population needs more/better education but they seldom say what knowledge or skills would help the society most and what is the most efficient way to get this knowledge and skills to the target population.

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Also, there is no general consensus among teachers or administrators as to what we are trying to accomplish.

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From an insiders perspective I can say some of the following. I don't know if these are clues about the purpose of schooling, but here you go:

Principles and administrators have essentially no authority over the actual content taught in a classroom. Other than hiring power they have no real control over classroom discipline methods or teaching methods or grades. Changing my principal tomorrow would not change my life at all.

A masters degree in teaching is required pretty much everywhere. This is where we are supposed to learn classroom management, teaching methods, as well as a general perspective on what are job is and why we're doing it. In other words, this is politically and ideologically loaded. In fact, to complete the masters program we were required to basically become junior professors. We were supposed to do research, but not real research. I can't remember what it was called, but it was supposedly based on "critical theory" and was supposed to help the children "grow as learners" or some such.

Everyone talks about "research-based" methods but what is presented as being research-based seems very dubious and counter-intuitive. And its never really explained what ends the research shows these methods achieve other than "achievement."

The official position of my county is that our main purpose is to close the "achievement gap."

Every classroom in my school has computers that go unused and we keep buying more despite constant complaints about budget cuts.

You can't wear hats, you can wear Muslim head wraps, you can openly admit to being in a gang.

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Chris and JS, I'm partial to the reductionist theory that the smartest old people want power to go to their regressed to the mean children, rather than to the smartest young people of the next generation. According to that theory revolutions occur when the talent elites of generation young are sufficiently smarter than the talent elites of generation old, and succeed in preventing a nepotistic transfer of power.

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