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Children and teens learn more than math and English at school. You learn how to act, you meet new people, and there is a lot of behavioral information that you pick up by interacting with peers and adults. What are some of the more recognized ones?

The Latent Influence of School

There is more to school than education, posters encouraging you to learn math, and recess. We learn things at school that cannot be learned from a textbook or from someone explaining it to us. These are ideas and behaviors that influence you for life.

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You are sitting there right now, and you are being influenced!

Latent Functions of Education

Latent functions are unintentional and unrecognized outcomes to procedures a person participates in. Latent functions of education are unintentional and unrecognized outcomes that going to school, interacting with peers and adults, and following the rules ingrained into you without anyone really intending for it to happen. Let us explore some of the latent functions that researchers have come to recognize as originating in the educational system.

Off the Streets

School days typically last 6-8 hours, and when you have opportunities for after school sports and other activities this increases the time. This means for 6-10 hours, the majority of children and teens are in a handful of designated areas.

Not having free reign means less opportunity to get into trouble or cause problems.


Many people meet future spouses and partners in high school or college. We learn how to court the desired sex during these times, making mistakes and learning from them so as not to make them again. ‘High school sweethearts,’ ‘college sweetheart,’ and more terms describe the function of finding and meeting a future spouse or partner.

This was most likely not the intention of school founders and has been addressed by making some schools single-gender.

Cultural Values and Norms

Ideas about what is appropriate and inappropriate are transferred while at school. Children and teens come with different ideas of norms and values, and when at school they interact by encouraging and discouraging behavior, attitudes, and beliefs. For example, while most schools have the overt intention of sending their students to college, many possess an unintentional and unrecognized push to place the students into a trade school, or to just get them out of the high school. Another example of culture is found in language. A kid might learn an accent at home, which is heavily reinforced by peers and educators at his or her school.


Schools typically don’t put up with children’s and teenagers’ bad attitudes.

If you step out of line, you are punished. If you continue to step out of line they send you home for a while. If you continue stepping out of line, or do something really bad, they expel you. This punishment encourages a lifelong habit of following directions of those in a superior, or administrative, position.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review.

Schools and the education system have a lot of intentions built into them; however, most systems have unintentional, or latent, influences. Latent functions are unintentional and unrecognized outcomes to procedures a person participates in. Many children and teens learn social norms, expectations, behaviors, and obedience to authority. Many teens find their future spouses and partners. None of these were intended when founders set out to educate children in subjects like English and math.

Lesson at a Glance

  • Latent functions: unintentional and unrecognized outcomes to procedures a person participates in. Going to school influences students in ways that are unintentional.
    • Off the streets
    • Matchmaking
    • Social norms
    • Expectations
    • Behaviors
    • Obedience to authority
One of the latent functions is meeting a future partner.
latent function

Learning Outcomes

Upon reviewing this lesson, you should be able to identify and describe the latent functions a child learns and adopts while in school.

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