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The Two Meanings of "Social Contract"

There seems to be two very different ways that the phrase "social contract" is used.

The first is an unspoken conduct agreement between two people. If you hire a great guitar player to teach you guitar lessons once a week, are you allowed to cancel? Is your instructor? How much notice? Is it okay if he's drunk or halfway-preoccupied during your lesson?

How much formality is there? If you don't do the recommended lesson from last time, how disappointed will your instructor be?

How prepared must you both be?

This is a social contract that's actually a social contract. Sure, there's edge cases - even if it's expected that both of you are always at the lesson on-time, prepared, and ready to go immediately, there's still an exemption if you have a family emergency or serious illness or whatever.

Own Your Life

On Tynan

One of the great sacrifices of subjecting kids to school is that it trains them to ask for permission for everything, from turning in work late, to changing to a different class, to more mundane things like going to the bathroom. It's a tradeoff, of course: condition kids to seek permission for everything, and by doing so enable a system to exist where they receive an education.

Maybe that's a worthwhile tradeoff, and maybe it's not. But the real harm in it, in my opinion anyway, is that when we leave school, we're still in the habit of asking permission for everything. That's dangerous.

A manifestation of this that I come across with frequently is the questions that people send me by email. Here's a paraphrased template, which covers a good 60%+ of the emails I get from strangers:

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