A time traveller from Egan's distant future may wonder why educators continually attempt to reform a system that they perceive as irrational and contradictory (much as the practice of haruspicy is today considered), but the school is, ultimately, a reflection of time and place.
They are in the realm of what Gramsci called 'common sense', for example, practices such as the haruspicy observed by Egan's time travelling researcher that are unquestionably taken as the natural way things should be done.
Historically, especially when information has been scarce or both sides of an issue have had considerable merit, people have often trusted in chance--perhaps in combination with a bit of human interpretation or intuition--employing such means as augury (divination from omens), haruspicy
(inspection of the entrails of sacrificial animals), Delphic oracles, Chinese fortune bones, the throwing of dice, and the tossing of sticks.
In addition to practicing human sacrifice, the people worshipped deities such as the tree-god and practiced haruspicy
to look for signs of prosperity or disaster in the next year.
4 For a full account of the complex art of haruspicy
as practised in the Middle East, see Jeyes (1989).