Rules are tools

Rules and Schools are tools for fools! I don’t give two mules for rules.

Constance Contraire

I have a complicated relationship with rules. As a troublemaker who is undisciplined, I don’t like to unquestioningly obey rules. Rules can be too restrictive. Set a tone of distrust. Foster an environment of hostility. Be extremely unjust in their implementation. Rely too heavily on outdated traditions. But, rules can provide structure. Order. A common ground. Comfort and reliability. These are things that I need, even if just in small amounts, especially when I’m experimenting and trying to make and stay in trouble.

So, unlike Constance Contraire, one of the kid heroes in Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society, I don’t believe that “rules are tools for fools.”  We need rules. They can be tools for undisciplined troublemakers. But which rules? How many? And how do we implement them?

I’ve posted a few rules on this blog (see tag: rules). I think I’ll try to find some more. Maybe I’ll ask others what rules they use?

Here are my rules, collected from a few different syllabi that I’ve taught:

  1. Show up.
  2. Ask lots of questions, but don’t (always) expect answers. (Find them yourself!)
  3. Engage, be active, take responsibility.
  4. Be early. (If you’re on time, you’re 5 minutes late.)
  5. Pay attention.
  6. Do it now, not later.

In my green notebook, I wrote the following:

What ARE Rules For?

  • Structure
  • Security
  • Freedom to Experiment

What AREN’T Rules for?

  • Punishing or controlling
  • Suppressing creativity
  • Asserting AUTHORITY!
  • Belittling, mocking, oppressing

Rules should answer YES to the following questions: Does it recognize my dignity? Does it encourage/promote/support?

Rules should answer NO to the following questions: Does it do violence to me/others? Does it discourage/ shut down ideas/ people/ conversations?