Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why obey the rules?

As an instructor, one of the biggest hurdles is class discipline. Getting students to behave well enough that education can go on, that can be a difficult task.

Working with young adults, the old statement "Because I told you so!" just does not cut it. That's a sure fire way to encourage rebellion.

Why? Because the students don't trust us, that's why. They don't trust us as adults or instructors to be fair, honest, or even handed. They don't trust us to have their best interests at heart.

The simple fact is, they are not really stupid, just unchallenged. At the core most of them are able to think just fine. They can tell when they are being lied to just as well as you or I can. Better, in fact, as they are more experienced than we old farts, at least with being lied to.

Teenagers live their lives with double standards. One for them, and one for the adults. Adults live this way too but usually choose not to notice. If noticed, most adults let it pass.

Teenagers still think 'Life is supposed to be fair'. and they get angry and confused when it's not. Most mature adults realize that life is not fair, it just 'is'.

A case in point from an adult viewpoint: A senior judge was caught last year at the Detroit airport trying to smuggle a loaded weapon in her luggage. Judge Sylvia James was released and never charged with the federal offense she committed. Had that been I, or anyone I know, we would still be in jail. Is that 'fair'? Is that 'right'? Not by any means. Is it the reality? Do I realize there are multiple standards and multiple levels of law enforcement in this nation? Yes, I do.

My realization that I live not under double standards, but multiple levels of standards, (many for sale), does not prevent my functioning in society because I don't expect life to be fair. I know for a fact that most of the police cars that pass me well in excess of the speed limit are not on emergency missions. They drive fast and illegally because they can. That's not fair, it just 'is' what it is. I know for a fact my state's governor will never be charged with the two dozen times he was clocked going over 100 mph on the PA turnpike. He's earned his nick name of 'Fast Eddie' Rendell. Is it fair he'll never be charged while 175,000 other folks in this state got cited for driving over the speed limit last year? No.... it's not.

It is what it is.

Closer to home.... in our own school, an edict went out that food was allowed only in the cafeteria, never in the classrooms. This was supposed to fight mold, of all things. The reality was... mold was caused by water from a leaking roof, but that costs money to fix and meaningless edicts cost nothing but the trust and faith of students and staff.

In a school with over five hundred students and dozens of instructors and staff, enforcing this was difficult, especially as the school sells food in the cafeteria never meant to be eaten there.

In an E-mail to the administrator I asked how I was supposed to explain and enforce this rule when my students only had to walk into the administration offices to see food laid out on the tables and snack bowls on every desk?

Some people would think it common sense, but the reality is the admin staff simply never thought the rules applied to them. They marched to a different standard. Just like the judge, just like the governor, just like the police, just like congress, just like.......

I'm sure the point is clear.

How do I explain to my students why rules should be followed? With two simple points.....

1) Sometimes rules are made for good reasons. Look for the reason, and obey the rule because it's a good rule with a purpose, not just because some two faced bozo tells you to. Be smart enough to see the reason for the rule.

Like speed limits in town.... 35mph makes sense when people are walking around and cars are pulling out without looking. I drive 35mph in town because it's makes sense, not because it's "Da LAWwww".

2) One day, you might be making all the rules, and for reasons that make a lot of sense to you. Do you want your rules to be followed or ignored? Start a trend.

Many of my students will one day own or run business's. They know they will be making rules, or are at least hoping they will. This makes sense to them.

How would you explain to a teenager why rules and laws should be followed, when all around us the privileged, the important, the wealthy, and the deranged are held to no, or different, standards?

To quote a student of mine: "Why should I follow the rules? The principle doesn't!"

1 comment:

AmericanMercenary said...

All revolutions need a few things.

Class disparity and a legitimate complaint are the two main ingredients.

When the rules are used to "keep the peasants in check" instead of keeping society functioning then Revolution becomes inevitable.

The problem with Revolution is that for every US Revolution there are three Soviet Revolutions.