Rules? What Rules?

A friend sent me this photo, taken 1910 … and I thought, it was the best BEST example ever, of bending the rules … (or at least those rules that make no sense beyond to those who made them … )



I was reminded of it today, after speaking with a young boy who complained that he got into trouble–yet again–for breaking “another of the teacher’s stupid rules.”

The boy’s mother had her mouth already open to reprimand him for using a word one ‘should not say’ in the context of one’s educators … but I gave her one of my ‘please don’t’ looks … and she took a deep breath and nodded.

“What kind of rules?” I asked.

“Stupid ones,” he grumbled. Then seeing that I was actually waiting to hear an example, he sighed. “Like not being allowed to hold our pencils while we’re reading. She keeps taking points off when I break the rule.”

“Did she tell you why she doesn’t want you to do that?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged, “because she said so?”

I chuckled. “Fair enough … sometimes grownups say that you should not do things just because they say so … but I was wondering if she ever actually told you why. Sounds to me she maybe has a reason–maybe kids play with their pencils? Drop them a lot and it is distracting? Doodle in the books?”

The boy peered at me with a look that let me know that I have just lost about 200 points of coolness in his view along with several dozen in the IQ department. “Sometimes we’re supposed to write in our books,” he stated, “… anyway, if she said it was for that it would make sense, sort of” he added. “I don’t drop mine. I just hold it. She doesn’t want us to hold the pencils just because.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Just because?”

“Yeah,” he stressed. “She said that we don’t need a pencil in our hands for our brain to read…” the boy pouted. “How does she know what my brain needs for reading? What if the pencil reminds my brain what the letters are?”

Point made.

I actually could see how it could do that.

I told the little guy that if it helps him to hold the pencil when he’s reading, to go ahead and do so.

He looked at me, suspicious. “It’ll get me in trouble.”

“Not if you tell her that I told you it’s okay for you to keep holding it if it helps your brain.” I smiled, more than a tad conspiring.

His eyes grew large, and the grin that followed had enough wattage to light up Manhattan’s night sky.