Two Kinds of Rules

Over the weekend, I was thinking about rules. And homeschooling. And unschooling. And school. And society at large.

I like rules. I’m one who speaks up if someone takes a picture in a show that says, “no flash photography.” I speak up when someone cuts in line. I say, “hey”, when people are talking in the movie theater.

I generally don’t like chaos. I like when it’s clear what people are supposed to be doing. I also like family rules, and social rules, and all that.

But there are rules that I cannot stand.

– all kids have to do their homework, no matter what
– everyone has to submit to policemen without question
– kids who have to do what their parents say, even if they don’t understand why

Stuff like that.

I’m a rule breaker. A doubter. A rebel. Because I don’t blindly follow rules. But there are rules that I do follow, and expect other people to follow.

There are two kinds of rules:

1) Rules that benefit the people they effect.

2) Rules that benefit the people who make them.

The first kind of rule are the ones I stand behind, and enjoy having in my life. The second kind piss me off.

In some cases, a rule can be in both categories, or it’s not clear which category it should be in. That’s where debate and discussion are really important. It’s important to know if a rule benefits the people it effects. If it doesn’t, it’s a rule of convenience. A rule of control. A rule to make people into sheep. If it’s a rule that helps people have freedom, have individualism, and to be safe from the chaos of other people who are willing to hurt others to get what they want (whether they are in the general population or in positions of power), they are rules that we need to have around.

In school, what kind of rules dominate? In our homeschools, what kinds of rules dominate?

This is sort of about democracy, and it’s sort of not. What it is about, is whether or not the people enforcing the rules give a damn about the people who are subject to them. Who do the rules protect? Who do they help? Is it even a “who” the rules help at all? Or is it a process that the rules help?

We can all get used to any rules that are thrust upon us. But the rules that we’ll follow, and that don’t require active coercion to enforce, are the rules that make sense.

What do you think about the two kinds of rules? Can you think of some rules that “make sense” to you and some rules that seem not quite right, or piss you off? Can you divide them into the two categories?

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5 Responses to “Two Kinds of Rules”

  1. Anna Says:

    I don’t know. If I got the BE the dictator…..the second kind of rule is not so bad.

    One of the things that I have enjoyed in the last few months is that I have let up on the rules a bit. And we are not living in Lord of the Flies, so that says something about the rules I have let go of.

  2. dancingboysmom Says:

    I agree with you. That’s probably why I hated school and the type of religious household I grew up in. If you can’t ask questions then there’s something wrong with the rules. In my home we couldn’t ask questions because our parents didn’t know the answers. If a rule is good, anyone can question it because the answer will always be available, and it won’t be “Because I said so.”

  3. titus2woman Says:

    I think being too overbearing with rules also keeps us from raising free thinkers. At least in my mind I’m connecting the ideas~does that make sense? (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  4. Sheri Says:

    To me, we have rules because we (humanity as a whole) don’t trust ourselves or each other enough to self-govern our behaviour. An idealist’s perspective I’ll admit though and not very practical.

    Kind of a grey area for me really because, especially when it comes to homeschooling, I’m knee deep in trying to sort out my thoughts on the whole rules thing.

    Awesome post.

  5. Tammy Says:

    Anna – Ya, funny how us humans, when we change cultural status, our opinion and perspective can change. Can’t really fault those in power for trying. That’s why it’s important that those who are not in power to stand up for themselves.

    And, sounds like you let go in a positive way for your family. Brava!

    dancingboysmom – OOOhhhh, the “because I said so” reason makes my hair stand on end. Maybe, if I really trust someone, I can let that reason go once in a while. But if someone in power says that a lot, it means they aren’t thinking. People who don’t think who are in authority over me make me wonder, “Why do they get to be the boss?”

    titus2woman – I agree with that. The bare minimum of rules that we need to keep things from falling into chaos is enough. Just enough, and nothing more. You know, like the title of this blog. 🙂

    Sheri – I think you’re right in the sense that rules exist because of human imperfection. But I’m thinking of Disneyland, where I had originally come up with this whole idea. They have a seriously strict amount of rules. Particularly with their line-standing and people dispersement on the rides. D-land Paris, I hear, does not. There are 100’s of thousands of people who go on each ride a day. Those rules aren’t there because people are imperfect, but because it makes it easier for everyone to get what they want – onto the ride quickly and without having to fight for their place. It also gives people who want to go on the ride a clear indication of how to do that. True, it reduces how much we have to think. But to be honest, in that particular situation, I don’t want to think. I just want on the ride.

    This could be extended to our culture at large, I suppose. The fact that many people want things to be in place because it’s easy. Many rules makes it easy so we don’t have to think. At D-land, that might be the perfect formula. But in society at large, and certainly in a family situation, it gives the authority too much power.

    We don’t fight this kind of rule-setting at D-land, because we, the users, benefit from the rules. But there are many who fight this kind of rule over-kill in society at large, and don’t bring it into our family, because we recognize that really, it’s not good for us. It may look good in the short term, and on paper, but in reality it’s not. It’s for the authorities to make it so we don’t have to think.

    I also wanted to add a third kind of rule – arbitrary rules that exist because of tradition. Or because of an overarching perspective of “this is what people in the world should do.” I don’t like those rules either, because, again, people don’t have to think. But there’s something to be said about habit and tradition. It’s comfortable. Like a recliner in front of a T.V.


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