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Are We Just Too Darned Obsessed With Rules?

I fear we might be heading into a grave age: The Death of Common Sense. Perhaps I've suspected for a while that we're living in too-touchy times, where a sensible or proportional response is lost without bells, whistles, and six or seven exclamation points, but I think it's entirely possible that we've begun deferring personal judgment and common sense in favor of an arsenal of black and white all-or-nothing rules.

See what you think. In this month alone:

  • Robyn Hooker, principal of Kent Gardens Elementary School in Virginia, has ruled that students can no longer play tag during recess. Hooker determined that the game of chasing, dodging and yelling "You're it!" had gotten out of hand, and had in fact become a game of "of intense aggression," much more intense than the tag she remembers. One parent said of the ruling, "We are regulating the fun out of normal childhood activity. In our effort to be so overprotective, we are not letting children be children."
  • At Cove High School in Texas (a school where half the students have at least one parent deployed) suspended a student for answering a call from his father — who is serving in and calling from Iraq — saying the student had violated the school's no-cell-phone policy.
  • In Colorado, an eight-year-old received a three-day suspension for sniffing a Sharpie marker. The principal says that she didn't want to see the event escalate and assumed the boy was "huffing" or inhaling dangerous fumes from the marker.

Are these instances where rules were necessary and rightfully enforced? Are we walking the balance between discipline and discretion?


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