In Scholastic’s November 1998 issue, Erin Lum wrote about her vain attempts to turn in an assignment past the deadline for a class taught by a “stickler for rules” — a frustration that college students are all too familiar with.
As she had been halfway across campus dealing with printers “making weird groaning sounds” it was no surprise that Lum arrived 10 minutes late. The TA “refused to accept it” despite her lamentations. “It wasn’t as if I had spent 10 extra minutes gaining some kind of advantage over all the other students.” She hopelessly asked herself, “What was the point?”
Lum knew, like the rest of us, that “rules are essential some of the time,” and can prevent us from “crime and even lacerations by airborne frogs.” And although rules can teach us responsibility and accountability, some rules should have some exibility.
We’ve all been in Lum’s position before, wondering how rigid rules can help us “better understand the subject material” — a riddle we are still trying to solve.
So Lum proceeded, like all students do in times of trouble, to complain about the many “dumb rules” that “were often antithetical to the purpose they were trying to achieve.” I know I’ve experienced countless nights I’ve had to be home “on the dot” and ended up driving way over the speed limit to make it back in time. Lum, like others, knew that such a strict curfew time, put in place to keep us safe, “made no sense” because “it took a fair amount of recklessness” to make the curfew.
In the end, though Lum lost her battle, she proclaimed that she’d never give up fighting for “exceptions to the rule” and concluded that when she writes rules of her own, “they’ll be in erasable ink.” Hopefully we’ll have more professors like Lum and fewer like the strict one she encountered. After all, some “rules are made to be bent.”