Stone Pigs

undeniable underlying truths

Rules Have Replaced Thinking

Posted By Alan Partis on June 27, 2009

One of my biggest pet peaves is what I call the "blind application of standards." I have found this also includes the application of rules, laws, etc. The problem is that the application of rules has now almost completely replaced thought in our society. Most people just blindly move through life applying rule after rule to their circumstances and never apply thought.

Oftentimes, because people are unwilling to take the time to think or expend a little mental energy on something, they will opt for the completely illogical choice simply because there’s a rule that dictates it. Sometimes, the consequences of those decisions can be extremely costly (in addition to being downright foolish).

A prime example comes from Chino Hills, California1. School district administrators face a $7,000,000 penalty unless they make up 34 school days at 2 elementary schools because their Friday schedules were 5 to 10 minutes too short. California requires that public schools, at a minimum, provide 54,000 minutes of class time annually — both of these schools met that requirement. The State also requires at least 180 minutes on Fridays, and that’s where the shortfall comes from. According to the rules, any day that falls short of it’s 180 minute requirement doesn’t count at all. Consequently, the schools must remain open, and students and teachers will attend, another 34 days — virtually eliminating summer break in its entirety.

While the schools provided adequate classroom time and instruction, the State will still withhold $7 million in funding due to the blind application of standards. To attempt to remedy the situation, rather than laughing and saying, “Don’t worry about it” the school has to spend an additional $200,000 (at a minimum … and probably much more) and the California Assembly has to pass ANOTHER law to provide an exemption.

Sadly, even one of the school principles doesn’t seem to get it. Amy Nguyen-Hernandez, principle of Rolling Ridge Elementary School in Chino Hills said:

We try to be rule followers here, so we’ll try to do whatever needs to be done.

Yes, there needs to be rules, but there also needs to be some application of common sense that can supersede the blind application of rules at the appropriate times.

Equally important in this conversation, especially when it comes to the application of laws and rules by public sector entities, is a foundation of trust that is detailed in “Who Do You Trust?”

Another example from the wonderful world of public education (which is clearly doing more to destroy our ability to think for ourselves than it is to help) comes to us from New York City2. In this case, because of union contracts, there are roughly 700 teachers in the New York City public school system that are being paid full salary and benefits to do absolutely nothing (other than show up to ‘work’ in what is called a ‘rubber room’). This costs the district (also known as taxpayers) $65 million per year.

These teachers are awaiting disciplinary hearings after having been removed from student contact due to one type of allegation or another. However, there are but 23 arbitrators who only work 5 days a month, so the delays are considerable. The arbitrator will ultimately determine whether the teacher should be terminated or allowed to return to a classroom.

While I’m certain that some of these teachers deserve termination, I’m willing to bet that an equal number do not, but simply because an allegation has been made, possibly by a student who doesn’t like the teacher, they are ground through the system. In the mean time, taxpayers are burdened with higher taxes than necessary for lack of the application of common sense at all levels.

In New York City, according to union rules, these teachers are not allowed to be given other work to do. Instead they are paid to do nothing. This is in contrast with the way at least some other school districts have implemented similar systems.

Many people have completely abdicated their right to think. Instead, they ask for more and more rules to govern their lives, and the lives of others who they do not trust. The lack of trust (and trustworthy folks) in our society results in the application of more laws thus further degrading the very freedom we proclaim to be protecting.

Once you start thinking for yourself, as you look around, you’ll see more and more examples of this type of blindness … and the related loss of freedom and liberty to you and the loss of productivity and potential wealth creation to society in general.

Start reversing this trend by first becoming a more trustworthy person, then extending that trust to others who have done the same. Teach your children the strength of character necessary to be trustworthy and the value of trust as well as the freedom that comes with it.

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1 District’s Error Axes Summer Break for 2 Schools, Michelle Rindels, Associated Press, June 25, 2009.

2 700 NYC Teachers are Paid to do Nothing, Karen Matthews, Associated Press, June 22, 2009.


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