Pupils should be taught to break the rules

A leading head is urging teachers to encourage pupils to rebel, question the rules and stand up for what they believe in. 

Pupils must be taught to break the rules in order to learn independent thinking, according to Nigel Lashbrook, the headmaster of a co-educational boarding school.

Speaking at the end of Oakham School’s ‘Rules and Rebellion Week’, he claimed that history has repeatedly shown that “challenging rules can be a precursor to instigating change or progress”, the Telegraph reports.

Citing previous social rebels including Rosa Parks, Millicent Fawcett and Emmeline Pankhurst, Mr Lashbrook claimed that children shouldn’t simply be educated by historic acts of rebellion, they should be taught how to launch their own. “We all teach a curriculum full of academic theories, approaches and rules that simply wouldn’t exist, had generations before us not broken the established rules,” he said. “What if mathematicians hadn’t queried the Greek mathematician Diopanthus, who described equations with negative solutions as “absurd”, and, as a result, set mathematics on the road to complex numbers and beyond?”

Successful companies including Apple, Innocent, Virgin and Dyson had all started as ‘challenger’ brands, the headmaster said. “It is our collective responsibility, as educators, to broaden all pupils’ perspectives and minds in this way, as a precursor to them challenging the rules in their future studies and careers.” He added: “We must all prepare students to be able to stand up for what they believe. If they cannot learn to do this now, in the safety of their school years, how will they fare later on in life?”

Do you agree that pupils should be taught to break the rules, or would this be a recipe for anarchy in the classroom? Share your views with the Eteach community!

8 thoughts on “Pupils should be taught to break the rules

  1. The liberal in me screams “Yes!”, but then I remember Set 5 Maths on a Friday afternoon and I’m like NOPE.

  2. Plus one to the above.

    1)If we all had the luxury of running small independent boarding schools I’m sure we would all feel the same way.

    2) I doubt many of us are overburdened by students with too much respect for rules and boundaries, so the point seems moot.

    3) Given that this statement coincided with rules and rebellion _week_ is it safe to assume that immediate obedience and total respect for the rules is right back on the agenda now?

    4) Does this respect for rebellion extend to members of staff who decide they know better and wish to do things differently?

    5) Given that we all know the answers to points 3 and 4, is this anything other than some free advertising for an educational business (sorry, independent school and charitable trust)? Furthermore, should we be encouraging or future political and business leaders to think that laws they personally disagree with can be be disregarded? Is not exactly worked out brilliantly so far.

  3. I agree broadly with Victor. Rules and regulations need to be challenged when they plainly make little sense and do not fit the situation. How many times have we heard a spurious use of “health and safety” when it makes no sense? However I’m not sure that I would want to encourage my students to challenge school rules!

    It’s a shame that Victor feels it necessary a pop at private schools. They are not businesses, as they do not exist to make a profit for their owners. That is why they are charities, as income will be used for the benefit of students. Without private schools class sizes would be even bigger if the state sector had to support from taxation all those students who are currently paid for by parents choosing to pay out of their own pockets.

  4. I agree that having worked in both sectors, private schools seem to have a selection of pupils which differ from the local state or inner city school.
    I also know that many private school students lack respect for their teachers and people who ‘work for them’ and that before challenging the rules it is important to have the basic citizenship notions embedded.
    As a french citizen myself, I believe in challenging institutions maybe more than some of my British born colleagues, because as a child I was taught respect for my elders, for my ancestors and for the people who gave us liberty, equality and fraternity and that we should all have freedom of speech and belief. That’s one thing. As a teacher in English primary schools for the last 16 years, I say that pupils need to understand that rules are there for a purpose , not necessarily negative , that they may occasionally be challenged through discussions and consultation, but never through anarchy or lack of respect ( which would a rule challenging day sounds like to me !)
    As a teacher and parent,I think that a sound education is the key, children understanding the benefit and purpose of rules and that they also have rights, giving them the moral and intellectual tools to grow into wise adults, who will be able to question what they were taught and bring their own mind into the world.

  5. I spent quite a while teaching in an independent school. It was not easy work, but I found it very rewarding. I currently teach in a state school, but I would very happily go back to teaching in an independent school.

    However, I think it is important not to get too misty eyed about the charitable status of independent schools. These schools use the money to provide excellent facilities for fee paying students and (maybe) a small number of subsided scholarships. I have no particular problem with that, I just don’t think it deserves special praise.

  6. Such an idea proposed by a head-teacher is another educational gimmick that shows up the hot air often espoused by so called idealistic heads who very rarely practice what they preach. The only case of such liberal thinking that ever delivered the goods where the head-teacher actually encouraged the pupils to be themselves and challenge the status quo is A.S. Neil’s Summerhill school in Suffolk based on the principle ‘freedom not licence’. The head-teacher who leads by example with a smile, teaches any class or subject at the drop of a hat, opens the school each morning and covers for an absent teacher are the ones that inspire children and staff. Never mind children being taught to break the rules how about head-teachers that are always about actually on the ground walking the talk.

  7. Oh please! Children do not need some “down with the kids” geezer to encourage them to break the rules. Most are very good at rule breaking all by themselves. There is a difference between the efforts of freedom fighters and low level disruption in the classroom.

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