Should We Teach Kids to Break the Rules?
By Shlomo Maital
In Michelle Knudsen’s book for children, “Library Lion”, 2006, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, the head librarian Miss Merriweather and Mr. McBee kick Library Lion out of the library, because he roared. And in the library, the rule is, you have to keep silent. They come to realize that by sticking to the formal rules, McBee and Merriweather have made a mistake.
Sometimes, to do a good thing, you have to break the rules. An Israeli theater group has now made a musical out of this story.
Here is a short passage: One day a lion came to the library. He walked right past the circulation desk and up into the stacks. Mr. McBee ran down the hall to the head librarian’s office. “Miss Merriweather!” he called. “No running”, said Miss Merriweather, without looking up. “But there’s a lion!” said Mr. McBee. “In the library!” “Is he breaking any rules?” asked Miss Merriweather. She was very particular about rule breaking. “Well, no,” said Mr. McBee. “Not really”. “Then leave him be.”
As parents and teachers, we teach our kids to become ‘socialized’, which means, to learn the rules of civilized behavior in society. Every society socializes its kids. Without that, we would have a crumbling society of sociopaths.
The question is, if creativity and innovation are about breaking the rules, can we teach kids to follow some rules and break others? And can they learn to know the difference? Can we raise good kids, well behaved, who at the same time rebel against rules, unwritten ones, and create wonderful new inventions? Can you be totally socialized, and extremely creative?
Perhaps “Library Lion” is a wonderful start at grappling with these tough questions. It is clear that doing so is long overdue. A lot of parenting, and a great deal of schooling, are one-sidedly focused on teaching the rules, and not on when they might be, and should be, broken.