“There oughta be a law ….!”
“Yep, there oughta be one.”
“No, not that law, another law.”
“No, no, not that law – a different one!”
Re-frame the above imagined goofy adult conversation to a school or community playground. One where the kids are setting up their own game. (If that possibility exists anymore!)
“What are our rules?” “Here’s a rule…” “No, that one’s not fair ’cause…”. And rules are continually proposed, examined, until eventually some satisfactory “rules” are reached for an intended game.
The children’s practice to develop “law” for their game is aimed at “level playing field”. Sometimes they create special provisions to keep the play ‘level’; they recognize different capacities, different skill levels. A very young, inexperienced player (someone has brought hris “little sibling” along) is given slightly different rules or allowances. An especially skilled, perhaps older, child may be assigned some restriction.
Not all children use “rule making” to develop “fairness.” If some among them are determined to “win”, to “conquer”, they might insist on rules that treat all skills equal with full knowledge of outcome. Winners/losers.
As a classroom teacher I was blessed to work with some pretty savvy 9 year olds. We had one type of P.E. class that was ‘open’ for any activity that could be set up from whatever they found in the equipment room. Half the gym was marked for ‘team play’ and half for individual play. I couldn’t fully supervise team play and watch the individual play at the same time; I needed to supervise both.
Kids who wanted team play were given MY rules: They were instructed to set up their own teams, to gear these to create two teams of similar skill. I suggested they could do this by remembering we were a school class, our goal was skill development for everyone, not winning at all costs. If one team quickly scored more than 3 points beyond the opposing team, they were to shift players around – move them from one team to another, until scoring ability was more or less balanced.
My reasons were both professional and selfish. I was not available to constantly settle arguments if one team was trouncing the other, and it wasn’t something I wanted to do in any case. Our days of intended “team play for the whole class” were designed also to assure maximum individual skill development while working with mixed skill levels.
The amazing and wonderful thing about these 9 year olds was that they understood the value of these arrangements! Each fall, when we began, these instructions were new to most of the kids, especially kids who participated in community competitive leagues. (Hockey especially fostered high ‘competition’ attitudes in the kids who participated in those leagues.) They quickly adjusted to reminders of ‘learning for everyone’ as a function of classroom games. They showed skill and independence at creating appropriate rules when left to themselves. During ‘whole class team play arrangements’ those with greater skill showed interest and pleasure in their instruction to “pass the ball to the less skilled” on purpose to give that student some action.
Two “innate” impulses: one to ‘conquer’ or demonstrate ‘superiority’; one to ‘cooperate’ and demonstrate ‘best outcome for all’.
Those with high competitive urges began to demonstrate more relaxed ‘attitudes’, more cheerful, more satisfied. (I assured them their competitive community league activities could be what they were. It was classroom intent I meant to meet.)
Why does any society create law for itself? What is the function of laws and regulations?
To those who say we can thrive with minimum law I say I agree in theory – BUT we are not anywhere close to “spontaneously and consistently” finding ways to support one another’s differing skill levels, differing “entry level capacity” to keep a level playing field, without laws and regulations. We need “rules of play” to do this. So long as we have among us those whose primary aim is to “conquer”, to “win all games” those players will continue to maximize frustration and discouragement among other players.
To those who would have laws for nearly everything I say I disagree. To some extent we have to be patient and allow for greater unfolding of innate urge to cooperation.
Our task is to determine where we need laws and regulations and where they are less essential, perhaps not essential at all.
In a previous post I mentioned ‘litter-bugs’. There are laws against ‘littering’ but perhaps this is a situation in which enforcement people should be released from the task of ‘policing’. Laws against littering are possibly costly in time to devise, describe, police, prosecute, etc.
“Safety” related laws (seat-belts, helmets) are “in-between” in overall value to society. Perhaps it should be enough to make information available on the advantages of wearing these devices, and let citizens decide for themselves what they want to risk. If I don’t wear a seat belt what are the consequences to my immediate community if I am needlessly injured or killed? Can a spirit of cooperation help convince me that it’s worth protecting my own well-being for the sake of my family, my community? There is also the argument to be made that one can learn to value ones own self, never mind family and community – that protecting ones own life by lifestyle choices is good – delightful even!
In both these: littering and ‘safety devices’, perhaps teaching, coaching, to develop innate spirit of cooperation is preferable to written law. I once watched what I assumed was a grandfather coaching his grandson to ride a bicycle. The location was a very small provincial park. The ground was relatively flat. There was no one around except the pair and me – I was there to enjoy the river. The child was wearing a bicycling helmet. I could not help but think it was a loss to the child to not experience the joyful freedom of “wind in face/hair”. (There was no wind, actually, but the bicycle riding would create a light ‘breeze’ for the child.)
It sure seemed a moment when a helmet had no special value (unless the child had a special need, but there was nothing I could see to support that possibility.).
On the other hand, with today’s possible speeds in bicycles, extreme hills in our nearby town, and town traffic, there certainly might have been value for the child to wear a helmet in a different, potentially more dangerous, urban environment!
Safety laws seem aimed at “protecting us from ourselves”. I’m not convinced these are worthy laws.
Laws that protect us from one another are a different matter. Laws protecting us from one another are based in recognition that not all of us are motivated by genuine cooperative beliefs and attitudes.
We have a good 10,000 year (or so) history of motivation to conquer, to win, to ‘con’, to withhold important life-related information.
We have governments all over the world, at community, regional, and national levels filled with individuals who have reached positions of ‘law making’ by competitive means: by ‘conquering’, by ‘smoozing’ or conning, by going along with maintaining “non-transparency” as it shows up in corporate style managements, including managements of “political machines”.
We even have ‘laws’ to protect these practices! Corporations legally able to withhold information not only from the public but from their own shareholders!
We have media engaged in “shaping” public opinion by withholding or bending information. We have a well documented history of the development of “public relations” which uses intelligent design for the express purpose of playing on emotions for the sake of selling, of ‘reassuring’ when reassurance is manipulative, and for gaining votes and campaign contributions. (Watch: BBC’s The Century of Self, available in 4 parts, 1 hr each, as Google Video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6718420906413643126# )
We have gone further! We have recent elevation of corporate “personhood” to enhance “playing field status” of corporations that they might more fully practice manipulative influence on new policies and laws that might develop! (NOT ‘level playing field’, NOT ‘fostering innate cooperative spirit’!)
My post this morning is ‘suggestive’ and that is my intent. I do not present ‘facts and figures’ in support of what I say. My hope is that a reader will say: “I never thought about law and regulations quite that way, quite that simply.” (Unless, of course, hre has already had similar thoughts.)
Everything can serve as model for everything else! Shifting brow-furrowing examination of complex adult culture to a highly simplified, stripped down ‘model’ can allow helpful insight. Behaviors of 9 year olds are found to shed light on behaviors of the adult community!
–My Best! –MaggieAnn
(** ps: After posting, I ran a browser search ‘function of law’. Many hits, most academic. Readers will, I am sure, recognize my purpose in using ‘function of law’ in my title is to call attention to a question of law’s function in a most general, and not academic, exploration. Function of law (and regulation) is serve function of society; ‘society’ develops out of human effort to systematize cooperative processes that support present and predicted ‘whole group best outcome’. My emphasis here is our use for sake of ‘level playing field’, and to remind ‘by quick read’ why ‘level playing field’ is a worthy aim. .–MA)