Marc Armitage - Thought Crime

One-Way Only

One-Way Only

a \‘shȯrt-rēd’\ piece

Let’s have a vote: ‘rules are rules’, or ‘rules are meant to be broken’? Which would you go for? I ask because there have been a number of news stories and social media posts about ‘rules’ recently, particularly in relation to children and schools.

I did a piece of work once in a secondary school in a country that for security reasons shall remain nameless (Ireland) which involved me interviewing groups of young people to explore what they liked and disliked about the daily routine of school. There was much they liked about their day yet among the various interview groups what they disliked the most produced an almost universal answer: the ‘corridor rule’. When I asked one of the interview groups what this meant they simply said, ‘We’ll show you - let’s go to the dining room’.

The ‘corridor rule’ was the stipulation that corridors around the school should be walked down in one direction only so setting out from their classroom we had to turn left, a point that was reinforced with a large arrow painted on the wall outside the classroom door pointing left and saying ‘This Way Only’. So we turned left. Then, after a while, turned left again at a junction, then left again, and then (you might be about to get the point here) left again to arrive at the dining room door - which was immediately next to the classroom we had just come from. On the right of the classroom we had just come from.

What was equally annoying to the young people here was that adult members of the school staff were clearly exempt from this rule and were turning whichever way they wanted from rooms and often seen, you will be shocked at this, walking the wrong way down the corridor! I asked the senior staff about this rule just to make sure I wasn’t been pranked but, no sure enough it really was a rule ‘for safety reasons’ and staff were exempt from it - for ‘safety reasons’. Nor was this the only rule in the school that seemed to apply to young people only.

I had to deliver the initial results of my interviews to a whole staff after school hours meeting and at the opening of the presentation I laid out a number of rules for the next hour that I was applying ‘for safety reasons’. Many of the staff present smiled as this list went on, then sniggered before finally bursting out into open laughter.

Interestingly, none of the senior management team laughed.

#playconversation #justsaying #schoolrulz


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