For those families going to London this fall, (which is probably none of us but this site sounds so exciting and cosmopolitan when I start a post that way, doesn’t it?) there’s an exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum called Disobedient Objects. The exhibition is a celebration of our natural ability to break rules.

It’s a human need to be part of a group—we are inherently social beings  – but it’s also a human need to break rules that don’t seem right to us.Part of growing up is learning how to balance the two needs. You don’t want to end up in jail, and you don’t want to end up in a mental ward—the inevitable results of either extreme compliance or non-compliance to rules.The curator of the exhibit, Gavin Grindon, is eloquent in her approach to disobedience. The objects are like poetry in their simple, touching way of getting under the skin of convention.

The photo up top is the Throw & Grow Flower Grenade to protest the lack of nature as city governments sell off all their land to businesses.And in a nod to Occupy Wall Street, Andy Dao and Ivan Cash created Occupy George, a site where you can get dollar bills stamped with creative red lines that turn the money into protest art about the 1%.

Grindon says, “Many of the rights and freedoms we take for granted were won by disobedience. Oscar Wilde called it man’s ‘original virtue.’”

That got me to thinking about how difficult it is to teach kids to balance following rules vs breaking them. School is adamant that kids need to conform so they can be tested. But also so the teachers can handle the 30:1 student-teacher ratio. In fact, even among teachers who say they admire creativity, there is a huge bias against kids who don’t fall in step with everyone else.

This situation is especially bad because obedient children are cause for concern. Kids need to be rebellious to be healthy.

But I’m not sure parents are any better than schools at teaching kids to break rules. Because the decisions parents make become the rules. So how could parents encourage the kids to break the rules? It is human nature to protect kids, not encourage them to go against the grain.

Unless, of course, the parents are going against the grain. Parents of homeschoolers are rule breakers themselves.

Maybe what that means for homeschooled kids is that it’s going against the grain of the school status quo. That’s consistent with predictions that Gen Z will be rule followers. Also, there are tons of books that teach kids to question authority, including a book called A Rule is to Break: A Child’s Guide to Anarchy. And I’m pretty sure that once the rule-breaking parents tell kids that disobedience is good and part of the family values, then it would be most disobedient of kids to say they want to be a follower.



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11 replies
  1. jessica
    jessica says:

    You’re not that far off the mark, P. We arrived in London last week for a three month working holiday. This is great, we will definitely check it out with the kids. Thanks!

  2. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I already have so few rules to begin with. We are pretty much non-conformists and my kids don’t even know a box exists to know whether they are in or out of it!

    So I guess it makes sense that my gen z kids will be rule followers.

  3. Erin
    Erin says:

    It would be easy to throw my hands up after reading this post, “What’s the point?! Our kids are products of things outside our control! So why do what we do?”

    Maybe I’m too much of an idealist, or maybe I’m just naive, but I believe it’s possible to help my kid learn from my life lessons. Ok. Sure. Societal trends are cyclical. But on the micro-scale of our life, I believe in progress.

    Maybe progress needs the pendulum swing of rule-breakers & rule-makers. Maybe the rules aren’t the real issue. Rules don’t have to be the enemy, they can just be a bad tool in the wrong hands.

    Or rules could become a good tool in our children’s hands.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I love me a good rule! Like don’t talk to people before they have coffee, right after they come home from work, DO NOT have loud tv when I come home from work because it’s like I’m about to have a seizure (obviously I don’t unwind that great. So yay for my new 15 minute commute rather than 7).

      It’s the crazy extreme of rules that suffocate people and lose the heart of the issue that bothers me. Like you said. There’s a reason the rule was made. Most of the time is for the benefit of the public. Sometimes they aren’t.

      But it’s wjen people focus on the rule only and not the principle of the matter that we lose something important.

  4. HomeschoolDad
    HomeschoolDad says:

    We live about 1/4 of a mile from the V&A Museum which happens to be next to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum here in London. They are all free and we’ve been to them a number of times. HOWEVER, they are all shrines to Big Government and rife and with the latest agitprop. Of course it’s all still a learning opportunity for my homeschooled brood….but perhaps not exactly the one intended.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      What do you mean by “agitprop”? I want to know more!

      And weird, now I have to picture your face with an accent.

  5. Phi
    Phi says:

    Well, homeschooling is about encouraging, helping a kid to develop his own potential, talents, capabilities etc. J’ai bien compris? So one of the major societal rules is already broken from the start. Non? From this disobedient basis: in the process of developing my own talents, I can and should break some rules or on the contrary I should follow some rules … But mainly I suppose I don’t care (a/ because of the starting point) (b/ because I even don’t think about it). Non? So as a parent do I need to teach etc. Je ne pense pas. I focus on my kid and its talents. Non?

  6. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    Thanks, I’m in London and will check out the exhibit. This is a difficult area for me as I grew up aspiring to conform and fit in. Now I’ve started homeschooling (and growing an afro) I’m feeling like Albert Camus’ L’Etranger – which I didn’t even get. I never got Catcher in the Rye either. This exhibit I hope will inspire me.

  7. Cathy Webb
    Cathy Webb says:

    Great post! I agree with you on all counts. Kids SHOULD find a balance between abiding and breaking rules. The Oscar Wilde quote blew me away. I have always tried to live by the rules, I regret it sometimes. An eye-opener for me indeed!

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