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Principles from Plutarch (2) – The Importance of an Orderly Environment

Last week I wrote about how great leaders serve something higher and better than themselves. This will I will write about the importance of creating and maintaining an orderly environment.

According to Plutarch, after Cinna was slain Sylla came to power “much to the joy and satisfaction of most people, who in their present evils were ready to find some comfort if it were but in the exchange of a master. For the city was brought to such a pass by oppression and calamities that, being utterly in despair of liberty, men were only anxious for the mildest and most tolerable bondage.” 

There is a fundamental longing in the human heart for security and order. If our classrooms and homes are places of disorder it will be intolerable for our children. Our encouragement, the freedom we give them, and the creativity and energy we put into our plans will not matter so long as disorder reigns. Plutarch shows, as does history, that people gladly and willingly sacrifice a number of necessary human goods for the mere chance of having order and security. Without order, our children, even if they are unable to explain why, will want to be somewhere else. This will stunt both their intellectual and moral growth.  

How can we create an environment of order? We need to:

1) Have clear expectations.

2) Consistently enforce those expectations.

It sounds easy, but we all know this is very difficult! Having clear expectations requires that we have the wisdom to set good and just expectations. The enforcement of them requires that we have the courage to act even when we know we will find resistance from our children that will take time and energy to deal with. It also requires that we have the self-control necessary to keep our frustration from getting the best of us.

No one does this perfectly, but setting up wise rules and courageously and calmly enforcing them will make our classrooms and homes places of order. This in turn will make them places our children want to be, which will encourage their learning.