I remember my father using this expression more than once when I got caught going along with friends doing something that I can honestly now look back on as out of line.

If everyone jumped off the pier at Goderich, would you join them?

The appropriate answer was no.

This all came back when I watched the fallout from the recently concluded US Open tennis championship.  The discussion was around the actions on the court and the Serena Williams incidents.

Part of the argument was that the official, in the application of penalties, was overly harsh because Ms. Williams was a woman.  Unless the official actually comes out and confesses, it’s just subject to the the interpretations by those having the discussion.  Part of the show that I was watching made reference to the antics of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and Andre Agassi from years gone by.  There may have been references to others but I can’t remember.  I think that we all know of the history of these players who have displayed their displeasure with officiating by yelling and doing things which I would consider far worse than what Williams did.  And yet, the penalty applied was nowhere nearly as harsh.

It’s not just tennis.  Probably the most visual can be professional baseball.  Who can forget the actions of a Sparky Anderson or an Earl Weaver as they abused an official for a call they didn’t agree with?  Or Don Cherry in hockey.  For a while, there was this trend for a coach to throw sticks on the ice.

Now, I’m not saying that the officials are 100%.  Just like the professional athlete who occasionally slips up, they’re only human and they do make mistakes.  Over the years, we have seen attempts to “get the call right” with additional officials and access to instant replay to try and arrive at the best call.

To me, the bigger question is why these situations are even allowed to exist in the first place.  Every rule book has rules that govern the play of the game and consequences that should be followed for misconduct.  The rule book doesn’t say that you apply it one way for one person and another way for another person.  The ultimate penalty is the exclusion or ejection from the match.  You do see it applied in baseball and hockey but not in professional tennis.

Hazarding a guess, it probably is due to the singular nature of play in that sport.  After all, you can eject a baseball manager or hockey coach but the game can resume with everyone else.  Not so in tennis.  I would suggest that, had Connors or any of the other tennis players had been ejected when they first took on these actions, the situation that we have to deal with today wouldn’t have happened.  After all, the sport should be about the sport and the excellence of the athletes.   These get far overshadowed by the other things that happen.

It’s a reminder that, in education, we deal with the same things.  The judicious educator should address issues consistently and appropriately.  Here, the ultimate penalty is removal from the classroom for varying amounts of time.  The application of the penalty needs to be applied appropriately and consistently.  The players, in this case the students, need to understand the rules and the consequences.

Professional sports can learn a great deal from education.

4 thoughts on “Authority

  1. Doug, I’m not sure that I completely agree with you here. Education is full of exceptions. As a Kindergarten teacher who teaches children at different developmental levels, I deal with these exceptions every single day. For one child, hitting another student may involve a consequence. Was it a deliberate act? Could that child have chosen another option? But what about the child where everything is “mine?” What about the one that may be more developmentally toddler-like? Maybe I need to model a different option instead. Maybe I become the child and show what we can say or do. And maybe I need to ensure that this child has his/her own independent space and independent materials. Is sharing — at least, to the same degree — reasonable considering the child’s needs? Rules are funny things, and I’m not sure they’re always as black and white as they seem, at least in education. Curious to hear what others think.



  2. Being Judicious is not synonymous with being consistent. To judge requires interpretation of some sort. It seems illogical that the outcome of what some consider similar situations would be judged exactly the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the comments, ladies. When writing the post, I did resist the urge to use the word “exactly” when it came to the educational part and chose “appropriately” instead. Based on the comments, I appear to not have been clear enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lots of discussion around these issues. Thank you for the discussion.


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