I typically don’t wander into political waters with my writing, but this one is just too good to pass up. It’s a great lesson that’s all over today’s news–one that I’ve already learned by observation, I’m happy to say, instead of the traditional “hard way.”

Here’s the lesson: Don’t make a rule with a corresponding consequence that you’re not going to be able to uphold.

That sounds pretty straightforward, but I’ve seen this too many times to count: Teacher establishes rule and says “this is what will happen if you break it.” Student breaks rule. Teacher can’t really follow through with the consequence, and is left with egg on his or her face. Student “wins” and teacher’s credibility takes a tough shot. Ouch.

The lesson I’ve learned in the past is that it’s never a good idea to leave yourself without any wiggle room. I don’t mean to be “soft” with classroom management, but the minute you make a hard, fast rule is the minute your least-likely-to-get-in-trouble student is going to break it. You’re then between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Enforce it? That student certainly doesn’t deserve to be punished on a first offense. Don’t enforce it? Your rule doesn’t really have any meaning or you would have enforced it.

So where is the politics, what is the allegory, you ask? May, 2008: Florida, Michigan, DNC rules about early primaries. Oops.