That Hammurabi was onto something. Rules need to be about accountability. If you don’t have rules, you don’t have order. If you don’t have order, then you don’t have control. If you don’t have control, then you concede the lands to the barbarians. In this case, the students are the barbarians, lest the whole “barbaric” thing.
I’m in law school right now, and if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that each law–ridiculous and sensible–has some underlying reason for it. But it also binds those affected by it. In other words, the best laws are those that affect the collective whole. People will break laws all the time if the ramifications only affect themselves. But watch what happens when criminal acts affect the masses. Nobody wants to piss off the masses.
Back when I was a teacher before my dreams and ambitions were squashed by the realities of the legal market, I used to have a rule in place. Instead of keeping track of tardiness (which becomes something like taking the LSAT at a point, just penciling in bubbles), have your students do it themselves. When the first straggler wanders in, have him or her write a big, legible “L” on the board. Then, have the next goon scribble a big “A”, and subsequent deliquents a “T” and an “E”. When that happens, the entire class gets an additional assignment. My favorites were ones that had them “reflect” in a two page essay the importance of social responsibility. And as they begrudgingly scribble two pages about how Emilio sat his ass outside and txt’d his bff about the new Nelly jam, they’ll take a moment to think about it could be them next who causes the inane assignment.
That’s the beauty of being a teacher—everything becomes a life lesson. And the more creative you are, the more your students will gain, even from a lesson in tardiness. Too bad I can’t promote this as a future prosecutor. I don’t think that judges’ would like my alternative form of punishment for DUI defendants. Something tells me that forcing defendants to take Snooki out for a night of drunken debauchery violates the 8th Amendment, if not just the sense of common human decency.