Latham: Rules aren't meant to be senseless

I see where they are debating hair in the Tatum ISD school district — one of the goofiest ways a school district can opt to waste time.

Not the only way, mind you. Not nearly. Over my 65 years, I’ve seen a multitude of silly rules and requirements that someone in the system has determined are vital to be obeyed, and punishments meted out to those who dare to challenge.

You may be asking yourselves by now if I remember that it’s Sept. 11, and, if so, why I would be talking about hair.

There’s no way for me to forget that day in 2001. Sept. 11 is my daughter’s birthday and that particular moment turned her “Sweet Sixteen” into a gut-wrenching, miserable time and flipped all of our lives upside-down.

But President Donald Trump was willing to bring the Taliban — who protected those responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 — to Camp David to attempt to forge a peace deal, which means we must have turned a corner, right?

If the president says so, it must be true.

Trump is getting a lot of criticism for the tone-deaf move but I have to say it shows a lot of courage, intended or not. Is there a bad day to sue for peace in our warring world?

I don’t think so and hanged be the politics, the optics and the metrics of the presidential race.

We’ve been fighting the hair wars for well over half a century. I know because I was a foot-soldier in those early days. Not that I had long hair. I simply supported those who wanted it and could see even then that it didn’t matter, not one little bit.

The latest drama is in Tatum ISD, where two little boys, ages 4 and 5, are in trouble because their hairstyles don’t conform. You can find a photograph of the boys with a news story at and I defy you to tell me how changing their hairstyles will help them, or anyone else, learn better.

Please do not argue the case with the meaningless trope that they must obey simply because, “It’s the rule!” This is the worst reason ever to follow any rule.

If we can’t make peace with the Taliban, can we at least make peace with ourselves? There’s no roadside terrorism here. Just us and a multitude of hairstyles.

The same daughter whose birthday falls on Sept. 11, once attended a school where the principal had a strict rule that everyone lined up in the hallway between class and that, while in the line you could not get a drink of water.

My daughter, for whatever reason, needed that drink badly and was standing directly in front of the fountain. She leaned over and took a quick drink. She was quickly given detention for doing so.

What did my daughter learn? Hint: It wasn’t to always follow the rules. Instead, it was that some rules make no sense. This is not the education we want to give our children.

Still, my daughter served her detention time, because it is difficult to get top school officials to bend when “it’s the rule.” Even tougher when they are the officials who put it into the book.

Mine is not the kind of attitude that won me many friends among the administrative staff. I’m pretty sure I got an “N” for a citizenship grade on my parental report card.

As a child, my mother would often tell me to “straighten up and fly right.” This was not one of my strong points, then or now. Rules — in matters of school or diplomacy — aren’t meant to be broken but they aren’t meant to be senseless, either. A little logic goes a long way.

— Phil Latham is editor emeritus of the News-Journal. His column appears Wednesday. Email

Today's Bible verse

“But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ”

— Jonah 2:9

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