How Sweet is a Taste of Rebellion?

Why don’t we see as many students that fit the “bad boy” archetype anymore?

Why do we see a decrease in suspensions, expulsions and referrals in Colorado over the period of the past ten years according to the Colorado Department of Education? We have a growing reluctance among today’s students to commit infractions for one reason or another, leading to the perception that “kids these days don’t do anything” by members of older generations.

We’ll begin by saying that we three co-authors are all rather “academically inclined” to put it nicely, and really haven’t done anything, serious or otherwise, throughout our academic careers. Despite this, we recently did something completely out of character, an act that we’ve only heard about doing, a deed we normally would only lightly joke about. We broke the rules.

To be clear, we didn’t do anything illegal, no one got hurt–financially or otherwise–and we were caught very early on in our scheme. Our fleeting moment of rebellion was well planned, but much of our efforts were for naught in the end. The bottom line here is that we did, in fact, break the rules. So, what caused three rule followers to break those rules? Though we all had different reasons for breaking the rules, we still shared some similarity in our rebellion.

All three of have working moral compasses. These compasses often cause us to feel conflicted when breaking rules. We also largely see societal laws as just and logical, so there’s little point in breaking them. Through our attempt at rule breaking, though, only one of us felt morally compromised, while the other two felt that they had done nothing wrong; and rightly so, as we truly hadn’t. The inexplicable guilt that one of us felt led us to the conclusion that people who easily feel guilty would not be good delinquents. However, if our action had serious implications, then I’m sure we would have been more reluctant to participate.

Another big part of our aversion to disobedience is the social aspect: the fear of disappointing our parents, teachers, and other mentors. We care what people think of us. The quiet disapproval of a parent is often times just as bad or worse than getting yelled at by an authority figure.

Perhaps the largest reason why we don’t take to the streets to engage in rowdy and truant behavior is because we see no real benefit to breaking the rules. When so much in our lives and futures depends on flawless track records and impeccable behavior, there really is no room for rule breaking. That being said, in our recent escapade, the potential rewards outweighed the potential drawbacks–but that was admittedly a special case.

Regardless of how we felt before and afterwards, this momentary surge of rebellion was a memorable one. Aside from giving us stories to share with our children and grandchildren, “Well I was bad that one time in high school …,” this was an educational experience. Granted, we can’t truly know why others break or follow rules, but we did get a taste of the adrenaline rush of good rule breaking. While there were certainly doubts, our collective experience was a volatile mixture of fear and excitement. Whether or not rebellion is worth it, remains to be seen. But we can be sure on one thing: we had a good time.