Saying philosophy is about talking about ideas is a little like saying music is about making sounds.  It’s true, in a sense, but it misses the point entirely.

One of the reasons I love philosophy is that, at its heart, it is about how we should relate to each other.  “How, then, shall we live?” is a question about creating communities where we can pursue our human what you believe

Sister Corita Kent’s 10 Rules for Students and Teachers is a beloved text in this regard.  Although the Community Music School of Santa Cruz has long-established rules in place for its Celtic Teen Camp (“No sex – unless you’ve been married for 50 years.  No drugs – unless they’re given to you by the camp nurse.  No rock and roll – unless you’re setting it to a Celtic tune”), I thought Sister Kent’s rules would give us a chance to think about rules not as boundaries but rather as agreements we make with each other.

These are so wonderful I always think they’re worth a re-read:

Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.
General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.
General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.
Consider everything an experiment.
Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.
The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.
Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
“We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)
HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later.

In Santa Cruz, I handed out copies of the rules and we did listening pairs (the same 60+15 second process as described in “holding court with quotes”) using this question: “Which one of these rules would be the most beneficial for our community, and why?”

After students shared their thoughts with each other, I went through the rules one-by-one and asked them to raise their hand if they had chosen that rule.  We discovered that each one of these rules was chosen by at least someone in the group.

One of the reflections I shared with students was that, even if a particular rule didn’t seem important to me, I now know that someone in my community believes it’s important.  And I can keep that in mind, whether or not I decide to adopt it as important for myself.

Third spaces give us a chance to think about the agreements we make with each other.  By and large, we enter them by choice, and stay because we’re passionate about the possibilities they offer.  When it’s an educational community that we’re forming, using Sister Kent’s 10 Rules provides an opening for conscious reflection on the ways we want to relate to each other and make the most of the opportunity.