48 Laws of Education

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48 Laws of PowerBelieve it or not, I’m a peaceful guy. I have some rather strong opinions and people believe that’s belligerence, but it’s really not. It’s just the honest truth. Yet I’ve always found myself thinking much the way a war strategist does. I detach myself from my own feelings about a certain situation and put myself into the mind frame of the other person. It’s a survival technique I’ve learned to hone since I started my second year of teaching.

I think the master mentality came right after I had an issue with a certain administrator regarding bulletin boards. I got frustrated, mad, tired, angered, bitter, pissed, and not so good at all once. It’s something that every teacher who’s got an ounce of rebellion in them has to go through, so I calmed down a bit. Some people turn to a poem, a quote, or some advice from an elder teacher. I turned to Robert Greene.

Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power (one of my favorite books ever) helped me hone in on the issues within and outside of my classroom. I read it before for leisure, but in the context of the conflict I was having with said administrator, I took down every law of power that I thought would get me through my day. Some of them, I apply rather often, and some I need to remind myself to do.

On the back of my grade book, I have this sheet with the following laws:

Daily Laws of Power (In The Classroom)

Law 3: Conceal your Intentions
Law 4: Always Say Less than Necessary
Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life
Law 9: Win through your Actions, Never through Argument
Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to their Mercy or Gratitude
Law 17: Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability
Law 27: Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following
Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness
Law 29: Plan All the Way to the End
Law 30: Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
Law 31: Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards you Deal
Law 34: Be Royal in your Own Fashion: Act like a King to be treated like one
Law 35: Master the Art of Timing
Law 36: Disdain Things You Cannot Have; Ignoring Them Is The Best Revenge
Law 44: Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect

The ones I already did on a daily basis:

#3, 4, 9, 27, 30, 33

The other ones I didn’t do as well on, and I felt I needed to work on. A lot of these seem rather callous, but if looked at in the proper perspective, they can be rather useful in a classroom setting, especially dealing with peers. For instance, #34 is exactly what we’re told to do from day 1. Teachers have no business acting like the kids’ friends or their equal for at least 7-8 months, if ever. When a teacher does that, they’re often the ones with the craziest classroom. #35 is the “workshop model” (i.e. we have to beware of the timing in our lesson plans, but also in our responses to our kids).

Now, in preparation for the next challenge in becoming a master teacher, I turn back to these laws, and get back into that perspective. Some in my field might call it ridiculous, but I choose to call it avant-garde. Much of the relationships we have in the educational setting have scary similarities to politics, corporate or otherwise. With the direction schools have headed in for the last 15-20 years of (at least) my lifetime, understanding these laws might even help teachers survive this concrete jungle.

jose, who has more on rebellion soon

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 14

  1. Repairman

    Leave it to a mediocre administrator to make an issue out of bulletin boards. Good grief.

    Enjoyed the read, and thanks for turning me on to the 48 Laws. What you’ve mentioned makes a lot of sense. I’ll order it from Amazon as soon as I’m finished typing here!

    May I add a 49th Law? Rebel without the opposition knowing what you’re up to and without drawing attention to yourself. In other words, do what you think is right “unless otherwise directed.” A high profile, like a lightning rod, draws the strikes.

  2. Moveable

    Very power book book. Dude also wrote a book on persuasion equally powerful. I recall buying a better car than my boss. He was pissed off and I never knew why until I read a story in Greene’s book about one of Napoleon’s ministers who built a better and more glorious palace than his. He set him up and had him arrested and thrown into prison. Bottom line: never over shadow your superior. Never trust anyone on the job, especially at the university where the most ass kissing, boot licking people work.

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  4. Bam

    This book should be a perpetual read for people who understand how malleable life is. It is for me. And as a member of leadership now I constantly come across miscellaneous laws hidden in the content various seminars I must attend. The book is raw. Easy to be offended by and I think that’s why I like it. Scares away the readers who’d miss the point anyway.

    my favorite laws are:
    10
    19
    and
    20 (now you know thas me!)

    great post.

  5. Frumteacher

    Thanks for paying attention to this book on your blog. I had never heard of it, but am going to check it out. The power I can get in my classroom, the better (it’s my second year in my current school now and I still have a lot to learn about classroom management).

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  7. Bernard Adjei

    i’m a student of KNUST-Ghana. in fact this book was preached to me by a colleague and i did admired it from the contextual briefings given. but however, there is a problem of getting access to it due to financial problems and would like to know if there is any way/opportunity by which i can get hold on one full text. Thank you.

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  9. Anna

    Someone please help me see these laws as positive. I am living in a healthcare environment where the leader employs these. He told someone at a meeting this was a favorite book.

    Because of this, the worksite is negative and quality indicators are in the pits…more injury, more death. You can’t be a “king” and never hear from the people if you care what happens. You can’t have “selective honesty” if you are in social science. Fractures are fractures. Dead is dead.

    As a Christian, I find these laws evil and regularly read the Resolutions of Jonathon Edwards as an antidote!

  10. Arthur Bogdanove

    I was looking for a Christian perspective. I have just started this book. In the first part I see everyone caste into the net of power plays. Honesty and integrity are belittled as actually deceptive and still part of the power game. I am waiting to see if there is any attention given to Christianity or if Chrisitanity is ignored. I think it would be hard to ignore a fact of history that appears on most dates and which determines the first day of the week. Every town in America has buildings dedicated to Christianity. How many are dedicated to Robert Greene? How many call out Robert Greene’s name as death approaches? Then, after death, who are the fools, those who follow Robert Greene or those who follow Christ?

  11. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Well, here’s a thought as I was reading your scribe. 1. I noticed that you didn’t really read the excerpt by Greene where he fully admits that this comes from a Machavellian perspective i.e. no respect for whatever morals or obligations we garner from what we believe as G-d. That’s important because he did a study ON these ideas of power and noticed some trends without regard for religion. Secondly, no one’s saying we need to adhere to these laws, but we’ll also note that many a “Christian” ruler have followed some of these laws that seem sacrilegious on the surface. Third, Robert Greene has no chance against G-d or what we believe as G-d. Fourth, some Christian traditions were borrowed from “pagan” rituals, so whose to say that they’re truly Christian in nature?

    I’d say more, but let’s not confuse Greene’s work for a replacement for the Bible. It’s a little disingenuous to do so.

  12. Randy Seabrook

    I cannot understand the mirror effect. The book is really an important part of my educational arsenal though. I think that as you said in your post my moral compass will not allow me to perfect the mirror effect among others.

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