“No Authority”

At school at 6:30 this morning I did something that received the response: “No Authority.” That I had done it successfully a hundred times in the past half year didn’t matter. Soon an alarm would go off and all you-know-what would break loose…all because I had “No Authority.”

No Authority

No Authority?

Having some computer not recognize your authority is one thing, but what about a room full of people? What about an institution full of people?

I regained my authority by typing in the numbers more carefully and got my authority back. This was because my authority was based simply on knowledge of four numbers and a few routines. But what is the basis of my authority with other human beings?

Are you an authority? Upon what is your authority based? How do you maintain it? How do you grow it? Is it simply about minimizing your mistakes?

Fifth grader Alexa Perez is an authority. She authored an original play “The Christmas Breakdown” last year, revised it this year, and members of her class will perform it in school at the end of the week.  Her authority inspired this essay.

Authority—a word that has fallen out of favor in the last 50 years thanks to the likes of Hitler and Mussolini—is a very important word. My responsibilities as Head of School require that I have authority. All of our teachers—even substitutes—must have authority or they cannot do their jobs. Parents are legally required to be authorities in their homes, and we want our children to author things, to author their lives, to be authorities.

These authorities are challenged every day by others who—like Alexa—are working to develop their own authority. At home in the evening I often see my daughter’s authority challenged by one or more of my three grandsons (e.g. “Please stop what you are doing and come set the table for dinner, now.”)

Right? Dozens of instances where our authority is challenged by someone else’s drive toward their own authority. What are we to do when someone says, “No authority” to us?

Further thoughts on authority:  


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One Response to “No Authority”

  1. Erik Nelson says:

    Rick’s grandsons, and all of our children, are members of an underground organization called the Question Authority. It is their duty to ask questions and it is their privilege to demand answers. Instead of a badge, they will flash their wide open eyes and look straight at you, and that’s when you know you have to answer… to the Question Authority.

    (When I was kid, that’s how I read the bumper stickers. I didn’t really know what they governed, but I knew the Question Authority was out and about.)

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