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Knives and Things

Mike Dorf posted a rules v. standards meditation on the recent kerfuffle over whether a six-year-old child should be disciplined for violating a school rule that prohibits bringing knives to school, when the object in question was a folding knife/fork/spoon in common use among campers, including young ones.

Not surprisingly given the inevitable difficulties of settling the rules v. standards debate in this context (if at all), the post wends its way semi-seriously to Crocodile Dundee’s response on the question: What is a knife? There are lots of ways to answer that question: As Paul Hogan did, with an exemplar; as Dorf suggests, with a list of types of prohibited knives. And there are others; long-time readers of this blog know that the topic fascinates me (what is X, not what is a knife!). The answer itself, though, may matter less than how the answer is derived (by whom, when, and using what method). In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Harvey said — before he was leveled by Butch — “Rules? In a knife fight?”. The question there was guns or knives. Sometimes, the man who sets the rules can do the job with a swift kick in the groin.