Four-Square Rules

By guest columnist and headmaster Robert Lee

    Since Christ Covenant opened the Upper School, a popular pastime has been hitting a bouncy ball between the four squares of the outside sidewalk. Four-square time turnsinto a rousing match of 15 to 20 players and can entertain the students throughout their lunch, recess, or even morning free times.


The problem is the game has started to take over the walkway, spill into the parking lot, and sometimes endanger innocent bystanders on their way through the sidewalk.


Rather than outlaw such fun, I’ve instead opted to build an alternate court just a few yards outside of the walkway. The principle comes from an old Josh McDowell saying I remember: “Substitute, not suppress.”

The four-square cement setting in front of the upper school.

Often in Christian circles, particularly schools, our tendency is to outlaw anything inconvenient and add rule upon rule, which Jesus cautioned the Pharisees about. Whenever administration makes a rule, such as “No four-square,” I like to ask first what we are ruling in and what we are ruling out. One school I worked at many years ago had a rule: “No sitting in the chairs that were in the lobby.” While the intention may be good, the enforcement and purpose of that rule run counterintuitive.


At our school, we try not to major on minor rules such as “No running in the hall.” The purpose of the thing defines its proper use. A walkway is for walking. A dining hall is for dining. A study hall is for studying, and a chair is for sitting.


Aristotle’s four causes bring us to these natural conclusions. While we do not want to suppress a fun activity, it becomes problematic when it hinders the purposeful use of an object. So, the walkway is for walking quietly upon, and the new four-square court is for playing four-square. Their ontological design and final cause better define their purpose than an arbitrary policy.