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The sentence:
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A school run on very strict lines may be less successful in creating a sense of participant democracy among its pupils than one in which the school rules show that the staff practices what it preaches.
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Question#1: What does it refer to? "A school"?

Question#2: Logically, is the school rules show that really necessary? It's teachers' initiative that create a sense of demecracy among the students, isn't it? If the rules show teachers what to do, they sort of discourage their initiative, I think...
Comments  
Hi Taka,
Question#1: 'It' refers to the nearest noun, which is the staff. You might also refer to the staff as 'they', if you are thinking of them as a group of individuals.

Question#2: It depends on what you want to say.
I would omit the phrase 'the school rules show'. This will give the sentence more force and clarity, but does it reflect your meaning correctly?
Leaving the phrase in makes the meaning harder to see, and leaves the reader with some extra questions, e.g.
A. How do rules show what the staff practices? In fact, we often contrast rules and practice when we want to show that people do not follow the rules.
B. Consider a case where the rules are undemocratic and the staff follows these rules.
Such a school would not create a sense of democracy. Logically, you need to qualify the rules and staff you are talking about to say that they are democratic, otherwise your sentence won't be correct.

Grammar is grammar, and meaning is meaning.

Regards,
Clive
Hello Taka

#1: In the phrase 'they practise what they preach', the subject of 'preach' must be
the subject of 'practise'. So in this case, 'it' must refer to 'staff'.

#2: There does indeed seem to be a flaw in this sentence. In the phrase 'they
practise what they preach':

A = 'preach' = 'what they say they're going to do'
B = 'practise' = 'what they actually do'.

In this case, 'the school rules' logically = 'what teachers say they're going to
do' = 'preach' = A.

However, the sentence equates 'the school rules' with 'what teachers actually
do' = 'practise' = B.

In other words, the last part of the sentence says that 'the school rules show
that the school rules are being applied'.

Sounds very like a circular reference to me.

MrP
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Thank you for the reply. It was a big surprise for me that "it" can be used for "staff"!! Contextually, I had thought that "it" should refer to the staff. But "staff" is a human, not "stuff", so I thought technically it was impossible for "it" to refer to the staff. It's still unbelievable for me that "staff" can be "it"!!

To Clive

Could you elaborate this part? I'm afraid I don't really understand what you mean.

"A. How do rules show what the staff practices? In fact, we often contrast rules and practice when we want to show that people do not follow the rules. "

To MrP

If the last part of the sentence means 'the school rules show that the school rules are being applied', isn't it not only that it sounds very like a circular reference, but simply that it doesn't make sense? It's a comparion with "a school run on very strict lines " ; it compares the same kind of schools.
Hi Taka,
Yes, 'it' can be the staff. It depends on whether we are thinking of it as a group, or as individuals. 'It' could also be used for an army, a team, a nation and many other group words.

My comment to you was
"A. How do rules show what the staff practices? In fact, we often contrast rules and practice when we want to show that people do not follow the rules. "

I think you and I may be involved in a small cultural misunderstanding.
In my culture, we do not believe that rules should always be followed. Generally, we do follow them, but we often respect someone who is a rebel, who does not follow the rules. It depends on the rules, of course (The *** had rules). The 'rebellion against the rules' is a recurring motif in our literature, for example.

I'm not sure about your culture, perhaps based on your name you are Japanese? I think of Japanese people as having a great respect for rules. If so, the concept of someone breaking rules may be strange to a Japanese person.

In addition, you use the phrase 'practice what it preaches'. We often use this in a discussion of someone who should follow the rules but does not.
e.g. Mary has rules for her family that they should eat nutritious food, but she herself eats junk food, so she does not 'practice what she preaches'.
So your sentence gives me the expectation that your meaning is going in this direction, that there is meant to be this kind of contrast.

To avoid this, perhaps you might simplify your sentence by omitting 'the staff' and just say something like

'A school run on very strict lines may be less successful in creating a sense of participant democracy among its pupils than one which is run more democratically (or perhaps 'leniently').

If I can be of further help, please let me know.
Clive
Hello Taka

I too dislike 'it' in these contexts. I would probably say 'they'. But
'it' is grammatical. As you say, it is a little odd. (Or perhaps: 'it' is
a little odd...)

Regarding the comparison, let one part of the comparison = A, and the other
part = B.

We have A: 'schools run on very strict lines'. For B, however, we have only
'[a school] in which the school rules show that the staff practises what it
preaches'.

Since we don't know what B's 'school rules' are, we've no way of knowing
whether B is more or less strict than A. Also, 'school rules' can't show
what the school's staff is 'practising': they can only show what the staff is
'preaching'. (I think this is what Clive means, when he talks about
contrasting rules and practice.) So we can extract no information at all
from B to compare with A!

I wonder myself whether the writer of the sentence has squashed too many
ideas into too few clauses. There seem to be 4 ideas in the sentence:

1. It is a good thing to create a sense of participant democracy among a
school's pupils.
2. A school run on very strict lines may not do this with complete success.
3. School rules can be used to create a sense of participant democracy.
4. It is a good thing for staff to practise what they preach.

Perhaps what the writer meant to say was something like:

'A school run on very strict lines may be less successful in creating a sense of
participant democracy among its pupils than a school where the rules themselves
are expressly designed to encourage that sense of democracy; and where,
moreover, the staff actually practice what the school rules preach.'

Though as you say in your original question #2, rules about spontaneity
or initiative are in any case usually counter-productive!

MrP
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To Cive

Now I understand what you mean, and it is the fact as you pointed out that we often contrast rules and practice when we want to show that people do not follow the rules that makes me confused! As MrP paraphrased my words, "rules about spontaneity or initiative are in any case usually counter-productive." If it were "...than one which is run more democratically" as you suggested, I wouldn't be confused at all.
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Anyway, thank you, Clive and MrP!

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To Clive, again.

Yes, I am a Japanese (And what is your nationality?) I have to tell you that many Japanese people do enjoy watching a Hollywood type of hero breaking rules on the screen. Emotion: smile
Ohio Taka,
I'm a Canadian, but I immigrated from Britain.
Your English is great, I'm sure you know that. Much better than my Japanese, as you can see.
Clive
Oh? You speak Japanese?

So you say "Ohio" to mean "Good morning" in Japanese, right?

But it's "Ohayo", for your information. Emotion: smile
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?