When you sign up to become a Jedi or a Starfleet officer, you have to abide by certain rules. Like, "Don't attempt a Kolvoord Starbust." But often, these organizations seem to invent rules that have no reason, beyond creating dramatic tension. Here are the most counterproductive training rules in science fiction and fantasy.
A lot of these rules fail the "But why?" Test. And the sooner asking "But why?" leads to hearing gibberish, the dumber the rule usually is. "Don't play with the swords" passes with flying colors. "Knights don't use the letter 'm'" does not.
The Jedi: If no one likes a youngling by the age of 13, you have to be a farmer
This one is completely ridiculous. The prequels made clear that the Jedi prefer to take to the Force-sensitive away from their families and into the Jedi Temple as young as possible. They basically trained younglings from birth to be Jedi Knights. They train them to use lightsabers. And yet, if a trainee turns thirteen, and no master has picked him or her as a padawan, she or he is sent to the Agricultural Corps ("AgriCorps"). Now, let's be clear: This isn't just something that happens if you're judged to be incompetent. You just have to be unlucky enough that no Jedi's available, likes you enough, or feels like training a padawan.
Wookiepedia says that service in the AgriCorps is "voluntary." That is absolutely not how it comes across in the Jedi Apprentice books. Obi-Wan treats his upcoming assignment as a fait accompli. And even if it is voluntary, where are these kids supposed to go? As already established, they've been taken from their families as babies and have spent their childhoods doing nothing but train to be Jedi. How does this make sense?
And, furthermore, how do the Jedi keep their numbers up? The books also show that a lot of Jedi don't want or take Padawans. How can they generate enough padawans to replace Knights? How does this make any sense?
Oh right, it doesn't. Because it's a rule made up solely to generate some tension in Qui-Gon Jinn's decision to pick Obi-Wan.
Percy Jackson: Camp Half-Blood groups kids in a really counter-productive way.
The point of Camp Half-Blood is to provide a safe place for demigods/halfbloods. Which they do, by grouping them according to their parentage. Because kids are famously nonjudgmental. Plus, for Percy, he's at a place that's supposed to make him feel safe, that instantly isolates him based on who his father is. Technically, it's because he's the only one. But realistically, he's singled out and forced to spend a lot of time alone. So, good job, there.
The Circle Opens: Stumbling across someone with magic dooms you to teaching them.
Tamora Pierce's Circle books has a rule that is kind of the exact opposite of the one the Jedis have. In this world, if a fully qualified mage finds someone with magic who is untrained, you have to train him or her until a more suitable teacher is found. So instead of having trouble getting people trained, this universe gets everyone trained. What's kind of unclear (since everyone eventually ends up being okay with the arrangement), is whether the "more suitable" teacher is also required to take on the training. What if they already have a student? Does that mean this world is half-filled with people trained by just the right person and half-filled with people teaching them who have no idea how to deal with their magic? That seems like a recipe for disaster.
Starfleet has nothing better to do than destroy you psychologically.
We've mentioned Starfleet's infmous psych exam before, but it bears repeating: Starfleet's entrance exam requires a pysch test where candidates are forced to face their greatest fears. Which kind of make sense. They may not want to waste their time on someone who just loses it at the sight of a spider, but what if your greatest fear is that life has no purpose or meaning? How do they test that? And, more importantly, why are they testing it before Starfleet training. They've already got the Kobayashi Maru (no-win) and the Bridge Officer's Test (also a kind of no-win, but mostly to see if a candidate can order someone's death) for command officers, why spend all this time figuring out people's biggest fear and throwing it at them?
Because it sounds cool. And it was a chance to torture Wesley with his father's death.
A Song of Ice and Fire: The Unsullied have to kill a puppy.
There is no way, just no way, giving your elite warrior trainees a puppy to raise for a year and then ordering them to kill it is not going to backfire horribly. This is not a training regime that understands the idea of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. While this may be a good way to make sure these soldiers will follow any order, but it's also definitely going to make you a dick. And people don't remain that loyal to the guy who made them kill their puppy.
Judge Dredd: No second chances to pass.
Judges hoping to actually graduate (rather than fail, like most cadets), have to pass a final assessment. A final assessment that, if they make a mistake and are still alive, allows no second chances. This is not a world that believes in learning from your mistakes. It's more of a failing-from-your-mistakes kind of place.
Brakebills refuses to teach "battle magic."
The Magicians by Lev Grossman features an elite school of magic with a number of truly ridiculous training techniques. (Not talking for weeks on end totally immerses students in magic and makes them better. Also slightly crazy). But the rule that seems like it makes sense, but ends up being a total failure, is the prohibition on teaching so-called "battle magic." Fireballs, missiles, etc. are illegal and the school can't teach them. It's kind of alluded to that the school used to have a problem with wizard duels between students ending with there being many fewer students than when they started. On the other hand, as the rest of the book shows, it's not like the characters don't learn and use battle magic. Plus, have you ever known college students not to try the really dangerous illegal thing that sounds like fun? They just do it without the benefit of having anyone responsible teach it in a controlled setting.
Children in Harry Potter can't use magic outside of school. Except they can. Except they can't.
The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery shows up a couple of times in the Harry Potter series. And there are a number of problems with it. First of all, its enforcement is inconsistent at best. Harry gets a warning for the use of a Hover Charm, which, apparently, the Ministry can't tell wasn't him. Because the "Trace" detects magic used "near" an under-aged witch or wizard. Excellent. That's super-useful, since it basically means that students living among wizards either get a pass OR the Ministry sends letters to every single wizarding home all summer. And Harry gets a pass on blowing up his aunt because it was "accidental"/they wanted him safe at Hogwarts. But the Patronus charm, which is pretty much a "life and death defensive" spell, gets him suspended.
Meanwhile, Tom Riddle, at 16, used a Stunning Spell on his uncle, used an Unlocking Charm to break into a house, casts a Killing Curse to murder his paternal family, and implants a false memory to frame his uncle.
What is even the point of this law? During Harry's Patronus trial, the focus is that he used magic in front of Muggles. Okay, but aren't there other rules that cover that? Yes. Yes there are: The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. What about regulating dangerous magic? There are also laws about that, since we know certain spells and uses of spells are illegal.
No, this rule is essentially the "Make Harry Potter's Life Really Unfair Law." There's no logic to it, but it certainly is dramatic.