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Apr 30

Monday Musing: Lack of Personal Responsibility

Blaming Others Working in a school it is amazing the amount of time students take up trying to negotiate with an adult on just about everything.  Usually it is work related, but every now and again it deals with behavior issues.  How I teach and the way I work to treat all my students fairly and the same I usually do not have to hassle with the negotiation process unless I am talking to a student that is not in my class.  A few days ago, I was heading to the library during my planning period and came across a student that was heading to their class a “few” minutes passed the tardy bell.  I asked them what class they were heading to and I got a random spattering of vague answers.  I then asked him why he was not in class and he told me that a teacher got him in trouble and kept him after class.  I questioned him on how the teacher got him into trouble and he explained how he was talking to a student during a test.  Eventually I got to the bottom of it and the teacher had caught him cheating.  I did a silly thing by trying to follow a middle school student’s logic by saying, “so you are saying the teacher got you in trouble because they saw you doing something wrong and punished you for it.”  Without hesitation or a hint of smile looked me right in the eye and said, “Yes.”

I then lectured him that nobody can get you in trouble only you and your actions can do that as I walked him to the class that he was supposed to be in.  As we walked and talked I eventually got him to admit that he did something wrong and because he did something wrong a teacher could and should punish him for his actions.  It has not been the first time that I have had to explain to one of the students in my school that their teachers or administrators do not get them into trouble.  I am sure it will not be the last, but each instance I have to do it there is always that initial shock of did they just say what I think they said.  Every time it happens I sit and wonder what I was like when I was their age, and then the generations before me.  I know that I did not fess up to every little thing that I did and I am sure that my older brother took some of the blame for my actions, but by the time that I was in middle school I had a pretty good base of what was right and wrong and did not go around blaming others for my actions.

I hope that student has learned a lesson and next year if that particular student is in my class hopefully I will not have to deal with him blaming me for his actions.  However, I am starting to see more of a trend of that going the longer that I am teaching, but I do not think that it is just middle school students who are doing it.  I read it more in the comments left on news articles, politicians blaming the ones before them, and adults pointing the fingers at others for their lot in life.
Not Taking Responsibility

Where has all of this lack of responsibility come from?  Is it the entitlement society that has been developed since LBJ’s push to build the Great Society and before that FDR’s New Deal?  According to www.politifact.com trillions of dollars have been spent on LBJ’s agenda, the poverty level has fallen from 17.3% in 1965 to around 14% to 15% depending on what year out of the last 5 you look at.  Now I am not saying that those programs were horrible and they have helped millions of people.  However, I feel that when people stop feeling/thinking that they need to take care/look out for themselves since the government will be there for them then down the line we lose the need to be responsible or for that matter think for ourselves.  It will always be somebody else’s fault or if I did mess up then it is your fault because you did not tell me what I should be doing.

If anybody out there that is reading this and totally disagrees with me please let me know, and on the same token if anybody that was living before LBJ’s legislation could you please comment on how you felt about being responsible for your actions especially in your teenage years.  I am just curious to see if young adults are trending in the direction of blaming others or have they always done that.

1st photo via http://mediumsworld.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/blame.jpg
2nd photo via http://www.usmansheikh.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/responsibility.jpg

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