Who makes the decisions? We do, right? We have systems that enable us to make decisions either by proxy or personally. And yet we are a society that increasingly fails to take responsibility for our actions. Even as you read this you may be thinking, “Not me!” Yes you!
In recent weeks I’ve been reminded to change my course of action by changing my demeanor. “Take ownership!” “Follow your aspirations”, they say. “Remain positive for positive energy.” “Negative thoughts and criticisms lead to negative outcomes.” They say. They say.
How about what I say? I am an educator. What makes me good at my job is my ability to identify a deficiency and make a plan of action to reduce it. I would not be good at my job if I did not seek improvement. Therefore my approach may need to be refined (instead of distinguishing that fine line between being negative and being critical). I too must take responsibility.
As a matter of fact, my most notable trait is my incessant need to be self-critical. I figure that if I reflect often, identifying my challenges will enable me to improve. Not necessarily so, but it’s a theory.
Society on the other hand is not so reflective. When things go wrong, we search beyond for blame. “Not us? Must be them?”
When I taught preschool, we used to play this game called “Who Stole the Cookie?” where children would sing along in a group to each other: “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? Johnny (or the name of another student in the class) stole the cookie from the cookie jar!” He would say, “Who me?” And they’d say, “Yes you!” He’d say, “Couldn’t be,” and they would respond, “then who?!?” Johnny would call out the name of another student, and the class would say that student’s name. The song would continue until every student’s name had been called. Everyone sang along, and everyone eventually took the blame for the mysterious missing cookie.
Everyone took the blame? Actually no. No one took the blame. In this early childhood example, a harmless game demonstrates where we are as a culture. Everyone gets blamed for something at some point. The innocent never accept the responsibility. Why would they? The guilty merely need to defer the blame to someone else.
Isn’t this precisely the reason that the justice system is not swift? Amnesty is not justice. Although prosecutors offer a reduced sentence for a guilty plea, the confident defendant knows that lack of proof requires no integrity. Read that sentence again.
Integrity. What’s that? So few people use it that it’s becoming a lost trait. Outside the confines of a good home, we just don’t adhere to it much any more. The schools teach it, and it eases the burdens of a classroom; but bad decisions (not “bad children”) are sent to the office less and less frequently. I’ve got an administrator that actually demands that we seek three alternate decisions before we refer ANY matter to him. Imagine if the real world functioned that way.
Our students don’t take responsibility. Their parents don’t take responsibility. The teachers don’t take responsibility. The administrators won’t. The school board doesn’t. The voters who empowered the school board simply figured that the Board knows what they are doing (but they don’t). As a matter of fact, most school boards are made up of non-educators who want to make a positive change in their community. Business people, entrepreneurs, civic leaders in the making…
Parents usually direct their energy to the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), but that lasts about as long as their child’s enrollment. Who can blame them? And how long does that responsibility last?
We elect officials to take responsibility for our community problems. Who takes responsibility beyond an official’s term? No one. Is there ever a transfer of responsibility? The problems do not cease to exist. The problems don’t expire. Like week-old milk, the problems that our communities face stink; and if consumed too late, the problem is exponentially larger.
Think about any problem our society is currently facing. The rapid rate of home foreclosures; the rising costs of gasoline; the in-affordability of college; delinquency in it’s many forms, etc. These problems are the direct result of problems for which no one took responsibility long ago.
Lack of insight verses failure to acknowledge the warnings.
Boom! Status Quo. And yet we still look for someone to blame. Not us. Them. Even when we recognize that the problems that we face today are magnificent, failure to act equals a deferment of a solution. We leave these dilemmas in the hands of a generation that can no better resolve a problem than it can acknowledge that it exists. It’s as if THIS is all the kids will ever know, and “where’s the problem in that?”
The rest of us look back at another time when things were better. Why didn’t we act when things began to get worse?