The blame game

“We don’t blame dentists when we don’t brush properly and we get a cavity. So why do we blame teachers when kids don’t pass because they don’t study?” (A meme recently posted on Facebook.)

I agree with the main point of this meme: Teachers get all kinds of undeserved blame for situations they have little control over.

But, taking a step back, I got to thinking that we spend far too much time trying to figure out who’s to blame in all kinds of situations. If we put as much energy into finding solutions as we often do figuring out who’s at fault, we could make great progress. (Actually, most of the blame game is really about absolving ourselves of responsibility. But, we don’t have to accept responsibility for a problem in order to want to do something about it!)

Here’s a truth: Any system is perfectly aligned to get the results it gets. If we are dealing with a system problem, we’re unlikely to solve it without addressing system issues. When large numbers of people are not succeeding in a system, it’s unlikely that it’s because there is something wrong with them!

I think about some of my own relatives who struggled in school because of undiagnosed learning disabilities and other challenges, and who were thought to be uncooperative, when in fact, they were simply suffering.

This meme kind of assumes that the blame for failure has to be the fault of either teachers or students. Either way, unless we understand why some students don’t study, my guess is that we won’t fix the problem. The only thing the blame game accomplishes is to allow the rest of us to walk away from thinking compassionately and creatively about solutions.

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