The other day, I was having this somewhat philosophical discussion with one of my managers and one question raised was “When a student fails a test, who should we blame? Do we blame the student, or do we blame the teacher?
Some will blame the student. He could have studied more. He could have spent less time playing and more time reading. Other students in the same class passed the test, and he could have done the same had he only studied. In extreme cases, people would just dismiss him as stupid. Ouch!
Some will blame the teacher. He could have given better advice. He could have explored other methods of teaching. He could have improved the subject to make it more interesting for the student. He could have done more to make sure the student passed the test.
Still some with blame both the student and the teacher. Both are at fault and thus, should equally be blamed.
Blame the student! Blame the teacher! Blame both of them! Blame! Blame! Blame!
Welcome to the blame game!
Is there a better way to play this game?
There’s an alternative way to play this game that people wouldn’t normally consider, because at first glance, it seems illogical. What if neither the student nor the teacher is to blame? What if nobody is to blame?!
This is the perspective I’ve been trying to explore recently and to some extent, I’m rather convinced this might be the approach, that works best for me personally. Choosing who to blame, or whether we should blame anybody at all, is an opinion. It’s personal, and whether we like it or not, everybody will have their own opinion, and none of these opinions will ever be universally accepted.
Given all opinions are valid, why not choose the opinion that carries with it the least drama … the opinion that preserves the harmony.
The best way to play the blame game, is to not play it!
I am one of those who believe reality, in its purest form, is neutral — it is neither good nor bad. Anything we perceive as good or bad is arbitrary, and is not really based on reality, at least not in the absolute sense. Our perception is based only on what we think, which is influenced by our own upbringing, our own education, and our own personal experience.
Take away our personal opinions, and all that’s left is a neutral reality. No judgement. No bias. Everything is as it should be. Nirvana.
In this neutral reality, is there even a need to blame?
So how does this relate to our student who failed the test?
Whether we choose to blame the student or the teacher, is but an opinion, and as such is a personal choice. We can discuss our opinions, we can debate, and we can even arrive at a common opinion on who to blame, but even a common opinion doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right opinion.
Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s right, it just means it’s common.
We can make things better — we can tweak the lesson plan, we can tweak the test, we can improve the way students are taught, and all these improvements can be done without needing to assign blame.
Come to think of it, failing the test isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We can choose to see it as a neutral experience, and as with any experience, it is an opportunity for learning. Whether the student knows it or not … whether he admits it or not … he will learn from the experience and he will be better off after it. Maybe the test isn’t even the right test for him, and maybe this experience can be his wake up call to explore and excel in other fields. Who knows?!
Of course we can always choose to blame the student. This is a valid opinion and I am not saying people should stop assigning blame altogether. I personally would like to avoid it because for me, blaming people almost always leaves a foul aftertaste, it promotes mistrust, it breaks relationships, and it breaks the harmony. Blaming other people also tends to give the accuser a false sense of superiority, which is not exactly the kind of healthy thinking I would like to personally develop and pursue.
It may work well for other people, and I’m sure many people thrive in the blame game, but it’s just not for me.
So where do you go from here?
Acknowledging that every person’s way of thinking is personal, is a first step in having less drama, and more harmony. We can choose to assign blame and we can also choose not to assign blame. I personally choose not to assign blame, and just focus on learning from every experience, evolving the system, and moving forward, in harmony.
I’m still working on this approach to playing the blame game, and there is still a long way to go. But so far, I think I like where it’s taking me.
What about you? Who would you have blamed? How would you have played the blame game?