Thursday, February 2, 2017

Outsource Responsibility

Skimming an article about choosing healthy snacks, a psychologist used the term "outsource responsibility." Students were given a choice of serve-yourself snacks, or ready-to-go portions. 

“If they’re served by someone else, they can outsource responsibility to someone else. But if they serve themselves, they have to accept responsibility and that makes them feel bad.” 

I stopped, went back and read again, and decided she was really saying they could blame somebody else for their choice. I find the double speak disturbing. 

When I damaged our car (see Jan 23rd post on this blog) I tried to outsource responsibility. In a voice squeakier than the meeting of garage frame and car door, I asked my parking tutor,why he didn't tell me to stop when he heard screeching metal. The unspoken message was that if he had done more, I'd have done less damage. But I was the one driving, and I did the scraping. He didn't let me put the blame on him.

We've heard children shuck responsibility. And it starts early. this video clip of a two and a half year old shows how far we go to avoid responsibility.

Yet, it is foundational to healthy adult interactions, and thus a healthy society. 

Children have to be taught to not "outsource responsibility."  As teachers we've already seen a huge shift towards this warped thinking. Too many kids have excuses for unfinished work, late work, no work, and worst of all, aggressive behavior. Their parents don't hold them responsible. Shirking comes from immaturity and wanting to be liked instead of doing the hard work of forming their kid's character.

The school is left trying to enforce standards that wobble like jello instead of resting firmly on concrete.

Add to shirking our culture's confusion between discernment and censure. If we don't place blame, we avoid any chance that we are "judging" someone. The ancient Greeks had it right in that they had two different words which were translated as judge (verb). One word meant to decide an action should be censured.  

However, if we evaluate the consequences of an action, and use discernment, we are using the other Greek concept. Literally it means to separate, and indicates discrimination of thought, seeing distinctions. Once evaluated, some behaviors should be rejected.

If we begin to make someone else responsible for our choices, good or bad, we lose our sense of efficacy. If somebody else is to blame for what I've done, I have no agency, no power. And I believe that what happens to me is out of my control. 

That's a sad way to live. 

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