Though we often use them together, an explanation is not an excuse.
An explanation can be used when we give evidence for an excuse, but an excuse is about culpability, which is determined by a set of values, values that can exist outside of a set of facts. An explanation, in contrast, comes about by the application of a set of principles to a set of facts.
There’s a big difference between responsibility and blame, even though we often use them interchangeably.
When GM CEO Mary Barra stood up before congress and accepted responsibility for her company’s faulty ignition switches, what she got was blame. Her attempt, it seems, was genuine: she was trying to express the idea that, unlike past GM officials, she was willing to admit that wrong had been done and something was going to be done about it.
As any Midwesterner knows, you can take responsibility for a problem by stepping up and acting on it.
The U.S. goes through periodic bouts of doubt regarding what education means.
In the latest round, we have the Common Core and No Child Left Behind pushing us toward ever more measurable outcomes and ever less certainty about what kids actually should learn. These trends equate education with “performance” and “achievement,” “success” and “excellence.”
I’ve been around education circles just long enough to recognize these as only trends, soon to be replaced by other trends, none of them particularly helpful in understanding education.
A co-worker of mine recently registered her displeasure with the term “the 30,000-foot view.”
The 30,000-foot view is meant to invoke a sense of the big picture, to show how a situation might look from 30,000 feet in the air. The attempt here seems admirable: we do sometimes lose sight of the big picture when we get bogged down in the details.
The word binge is a paradox connoting both shame and pride.
The very same binge-drinking that is such a concern for parents and college administrators is, for certain students, something to brag about. Note the pyramids of empty beer cans that grace fraternity houses and the murky recollections of weekend benders bracketed with phrases like, “Oh my God, I was sooo drunk that night!”
That some don’t survive these adventures in besottedness doesn’t stop bingeing from happening, and may even increase the binge’s mystique.
When Princeton student Tal Fortgang recently complained on Time magazine's blog that, as a white male, he had been repeatedly “reprimanded” to “check his privilege,” the Internet exploded in somewhat predictable ways.
I'll let you and Facebook explore what all is being said about Fortgang's piece, but the word privilege deserves some scrutiny.
One language trait I've noticed recently is a peculiar use of the word “around.”
Someone might be describing a new organizational initiative and say, “Let's get together and have a discussion around the new viral marketing campaign.” What the person would have said prior to the around ascendancy is, of course, “Let's get together and have a discussion about the new marketing campaign.”
So what's all this about around—or rather around it? Or whatever?
“Excellence” ranks right up there with terms like “professionalism” and “family values” as power terms, the vagueness of which is used to subject people to all manner of indignity and peonage.
“Excellent” we might lovingly associate with Wayne's World or Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, in which it's a term of universal application to all things righteous, gnarly or dope. But that same universalism is exactly what makes “excellence” so dangerous.
Creativity is another one of those words that we throw around as if we know what we're talking about.
But we're fundamentally conflicted about creativity-- perhaps because, in practice, it's somewhat mysterious.
We'd all agree that creativity is about bringing new things into the world: new products, new ideas, new perspectives. We sometimes use "creativity” synonymously with words like “innovation” and “originality.”