A Rant on Responsibility

May 27, 2010

Joe Posnanski, a Sports Illustrated writer, is one of my facvorite bloggers.  “Curiously Long Posts” he calls his blog.  Today he writes about a ticket scandal at the University of Kansas.

The scandal is disturbing, but I was especially taken with a paragraph he wrote about “responsibility,” something we hope to imbue in young men and women through education in the liberal arts and sciences.  Lew Riley, the University of Kansas Athletic Director said he “accepted responsibility” for the problem. “I accept responsibility, not for any criminal activity, but because I am the athletic director and it happened during my watch,” Perkins said. But Posnanski comments on how little this appears to mean.   Money quote:

“That statement doesn’t exactly overflow with responsibility acceptance, does it? And come to think of it: Isn’t “accept responsibility” kind of a weak statement in the first place? Accept means “Consent to receive.” Big deal. Shouldn’t you DEMAND responsibility? Shouldn’t you INSIST on responsibility? Shouldn’t you be SADDLED with responsibility? I mean, you accept apologies. You accept students to college. You accept that you’re not good enough to play third base for the New York Yankees. Responsibility for millions of
dollars in ticket embezzling happening in your department by employees you hired and promoted … yeah, seems to me like “accept” is a bit light on passion.”

Posnanski could have written this rant about “responsibility” about almost any major issue in the news today: the BP oil spill, for example.  So how do we educate young people about what it REALLY means to “accept responsibility?”

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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