There has been a theme of apologies this past week or so. I recently held a few people accountable for not following through on their commitments, and they were somewhat offended by that. They would have been appeased if I had apologized for my expectations. Then there were the string of attacks on Americans by Muslims due to the film that supposedly offended them. Our government apologized for the offensive film.
These were two very different incidents, one much more severe than the other. Yet there were two similar themes – accountability and apology. It used to be that if one did not uphold his end of the bargain he would apologize for it. Now it is the reverse: one must apologize for holding another accountable to their word or actions. This was not the first time that our country has apologized for unintentionally giving offense. In fact, I am starting to think that our enemies will only be satisfied if we apologize for being American, or, for that matter, apologize for existing.
This apologetic trend is slipping into the classroom, too. Teachers are feeling pressured into explaining why they have standards, boundaries, and expectations for their students. Our students can easily make us feel guilty for teaching a lesson that requires an effort to learn. We are viewed as the enemy if we believe our students are not living up to their potential. Believe me, there is nothing a teacher dreads more than progress reports or report cards that have grades lower than “C’s.”
This invisible influence is transforming our society from a bold beacon of excellence and courage to a shrinking shadow of mediocrity and uncertainty. If we know that we are in the right we must not apologize for it. Let people take offense! I, alone, must live with my conscience and I will allow my own conscience to dictate my judgements and my actions, whether it be as an American or as a teacher. I am responsible for those in my care and I can fulfill my responsibility to them only by adhering to the standard that was set for me by the Supreme Judge of the Universe. The same is true for America.
When we start apologizing for doing what is right and expecting others to do the same; when we have to justify fulfilling the responsibilities given to us and expecting others to do the same; when we are viewed as the enemy merely for being in a position of authority; when we resign our leadership to those less qualified simply because they are more outspoken or threaten to harm us – then evil has triumphed. And that is the only time we sincerely need to apologize, for then we are in the wrong.