Recently, I’ve had reason to ponder the numerous components of accountability. It seems that we begin shirking accountability (and responsibility) at an early age and refine it greatly as we get older.

Here’s how it begins. You notice a child vigorously dumping sand on the classroom floor and politely ask him to stop. The responses include the following:

Jacob was doing it too.

There’s already sand on the floor.

We had too much in the sandbox.

Nowhere is there an apology or admission of wrongdoing. On occasion, the child will stop his or her sand-dumping and move to some other task. More often, a second or third reminder is required.

Fast forward to sixth grade where a student is hiding her cell phone under a book while texting someone somewhere. As I remind her that cell phones are not allowed in school, the non-responsible comments ensue.

Monica was doing it too.

I needed to say something to my mom.

Class is almost over.

You never said anything about cell phones.

Because I can either capture the demon cell phone or make certain that she puts it in her purse or backpack, I choose the second option. It’s not necessarily the best response but I forgot to return a phone in another class and didn’t want to repeat. It also implies trust that she will take the right path.

Now we are adults, forever attempting to hold others responsible for our various crimes and transgressions. This includes the man who beats his wife to death because she was late with having his dinner on the table. It also reflects shaken babies who are victims of parents incapable of tolerating their crying. And how much road rage do we witness where infuriated drivers run others off the road or shoot them out of unbridled anger?

My guess is that if we each took responsibility for our thoughts and actions without assigning blame, the world would be a much safer and happier place. My job as an educator includes teaching accountability, both immediate and potential. Keep dumping sand on the floor and there won’t be any left when you want to build castles. Shalom.

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