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No Apologies

So even though he took steroids over the years he played baseball, they had nothing to do with his record-breaking 70 home run season.  That, Mark McGuire tearfully and solemnly assures us, he did on his own with some help from (shift eyes upward briefly) “The Man Upstairs.”

The fact that, like Barry Bonds, even McGuire’s head size grew bigger over the years, is apparently beside the point.  And who actually talks like that?  The Man Upstairs?Mark-mcguire  

It’s interesting how unapologetic public apologies often are these days.  In McGuire’s case, he says he wishes he had never played during the steroid era.  If he had played during another time, he implies, he wouldn’t have found it necessary to chemically enhance what The Man Upstairs gave him. It's the era's fault.

Of course, McGuire isn’t the only one to expect forgiveness with a non-apology.   We’ve seen other athletes, celebrities, and politicians do the same thing.  The format varies, but what these non-apologies have in common is that they allow the individual to shun any responsibility for his or her actions.  

One non-apology often heard after a particularly discriminatory or insulting comment is this one:  “If I offended anyone, I’m sorry.”  As if it were a complete accident, similar to stepping on someone’s foot as you shimmy your way to your seat in the middle of the row at the movies.  Why, yes, yes, you did offend people.  What’s with the “if?”  Pretending that it’s our fault for being so thin skinned and judgmental only adds insult to injury. 

And finally, there’s this one:  “It’s time to put this behind me and move on.”  Not because  I’m truly sorry,  not because I’ve made amends or restitution, not because I’ve gone to jail and paid my debt to society, but because I’m ready to forget it ever happened. And you should be too.

Well, all this self-forgiveness may work for celebrities and overpaid athletes, but not for school administrators. I once had a candidate for a principal’s position tell me that what he did on his own time was his own business.  As long as he could justify himself to His Maker (a.k.a. “The Man Upstairs”) he said, he didn’t have to justify his choices to me or anyone else.  So the fact that he had just left his wife and kids a month ago to move in with a student teacher was none of the community’s business.  Maybe not, but good luck with that attitude.

Fair or not, school administrators are held to higher standards, and when we’re working with kids and paid with tax dollars, maybe we should be.  Some may think The Man Upstairs will forgive their indiscretions or lapses of judgment, but Boards of Education may be less willing to put it behind them and move on.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.