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From victim to creator - changing the blame culture for students

February 22, 2019

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From victim to creator - changing the blame culture for students

February 22, 2019




The blame culture, where we blame others for our problems, is permeating more widely into everyday life. People are increasingly playing the role of victim and it’s damaging.


Last year, headteacher Colin Harris, wrote in an article for TES about how failing schools are invariably the result of a damaging blame culture and how the only way to make improvements is to change the culture throughout the whole school community. It’s not just in education, it’s everywhere; an article by Dr Peter Bennie refers to the blame culture in NHS Scotland, showing how unhelpful it is and urging for change. 


And we can learn much from sport - Matthew Syed’s article in The Times talks about the change in culture of the renowned football manager, José Mourinho, who once a ‘voracious innovator’, in the early days taking every opportunity to learn ever more about the craft of management, now resorts to blaming anyone and everyone for any defeat.  Syed is spot on in giving us a quote by John Wooden, a great college basketball coach - ‘You are not a failure until you start blaming others for your mistakes.’ 


The blame culture is often referring to the institutions – the schools, the NHS, sport – but it seeps through affecting individuals and disturbingly, our students.  A whole generation is growing up imbibing this blame culture in our society.   It seeps into the students’ consciousness.  They pick it up from their friends, parents, teachers, social media and, perhaps more acutely than ever before, in the current political climate. 


If a student preparing for exams feels like a ‘victim of the system’ and blames others for making life a misery, they may fail to grasp one of life’s most valuable skills – to be able to take control and create their own success.


We want students to rise to the challenge and be successful in their exams, not only coming out with qualifications but also developing a life-long love of learning, a curious mind and a desire to innovate.  They will be eased of an enormous burden if we can help them to ditch the blame culture and victim mentality - and instead inspire them to take charge and create opportunities for their success.


We live in world changing more rapidly than ever before.  The opportunities have never been so wide or accessible.  What’s more, there is a growing body of scientific evidence clearly showing that we all have the capacity to improve way beyond where we started, often way beyond what we can even imagine.  While our natural talents and genes clearly play a part (I’m never going to be a 6’6 basketball player), our own efforts, contribution and mindset play a much bigger role in our success than we were originally led to believe. 


We want to promote equality, and particularly want to help those who are disadvantaged, but to do this we need to recognise and eliminate the other divide that exists.  We need to close the gap between those who want to create their own success, who are eager to learn and optimistic and those who blame others, disillusioned with learning, act the victim, are pessimistic, waiting in vain for something magic to happen, giving up, or worse still, not even having any expectations of success.


The world of education may be far from perfect and slow to adapt – and the faster everything else changes, the more pronounced this becomes, but moving away from the blame culture and victim mentality has never been more important. 


Instead let’s move towards a creating culture, with optimism and hope for the future, a world where we take control and create our own success.  Let’s pass that on and enthuse the current generation of students, creating a culture where it’s exciting to learn, grow and develop.  It can be hard, challenging and sometimes uncomfortable but more than that it is rewarding and worthwhile, fulfilling and valuable and ultimately, it’s what will lead to being able to create a life full of opportunities and choices.  


Whether in sport or business, in health, education or politics, blaming others does not lead to success.  Taking control and creating change does. 

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© Amanda Dewinter 2020