Art by Dzung Nguyen
Everyone’s heard the saying “the dog ate my homework” but, sophomore, Kiren Macleod has a similar, truthful, story. During the third grade, Macleod worked hard on a paper one night and set it next to his bag to return to it the next morning, destroyed. Macleod found cat vomit all over his well done essay and was devastated. He took a picture and sent it to teacher who in the end, allowed his excuse.
Excuses. Whether they’re aware of it or not, everyone makes them. But although they’re a part of life, there can be many reasons for making them.
In academic scenarios, students such as sophomore Beni Adelstein make excuses to sometimes defend their poor choices. Adelstein remembers when she put off an assignment for almost a year and used excuses along the way.
“There was this one project I had to do and it was due in the first month of the semester but because my teacher said she would accept late work for full credit, I waited until the last few weeks of school to do it,” Adelstein said. “I kept telling myself I had more time to do it, but before I knew it months had passed, and I just made excuses to get away with it.”
Students such as Adelstein put off things as long as possible, but some choose not to own up to their actions.
“I just usually use excuses when I don’t want to do something or I regret doing something,” Adelstein said. “I think students use them [academically] because it makes them feel more secure and basically tricks them into believing that they have their life together but they actually don’t.”
More than laziness, excuses show deeper shame
Adelstein assumes students don’t own up to their decisions because they don’t want to be seen as a failure. An article written by Head Space, a website that informs people about different physiologic issues, claims excuses serve as a distraction that prevents people from achieving the task. But a lack of ownership for actions stems from a deeper, unconscious desire to avoid anxiety and shame. Counselor Dr. Jordan Alexander agrees with this research, and Adelstein, about the psychology behind the excuse making.
“I think most people want to come off as someone who is making good choices. Rather than [someone] just [being] honest and [saying] they didn’t want to do the assignment or, ‘I screwed up’, they come up with something that’s more… socially appropriate,” Alexander said. “It also then shifts the blame or the responsibility to an outside source rather than something that they were responsible for.”
Like Alexander, some teachers think it’s better for students just to own up to their mistakes. World history teacher Alex Worman, said he is disappointed in students who constantly make excuses for what they have and haven’t done.
“I think excuses mostly come from laziness,” Worman said. “But, [in their future], I think it depends if the excuses are met by people allowing the excuses or not allowing the excuses. If they’re able to make excuses their entire life, then they’re never asked to do anything so they never learn anything.”
Excuses hurt future work habits
Although some students make excuses for their behavior in and out of school, Alexander believes this will affect their future in school and work, like Worman. RBHS tries to enforce responsibility to help benefit the future of students.
“We are trying to help students become responsible citizens as they leave Rock Bridge and enter higher education or the work force. So, students who have developed poor time management skills are probably in for a rude awakening,” Alexander said. “The excuses that may initially work, in terms of extending deadlines and such in a high school setting, are often times not appropriate at all in a workplace or higher education setting. I think students are in for a rude awakening if they believe those same excuses are going to work for them in the real world.”
Like Alexander, PHYblog, a website filled with psychological theories, states students will realize reality after high school. The problem with self-handicapping (making excuses) is people don’t give themselves the best chance to succeed, so they don’t get the best result. Self-handicapping behaviours are associated with lower motivation, less persistence, less self-guided learning and generally lower performance.
This theory is true, According to Psychology Today, which claims that “how children perceive their personal power determines how much effort they will expend to control their lives.” Although this idea may be true, Worman thinks that sometimes getting away with excuses depends on the circumstances.
“[I think the real world] sometimes allows for excuses,” Worman said. “But it depends on how serious the excuse is and if it’s an actual excuse.”
Bruin faculty aims to eliminate excuse making
Despite some thinking the excuses are dependant on the situation, RBHS is trying to eliminate academic justification for mistakes. Ever since RBHS was established, the departments strive to make students responsible for their actions.
“In terms of school work accountability, there is a variety of things that different departments use. One is to be very clear about their late policy and deadlines and points,” Alexander said. “Each department does that a little differently, but most departments try to hold students accountable to getting work completed on time and if that’s not the case, then only certain excuses such as medical or mental health are verifiable situations.”
In the end, making excuses is conscious and subconscious. The important part is whether they’re reasonable or affect the person’s mindset. Excuses like Adelstein makes because she has put off an assignment may not affect her actions in the future, but it may affect her mindset on accomplishing tasks.
“I also believe a lot of students understand that what works, or what appears to be working for them in high school, may not work at the next level,” Alexander said. “I think students understand that there is a higher level of accountability and hopefully they rise up to that when they get to those situations.”
What excuses do you make? Leave a comment below.