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Creating A Lesson On “Blaming Others” & Need Your Help


As regular readers know, I’ve been putting energy this school year into creating lessons where my students can (I hope) more explicitly learn and develop concepts/habits that, for lack of a better term, I’m calling “life” learning. I written about them here — on what physically happens to the brain when it learns something new; on self-control, and goal-setting.

I’ll be expanding on them in my upcoming third book, and will be using this blog to help write it. I’ll be sharing more about that after Christmas.

Today, though, I’d like to ask readers help in developing a new lesson on “blaming others.”

Several recent studies have recently been done which show that blaming people is contagious — that reading about people who blame others for their mistakes and shortcomings makes people more likely to blame others for their own mistakes. These same studies, though, show that the opposite is true, too — those that read about people who accept responsibility for their mistakes are more likely to take responsibility for theirs.

I’d like to identify newspaper articles and stories, or short book excerpts, where people accept responsibility for their mistakes that I can have students read.

Can you share some ideas in the comments section? I’ll compile them in a future post, and also report what I specifically do in the lesson I’m developing and how it goes. I’ve found quotes related to the topic, but no narratives so far.


Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Trying again. I did send email with the info.

  2. Or Bill Cosby
    Bill Cosby pleaded with blacks to stop blaming the “white man” for their problems on Thursday, and he reiterated his harsh critique of the current state of African-American culture.

    “It is almost analgesic to talk about what the white man is doing against us, and it keeps a person frozen in their seat. It keeps you frozen in your hole that you are sitting in to point up and say, ‘That’s the reason why I am here.’ We need to stop this,” Cosby said in an address before Jesse Jackson’s 33rd Annual Rainbow/PUSH Coalition conference in Chicago.

    How about The Red Pony by Steinbeck?
    although his father lets him know he will be expected to take responsibility for him, …. “But the pony died -” Carl replies, “Don’t you go blaming that on him. … There’s the ocean to stop you.” Jody feels very sad and asks Grandfather if …

    Or Touching Spirit Bear by Mikaelson
    Cole is offered Circle Justice: a system based on Native American traditions that attempts to provide healing for the criminal offender, the victim and the, community. With prison as his only alternative, Cole plays along. He says he wants to repent, but in his heart Cole blames his alcoholic mom his, abusive dad, wimpy Alex — everyone but himself — for his situation.

    Cole receives a one-year banishment to a remote Alaskan island. There, he is mauled by Mysterious white bear of Native American legend. Hideously injured, Cole waits for his death His thoughts shift from from Anger to humility. To survive, he must stop blaming others and take responsibility for his life. Rescuers arrive to save Cole’s but it is the attack of the Spirit Bear that may save his soul.

    Could even go Biblical-Adam and Eve blame then take responsibility for their actions -think Paradise Lost Book X.

  3. There’s a nice folktale about a King who keeps saying it’s not his responsibility

    The ATN book list site has two lists that might help and

  4. You might find some helpful lessons at the Center for Nonviolent Communication. I am developing a program for educators using many of their techniques.

    Good luck!
    Rosie Emery

  5. How about Dr. Ben Carson’s realization (at age 14) that he needed to control his temper and that other people really had no control over his own actions? There’s a chapter called “A Terrible Temper” in his book Gifted Hands.

  6. Here’s a link which you might find useful, Larry:

    Russell Crowe accepts responsibilty for bad behaviour in letter to fans:

  7. I love these lessons, Larry. Here’s a site that may be of some help – if not for this one, then for the last one. I thought of you immediately when I opened the link.

  8. You might want to consider President Obama’s reaction to the unsuccessful attack on the plane going to Detroit.

    Nepalitano , Head of Homeland Security said the “the system worked.”
    Obama said “this is unacceptable and we’re going to have a meeting next Thursday to make sure we fix what was broken.”

    I think it makes a nice contrast to Pres Bush reaction to Hurricane Katrina or Rumsfeld’s famous “Stuff happens” in response to the riots and looting in Baghdad after the invasion.

  9. My class read Swindle by Kormen and loved it. Near the end of the book, sorry no book here so no page number, but the main character realizes that while he came up with a brilliant plan he did not consider how his plan would affect the other people involved. Also, after Brian tries to kill himself (Hatchet) he realizes that can feel sorry for himself or take responsibility for himself. Hope this helps.

  10. I really enjoyed listening to Seth Godin’s perspective on the meaning of work in his conversation with Nora Young on this CBC Spark Radio podcast. I’d also suggest listening to the second perspective provided by Matthew Crawford. Their conversation kind of took the idea of blaming others you suggest, and relate it to current trends in a new work ethic, if you will.

  11. Consider:
    Compare and contrast:
    Team Bush and Hurricane Kartina.
    Team Obama and Haiti.
    To be very clear this is not about “bad people.” It’s about a reflexive attitude of blame v a reflexive attitude of get this fixed.

    A little research on google news, with the two year back feature. You could probably take the headlines and/or subheads. Maybe sort the headlines into blame and fix. Then read some of the stories. Then write a bit on paper or blog about how blame versus fix has worked in the kid’s experience.

    “When did you get the blame? Did you deserve it? Why? Why not?
    What problem did your actions create for other people? What would you do now to fix it.”

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