Instead of taking responsibility and admitting a fault, people tend come up with insane excuses to try and cover their mistakes.
“My dog ate my homework” and “my printer was broken” are classic excuses for students who either forgot, or completely disregarded, an assignment.
Excuses can also be used to avoid undesirable situations. You can easily escape an after-school meeting by pulling the “I have tons of homework” card.
Natalie Williams, junior, believes that the sole purpose of an excuse is to “get away with something.”
“If you get home late and your parents ask where you were, you don’t want to tell them you were at the circus,” she said. “You don’t want to make up a stupid excuse. What good is an excuse that doesn’t work?”
As more and more students start driving, there is one excuse that seems to be thrown around quite often. Williams was quick to agree.
“If I’m ever late to anything, I just say I had to get gas,” she said. “I mean, if you have to come up with an excuse, at least make it believable.”
“I forgot” is Sean Bryant’s, junior, favorite excuse. “I’m not very creative,” he said, “but sad stories work sometimes, it really depends on the teacher.”
Bryant feels as though students use excuses to make themselves feel better about not doing an assignment. He also mentioned that they use excuses to “get away with it.”
Excuses may sound rational at the time, but chances are, they sound ridiculous to others. Teachers know that your printer did not coincidentally break the night before it was due. Being caught in a made-up excuse can cause teachers to lose respect for you.
“I have more respect for the student who comes in and tells me that he does not have it and accepts the consequences. Many times, students have an opportunity to turn in the assignment for reduced credit,” said Mrs. Hendricks, teacher.
“In 18 years, I have heard it all. One that comes to mind is the student who told me that his computer caught on fire while he was typing his research paper. His mother sent me a note confirming the story.” A dilemma arises in a situation like this.
Did the student’s computer actually catch on fire? Or did the mother simply cover for him in order to salvage the grade?
“I also had a student tell me that his mother cleaned his room and threw away his note cards for his research paper,” she said.
Mrs. Hendricks believes there are several reasons as to why people make up excuses: “They don’t have their work, but they still want some credit. They also don’t want to look bad. Maybe they did not have time or just procrastinated too long, but they are trying to salvage some dignity and credit for the assignment. I think adults do this too.”
Being successful when using an excuse enables students, and adults for that matter, to use them more often.
Why would someone refrain from using an excuse if it spares them more time, or prevents them from being punished? There is rarely any consequence to the student whose “dog ate their homework”.
How can a teacher or a boss make assumptions on the validity of one’s reasoning? One can only hope that honesty will trump the will to cover up a mistake.