Friday, July 6, 2012

Who's to Blame? (or what?!)

I remember learning the phrase 'se me olvido' in my high school Spanish class.  It's a miracle that I remember that, and I make no guarantees that my recollection is accurate - Spanish was just one of many classes in which I barely squeaked by.

It's apt that I recall this phrase, which essentially means 'I forgot', given my propensity for forgetfulness during my adolescence.  I forgot my homework in my locker.  I forgot my sweater.  I forgot about the test.  I forgot to come to class. 

'Se me olvido', as I recall, means literally 'it was forgotten to me'.  It always struck me as funny that Spanish was a language that didn't take responsibility for losing or forgetting things.  Rather, it personified inanimate objects, and assigned the blame to them.  My homework was forgotten to me. 

I think of this often these days - not because my forgetfulness has persisted (though it has...a bit), but rather because I hear my students do the same thing so often.

I will see a child sitting idly in front of the computer, an ask them why they aren't getting started.

"It don't want to turn on." they will reply, calmly, as though there is nothing that they could do to overcome the will of this machine. 

"It don't want to work."

"It don't want to move."

They use this phrase to describe an array of scenarios, driving me to wring my hangs in frustration. 

"It doesn't have wants!  It's a computer!" I declare, and they look at me as though they couldn't possibly care less about the distinction.

In four years, they haven't stopped giving inanimate objects responsibility for their actions.  The only thing that has changed is that now and then, I find myself slipping it into my conversations too.

After all, sometimes it does seem like a computer has a mind of it's own - wants and needs that it is imposing upon us!  Sometimes it it nice to just assign blame to the object that is causing you trouble, rather than carry the heavy load of responsibility around with you.  

Trying to open a jar in my kitchen, I'll groan in frustration. 

"It doesn't want to open!" 

And then I'll grin inwardly at my error.  Just further proof that their way of looking at the world has altered my own. 

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