If you think you've been hearing that term ("scapegoat") a lot lately, you're not mistaken. Weingarten used it two weeks ago in response to Obama's remarks about the Central Falls firings, and union officers in Florida used it to describe the legislature's merit pay bill, in Michigan in response to the state's failure to receive Race to the Top funding, and in Milwaukee to defend the union's choice of health care plan.
The word originated in the Bible (Leviticus 16) to describe the ritual of sending a goat out into the wilderness as a sacrifice to atone for a perceived wrong. The goat, of course, is blameless, but pays with its life for the errors of others.
That's what makes the use of the word in these contexts faulty. You can't say on the one hand that "The key to turning out great students is great teachers," while claiming to be blameless when students fail.
Monday, March 15, 2010
A Lesson In Scapegoating
I did not know this etymology, and I agree with the conclusion: