Our politicians are always reminding us that an apology has a fairly strict form. They remind us by not following it.
Most modern apologies take
the form, "We're sorry if you were offended..."
apology that contains the word "if" is not an apology. If someone is
truly sorry, it isn't contingent on anything.
apology that personalizes the offended party is not an apology. "Sorry
if you're offended" casts the offended party at least as a part of the
problem. Is the problem that I was offensive, or that you were so
thin-skinned? That's left unclear, and a good apology leaves nothing
However, such apologies can *sound* very close to a
real apology, which is probably why politicians employ these bogus mea
Our Education secretary, a Mr. Arne Duncan, takes a
more sophisticated route to the non-apology. He has been getting some
pushback from critics of his "Common Core" initiative. Rather than
answering them substantively, he said, according to the Washington Post,
that he was fascinated by the fact that some opposition to the
standards was coming from “white suburban moms” who fear that “their
child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were.” (No word as to
what Common Core has to say about the use of argumentum ad hominem.)
This frames their criticism as something unsubtantive without itself
offering anything of substance, and in passing relies on a stereotype
and a racial slur.
All this is fine and dandy, but
unfortunately, some of the thin-skinned, white suburban moms took offense. An
emergency like this calls for an excellent non-apology, and Arne's went
something like this:
"I used some clumsy phrasing that I regret — particularly because it distracted from an important conversation about how to better prepare all of America’s students for success... I want to encourage a difficult conversation and challenge the underlying assumption that when we talk about the need to improve our nation’s schools, we are talking only about poor minority students in inner cities. This is simply not true. Research demonstrates that as a country, every demographic group has room for improvement."