Archive for April, 2010

The Milgram Miracle

April 6, 2010

OrĀ  – Why the Milgram experiment should be part of the standard educational curriculum

I, myself, was subjected to (and victim of) a very mild version of the Milgram experiment in High School by one of my teachers, a Mr. Maclaughlin. I suffered little more than frustration, being hit with a paper box of tissues, and a strong sense of pride afterwards. (I was the one who defied authority and promoted discontent)

Here is how his version went down:

We were told by Mr. Maclaughlin that we were to help raise money for the senior class to go on their field trip, and that six of us might be able to come along. we were to raise funds by spending our weekends selling baked goods that we were to make after school.

Many of us protested, but he kept arguing us down through a mix of faulty logic and authoritarian bluster – all of us except me. I would not let it go, wouldn’t stop protesting. I called him a Communist, I told him I would bring this to the attention of the principal and my parents, and that even if that helped that I wouldn’t do it anyway, and I would not accept any punishment for my refusal to participate.

My continued refusal rallied some of the other students, and that was when he threw a tissue box at me and told me rather harshly to go cry about it. I let him continue for a bit, but I was simply rallying for my next attack. This was no longer about my own selfishness – this was about principles. What I thought was right, and this wasn’t it.

It was around the time I began to argue again, that he finally decided to end it. He admitted that the field trip was not real, that we were not really going to have to do anything, and that he had done this to demonstrate to us what a dictatorship was like. We spent the rest of the day on that lesson, and I felt a strange sense of pride as the self-appointed rebel leader .

I believe that this sort of experiment should be run on every highschool class in this country. And every other country. It is important to teach youth the importance of appropriate defiance and suspicion of authority. If they don’t learn this lesson, then I fear for the future of a slow slide into authoritarianism from one source or another – be it government, corporate, religion, or any other would-be dictator.

In this day and age, I am sure that the idea of defying authority isn’t popular – we seem to care more about order and our own personal agendas than our own liberty, and especially more than the rights of others. I have to ask though – have we always been this way? Did we ever really care? Were we always entirely self motivated, only roused to action when our particular ideal was threatened? History seems to say yes. Most people just want to get on with their lives.

What do we do then? This, I think, is the point of doing milgram-like experiments. To allow people to figure out where their ethical center lies, and perhaps make them a bit more self-aware in future incidents.



April 4, 2010

I’m going to be using this blog to post my thoughts and feelings, my rants and crap, and all other topics involving a dazzling array of ideas and themes as they come to me.