What impact can the Milgram Study have on students?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In a social setting where so many students seek to fit in and conform, the Milgram Experiment can be a great example as to the dangers of conformity.  Realistically speaking, issues such as bullying and intimidation are enhanced by students who simply conform to the expectations of the world around them.  Studying Milgram's experiment, seeing the extent to which people would commit harm to another simply by "following the rules" is important for students to see.  The extent to which "the rules" can be used to hurt others and cause pain to others is important for students to grasp.  For many of our students, the world in which they inhabit is one in which the conditions of following the rules are essential.  Thus, it is valid for them to understand the implications of blind obedience to rules.

I think that another impact that students can experience in understanding the Milgram study is to recognize the fundamental value of speaking out in a voice of dissent.  When reading the reflections of the "teachers," one is terrified to see how many of them embraced the hurting of another person with so much ease.  So few of them spoke out and said that they could not be a part of the experiment.  The words of Bruno Batta, who apologized for not being able to do a "better" job of inflicting pain upon another, are haunting.  Students can gain much from this.  There are few voices of dissent in our world.  There are few Thoreaus, Dr. Kings, and Cesar Chavezs in our midst.  Such a lesson is reinforced in reading the results of the experiment.  This is something that our students can gain from it.  In recognition of how important it is to speak out when society emphasizes not to is a valuable lesson from the experiment.

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