Thursday, May 8, 2008


Speaking at the Harvard Law School Forum in February on "Winning the Culture War," Charlton Heston delivered a vital lesson on the role of disobedience in American culture:
"I learned the awesome power of disobedience from Dr. King, who learned it from Gandhi, and Thoreau and Jesus and every other great man who led those in the right against those with the might. Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel innate kinship with that Disobedient Spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbor, that sent Thoreau to jail, that refused to sit in the back of the bus, that protested a war in Vietnam. In that same spirit, I am asking you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue authority, social directives and onerous law that weaken personal freedom. ...
"Let's be honest. Who here thinks your professors can say what they really believe? It scares me to death, and should scare you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules the halls of reason. ... What does all of this mean? It means that telling us what to think has evolved into telling us what to say, so telling us what to do can't be far behind. Before you claim to be a champion of free thought, tell me: Why did political correctness originate on America's campuses? And why do you continue to tolerate it? Why do you, who're supposed to debate ideas, surrender to their suppression?"
"If you talk about race, it does not make you a racist," said Heston. "If you see distinctions between the genders, it does not make you a sexist. If you think critically about a denomination, it does not make you anti-religion. If you accept but don't celebrate homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe."

When met with intolerable demands for political correctness that stifle questions, independent thought, and free speech, Heston had a clear prescription for his Harvard audience: "Simply disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely. But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don't. We disobey social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom." (
I am part of a yahoo group for kids with SPD and Autism whose parents home school, and this morning there was a post in there with a link to this article about how we as Americans are taught to conform. With everything that has been going on with my kids in the public school system right now i found this very interesting, and a little scary. OK..maybe a lot scary.
There was a study done back in the 1950's...yes it was a long time ago..but looking at the world the way it is now, I doubt the findings would be any better, in fact I think they would have gotten worse. Social Psychologists were trying to figure out how the Holocaust could have German society could have let it happen. Solomon Asch conducted an experiment on conformity behavior, a behavior that allows your peers or authority figures wills to override your own will and judgement. It was a basic experiment, college students were asked to estimate the length of a line after their peers (who were working for the psychologist) had already guessed the length purposefully and obviously wrong. The students chose conformity over accuracy 35% of the time. Asch expected people to be rational enough to choose the correct answer over the wrong perceptions of others and said "It is important to keep the unambiguousness of the situations in mind. In many instances, subjects are quite certain of the correct choice and, in the absence of group pressure, would choose correctly 100 percent of the time. In contrast, when they conform, they are conforming despite the fact that they know the answer." So if these students were willing to go along with everyone else on such an unimportant matter, KNOWING they were wrong, what percentage would blindly follow a charismatic authority figure if the morality of the issue was unclear or debatable? That scares the crap out of me!
We are constantly telling our kids "you have to behave" "you need to listen" "do what your teachers say"...are we unwittingly turning our children into sheep? Making them willing to go along with the crowd regardless of what is right? I honestly think this is why both of my boys have such a hard time in public schools. Zephryns SPD doesn't help matters, but Tryphons circumstances were different. He was bullied and pushed out because he refused to conform to the bullies constant pressures of "do what I what I like". I didn't like the circumstances of his leaving the school (he doesn't need any schooling on disobedience) but I applaud that he knew the teacher was wrong, that the kids were wrong and the administration was wrong, and figured a way out of there. It probably could have gone a little smoother...maybe saved me a few grey hairs...but now that hes out the difference in his demeanor is amazing.
Lyli, on the other hand, is a sheep. I really need to work with her to make her want to stand out and be herself. She came home saying "i want to be just like Ashlynn" and i felt my skin crawl. I never want my kids to want to be someone other than themselves because wanting to be like yourself is obtainable..wanting to be like someone else isn' can never be happy, you will never be fulfilled..its like a dog chasing its tail..the chase it and chase it and chase it..then they catch it..and then what do they do with it? Let it go and chase it again. I don't want to watch her grow up wasting her life on trying to be someone she will never be. But it makes sense why she does well in public schools. She is more than willing to go along with the rest of the class, to do what the teacher says without asking why. And be completely unaffected by all of it. She got brought to the principals office the other day..and came home and said very non-chalantly "she brought me to the principals office today, he sent me back to the classroom after I told him what you told me about the homework" (there was a spring concert, she was unable to attend for various reasons: aysha had to go to work, it wouldn't be in Tryphons best interest to go up there and see the boys that terrorized him singing songs about spring..and Zep was still really upset about being sent back to cornerstone. The teacher had sent home a sheet of homework with "if you attend the concert you don't have to do your homework". I told her she didn't have to do it and if her teacher said anything to have her call me. instead, she got up in the middle of class, and brought lyli to the principal). If one of the boys had gotten sent to the principals office it would have been different, they would have been agitated or upset. Not lyli..just another day at school for her. I am sincerely hoping that the next year or two helps to instill a (dare I say this? I know its going to come back and bite me in the ass eventually ) sense of disobedience in her...when she knows something is right and she is willing to stand up and fight for it.
I think so many of us have gotten away from that principle. We are more than willing to join various causes..but how many of us are wiling to start a stir up some emotion even if it may mean being ridiculed or disliked for our beliefs. I was brought up to respect others and not to cause trouble. I have a great amount of conflict though, because my inner disobedience is screaming at me 3/4 of the time to just go against the do what I feel is morally right. The older I've gotten, the more I listen to that voice..and there are a lot of people who don't like included...but I cant continue to be a sheep if I want my children to be leaders.

1 comment:

Audrey said...

Boy, oh boy, do I understand your conflict. As parents we also talk with our kids non-stop about this issue. It is very important to recognize when we are being led and when we need to stand up to the "system". This reminded me of an instance with our kids, namely our son, Colt, who was in 8th grade at the time. His school day started out like every other day. When it was time for P.E. the class, 19 of them, headed to the gym to find they had a sub that day. Colt's girlfriend at the time was in his class and apparently they were holding hands during class. Yes, yes, I know that holding hands is against the school rules..."no public display of affection." The sub asked my son and his girlfriend to stop holding hands. My son's reply was that if they were following directions in class, not disrupting anyone and getting what they needed to done then why shouldn't they be allowed to hold hands when they were sitting. This of course sent the sub into a frenzy and she proceeded to let Colt know that she would not in any way tolerate the breaking of school rules. My son tried to explain to her that if the regular teacher allows it as long as the above was followed then why should that day be any different. Well, this led to her being even more angry and sent him and his girlfriend off the to the principals office. By the time class was over the sub had sent over half of the rest of the class, due to other reasons, into the principal's office. At this point, the kids were very upset and feeling as if they were not being given a chance to voice their side of the stories. Yes, I know what you might be thinking...a school rule is there for a reason and must be followed or chaos is the result. While I cannot speak for the actions that got the rest of the class in trouble I do know that simply holding hands with someone should not be a cause for chaos. By the time they were released from the principal and sent to their next class, music, all 19 of them were mad. They discussed this an entire class and decided that they were tired of not being given choices. Tired of not being listened to. Tired of being told that the rules were there to be followed and not questioned. What did they do to fight back? Keep in mind that this next bit all happened in a matter of about 15 minutes. With my son leading the process, they quickly gathered supplies from the classroom (where the teacher was I'm not sure) and made signs and decided to protest against what they perceived to be an unjust system. They refused to go to their next class and instead all 19 of them marched together with signs in hand to the principal and demanded that they be listened to. When all was said and done they were allowed to speak their peace and then told they must go to class and not create any further disruptions. I can only imagine what the office staff must have thought when they saw them approaching. After finding out about what happened I felt a lot of conflict. There was the part of me that proudly smiled at knowing that my kid knew that he had rights and that he must stand up for them at all costs. After all, how many times had he seen me and his father making signs to attend a protest of some sort? When I asked him his version he said, "Mom, you always said that we have to defend our rights. I was defending my right to be heard." His dad and I explained that we were proud of his ability to stand up for himself in a peaceful manner and in a way that showed he had put thought into it and not just looking to pick a fight. Trying to be the parents that teach balance we slipped into the conversation that giving up hand holding for that 1/2hour would have not caused harm either. That we need to learn the difference between fights we are willing to take on and those we feel we can let go. His response, "I understand that. That's why I didn't let this go, it was too important." So, I say with sincerity, keep teaching your kids to stand up and when they are older they will.