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." (http://www.brianwilson.net/pages/whyjohnny.html)
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 happened..how 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 do..like 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't...you 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 cause...to 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 flow...to 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 it..family included...but I cant continue to be a sheep if I want my children to be leaders.