The Nuremberg Trials...and Homeschooling?!
- Monday, September 24, 2012
As, the Psalmist would say...Selah! Stop and think what this means! Most people assume that such blind, unthinking obedience as Eichmann’s, such a personal disconnect from moral responsibility, could happen only under duress and to someone else somewhere else, such as in Nazi Germany under the spell of an orator like Hitler, during the post-World War I chaos that helped him grasp power.
But is that true? Is it rare for people to do automatically and unthinkingly what their culture teaches them... in the glaring face of common sense, the lessons of history, and God’s own truth? Or is it common? Is it so common that we do it ourselves (even in our parenting and homeschools) without realizing it?
I already know the answer in my own life, but that doesn’t carry much weight. Let’s look instead at the unforgettable experiment—triggered by Eichmann’s trial—carried out by an American professor who wondered the same. Dr. Milgram asked local volunteers to “help with important memory studies” by “testing” people’s recall. They would be “teachers” and give electrical shocks to “learners” who failed to remember correctly. However, the “teachers” were the real subjects of the experiment, because the “learners” were part of the setup. They only pretended to forget and then pretended to feel painful shocks.
The stunning and disconcerting result of the experiment was that most ordinary townsfolk kept right on administering ever-stronger shocks—even a deathly 450-volt blast—over the pleading cries of the “learners,” their fellow townspeople! Why? Because they were calmly told to do so by a single man in a lab coat.
The “teachers” had no grudge. They’d never been harmed by the “learners.” They’d never even met! Nor did the “learners” act or look threatening. Yet, the “teachers” were willing to torture and possibly kill these innocent neighbors—right before them—all so they could avoid resisting the program and could gain approval from the scientist! They wanted to be sure they hadn’t become noticeable by rocking the boat, so they did not analyze the difference between their beliefs and their actions.
These “teachers”—like Eichmann—were ordinary. They had not earlier been killers. But once the “expert scientist” endorsed a “plan,” it easily overpowered their own moral beliefs! And this occurred back in the 1960s, when the United States was more characterized by Judeo-Christian values!
So, if we have long wondered why so many ordinary German people (when there were churches in every town square and the German education system was considered academically successful) hunted their Jewish neighbors, helped load the trains, and fired up the gas chambers...
If we have long noted that Hitler would have been just a lonely maniac if millions of people had not cooperated with him...
Then we must also ask how average American townsfolk (in Milgram’s experiment) could believe they were electrocuting their neighbors, and continued to do so, under the influence of a single, soft-spoken authority figure!
If it is common, then, to succumb to an “expert with a plan,” we should also ask ourselves if we have unwittingly allowed our current post-Christian culture to tell us “how things are done.” Every day, the confident “talking heads” sell us their latest cure-alls and super-systems.
For example, who has defined “education” for us? Have we—without thinking—duplicated the educational methods, locations, goals, schedules, and philosophies of the world around us? Or have we really pressed into God for His definition of education?
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