Shades of Stanley Milgram

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PJ Doland links to the disturbing story of a Georgia teacher who resigned after ordering two boys to throw a female classmate out the window. The girl, who'd been arguing with the teacher (after the teacher made "a disparaging remark" about the girl's appearance) sustained neck injuries and several cuts. Most frightening line in the piece:

The two boys later told principal Kenneth Daniels that they threw the girl out the window because they did not want to be written up for disobeying a teacher.

These guys were 14 years old—old enough, one would devoutly hope, to recognize that hurling another person out a window is not OK, even when a teacher says to.

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  1. I would have thought Jennifer would have been the first to post on this one…

    How ’bout it, Jen?

    (Personally, I can’t say I’m really surprised. Public education seems to be all about instilling a “slave-to-the-state” mentality.)

  2. Usually I would side against our factory farms, err I mean schools, but is there anything more insufferable than a teenage girl who has decided that Her Highness is offended? It doesn’t say how far she fell. I went to school where the fall could have been between 2-4 ft. If it wasn’t a 2nd story window, they probably should have given the teacher a medal instead.

  3. They were just following orders.

    I am anxiously awaiting Jennifer’s rant/secret wish that her students were that obedient.

    In a semi-related story. A coworker of mine went to the Museum of Tolerance this weekend with his daughter and a group of other 12 year olds. They talked about a football player that got drunk, got in a car accident and killed himself and his girlfriend. They were asked who was responsible for the accident. The driver, the girlfriend (who bought the booze and got in the car), the driver’s parents (who knew he had a drinking problem or some other person (I can’t remember the anecdote in full). Not a single kid said the driver was at fault. WTF are we doing to raise our kids to lack personal responsibility. My coworker, incidentally, decided he needed to have a little talk w/ his daughter regarding personal responsibility. Since the kids were all San Fernando Valley kids, she’ll probably be the only one.

  4. “These guys were 14 years old?old enough, one would devoutly hope, to recognize that hurling another person out a window is not OK, even when a teacher says to.”

    They’re also old enough to make up bad lies in an attempt to get out of trouble.

  5. Sheesh. I step outside for a lousy half-hour, and look what I miss!

    Based upon this story, it sounds like the girl asked a reasonable question (Why are you taking our photograph?), the teacher responded with a disparaging remark, and the girl got upset, as is to be expected when insulted by an ‘authority’ figure. I’d never insult a student’s appearance, and I’d never give an order to commit assault.

    I hope the parents press charges.

    KMW is right about the “slave” mentality. I know at some schools, the rules state that ALL orders are to be obeyed; presumably, the boys are supposed to toss the girl out the window, and THEN file a formal complaint.

  6. JDM: Yeah, I’m guessing the kids wanted to throw her out the window and the “order” gave them the opportuinity to do it without facing repurcussions.

  7. They are also only 14 yr old kids. And quite possibly didn’t want to be next on the “being thrown out a window” list.

    In today’s world you have the secret service visiting 15 yr olds and questioning him re: a drawing he made of bush as a devil. Can you really fault these kids for doing as told? Who knows what the consequences of not doing so would be.

    (shrugs)

    And yes, I would hope that if my son was in this same situation, he would face the consequences vs following orders.

  8. By the way, just wanted to state that my anti-school rants involve perfidies inherent in The System. This wasn’t a problem with The System; this was just one nasty bitch of a teacher. Could have happened anytime, anywhere.

    Why do I suspect this woman brags about how her great-grandfather Whatshisface fought for the noble Confederacy?

  9. I suppose in this case they’ll fire the teacher. After all, she encouraged a student to leave the building without processing through the metal detector.

    At least they all had their school-issued ID cards properly affixed to their approved clothing.

    On the bright side, my cousin is earning a handy second income making beaded hangers for the ID cards that the women she works with have to wear.

    BTW, I saw a picture of the window. It looked to be a drop of 8 to 10 feet.

  10. Larry-
    At eight to ten feet, assuming the girls was NOT thrown out feet-first, couldn’t that qualify as attempted murder?

    I just hope the boys get in no trouble over this. Well, maybe except for having to write letters of apology to the girl. Yes, they should have known better, but they’re just kids, and it sounds like this is the type of teacher who terrifies her students.

  11. Need more information to decide who should have been tossed out the window: teacher or student. But as a Southerner, freely admitting some people just need killin’, many many more than that surely need tossin’ out a window.

    I think the issue we’re approaching agreement on is a lack of “standards.” The lack arises from confusion about taking personal responsibilty.

  12. What they should have done is thrown the teacher out the window. Then they could have claimed to have tried to follow orders but, with the state of education being what it is, they misunderstood them. The posts here would be a bit different, I’m sure. Then again . . .

  13. The girl became upset and began to use profanity and hit the office assist button on the classroom wall…

    What the f***? Is this a new trend in classroom security? What exactly is supposed to happen when one hits these buttons? Are they meant for teachers? Or did the girl merely exercise her right to immediately report the initiation of force against her?

    Whatever the button does, and assuming it is meant for teachers’ use, I’m glad she pressed it. Profanities aside, she seemed to display more sense in a pinch than the teacher and two boys combined.

  14. Andrew-
    Since they have “the button” I am assuming that there is no in-school phone system. The button is supposed to be for the teachers’ use, in case a kid is getting obnoxious to the point of dangerousness. Had the teacher not ordered the girl thrown out the window, the girl likely would have been in HUGE trouble for pressing the button without authorization.

  15. What the fuck? What is wrong with you people? Hell yes the boys should be brought up on attempted murder, assuming the window was high enough, and any lesser charges that can be concieved of. Teacher told me to do it? Suggesting they acted out of fear of authority isn’t just cynical, it’s ludicrous. Risk killing someone so you don’t get written up? Even if these kids were so ludicrously obidence mindined, i’m sure they would be far more concerned with zero-tolerance policies towards violence then following all orders. Maybe it was a bad joke gone awry, but these kids have serious problems, and did a seriously corrupt thing.

    The incident is not really disturbing at all. It’s a total anamoly, though a sickening one at that. What’s disturbing is the defense’s of these kids. Where’s Heinlein when you need him? 10 lashing’s in the pubilc square!

    And I hope the girls parents consider beating up that teacher bitch in a dark alley with a baseball bat.

  16. When kids choose violence over disobeying orders, something it definitely wrong. Anyone interested in education that emphasizes freedom and responsibiity should check out Montessouri schools.

    When it first came to America, it was very popular amoung the populace. The experts in education never liked it, because back then they thought it was a waste of money to start teaching reading before age 8. Since the experts decided which schools to build, we’re stuck with the current people factories.

    Public education increases the literacy rate, but crushes individuality. I’m not sure the trade off is worth it.

  17. A waste of money to teach reading before age 8? That’s insane. I can’t remember not knowing how to read; I knew how by the time I was three. Reading is just another version of language, after all; any non-retarded kid can pick it up, if exposed to it at an early enough age.

    After more thought; yes, I guess the boys should be punished, but not with attempted murder; they ARE still kids, and were in a stressful situation. The teacher, though, should be hit with whatever the legal system’s got. At her age, she should get a sentence long enough to ensure that she dies in jail.

  18. From citizenonline.net–

    “While Peoples did not touch the student, she reportedly opened the window prior to the victim being dumped out on her head, police said.”

    So we have a) 8-10 feet, b) on her head, and c) some neck pain and scratches. Interesting…

  19. The millennial devotion to authority strikes again!

    (Milennial? Millenial? I’ve given up on that one.)

  20. a) Montessouri schools rule. Not only did I learn to read English, I could multiply up to 10×10 by the time I hit elementary school and I took a little Spanish (my parents encouraging this and helping w/ the math was a plus). Montessouri can be worthless though. My brother and I both got a lot out of them because we’re both very intellectually curious by nature, my sister just played around and didn’t learn much. She had trouble reading for quite a while.

    b) The teacher is a bitch and needs to go to jail for a long, long time. Really fucking long.

    c) The kids need to be punsihed bad. Spending the next year in detention will do it, plus an ass whupping by the girl’s brother/cousin/friend (some male under the age of 18). Spending the summer in juvie will help straighten them out.

  21. http://www.citizenonline.net/citizen/archive/article0856082EB7E142BCBD22EC5A7E13403D.asp

    The above link gives far more detail. Apparently this was a school for kids with learning and behavioral problems. When the girl asked why the teacher took the photo, Teach responded by saying “So I can show the world your ugly a—-” (dashes from the original story.)

    Even without the window incident, this woman sounds like a nasty, Nurse Ratched type of sadist, insulting a girl WITH BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS in hopes of goading the child into misbehavior.

    Oh, and the woman was previously voted Teacher of the Year.

  22. Jennifer,

    In-phone school system? Look, I’m 38 and I have no kids, so maybe I’m a little out of touch with school practices, but when did internal com/notification systems become all the rage? They didn’t have them at any of the private or public schools I went to in the 70s and early 80s. I remember when metal detectors hit the scene, but I don’t recall any kind of social outrage that would have inspired com systems. Hell, if we were bad, Sister Anchen got up from her desk and walked out of the classroom. The sound of her steps heading for the principal’s office was a far greater deterrent than any inst-o-dial-a-hall-monitor system. Can you enlighten me on how they (classroom phones & buttons) came to be? Thanks!

  23. That’s “In-school phone system.”

  24. I attended a prep school in central Virginia back in the 80’s, and I’ve been thrown out of windows numerous times.

    The first time I was thrown out of a window, as I recall, it was for the sin of having stymied my roomate’s un-libertarian like argument. Yes, indeed, I’ve had to suffer for my political convictions.

    Other people saw it happen, and throwing me out of a window became something of a pass time.

    Catesby: “I’m so bored”

    Troy: “Me too, but it’s lights out, so the Girls’ dorm is off limits. What are we going to do?”

    Catesby: “I don’t know.”

    Gilmore: “I know. Let’s throw Shultz out the window!”

    Shultz: AAAAaaarrrRrrrhhhhHHHhhh!

    Head and neck injuries? Big deal.

    I took my case to the Dean’s office, and said, “Pardon me Sir, but Fournier, Gilmore, Troy, Catesby, Mark, and Marcello keep throwing me out the window every time they get bored. Could you please do something about it?” He started laughing, and then he got this funny look on his face. Forty-five seconds later the Dean had sent me through his open office window, and I was picking flora out of my nose.

    Thank God for those frickin’ bushes.

    It was all friendly though; it wasn’t even hazing really. But I’ve seen hazing though.

    We had this semi-secret organization called RAS (River Appreciation Society) that had been ongoing for decades. It was devoted, openly and purely, to hazing freshman. There were Midnight lilly-pad leaping contests, etc. Was it Faculty sanctioned? They gave us our own assembly to announce our officers, and another to present winners.

    I know things have changed since the ’80s, and I know that female students should be treated differently. But, speaking as a former victim, I sure hope we haven’t gotten to the point where you can’t throw a kid out of a window every once in a while.

    Just for fun, you know?

  25. Andrew-
    I don’t know the history, but the school where I taught (2000-2003) had phones in every room. Also, at my school, I would not have been allowed to leave the classroom, even for a minute, because I would have been held responsible for anything which might have happened while I was gone. (In practice I did occasionally leave long enough to fill my water bottle at the fountain, and occasionally I was a minute or two late for class because I had to visit the bathroom, but I was taking a serious risk in doing so.)

    The nearby city of Hartford, Connecticut, has a school which some numbfuck architect designed with NO WINDOWS; classrooms were lit exclusively from within. This inner-city urban school had all sorts of problems; teachers knew that when a kid flicked off the lights the teacher had better duck, because the darkness was usually prelude to assault. One teacher had to be hospitalized (in a coma, I think) after being hit in the back of the head with a chair.

    Incidentally, when things like this happen it’s not the fault of the student, but the fault of the teacher, for being “unable to manage” the class. I did not teach in such a jungle of a school, but my first year I DID have one student with a bona-fide criminal record for assault, yet when I had trouble making this 19-year-old thug behave it was my fault, for not “motivating” him to behave. It was also my fault when he wouldn’t do his homework.

    Let me repeat: I am INCREDIBLY glad I’m out of teaching. It’s going to get far worse before it gets better.

    And Andrew, if you DO have kids treat them like illicit drugs; that is to say, don’t let them get within 500 yards of a public school.

  26. So deeply screwed up.

  27. C’mon, the main reason the schools were created was to process compliant human resources. The kids are put in an artificial barracks society where they’re taught that the way to obtain anything of value is to win the approval of authority figures.

    If they repeated the Milgram experiment today, they wouldn’t even need to put the “victims” offstage. The subjects would probably vivisect them under orders from Dr. Mengele.

  28. At a private, profit driven school with a dependency on voluntary patronage, there would be a powerful disincentive working against the occurrence of this type of outrage.

  29. Rick-
    I don’t think any school, not even a Utopian one, could have prevented such a thing. This wasn’t the school system’s fault; this was a nasty sadistic woman. Human nature being what it is, there will always be the chance of an authority figure being a bit of a sociopath.

    I wonder, though–did the boys immediately toss the girl, or did they argue against the teacher’s orders, only going along with it after being threatened? Considering that this was a school for kids with bad records, I’d say that IF the boys initially refused, and had to be threatened into it, then maybe they shouldn’t be punished after all. I mean, sure, none of US would have obeyed, but none of us are teenagers with histories of emotional problems. Milgram didn’t even have to threaten his subjects.

  30. Rick,

    Are you characterizing a type of private, profit-driven school that doesn’t currently exist? Or are you saying that private, profit-driven schools as we know them create such disincentives?

    My experiences with private schools are limited to Montessori and Catholic grammar and high schools (as a student, not a parent). I can tell you that any of the private schools I went to would have loosed Ragnarok upon teachers like the one in topic. Even if they were nuns.

  31. Jennifer-

    Well, maybe they figured “Hmm, if disobeying a teacher’s orders got me sent to a school where teachers have kids thrown out windows, I don’t want to know what will happen if I disobey a teacher’s orders again…”

    Then again, maybe not.

  32. Thoreau-
    That’s my point; who can tell? I’m just saying that in this case, the circumstances need to be carefully considered BEFORE deciding what to do.

    What kind of teacher–hell, what kind of human being–would respond to such an innocuous question (Why are you taking our picture?) with a rude insult delivered in front of the entire class?

  33. My high school had windows in each classroom, a full wall of them (not ceiling to floor, but 5 or 6 feet from ceiling to whatever). Until the year I started when they began replacing all the windows with lovely cinder block. Except in the administrative offices which were left fully windowed.

  34. What kind of teacher–hell, what kind of human being–would respond to such an innocuous question (Why are you taking our picture?) with a rude insult delivered in front of the entire class?

    “Hey, fuckface — what’s with the camera?”

    There are a lot of ways to ask “why are you taking our picture”. Some provoke hostile responses, others don’t. Of course, none excuse then throwing the person asking the question out a window, so it’s kind of a moot point.

    Anyway, I’m long thought that the study of the Milgram experiments should be a required part of every child’s education. The problem is that neither the Left nor the Right would approve of this — the experiment demolishes too many articles of faith about human nature.

  35. When I went to junior high in Barstow, California, in 1959-60 every classroom door exited outside, to a covered walkway connecting it to the rest of the school. We had a wall of windows that actually opened. It was a little messy when it rained, but in Barstow there are two seasons. The dry season and the day it rains.

    Of course that was before metal detectors, classroom panic buttons, and zero tolerance made the schools safe.

  36. I’d guess that the students were part of the teacher’s goon squad, rather than that any public school inflicts punishments for disobedience so horrible that facing an attempted murder charge is preferable.

    It’s odd that the teacher’s name wasn’t mentioned in the news reports I’ve seen. People who are accused of committing deadly assault usually get their names in the news.

  37. Speaking of names, I was just wondering: Were the two students named Crabbe and Goyle?

  38. I’m sure the teacher was just doing a demostration of the Defenestration of Prauge…..
    I mean, we have a word specifically for throwing someone out a window, so defenestration can’t be that bad or uncommon. 🙂

  39. Well, I went to a school that 1) had no windows (except for lobby areas and one side of the first floor classrooms, the school had 3 floors of classrooms) and 2) had a school PA system. The in-room parts of the PA had two way transmission, and the way the teachers communicated with the office was to push a button and wait for a response. I’d imagine this system was about the same. As mentioned earlier, students did not touch this system without teacher approval.

    In this defenestration case, could a contributing factor have been the two boys’ eagerness to visit harm on the girl? Remember, these two boys are ALSO students at a school for students with behavioral problems. In that case, I’d think we should see some punishment for the two boys involved. I somewhat doubt the effectiveness of any punishment, tho.

  40. Jennifer,

    In a “customer driven” environment, as opposed to government schools, there would be more of an incentive to screen out teachers who might display nasty sadistic behavior, and actually physically abuse the customer’s children.

    Andrew,

    I’m saying that private, profit-driven schools as we know them create disincentives against teachers who physically abuse kids. That kind of thing tends to be really bad for business…it’s the same profit incentive that tends to encourage academic excellence.

  41. Not to mention that private schools lack the legal protections against lawsuits that public schools sometimes have a goverment agencies.

  42. Response to Dan: I came across this website while doing research on Dr. Milgram because I am going to be teaching about his experiments in a public high school class. Recent revelations from Iraq have caused me to do a lot of thinking about what schools do to kids in the name of discipline and behavior management. I am becoming increasing sympathetic to the “troubled” kids who refuse to be assimilated. Iam also going to teach about the Stanford Prison Experiment. Wish me luck.

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