Well you might have heard the ruckus all the way from France, but a live French TV show (“The Game of Death”) just used the basis of the Milgram experiment for a reality show. They asked members of the audience to flip switches to pulse electricity through a man who needed to be “punished” until the actor (though no one knew this) appeared dead. This has started a hot debate – are humans programed to listen to “experts” and act out on others or do they understand the artifice of the tv context and they are playing out fantasies because they must know it can’t be real?
- Ask students to read one of the articles (and or listen to the NPR story) and after reviewing the comprehension around the story, have them do a four corner exercise (put a label at each of the four corners of the room – in this case “Strongly agree” “agree” “disagree” and “strongly disagree” – and present a question to them such as “How would you rate your reaction to the statement – I believe that this television show confirms that human beings are morally flawed.” After the class divides up and comes back together (I would tally it on the board) and then begin a conversation/debate defending their positions. (I might also have students write the “why” their position before entering into the debate.
What is our responsibility when we see a crime or a serious problem out in a public space? Are we obligated to step in? To call police? To tell someone?
These are some questions that come up when serious crimes are committed and people watch, doing nothing to intercede. Last weekend, “For more than two hours on a dark Saturday night, as many as 20 people watched or took part as a 15-year-old California girl was allegedly gang raped and beaten outside a high school homecoming dance, authorities said.” – CNN article. This terrible act can provide an opportunity to talk in advisory about what our role and responsibility is as a human being and citizen.
- Have students read the article in CNN or USA Today (or watch the video) and outline the basic facts of the rape on last saturday night: Who? What? When? Where? Why/How? What is next?
- Have students write down their thoughts, reactions, and any questions they have about the article. Begin a conversation exploring what are the boundaries of our responsibility. Should someone have called during that two hours? Why do they think they didn’t? What do they think about these potential reasons? What reasons would be valid to avoid “getting involved”? What are the different levels of involvement that they could see in a situation like this? Which would they do, why? What are the factors that influence their position?
- End with students journaling again – clarifying for themselves what they feel their responsibility is.
Resources and Extensions:
- Facing History and Ourselves has extensive curricula dealing with bystander behavior. It helps people determine what their “Universe of Responsibility” is in life and these cases. They also have a virtual exhibit called “Choosing to Participate”.
- Essays on the Kitty Genovese Case from 1964.
- Bystander Effect Definition and article that explores this issue.
- Last year’s attack on a Philadelphia Subway.
- Read or watch “Little Things are Big.” A reflection by Jesus Colon on how his beliefs about his race influenced his decision to participate.