As part of this month’s topics of Racism and Genocide Awareness, one of our own tutors gave a talk on the Milgram Psychology Experiment from the 1960’s and the Armenian Genocide. Bob, FlexSchool’s high school History teacher, brought in some authentic pieces his family had obtained in Turkey: a Samovar and a handmade chandelier. He explained that not only was the Samovar used for coffee or tea, but it could also be used as a heater. He talked about the significance of backgammon in Middle Eastern culture. He showed a clip from the movie Experimenter (2015), a drama based on the Yale University research experiments Dr. Stanley Milgram (a psychologist) conducted in the 1960s. The experiments reveal much about human nature, obedience, and the significance of authority and may shed some insight into why humans commit atrocities against each other (such as the Armenian genocide, Jewish Holocaust, and genocide in Serbia and Rwanda). Milgram’s revolutionary experiments unveiled the proverbial elephant in the room, “the banality of evil” (as coined by Hannah Arendt), an aspect of human nature that we all like to think we’re immune from. Bob and the movie discussed how the trial and execution of Nazi and Hitler’s right-hand man, Adolf Eichmann, were in the news. Eichmann seemed to rationalize his actions committed during the Holocaust, and Milgram’s findings could be a clue as to why Eichmann did what he did. After showing the clips, students discussed the implications and relations of the experiments to historical events. Following the presentation, students had a surprise FlexFriday lunch: authentic Armenian/Lebanese/Middle Eastern dishes brought in by Bob. The students and faculty feasted on hummus, tabouli, baklava, stuffed olive leaves, figs, dried apricots, and other delights!
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