School of Shock Staff: Just Following Orders

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Maia Szalavitz, who’s tracked the “punishment-as-therapy” movement’s origins in the discredited antidrug cult Synanon, adds an interesting historical perspective on the latest news from the Rotenberg Center, AKA the School of Shock. Over at HuffPo, she draws a parallel between the incident in which Rotenberg staffers unquestioningly shocked students at the behest of a phone call from a “prankster” to the infamous 1963 Milgram experiment, in which volunteers readily complied with orders to give simulated shocks to unseen subjects. Interestingly, the volunteers were called “teachers” while the recipients of the shocks were called “learners.” Yet, as Szalavitz writes:

In that case, the “victims” were actually actors, no real harm was done to them– and a great ethical controversy ensued over the treatment of subjects, who had been deceived by experimenters about the nature of the research. […]

Here, however, poorly-trained staff inflicted serious and genuine emotional and physical pain on emotionally disordered children — at the prompt of an anonymous caller, and outside an experimental setting!

It all adds to the sense that Rotenberg is a nutty science experiment gone very, very wrong.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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