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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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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