Thursday, March 25, 2010

Speechless

Today in psychology, the teacher began to speak on 'learned helplessness'. It was learned helplessness that, in her mind, kept the Jews in concentration camps. 'After all,' she pointed out, 'they vastly outnumbered their guards.' Shocked silence. A girl up front pointed out that the guards were armed. The teacher pointed out that the Jews could have fought the guards, and even though some of them would have died, others would have lived. I pointed out that families had been separated, mothers from their children, fathers from their wives. How could a father escape, for example and leave his wife and children behind? How could a mother abandon her children? The teacher said "If they had left, they could have gotten help." Rising incredulousness. I responded that it was the same people in those same towns that had rounded them up and sent them there. "Not everyone was against them," she replied. Someone else responded, "How would they have known who to trust?" She pointed out that the countries of Europe are as small as our states. She's been there. The Jews could have gone to neighboring countries to get help. At that point, I simply stopped talking. The stupid woman had no idea. She had no idea what she was talking about. Other people continued to debate. She continued to insist that the Jews could have saved themselves, but chose to do nothing. Starvation, illness, brutality, nothing would sway herself from the view that the Jews had a choice, that they could have done something.

She talked on and on, discounting everything anyone said, I began to gather my things. I walked out of the classroom. As I reached the door, she said, "Are you leaving us?" "Yes," I said. "This is the most offensive conversation I have ever heard. You are blaming the victims."

As I explained to the department head later, this is the sort of conversation that you hear from a skin head, or a Nazi. This is not the sort of conversation I expect to hear from a college professor. To her credit, the department head was nearly as shocked as I was.

17 comments:

Linda (PA_shutterbug) said...

The psychology teacher could be playing "devil's advocate" to encourage the debate. Obviously, though, she is not. It's incredulous that the college allows this teacher to stay in its employ, given the other things she has said while you have been in the class.

Twain12 said...

I was born and raised in Germany and i am speechless. Don't blame you for walking out

WhiteStone said...

I and several others walked out of a class once... ours was in resistance to the leader of a "group" project...a leadership that was feigning "group" but was effectively a takeover by three with no recourse from the rest of us. Our "walkout protest" lasted only ten minutes but the class dynamics did change after that. Not a lot. But some.

Either this woman was playing devil's advocate as mentioned by Linda OR she has no clue as to the dynamics of what happened in Europe in the 1930s/40s.

Kudos to you for walking out. Wish the entire class had followed.

Pencil Writer said...

Some people (maybe like your instructor) are blind because they choose to be, kinda like what she was accusing the Jews in concentration camps of being.

I did, however, hear of a Jewish man who, when liberated by the Americans in one Nazi concentration camp was not emaciated, bitter or broken as others in the camp. His answer kind of boggled my mind and cause much reflective pondering. He told those who asked why the difference between him and his fellow prisoners: (This is NOT a direct quote but my summation of the jist of his comment.) "I chose not to hate my captors. I found something good about each them. Hate kills and debilitates. Love conquers all."

While I think your psychology "instructor" is rather clueless and maybe somewhat of a mean-spirited individual, from what you've related of her behavior, she's providing an opportunity to her students to think for themselves and choose how to act. Perhaps not by design. (Since she seems to try to ram her perspective down everyone's throat.) Every experience we have in life provides us with opportunities. Some of the greatest lessons we receive are most likely NOT the plan/intent of those who teach us.

Thanks, Debby, for allowing us a look at one of those individuals who's head might be full of learning yet without gaining any wisdom. I pray she learns some wisdom and gains understanding. Wonder how she would really have behaved in a prison of war camp had she had that opportunity? Perspective is key. Easy to call a game from the comfort of our easy chairs. Slightly different when were actually on the field in the thick of things.

Wonder if she'd have responded to the dreaded plague of lice that Corrie Tenboom did when she and her sister (who provided refuge to Jews and others trying to escape the Nazis and ended up in a concentration camp themselves.) She was actually counting the lice as a blessing from God. (It was hard for me to understand that. My son once brought lice home from a Scout camp. *Shudder*) Corrie's sister (I forget her first name) thought Corrie was crazy to be grateful for the curse of lice. Corrie explained: "Because of the lice, we were not searched. As we were not searched, we were able to smuggle in a Bible. Since we have a Bible we can teach others to trust in God. We will survive and others will too. So, the lice are a blessing for which I'm grateful." (Paraphrasing again.)

Hence, the glass is half empty or half full.

Good for you, Debby for writing your letter. Now let's see if the Administration and the "Instructor" choose well. Everything in life provides us with choices. May we all seek a more Divine perspective.

Pencil Writer said...

Oh, you should ask her to read (if she hasn't and I'll bet she hasn't) the series of books written by Bodie and Brock Thoene titled "The Zion Covenant" and another of theirs called "The Zion Chronicles." They've done intensive research on their subject and write exceptionally well depicting the historical events leading up to the Nazi take-over, the horrendous experiences of Jews in Europe and Israel during the 1930-1950. It's very eye-opening. Life is all about perspective. These books sucked me in and enlarged my understanding of the constant battle between good and evil in the history preceding and during my lifetime. And there is much of each in all human experience.

I'll never forget seeing the remains of WWII in Germany. I was there as a child 10 years AFTER the War ended. That was 55 years ago. It was a lot to take in. I'm grateful to the Thoenes (pronounced Tay-nee) for their research, compassion, and excellent writing ability. The stories are historical fiction. I recommend them to one and all. (Sorry Debby for taking up so much of your blog space . . .! I know I get passionate about stuff!)

Redlefty said...

I think you demonstrated that you do not suffer from learned helplessness, and then you exercised your choice of whether or not to attend the class.

Mrs.Spit said...

I am horrified. Disgusted. Good for you.

Tammy said...

Bravo for walking out! That spoke volumes.

steviewren said...

I'm happy to hear that you do not suffer fools. I don't know that I would have thought to walk out. I'm passive like that. Sometimes I wish I wasn't. Good for you for going to the department head.

Mary Paddock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Paddock said...

Am disgusted by this for three reasons:

1) It is an abhorrent illustration by anyone's standards, when there are so many others she could have drawn on from case studies and lab experiments that would have been better suited. Did she even discuss the lab experiment this phrase was based on?

2) It's not true. By the very end, the Jews were so beaten down and near death, most of them didn't have the strength to fight, but there were pockets of Jewish resistance both within the camps and outside of them throughout the war. Perhaps she should have spent more time with her history books.

3) If she wanted to use it as a definition, she should have applied what torture does to a human being, by reducing them to a state of perceived helplessness. Her illustration (as I understand it) placed the blame on the victims by suggesting that they were not doing their part. As it stands, it did not describe learned helplessness.

Kelly said...

Absolutely amazing! (her thoughts, not your actions) Good for you for walking out.

jeanie said...

Oh! My! Goodness!!

That professor should have taken a unit of European history instead of investigating the nether regions of pomposity.

Yes, being defeated from within can be attributed to such helplessness, but what a horrific and WRONG example to use.

Good on you for walking out.

PaintedPromise said...

absolutely unbelievable. but unfortunately i am like steviewren, don't know that i would have thought to walk out. kudos to you for standing up for what you believe in!!!!!

Jayne said...

Good on you for walking out and reporting the idiot to the dept head, there's no excuse in this day and age for her deliberate obtuseness except that it is racially motivated.

BUSH BABE said...

Oh I would have been walking. And I might have been slightly ruder whilst doing so. Terrible, terrible example. Is she completely barking mad?

Lori said...

I'm glad you walked and told the department head why. I don't suppose she had given any thought to the fact that often by the time they got to the concentration camps, they'd been marched or herded there in cramped cattle cars with little or no food or medical care and often wearing rags. And often by that time they'd seen many of their loved either taken off somewhere else, beaten, or killed. Ooh, it makes me so mad that there are supposedly intelligent people out there who can think this way!