Category Archives: Reading Responses

Reading Response Post #7

I was excited to read Howard Zinn’s chapter from A People’s History of the United States, “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress,” as I was an avid reader of Zinn’s work while taking history classes in high school. We had also discussed the controversy of Columbus Day during Leadership and the Humanities, which I really enjoyed, as it is such an important topic. What many Americans do not realize are that Indigenous peoples continue to be among the most marginalized in our country after centuries of unwarranted violence and discrimination. Columbus, upon encountering the Arawak Indians, exhibited an extreme sense of paternalism as he made assumptions about a community he did not belong to. His report that the Arawak Indians “‘are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone…'” (Zinn, 3). This mentality was yet the beginning of the violence and mass murder the Arawaks faced– with 250,000 Indigenous people killed within two years (Zinn, 5). I was extremely upset, yet not surprised, to read about this violence fueled by Columbus and other Spaniards’ racism.

There is often debate surrounding historical events, such as Columbus Day and The First Thanksgiving, being taught to elementary and middle school students. We ask ethical questions like, “Is it ethical to tell children about a mass genocide?” and while I agree that discussing murder and bloodshed may be inappropriate, I don’t think Columbus should be represented as a heroic figure. It was not until taking AP United States History in high school that I was finally told the “truth” about the violence against Indigenous Nations or the “truth” of historical figures who were in fact white supremacists or slaveowners. I wish I hadn’t had to undergo that epiphany when I was 16-17 years old to understand the truth of figures such as Columbus. As I mentioned, I do not mean we should teach kindergartners about a mass genocide, but they should not be fooled into thinking Columbus deserves his own holiday. Educators should work up to the maturity levels of the students and build on concepts they learned in previous years. As Zinn delineates, the historian’s distortion occurred when Columbus was emphasized as a hero and the mass genocide that took place was downplayed (Zinn, 9). And we are prone to thinking through the lens of the leaders/heroes of the time, but as Zinn says, we must not fall prone to this way of thinking, and it is up to us to reverse that.

Why couldn’t have it been Indigenous People’s Day in the first place?

Reading Response for 4/6

Something out of the reading from “A People’s History of the United States” was how little that I actually knew about the colonization of the United States. For example, I knew that a lot of Native Americans were killed but I was shocked to learn that more than 9 million were killed from wars, disease, and being taken prisoner. I think that my lack of knowledge on this topic just shows what a skewed version of history that is taught in schools in America. We learn the “white” version of history. I learned in elementary school that Columbus was the hero that brought my ancestors to this country. The version in this book paints him as much more evil. When he met the Native Americans, his immediate reaction was that they would make good servants. This is entirely because of the color of their skin, he immediately had no respect for them as people. I wish that schools in the United States would stop white washing history and give and accurate representation of the way that this country was colonized.

Honestly, I found the second reading boring and a little confusing. However, what I did get out of it was that sometimes I forget what a complex racial history the city of Richmond has. It of course stems back to the Civil War, but it did not end there. African Americans in Richmond had to fight and fight to get a fair amount of city counsel people to represent them. It goes to show how when a group of people is in power, they almost always abuse that power to stay in control . Reading this paper makes me what to take a closer look at Richmond’s government, and see how it may still be under representative of some groups of citizens of Richmond.

Prison Experiment Post

I think this is a very interesting experiment and it is one I have discussed with some of my other classes. In that class we questioned whether or not this experiment should have ever even been done. Basically, from a moral standpoint, was the data collected worth the suffering and psychological effects everyone involved had to endure. Personally, I don’t think it was worth it and I think similar data could have been collected in a better way. I understand it is almost impossible to simulate a prison environment, but I think the experimenters went too deep with this one.

Regardless, it is a very interesting experiment to think about and how easily people can be manipulated. It makes me question how we treat people because even know the guards knew they could have easily been prisoners, some of them still chose to treat the prisoners very harshly.

A Psychological Prison

Stanford Prison Experiment tested the hypothesis that the inherent personality traits of prisoners and guards are the chief cause of abusive behavior in prisons. The study converted the basement into a prison and put paid volunteers in there, some as prisoners and some as guards. “It is important to remember that at the beginning of our experiment there were no differences between boys assigned to be a prisoner and boys assigned to be a guard” (Stanford Prison Expeirment). The boys over the next day because of the “assimilation’ to the roles began to transform. The “criminals” began to have emotional distress, stopped eating and disturbed thoughts. The experiment beckons the questions of what creates a criminal? 

Criminality is not a label created by existing behind the bars of a cell, but rather a label that can be given to individuals before they are even born. It is the predetermined conception of who these individuals are supposed to be, ultimately shaping who they become. For example, in Just Mercy: a story of Justice and redemption, even the men who are entirely innocent on death row, are unable to completely free their way out of something that was already written for them. For example, Walter Mcmillian, who is black, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a young white woman who worked in a laundromat in Monroeville, Alabama. A murder that Mr.McMillian did not commit nor was even present for at the crime scene. However, countless people came forward, convicting Mcmillian and testifying that they saw at the scene of the crime. Why did so many people demand an unjust justice?

Walter Mcmillian fits into a stereotype we have created. The definition of criminality is determined by those who are in power, such as lawmakers, government officials, police, and correctional institutions . Therefore, the set of distinguishing features that makes an individual deviant is defined by those who identify as the non- deviant group or the dominant group. Primarily, society’s dominant groups ( wealthy, ethnic majorities, men, etc.) manufacture and enforce deviant labels on the subordinate groups . Furthermore, the connection between stereotyping and labeling is that labelling usually follows after a belief in a stereotype which allows for the stereotyped individual then to be put under a category. For example, if you label someone as a criminal, a stereotypical belief to follow is that most criminals are black men or vice versa if you see a black man on the street, you might deem his behavior more deviant or “criminal”


3/31 post

The first article that we were assigned to read I found extremely interesting as well as surprising. It was very surprising for me to think that government officials or politicians are elected due to the fact that they have a certain type of voice, their mannerisms are a certain way, how they present themselves, and their physical attractiveness/ body. The article discussed President Warren Harding who was arguably one of the worst presidents ever elected but because of his “Physique, bronzed complexion, sonorous voice, and smooth motions” he was elected as president because he had this presidential look about him. In addition, I found it very interesting that our brain fills in the missing pieces of our world due to the Gestalt principle of “closure”. In my psychology class, we were given a piece of paper in which a dot was placed on the page. We were instructed to cover one of our eyes and what ended up happening was the dot disappeared because my brain filled in that piece of missing information and assumed the dot wasn’t there. 

The next article discussed the Stanford Prison Experiment which I thought was so very fascinating. They selected a group of young males to participate in their study in which half of them would be guards and the other half prisoners. They set up in the psychology building all of the different aspects of prison. The goal of the experiment was to discover the effects of perceived power between inmates and correctional officers. What started as a simulation turned serious very quickly. The guards truly began to act as guards and the prisoners truly began to act like prisoners. They took to their roles as if this were a real-life event, not a simulation. They, unfortunately, had to end the experiment early but this type of experiment today would not be allowed due to the IRB.

Stanford prison experiment

I think that experiments like this are really interesting. It is fascinating to see how people will respond to power, both having it and not having it. The fact that the guards got so violent and aggressive so quickly is baffling to me. Since we cannot redo this experiment, because it turned out badly last time, we must look at other examples of situations like this. During my junior year of high school, I took a psych class and we talked about this also. My teacher said that something like this happened in real life in a US military prison in the middle east. I don’t remember the name of the prison but situations like this arise more then I expected when I first learned about it.

The psychology behind things like this is really interesting to learn about. Just watching how people respond differently to different situations is fun for me. All of the cognitive and chemical reactions that go into making choices and responding to stimuli in the world around you, and how tiny changes in those things can change your whole outlook on life. It’s also interesting how we define heroes and villains. There was the prisoner who went on a hunger strike could have been seen as a hero but instead was seen as making a fuss.

Reading 3/31

I was really excited for this weeks readings because I have studied the Stanford Prison Experiment and find it extremely interesting. Basically, the person conducting the experiment assigned a group of people to be “guards” and a group of people to be “Prisoners” in his make-shift prison at the bottom of the building. The “guards” ended up taking their characters to extreme levels, almost forgetting about their previous morals and views. This interesting part is finding out why and how this happened. Primarily, the execution at the beginning of blindfolding and “arresting” the prisoners creates a sense of shock and confusion, possibly helping these people’s minds momentarily forget that they are in an experiment and allowing them to take on different personas. Secondly, the physiological effects of the humiliation make the whole event seem very real, not only for the prisoners but also for the guards. And finally, the fact that the guards were not given any restrictions on what they could and could not do showed how far from reality the volunteers minds could travel in order to fulfill the role of their character. This makes me think that it is good that real police officers have limits and boundaries stated that they can not cross.

The fact that the researcher also fell so deeply into his role of superintendent proved how easy it is to alter one’s persona due to the environment around them. This makes me think of LDST 102 when we talked about nature and nurture being mutual and not separate, but this study of how the change in environment led to the change in personality makes me question that the two are interrelated. One thing I do wonder is how quick they assimilated back into normal life was for both the prisoners and guards. Did they carry out normal life directly after or did they feel out of place and confused like most prisoners when they are released from jail?

Reading Response 3/31

The assigned readings for tomorrow’s class truly led me to question the degree of my own free will and free thinking. Goethals and Allison did this by explaining how our internal associations can often dominate our perceptions of others. This often causes us to have certain opinions/views on others mainly because of the position they hold, or group they belong to. One example that they briefly mention that I remember discussing in other classes is that of the election of Warren G. Harding, who embodies stereotypical leadership qualities. His election is believed to have been guaranteed by his physical features, in a time when safe and sane policy could not be undervalued. His victory was, very much so, not what was best for the country, yet his assuming of office strangely made people comfortable. This exemplifies why we need to be better at identifying and studying more typical biases that humans have. If we can see where the human mind fails to be rational, we can supplement our decisions with a dose of reason.

The Stanford prison experiment further illustrates the idea of Goethals and Allison. This famous study assigned people to be either prisoners or guards, and recorded the degree to which people played their roles. The extreme nature of this experiments results reveals a great deal about how our associations affect our behavior. This has major implications for how we should treat people. If all it takes for one to believe they are authoritative is to grant authority, and all it takes to be powerless is to be assigned to such a role, then we ought to be more careful with how we classify people. Based on this study, there is good reason to believe that individuals will be more successful and less apathetic in life if they are simple, somehow, led to believe that they are capable of such agency. Our human psyche deserves a great deal of attention when studying leadership, as it is clear that perception is not just the product of reasoned viewing. With greater attention to this, maybe some day we will size up to the elephants we all ride.

Mystery & Meaning and The Stanford Prison Experiment

The Mystery and Meaning Reading was very interesting and I am definitely guilty of many of the things that the reading describes.  I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so I am always coming up with different possible scenarios in my head.  I also analyze myself and others because I find it so interesting to understand people and how they ended up as the person they are today.  After reading this, I was glad to know that it’s not just me who likes to have an answer to everything.

However, the reading also discussed how when we don’t have all the information or answers about a person, we use what we have seen in the past to fill in the blanks ourselves.  This made me think of Taylor Swift and how everyone used to say that she dated so many guys and wrote songs about all of them when they broke up because she was probably a crazy girlfriend.  This caused her to get so much hate which is just wrong.  I think this exemplifies what the reading was talking about because the public only knows her through magazines and interviews so they do not know her really well.  So, they used the information they’ve seen in the past, which would be Taylor dating lots of guys and writing songs about ex-boyfriends, and created their own narrative to make sense of it, which is that she was a crazy (ex)girlfriend.  This is only one example of how we can taint someone else’s image to our own eyes and how by doing so we are hurting them.

I’ve learned about the Stanford Prison Experiment in my ldst 102 class and I still can’t believe that happened.  It scares me to think that humans can so easily change and become corrupt once they receive power.  And it makes me wonder why power is so important to us.

Stanford Prison Experiment Article

Reading about the Stanford Prison Experiment was an interesting experience for me. This is not the first time I’ve heard of or researched this experiment. We also covered it in my Leadership and Social Sciences course, and I watched the drama of it on Netflix. I find experiments of this sort interesting as they reveal something a lot of people prefer not to admit that power corrupts easily and that it isn’t hard to corrupt people.

Something the article doesn’t really touch on that we looked at in my previous class is the role responsibility plays. A huge factor all these studies reveal is that for a person, such as one of guards, to descend into the barbarism they end up committing, responsibility has to be removed. In another study where participates thought they were shocking test subjects with ever higher shocks, if the scientist also in the room said they would take responsibility for whatever happened, the majority of participates administered increasingly high, even lethal shocks. However, when told they would be responsible, over 90% of participates refused to continue. This reveals that responsibility plays a massive factor in how far most people are prepared to go. Sadly, the article describing the experiment never really touches on this, and it would have been interesting to see if the guards’ actions would have changed if told they were responsible for the safety and well-being of the prisoners.