I was horrified by the film “The Human Behavior Experiences.” Although I had heard of the Milgram study, I was not familiar with the Stanford Prison Study or the other incidents mentioned. The Stanford study stood out the most to me because not only the “prisoners” and “guards” radically changed their behavior, but also the professor doing the research. He kept focusing on the benefits to science the experiment was providing, and he didn’t see the brutality until his girlfriend visited and expressed shock and dismay (Ellswood & Gibney, 2006).
The power given to the guards rapidly “went to their heads” and gave them a sense of omnipotence. The movie set up a clear red flag for all of us, in that all they young men were well matched before the study started, but it didn’t take long for them to fall into their roles (Ellswood & Gibney, 2006). It reminded me of the “brown eyes-blue eyes” which set up a racism-type prejudice within a class of young children. All the teacher had to do was to tell them that blue eyes were better than brown eyes, then treat them differently, and the class was soon divided.
The lessons in this film included (a) virtually every human being has a thin veneer of civilization that is not difficult to remove; (b) social roles are very strong predictors of human behavior; and (c) people are usually ready to shirk responsibility when they can (Ellswood & Gibney, 2006). For example, when riots, looting, starting fires, and other mob violence erupts, we can see the loss of civilized behavior. Roles tell us what to do and how to do it, and children cast in the role of “poor, ignorant, and unable to learn,” often fulfill that label, even though they could potentially achieve much more. Also, anytime someone can “pass the buck,” he or she will do so, like a customer service representative who tells a customer “I’m sorry, but this mistake was due to the policies of upper management.”
The benefits of McDonaldization in education are that standards can be put in place to guarantee the same quality education for everyone, learning modules can be constructed to relieve teachers of lesson planning, social media and other technologies can be integrated easily, and the use of business practices has never been tested in the context of education. (Carlsen, 2009) The disadvantages are many: standard curricula may not be suited for individual student needs, the planned curricula may go against the natural abilities of teachers, standards often lead to teachers “teaching to the test,” and standards tend to be too high for some students and too low for others.
In our culture, we can also see McDonaldization in social media, where people experience FOMO (fear of missing out) and believe they need to be just like everyone else, and in medicine, where “evidence-based practice” is crowding out “patient centered practice. Carlsen (2009) is in favor of “McDonaldizing” education, but I disagree with him. He states that it is good because it is in the best interest of the student to have a universal, quality education (Carlsen, 2009). However, every student is not equal. Each student’s needs and wants are unique, and the “wiring” of each person’s brain is different. The purpose of education is for a person to learn and develop the skills he or she needs to be successful in the world. From this viewpoint, one can see that calculus is not important for many students, and European history only fits with a small percentage of students. Moreover, students may learn best in different ways, and the “cookie cutter” model does not fit.