Kay Haugaard, a professor at Pasadena City College, has taught creative writing since 1970. A few years ago she led a class discussion on the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. In the story, a seemingly normal village carries out a bizarre ritual involving human sacrifice. She expected the usual shocked reactions from her students, but instead, the students’ attitudes prompted her to write an article called “Suspending Moral Judgment”. The following are highlights from the article.
Haugaard discovered she was teaching a room full of moral relativists who believed that the ritual might be all right “if it’s a part of a person’s culture . . . and if it has worked for them.” To Haugaard’s horror, she realized that “no one in the whole class of twenty ostensibly intelligent individuals would go out on a limb and take a stand [even] against human sacrifice.” The very mentality that Jackson’s story warns us about—“the dangers of being totally accepting followers, too cowardly to rebel against obvious cruelties and injustices”—had become the mentality of this group of intelligent college students. “I was shaken, and I thought that the author, whose story had shocked so many, would have been shaken as well”.
Haugaard believed that the views of her students on right and wrong “had been dulled by the rhetoric of moral neutrality” and she was mortified by “the danger of just ‘going along’ with something habitually, without examining its rationale and values”. In her final statement Haugaard says,
“The class finally ended. It was a warm night when I walked to my car after class that evening, but I felt shivery, chilled to the bone. . . ”
“These changes in moral perceptions and attitudes have been stunning… Absent was a general outcry of indignation. . . My generation is uncomfortable assessing, or even asking, whether a moral wrong has taken place.”
Your task is to consider Haugaard’s point of view. Do you believe that our society is made up of “totally accepting followers, too cowardly to rebel against obvious cruelties and injustices”? In general, are we “uncomfortable assessing, or even asking, whether a moral wrong has taken place”?
In your response, be sure to include the following:
At least one quote from the short story “The Lottery”
Organized ideas using paragraph structure
Application of ideas to real life situations
500 words, two pages maximum, typed, double-spaced
A rough copy and a good copy
Use MLA format. For more information on Being Followers visit this: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/follower
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