”Developing Ethical Criteria to Determine When to Obey Authority” Lesson Plan

Learning Objectives: Students will demonstrate knowledge of the ethical issues raised in the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, the Milgram experiments and Raoul Wallenberg’s encounter with the Arrow Cross members.

Materials/Resources: Video of the Milgram experiments, available from Penn State at http://mediasales.psu.edu

”The Wallenberg Effect” in The Journal of Leadership Studies, 1997, vol. 4, No. 3 /?en/wallenberg/articles/1817.htm

Newspaper accounts of the Nuremberg trials as they happened and relatively recent articles discussing the significance of the verdict, available at http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/nuremberg/NurembergNewspaper.html

Section II, articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Constitution of the International Military Tribunal that prosecuted those tried in Nuremberg, available at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/imtconst.htm#art6

Prerequisites: Students will have read ”The Wallenberg Effect” and contemporary accounts of the Nuremberg trials.

Students will have studied at least one model of ethical decision making.

Teaching Procedure: Teacher will ask a student to briefly summarize the ethical and legal significance of the Nuremberg trials based on the students’ reading.

Teacher will ask students to identify the loyalties and values of the defendants in the Nuremberg trials as well as those of the judges.

Teacher will show the class the video of the Milgram experiments.

Teacher will divide students into groups and ask them to do the following:

  • Describe the loyalties and values that motivated the responses of the study participants
  • Identify the stakeholders in the Milgram experiments
  • Describe the loyalties and values that motivated Raoul Wallenberg and the Arrow Cross members discussed in the article
  • Identify the stakeholders in the encounter described in the article.

Teacher will ask a representative from each group to present responses to one of the above tasks.

Teacher will ask each student to write an essay which articulates a set of criteria to offer guidance about deciding under what circumstances to obey authority.

Assessment: Students who write successful essays will clearly explain how they derived the criteria from the documents and video. Successful essays will also clearly explain the steps to making an ethical decision based on the criteria and offer a variety of examples.

Lesson plan created by Sharlee DiMenichi, an award-winning freelance journalist whose work has appeared in national and regional newspapers and magazines. She is currently working on a book of curricular materials on Holocaust rescuers. DiMenichi holds an M. S. in journalism from Columbia University, a B.A. in English and a B.A. in Education from Juniata College.