“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”

– Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

This popular quote comes from a work of the famed writer, Henry David Thoreau.  This post is not meant to be a rhetorical analysis of Civil Disobedience by any means, so I will delve too much into how Thoreau makes his point.  Anyways, Thoreau’s point is that people should not be slaves to authority, but rather should put their consciences ahead of their loyalty to authority.  The message of individualism and support of one’s conscience is certainly a popular idea, and one that was especially popular at the time.  But, like all ideological concepts, there are people who definitely take things to the extreme.  By the extreme, I mean to the point where one has exceeded Thoreau’s point and established their own realm of individualism, to the extent where they become not self-confident but rather self-arrogant.  Most of the time, situations like this are best ignored, as the flames tend to die out before they cause too much damage.

But one time, in high school, a teacher gave a command to the class.  Of course, this is quite typical – nothing unusual about it.  However, one student in particular, who shall remain anonymous for the sake of societal correctness, outright rejected the command. Now, what made these flames so much bigger than the usual was that this not a private refutation that the student made inside his or her head; this was a public statement against the teacher’s wishes.  I do not know the exact motives for the student doing such a thing, but to publicly disrespect a teacher, someone who makes a living teaching you how to be a better person in the world, is completely unjustifiable to me.  Someone who spends the majority of their day with you rather than their own family.  Someone who teaches you many of the things you need to know for your future major.  Someone who cares about you.  And you can’t follow even a simple command they give to you?  That does not show that you are an individualist who puts your conscience ahead of  following orders.  It shows you are incapable of controlling your conscience even when the authority makes a simple command.

And if you can’t control that against a high school teacher, then your punishment will be there for you in the real world.


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