"One advantage of the summer holidays is that they give teachers and pupils a chance to escape from the herd mentality that afflicts much of education. Sociologists call this tendency "groupthink", a mediocre consensus of views designed to silence dissent and promote conformity."
Holidays allow us to step back from the assumptions of our daily routine. I think it would be healthy if teachers returned from their break more willing to challenge groupthink.
Groupthink refers to an excessive tendency to seek concurrence among group members. The symptoms of groupthink produce decision making which can lead to a bad decision.
A groupthink is a group decision making style characterized by an excessive tendency among group members to seek concurrence (Kassin, 2011, p. 315). According to Kassin (2011), “some scholars have proposed that the group dynamics behind the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 reflected groupthink.”
According to sociologist Irving Janis (1972, 1982), groupthink refers to the “collective tunnel vision that group members sometimes develop. As they begin to think alike, they become convinced that there is only one “right” viewpoint and a single course of action to follow.” The group starts making faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.”
For example, when top leaders were trying to provide justifications for starting the Iraq War, they announced that Iraq was negotiating with an African country to buy uranium. Six month later, the public learned that this claim was based on clearly falsified documents from Niger, a country in west-central Africa. Furthermore, the president maintained that his State of the Union address had been cleared by the CIA (Isikoff & Lipper, 2003, as cited in Matlin, 2009). Top leaders were convinced that they made the right decisions to go to war according to this error of the “uranium question.”
According to Irving (1982), the top leaders’ administration had incomplete survey, poor information research, selective bias in processing information at hand, and errors in source monitoring.
The top leaders had the characteristics which contribute to the development of groupthink: (1) a highly cohesive group; (2) group structure that is composed of people from similar background directed by a strong leader; (3) a stressful situation which provoke groupthink; (4) illusions of invulnerability where the group think it is invincible and can do no wrong; (5) collective efforts to rationalize or discounts warnings; (6) stereotyped views of the out-group; and (7) a shared illusion of unanimity.
According to Marcia Johnson (2002), the government agencies need to be careful about checking the accuracy of their information. This will help many countries not to fall into expensive, destructive wars.