Without question, it is vital to challenge the ideas and decisions of people in positions of authority. If one does not question authority, the people of the so called “no in positions of authority” would become mindless slaves to tyrants and despots. World history, literature, and American History all exemplify the necessity of questioning authority. During ancient Greece in the 200 BCE’s, modern logical thinking began to see its birth. The man known for coalescing “book smart” and common sense was Socrates. Socrates was the modern Einstein of his age, innovating knowledge in science, math and reasoning.
Socrates taught his students to always ask the question “why”. No matter what an authority said, Socrates told his students to always ask the reasoning behind it. The leaders of Classical Greece feared the new power that had been enthralled in the educated mass and persecuted Socrates. Even though Socrates was charged for “corrupting the youth”, his concepts of questioning authority lived on to his disciples (Plato). If the Greeks did not follow Socrates’s lead, the democratic government of Classical Greece would have never been an archetype of successful government.
Just like Socrates, the main character in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury also illustrates the profundity of challenging authority. In the futuristic setting of the novel, Guy Montag is a fireman. However, Montag’s job as a firefighter is not similar to the modern firefighter’s job: Montag burns books with fire at 451 degrees Fahrenheit. The authority (lead fireman and government) drugs the people with drugs so there would be no challenges to authority. Guy Montag, however, decides to stop following the orders entrusted upon him and challenges authority. Montag burns the leader of the fireman and escapes society.
Montag later discovers a group of runaways just like him, who are educated and preserve books for the future. The group’s goal is to overthrow the government and form a fair and prosperous new one. Fahrenheit 451 truly depicts how dreary a society can be if there are no challenges to authority. Finally, American history’s court cases reinforce the need of questioning authority. In the landmark case Brown versus Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public schools violated the constitution and the civil rights amendment. The ruling opened the floodgates for more civil rights to African Americans.
Also, the case overturned a previous case, Plessy versus Ferguson, which stated segregation was legal. If the African Americans did not challenge authority after the unjust ruling in Plessy v Ferguson, public schools today could still be segregated by race. After careful analysis of ancient world history, classic literature, and American history, questioning the ideas and decision of people in positions of authority is indeed essential to forming a perfect society. As illustrated by Socrates, Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451, and Brown versus Board of Education, when one challenges authority, mankind moves a strop forward towards perfectness.