If all of your friends jumped off of a cliff…

A few weeks ago we were discussing the role of the follower in one of my 8th grade Independent Living class. We had watched the shirtless dancing man and discussed how this related to them. As the discussion proceeded, one student raised his hand and asked if being a follower was so important, then why did I have a sign in my room that stated “Today be a leader, not a follower”. I understood the difference between my meaning in this sign and our discussion, but he didn’t see it yet. So we had to discuss the lemmings.


Lemmings are this cute little rodent in cold northern territories such as Alaska. Back in the 50’s Disney did a film about how these little rodents will all commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. Recent scientific research has tracked their behavior and discovered that in fact these puffballs are simply migrating across large bodies of water. They will often depart in large masses jumping into the water, which looks like a “mass suicide”. Some will drown and others will be eaten by predators, but they are not killing themselves as a group (Woodward, 2003). Before the “mass suicide” myth was dispelled it became a common phrase to call someone following the crowd, without a thought, a lemming. It seemed like a very suitable comparison, small animals killing themselves in masses because the rest of the crowd was doing it and someone following a leader or the crowd without a thought to the outcome or consequences.

If you can finish the title of this article, then your parents were trying to get you to understand the same point. We are trying to help the rising generation understand that following isn’t the problem, mindless following is. This is hard when you consider every cultural campaign that is being waged out there. The ad industry, the entertainment industry, the fashion industry, and on and on and on. Some are reaching beyond the “what” and the mindless following, they provide a “why” follow. Those companies seem to have more loyal followers. Mindless following is easy though, and it is often what many will resort to. It takes work to be your own person, think your own thoughts, and hold your leaders accountable.  Hard though it may be, it is essential. So, in our daily activities we must remember not to be a lemming (I’ve also heard them referenced as sheep), but to be a true follower. We need to remember to encourage the same among our students and coworkers. It will help build our current community and our future.



(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-lemmings-commit-suicide

The myth of lemming mass suicide. (2014, September 25). Retrieved October 10, 2014, from http%3A%2F%2Fderwombat.net%2F2014%2F09%2F24%2Fthe-lemmngs-were-framed-by-disney%2F

Woodford, R. (2003, September). Lemming suicide myth Disney film faked bogus behavior. Retrieved October 10, 2014, from http%3A%2F%2Fwww.adfg.alaska.gov%2Findex.cfm%3Fadfg%3Dwildlifenews.view_article%26articles_id%3D56

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