Your Child, the “Organism”

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Charlotte Thomson IserbytDay 10: Skin­ner Hor­ror Files

More His­to­ry You Aren’t Sup­posed to Know…Skinner quote4

THE pres­i­den­tial­ly appoint­ed Nation­al Coun­cil for Edu­ca­tion­al Research (NCER) issued two “Poli­cies on Mis­sions for Edu­ca­tion­al Research and Devel­op­ment Cen­ters,” dat­ed June 14 and Octo­ber 25, 1984, short­ly after region­al hear­ings had been held regard­ing the need for reg­u­la­tions to imple­ment the Pro­tec­tion of Pupil Rights Amend­ment (PPRA). Most par­ents have no idea about these two NCER pol­i­cy state­ments:

JUNE 14, 1984. In the past two decades, fed­er­al­ly fund­ed research and cur­ricu­lum projects have fre­quent­ly pro­voked con­sid­er­able con­tro­ver­sy. This is pri­mar­i­ly a result of deeply diver­gent philo­soph­i­cal views on the nature and pur­pose of pub­lic edu­ca­tion in this coun­try. Dur­ing this peri­od, the views of the gen­er­al pub­lic were, for the most part, exclud­ed from seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion as edu­ca­tion­al research came to be viewed as the obser­va­tion and mea­sure­ment of the edu­ca­tion process using the large­ly quan­ti­ta­tive tech­niques of mod­ern social sci­ence [Skin­ner­ian behav­ior­ism].

OCTOBER 25, 1984. Inso­far as it rep­re­sents a broad spec­trum of inter­ests, includ­ing par­ents who have a seri­ous stake in the out­comes of fed­er­al­ly fund­ed edu­ca­tion­al research, the Coun­cil affirms that the fun­da­men­tal philo­soph­i­cal foun­da­tion for such research should be the unam­bigu­ous recog­ni­tion and respect for the dig­ni­ty and val­ue of each human per­son.

Skinner pigeon boxFor decades the U.S. Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion has ignored the tes­ti­mo­ny tak­en at these region­al hear­ings, described above, as well as the require­ments of the PPRA. These two pol­i­cy state­ments rep­re­sent a strong posi­tion tak­en by the Nation­al Coun­cil, which over­saw the research activ­i­ties of the for­mer Nation­al Insti­tute of Edu­ca­tion pri­or to its being incor­po­rat­ed into the Office of Edu­ca­tion­al Research and Improve­ment (OERI). The Coun­cil had quite obvi­ous­ly read the impor­tant tes­ti­mo­ny regard­ing Skin­ner­ian mas­tery learning/direct instruc­tion which was giv­en at the region­al hear­ings on the PPRA. The Coun­cil took a stand on the most impor­tant ques­tion fac­ing us today in edu­ca­tion:

Are we, as free Amer­i­cans, going to con­tin­ue to accept the suc­cinct­ly expressed def­i­n­i­tion of edu­ca­tion­al research includ­ed in the last sen­tence of the June 14 pol­i­cy, a def­i­n­i­tion which is unde­ni­ably behav­ior­ist and part of the behav­ioral psy­chol­o­gists’ vocabulary—“observation and mea­sure­ment of the edu­ca­tion­al process using the large­ly quan­ti­ta­tive tech­niques of mod­ern social sci­ence”? Or do we agree with the Coun­cil that the fun­da­men­tal philo­soph­i­cal foun­da­tion for such research should be the “unam­bigu­ous recog­ni­tion and respect for the dig­ni­ty and val­ue of each human per­son”?

  • The OLD world­view teach­es that man is a human being, cre­at­ed in the image of God, with con­science, soul, intel­lect, cre­ativ­i­ty, free will.
  • Skinner rat pushThe NEW world­view is one based on the new psy­chol­o­gy of learn­ing (“sci­en­tif­ic,” evo­lu­tion­ist, “research-based”)—it is a world­view that believes man is an ani­mal whose behav­ior can be manip­u­lat­ed by cre­at­ing the nec­es­sary envi­ron­ment to bring about pre­dictable, pre­de­ter­mined, neu­ro­log­i­cal­ly con­di­tioned respons­es.

As a com­plete coun­ter­point to the strong pol­i­cy posi­tion tak­en by the coun­cil (described above), the fol­low­ing infor­ma­tion should be care­ful­ly con­sid­ered. Pro­fes­sor Robert Glaser, pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy and edu­ca­tion and co-direc­tor of the Learn­ing Research and Devel­op­ment Cen­ter of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Pitts­burgh, was for all intents and pur­pos­es put in charge of the Com­mis­sion on Read­ing in 1983. It was Glaser who appoint­ed mem­bers to the Com­mis­sion on Read­ing, there­by wield­ing con­sid­er­able influ­ence on the rec­om­men­da­tions result­ing from that Commission’s report, Becom­ing a Nation of Read­ers, for which Glaser wrote the fore­word and which was pub­lished under the aus­pices of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Education’s Com­mis­sion on Edu­ca­tion and Pub­lic Pol­i­cy with spon­sor­ship from the Nation­al Insti­tute of Edu­ca­tion. That report was prob­a­bly the most impor­tant study which set the stage for the Read­ing Excel­lence Act of 1998 (REA), set­ting in motion numer­ous activ­i­ties which result­ed in a deter­mi­na­tion that only pro­pos­als which were based on “sci­en­tif­ic research” would be accept­ed for fund­ing under the REA. In the fore­word to Becom­ing a Nation of Read­ers, Glaser said:

In teach­ing, as in oth­er pro­fes­sions, well-researched meth­ods and tools are essen­tial. This report makes clear the key role of teach­ers’ pro­fes­sion­al knowl­edge. Research on instruc­tion­al pac­ing and group­ing and on adap­ta­tion to children’s accom­plish­ments has con­tributed to new ideas that can help all chil­dren mas­ter the basics and then attain lev­els of lit­er­a­cy far beyond the basic com­pe­ten­cies. The read­ing teacher’s reper­toire must draw upon the deep­en­ing knowl­edge of child devel­op­ment, of the nature of the art and ele­gance of children’s lit­er­a­ture, and of the psy­chol­o­gy of learn­ing.… The report indi­cates why changes in teacher train­ing, intern­ship expe­ri­ences, con­tin­u­ing, and sab­bat­i­cal peri­ods are nec­es­sary if teach­ers are to learn and refine their skills for their com­plex task.

Pro­fes­sor Glaser’s cre­den­tials are unique­ly impor­tant, plac­ing him in a posi­tion of promi­nence regard­ing what method of instruc­tion will be used in Amer­i­can class­rooms.

Accord­ing to the fol­low­ing quote from an offi­cial Mis­sion, Texas, school mem­o­ran­dum to con­cerned par­ents, Exem­plary Cen­ter for Read­ing Instruc­tion (ECRI), the fra­ter­nal twin of DISTAR (Direct Instruc­tion for Sys­tem­at­ic Teach­ing and Reme­di­a­tion), led the pack as far as Robert Glaser’s Nation­al Com­mis­sion on Read­ing was con­cerned:

In 1986 ECRI was eval­u­at­ed as play­ing a pri­ma­ry role in the Unit­ed States becom­ing a nation of read­ers. The Region­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry for Edu­ca­tion­al Improve­ment (spon­sored by the U.S. Office of Edu­ca­tion­al and Improve­ment) pub­lished Imple­ment­ing the Rec­om­men­da­tions of Becom­ing a Nation of Read­ers. This doc­u­ment makes a line-by-line com­par­i­son of 31 read­ing pro­grams, includ­ing ECRI. ECRI received the high­est score of all 31 pro­grams in meet­ing the spe­cif­ic rec­om­men­da­tions of the Nation­al Com­mis­sion on Read­ing.

Siegfried Engelmann’s DISTAR (Read­ing Mas­tery) and ECRI are both based on the very sick philo­soph­i­cal world view that con­sid­ers man noth­ing but an animal—an “organ­ism” (in Skinner’s words)—responsive to the manip­u­la­tion of stim­u­lus-response-stim­u­lus imme­di­ate rein­force­ment or rewards to bring about pre­de­ter­mined, pre­dictable behav­iors. Skinner’s quote about mak­ing a “pigeon a high achiev­er by rein­forc­ing it on a prop­er sched­ule” is repeat­ed often on this blog to impress on the read­er the hor­ri­fy­ing aspect of ani­mal train­ing mas­querad­ing as edu­ca­tion in these pro­grams.

Traditional education depicted. Notice the open door and airy atmosphere: FREEDOM!

Tra­di­tion­al edu­ca­tion depict­ed.
Notice the open door and airy atmos­phere: FREEDOM!

The Nation­al Research Council’s Pre­vent­ing Read­ing Dif­fi­cul­ties in Young Chil­dren, com­piled by Cather­ine E. Snow, M. Susan Burns, and Peg Grif­fin, Eds. (Nation­al Acad­e­my Press: Wash­ing­ton, D.C., 1998) acknowl­edged G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., chief of the Learn­ing Dis­abil­i­ties, Cog­ni­tive, and Social Devel­op­ment Branch of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Child Health and Human Devel­op­ment of the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices) who sup­ports behav­ior­ist read­ing pro­grams like ECRI and DISTAR (Read­ing Mas­tery) as well as instruc­tion based on so-called “med­ical and sci­en­tif­ic research.” Oth­er indi­vid­u­als men­tioned in Pre­vent­ing Read­ing Dif­fi­cul­ties who were involved in the pro­mo­tion of DISTAR include Edward Kame’enui, Depart­ment of Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon and Mar­i­lyn Jager Adams. These two indi­vid­u­als also served on the Com­mit­tee on the Pre­ven­tion of Read­ing Dif­fi­cul­ties in Young Chil­dren, and Adams is men­tioned in Becom­ing a Nation of Read­ers.

What does all of this tell the read­er? Per­haps the same thing that is sug­gest­ed to this writer: that the Read­ing Excel­lence Act will pro­vide the fund­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance to imple­ment across the nation not just read­ing pro­grams, but all curricula—including work­force train­ing—in the mode of DISTAR and ECRI, which are based on “sci­en­tif­ic, med­ical research.” It is dif­fi­cult to come to any oth­er con­clu­sion.

Interview with Siegfried Engelmann HERE

Inter­view with Siegfried Engel­mann HERE


ENDNOTE: Por­tions of this post are adapt­ed and excerpt­ed , with added empha­sis, from pages 210–213 of my book the delib­er­ate dumb­ing down of amer­i­ca.