Are we smater than rats? (Part 2)

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Behavioristic psychology has its origins in rat studies.  If you think these rat studies are humorous, no big deal, or kind of interesting, you should realize that these studies have shaped how we discipline our kids in the home and schools today.  And if you didn’t go to college, or pay attention in your basic psychology class, then you probably didn’t even know about these studies, or behaviorist psychology.  Well, this psychology and its studies have had far reaching effects that have undermined childrearing, the family, and education.  This form of psychology has taught us to leave out feelings and emotions, and other such nontangible factors in discipline and education.  Whether you realize it or not, this form of psychology has taught us to believe that children can be shaped through tangibles and manipulating their environment.  Look at any public education classroom, anywhere in the country, and you will literally see the writing on the walls.  This is why today it’s as basic as reading and writing to have a structured, step-by-step, classroom management plan that includes rewards.  Entire schools have reward systems set in place.  Do you see anything like this at your work place?  And we can’t leave out the ever increasing popularity of individual behavior management programs.  If an emotion is mentioned in one of these plans, it’s treated like a quantity of something that can be handled, pinned down, and manipulated.  Attention, anger, and frustration are probably the most popular examples.  The inherent flaw in such approaches is that they give the false belief that we can change feelings and emotional needs by manipulating the environment at school.  Of course these sterile, superficial, simplistic, approaches fail because they can’t get at the root of the problem, such as the need for love, caring, and trust.  Maybe someday if genetic engineering crosses us with rats this will work.

Emotions are a natural part of our make-up.  You don’t have to be a biologist, geneticist, or psychologist to know this.  All you have to do is be a human being.  Contrary to what behaviorists and many experts would like us to believe, fear is not only a powerful motivator, but it can be a healthy, productive one.  I know there’s research out there and the ordained experts preaching that fear is a poor motivator, and that there are much more effective, positive, less punitive approaches.  Well, like I’ve been saying, we’ve been trying these approaches for a long time now, and it’s time we stop this child-controlled philosophy that is destroying education.  I say child-controlled because the kids have figured out that all these behavior management techniques don’t really work.  Think of this.  When you were a kid and did ding-dong ditch, or toilet papered a house, and somebody unexpectedly came outside, what do you think made you run for your life?  It wasn’t that you were afraid that you were going to have to clean the mess up.  Restitution is a common disciplinary consequence in the schools today, but it doesn’t really strike fear in kids.  So you have to spend some time cleaning a mess up, no big deal.  But a paddling is a different story.  When you get pulled over by the police, it’s not your respect for the law that has you trembling; it’s the fear of what they can do.  The kids in the juvenile detention center my teacher friend taught in didn’t behave because of their respect for the penal system or the officer’s charming dispositions.  It was the fear of what the officers could do to them. Most little kids when they first meet a stranger are cautious and fearful, because they don’t know what they can do to them.  A substitute teacher today gets eaten alive because the kids know the school rules, and know that there’s really nothing he can do to them.  This degradation of respect for adults and discipline in the schools has harmed other areas of our children’s education, not the least of which is academics.  The more time, effort, money, and resources (staff) spent on discipline, the less of these we have for academics.

History and common sense has always told us that fear is a great motivator, and people have always used it to accomplish a lot of good.  I know what some people are thinking while they are reading this.  They are probably picturing kids sitting on pins and needles, trembling in unnerving fear.  Well, history (or reality) tells us this was not the case.  In recalling my elementary years, and talking to plenty of people older than me, this wasn’t how we felt.  For reasons beyond the scope of this paper, about 30-40 years ago we bought, hook line and sinker, this myth that the classroom was such a place.  So I guess we’re to believe that students of the spanking era were much better behaved because they lived their school days in fear of a beating?  I ran into my fourth grade teacher and I was asking her questions about back then, and I asked why they did away with corporal punishment.  She explained to me that they were told that kids shouldn’t be educated in a fearful environment.  Well, with my “scientific” mind, I had to ask her if this is how she felt when she was a student in school.  She told me of course not (as if I should have expected a different response – like maybe, she was fearful!).  Actually, an environment that incorporates corporal punishment is more positive because the kids will be much more behaved, and their won’t be a need for all the verbal reminders, reinforcers, charts, point systems, token economies, and so on, where the emphasis is on behavior.  And words worked with the spanking generations because we knew what the consequence could be if we didn’t listen.  It really was not complicated.  Kind of like something that has been lost in recent times – common sense.  So lets make sure we have this straight.  Many years ago, when teachers were allowed to spank, and all these behaviorist practices were not used in the schools, children behaved and actually respected adults.  Then this never ending plethora of behavior practices shoved spanking out of the schools.  And what did we get?  Well, if you were raised when they could spank in the schools, go visit a high school, and then ask yourself if you would have gotten away with the things kids today do?  I don’t think throughout all of history, from virtually all cultures, we have turned out masses, upon masses of violent people because of corporal punishment.  Think of your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, are they sadistic, violent people?  I don’t think so.  Let’s do the right thing and turn our schools back around to places where teachers are respected and the students behave and do their work.  Imagine the things we can accomplish!

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