As we consider self-control vs teacher control,
let's remember that children are in a process of developing self-control.
They need age appropriate guidance and direction as they develop.
|The Choice not to Kill|
The Choice not to Kill|
There is plenty of blame to go around regarding school shootings. Each assailant was tormented by external and internal demons. What can a free society do? School shooters have usually been pushed over the brink by bullies. Should the bullies be on trial? Abusers have usually been abused. Should the abusers of the abusers be on trial? Where does the vicious cycle stop? What about personal responsibility for behavior?
Here is one aspect of a school shooting in Georgia which did not get much publicity. The kid shot at people's legs and he killed no one. In spite of his distraught state of mind, he made a decision not to kill. Did he have poor aim? If he could hit a narrow target like legs, couldn't he have hit a broader target like chests? He made a very bad choice by using a gun. Yet, he made a choice not to kill.
All of us have some self-control but few of us are beyond being influenced. If you read the classic, The Hidden Persuaders, you might pause before making purchases because of this doubt: "Do I really want this or have the advertisers manipulated me into thinking I want it?" Sales people and advertisers are very successful in making us think that we want what they want us to want. Politicians are also skilled at making us think what they want us to think.
We can sue the tobacco companies for polluting our lungs. We can sue industries for polluting our physical environment. Why don't we sue the makers of violent video games, movies, and TV shows for mental pollution? Each of us knows of many examples of mental pollution. I've heard of one video game where you become the hero by killing people who are pleading "Don't shoot me." The military can use these to numb the conscience to train soldiers to kill. Do we want this kind of training for school children? Some students have smiled as they shot their classmates. In our concern about violence, we could contact our senators and representatives. We could go to web sites of lawyers and suggest that this is an untapped gold mine for them! Free speech? The writers of the constitution assumed that we would use good horse sense. "There is no freedom without responsibility." Isn't it sad that the most popular meanings of mature and adult are not responsible, old enough to vote, etc.?
Negative influences and hostile tendencies can be amenable to positive influences. In the early 1900's, Gordon W. Allport helped pave the way for a new wave of psychology with his concept of functional autonomy which asserts that we do not have to be victims of our past nor are we like rats running a maze. We are capable of reasoning, empathy, etc. contrary to notions of J. B. Watson and his ilk.
Behavior modification is useful in some situations. Some children or even adults have so little self-control that external control by teachers and others is necessary, at least temporarily. If it is done correctly, the goal of behavior modification is to impose external control in hope of developing new patterns of behavior. These patterns, hopefully, lead to self-control. Often, it doesn't work this way.
We need to aim for a higher and more human level of self-control among students, parents, teachers, and all of us. Most of the major religions urge us to treat others as we would like to be treated. Do bullies, abusers, assailants, etc. ever think of this? They can be conditioned to change overt behavior even if they don't respond to character education.
Teddy Roosevelt said, "To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society." On the other hand, he often quoted the West African proverb: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." Behavior modification is an effective big stick if it is used correctly.
Most of the books on my site deal with changing our hearts which leads to changing overt behavior. Norman Vincent Peale popularized this concept in his The Power of Positive Thinking. Akin to this is the old expression, "When life hands us lemons, make lemonade." This is one of the motivational concepts in my Little Lemon book, but I include techniques for helping children learn how to become pro-active.
William Glasser has done a lot to help schools free students from negative influences of poor motivation, poor environments, etc. His book, The Quality School: Managing Students without Coercion, is a good starting point for learning about his methods. He has had a major influence in education in many schools. Some of his ideas are used at Knudsen Elementary, Waterford, Michigan. For details, visit these pages of the www.abcteach.com site. The History of the Peace Circle, Peace Circle: Getting Started, and Peace Circle Ideas.
Dr. Glasser and others strongly support the concepts of taking personal responsibility and of producing work of high quality. However, the self-esteem movement has gone off the deep end in some schools. It is more important for students to feel good about a subject rather than to be good in it. We have text books with many accepted errors. Some schools have watered down requirements and re-centered test grade scales. Some educators are so eager to encourage creativity that they don't require a polished, finished product. These educators are not just the teachers. They are the principals, consultants, and the professors in teacher training programs. It is far too easy to blame teachers and parents although they can be the grass roots people who work together to make improvements in the system.
Many people have written about the negative effects of having low expectations. A humane atmosphere is possible while maintaining high expectations of academic achievement and of interpersonal relationships. I refer you again to Glasser's book, The Qualilty School, and to these books which take a stand against low expectations: Inside American Education: The Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas by Thomas Sowell, Ph.D and The Feel-Good Curriculum: The Dumbing Down of America's Kids in the Name of Self-Esteem by Maureen Stout, Ph.D. Although each of these books can be very upsetting to some people, they deal with topics which have caused many excellent teachers to leave their loved profession. Teachers who strive for excellence are under more pressures than outsiders can imagine, e.g. too many experts and non-experts tell them what to do, administrators and parents give so little support to their decisions, the best teacher is paid the same as the worst one, etc., etc., etc.
Here is some background on three authors who have recommendations for teachers. Each of them has insights including the great need to treat teachers with more respect as they do in countries such as Japan. Only one of these experts has likely spent an entire year teaching one elementary school classroom.
Let's get back to the lighter side. I hope you share my enjoyment of Roger Watson's spoof on behaviorism.
Ending on a serious note, I hope more of us can heed the message of the father of one of the Columbine victims.
This clever spoof was written by Roger Watson about John Broadus Watson who developed behaviorism. I think you will enjoy visiting Roger's UK website, Tulgy Wood. One of his interesting sections is "My Back Pages" which is where I found this poem which he gave me permission to use on my site.
Here is a little background to enhance your enjoyment of the poem.
Roger Watson's poem is a take off on a famous English poem called "Albert and the Lion" which used to be quoted as a monologue by Stanley Holloway. It is usually done with a Yorkshire accent e.g. "Ah...lass tha' knows 'nowt about it" (phonetically). In the original poem, Albert is eaten by a lion at Blackpool Zoo. The insurance man from Prudential (the Pru) is called, etc.
J. B. Watson made a statement to this effect. "Give me 12 children, well formed, and give me complete control of their environments. I'll make any one of them become whatever I wish: baker, banker, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer, or Indian chief."
Notice, the child had to be well formed and have no influences other than Watson's influences! Was he trying to stack the deck in his favor? What parent or teacher can claim to be the only influence on a child!
Roger expresses a lot of truth in fiction about J.B.
Watson on Watson (Behaviourism)
© Roger Watson (Used with permission by the author)
Now you've heard of a fellow called Watson
Well the truth of this terrible story
Well, it started one day in Chicago
It wouldn't come out when he asked it,
We know that this actually 'appened,
Well, Watson found this all was quite boring,
Now, Pavlov had interested Watson,
So, he tried to condition some babies,
(His wife left him just after he got his Ph. D.)
When his wife left, she took all the kiddies,
News of this soon had reached Blackpool
Now, you've heard of young Albert Ramsbottom
Well, Ma'd had a "perm and condition"
They bought Albert a Steerage-class ticket
There was quite a t'do on the quay side.
"I've asked Watson to meet him," cried mother.
The trip to the states was quite peaceful
It was down on the docks in Chicago
"How do?" said Watson with fever.
Well, he rushed the lad off to his workshop
Albert asked if he could have one,
(This is the original experiment that started the school of behaviourism.The original Albert was, in later life, still terrified of fur.)
Now, the noise didn't bother young Albert,
It was quite a strange sight in the workshop.
See, the trouble with Watson's experiment
Now, Albert knew nowt of Chicago
Well, what happened in Chicago
And worse was discovered by Watson
Watson took all this quite badly.
(Watson left psychology and worked in advertising. "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet" was his first slogan.)
Now, if you don't believe what I've told you,
Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, was invited to address the House Judiciary Committee's sub-committee. Although his remarks and his poem have been posted on the internet and made the email circuits, they are well worth reading again.
Here are excerpts from the transcript followed by Darrell Scott's poem which he wrote long before he knew he would be invited to speak in the special session of Congress.
"I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups suchas the NRA. I am not a member of the NRA. I am not a hunter; do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA because I don't believe that they are responsible for my daughter's death. Therefore, I do not believe that they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel's murder, I would be their strongest opponent.
"No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre. The real villain lies within our own hearts. Political posturing and restrictive legislation are not the answers.
"The young people of our nation hold the key. There is a spiritual awakening taking place that will not be squelched! We do not need more religion. We do not need more gaudy television evangelists spewing out verbal religious garbage. We do not need more million dollar church buildings built while people with basic needs are being ignored. We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgment that this nation was founded on the principle of a simple trust in God!
"Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone! My daughter's death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!
"I wrote a poem that expresses my feelings best. This was written way before I knew I would be speaking here today."
Your words are empty air.|
You've stripped away our heritage,
You've outlawed simple prayer.
Now, gunshots fill our classrooms,
And precious children die.
You seek for answers everywhere,
And ask the question, "Why?"
You regulate restrictive laws
Through legislative creed.
And yet you fail to understand
That God is what we need!
© Darrell Scott
A work is copyright protected upon being placed in a fixed form. I've seen this poem without credit given. I'm sure Mr. Scott wants this to be used widely; however, I added the copyright notice and I hope others will keep it in place if they copy it.