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Responsibility: Students with
Self-Control vs Teacher Control

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

Watson on Watson (Behaviorism)

Columbine High School

See these pages of book reviews:
Anger Management,
Character, and
Teaching Strategies.

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.
     William Glasser, M.D. is a psychiatrist who developed Reality Therapy beginning with his experiences working with teenage girls in a correctional facility. He has done extensive work with the schools and has a lot of direct experience but probably not as an elementary school teacher spending a whole year with one group of students.
     Thomas Sowell, Ph. D. grew up in Harlem during the 1930's and 1940's. He graduated from Harvard College (A.B. magna cum laude), Columbia University (A.M.), and University of Chicago (Ph.D.). All of his degrees are in economics. His editorials are carried in many papers and magazines. I don't know about his teaching experiences but I doubt he taught in an elementary school classroom.
     Maureen Stout, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at California State University-Northridge. I assume she has had more classroom experience than the others. She states that many of her graduate students (tomorrow's teachers) are spoiled brats who can't spell and feel entitled to grades they haven't earned. Notice, she doesn't make this negative comment about all of her students. I have met many dedicated people who are preparing to teach. I have also met education majors in schools on the east coast who fit her description of ones on the west coast. I've also known many sincere people who changed their majors after their student teaching experiences.

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.


Watson on Watson (behaviorism)

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
And young Albert, his subject and chum.
And that these two together have shown us
How behaviourism was done.

Well the truth of this terrible story
Makes psychologists cower in shame.
As Watson, he got quite a slanging
But Albert got none of the blame.

Well, it started one day in Chicago
When Watson was feeling quite blue.
The white rat he'd written his thesis on
Had gone off and hid in the loo.

It wouldn't come out when he asked it,
Even threatened to bring in t'cat.
The only thing that proved successful
Was a big lump of cheese and a trap.

We know that this actually 'appened,
And we can logically prove it, you see.
If rat hadn't succumbed to t'Cheddar,
He wouldn't be called Ph. D.

Well, Watson found this all was quite boring,
And psychology then was right glum.
Old Pavlov had found, that dogs drooled at a sound.
Even Russians were 'aving more fun.

Now, Pavlov had interested Watson,
And he saw how the rat had behaved.
It 'adn't listened to any pleading,
But had taken the cheese to its grave.

So, he tried to condition some babies,
But they didn't react quite the same!
His wife, she went home to her mother.
Said, "I'm not rearing kids for thy games."

(His wife left him just after he got his Ph. D.)

When his wife left, she took all the kiddies,
And he had no more subjects to run.
So, he took out an ad in the paper that read,
"Required for conditioning --- one son."

News of this soon had reached Blackpool
Where the Ramsbottoms lived by the sea,
And Ma said to Pa, "We'll send Albert across."
Pa said, "The further the better for me."

Now, you've heard of young Albert Ramsbottom
And the trouble he caused at the zoo.
By poking a lion, he caused quite stir
With the lion, his ma, and the Pru.

Well, Ma'd had a "perm and condition"
And thought it would be quite a treat
To send Watson her grubby young offspring
And get him returned looking neat.

They bought Albert a Steerage-class ticket
On a cargo ship just leaving port.
And the captain, a man of good standing,
Said he'd drop the lad off near New York.

There was quite a t'do on the quay side.
Ma was weeping buckets of tears.
Pa had to cancel his darts match.
(First time he'd done that for years!)

"I've asked Watson to meet him," cried mother.
"I hope he'll be safe," Dad replied.
"Oh, I just hope our Albert can cope."
"I was thinking of Watson," Dad sighed.

The trip to the states was quite peaceful
Though the little boat bobbed like a cork.
They went out of their way for young Albert,
And stopped at Chicago to save 'im the walk.

It was down on the docks in Chicago
Where Watson met Albert on t'pier.
There's a sign above number 5 coal tip.
It says, "Watson and Albert met here."

"How do?" said Watson with fever.
(At the time, he didn't feel well.)
The boat Albert was on had been carrying pigs
But Albert was used to the smell.

Well, he rushed the lad off to his workshop
Where the young fella expressed some delight.
The zoo down in Blackpool was nothing like this.
There were hundreds of rats, all snow white!

Albert asked if he could have one,
And Watson replied, "Take your pick."
But every time he tried to grab one,
Watson banged a big gong with a stick.

(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,
But the rats started acting quite queer,
And when Albert moved as to grab one,
They'd cower and hide as in fear.

It was quite a strange sight in the workshop.
Screams of terrified rats filled the air,
And Watson tried blocking the doorway
Of five tons of terrified fur.

See, the trouble with Watson's experiment
Was he'd got the right foot in wrong boot.
All the rats in Chicago were running in fear
Of Albert who ran in pursuit!

Now, Albert knew nowt of Chicago
But he new the way back to the boat,
And all the rats were taking to water,
But none of 'em knew how to float.

Well, what happened in Chicago
Set psychology back by ten year.
'Cos there wasn't a rat in the city
That hadn't run or drown in its fear.

And worse was discovered by Watson
When some new rats arrived in by train.
They behaved in a sensible manner
Till someone would use Albert's name.

Watson took all this quite badly.
Called Albert a saucy young tyke.
Packed up all his gongs and his hammers,
And went off to sell Lucky Strike.

(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,
And you're keeping a rat in a box,
Creep up to the edge like a toddler.
Whisper, "Albert Ramsbottom," and watch!

Return to top of the page.
The Choice not to Kill
Watson on Watson (behaviorism)
Columbine High School


Columbine High School

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.

    "Since the dawn of creation there has been both good and evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence. The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher, and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.

    "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.

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The Choice not to Kill
Watson on Watson (behaviorism)
Columbine High School