|Macky in 2004.|
Macky would sleep in a kennel and first thing in the morning he was led outside to go potty. At intervals throughout the day, whenever he was in the vicinity of the back door, our behavior modification team would repeat the question "Macky go outside?" Team members would open the back door and walk the furry animal outside. Within this learning structure, whenever Macky went potty outdoors he would receive verbal praise and a food treat. Our goal was to elicit an association of outdoor potty behavior with verbal cues and food rewards.
|Macky in 2014.|
Ivan Pavlov, 1904 Nobel Prize winner for his work in behaviorism, would use sound cues in order to signal to his dogs food was nearby. The dogs began to salivate when they heard the sound cue. Pavlov learned that dogs could be induced to salivate when the anticipation of food, an unconditioned stimulus was paired with a conditioning stimulus like sound or visual stimuli. Training dogs to salivate with the introduction of a sound or visual stimulus was the basis for Pavlov's discovery of classical conditioning, a form of behaviorism in which the association of stimuli will lead to a change in behavior. Pavlov's method of behavior modification utilized positive stimuli. This is called classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is different from operant conditioning in which rewards and punishments are used to change behavior. Our family was using operant conditioning methods. We emphasized positive stimuli during our training process, but we did utilize negative stimuli whenever bad behavior was exhibited, an aspect of the training regiment I later regretted. Potty behavior inside the house would be punished with negative stimuli in the form of a smack on the nose by myself or Maria as prescribed by the lady who sold us Macky. Rewarding outdoor potty behavior with treats and verbal praise in order to create an association of food and utilizing negative reinforcement for unwanted indoor potty behavior, Macky learned to do his outdoor potty business in a couple of months. As predicted, we trained the animal with operant conditioning methods. I knew we would be successful in training our dog using behaviorist learning principles because behaviorism is an economically efficient form of learning experience, despite the autocratic nature of the training procedure. Throughout my life, behavioral conditioning paradigms were learning structures I was familiar with, particularly during my formative educational experiences as a as a young, unwitting K-12 student-participant.
|My brother Kevin and I around 1962.|
|Mrs. Gardner's Class (Photo courtesy of Jeannie Glasco Eiler).|
That's me upper left corner, white shirt, behind the swan's tail.
My mother's family is Catholic and after my stint at Walkerton Elementary's kindergarten class, my parent's enrolled me at St. Patrick's Elementary School also in Walkerton, Indiana. Right away, I understood the administration of educational experience at this school was going to take a much different approach. In first grade, we learned quite a bit about positive and negative stimuli. Particularly negative stimuli. There were negative consequences for actions that were undesirable in everything we did and within the learning structures we participated in. Catechism was a central component of the school curricula and so was radical behaviorism. If you follow the teachings of Jesus, you will be rewarded in Heaven. However, if you break any of the 10 Commandments, you will spend either a certain amount of your "afterlife" in Limbo, Purgatory or burn in Hell. To a small child, that knowledge gives you a fear of authority. When the nuns yelled at me for a rule infraction, my heart rate jumped and I became stressed. I had many joyful memories of my classmates at my Catholic school setting and some wonderful learning experiences related to self-directed learning and art-making (we had no art teacher), however the main thing I learned was to associate rule breaking with horrible outcomes.
One day at St. Pat's our 5th grade teacher placed a demerit chart on the top of our desks. We would receive an X for bad behavior to be marked inside a square designating a day on the calendar. You could receive a demerit for all kinds of infractions. Talking to a neighbor, not turning in your homework on time, not keeping a tidy desk, not listening to the teacher, being distracted from the lesson. We had to sit in our cramped wooden desks for 6 hours a day! I couldn't help myself...I was a squirmy, gangly elementary school boy with an active imagination. My thoughts might turn to questions about paleontology for example what might happen if a T-Rex and a triceratops faced off? I couldn't sit still or pay attention much during formal lessons. The nuns who taught us were dedicated to imprinting traditional Catholic educational values, morals and ethics on us but strict and sometimes abusive. St. Pats was a tough school. Our local public elementary school sometimes sent students who were behavior challenges to St. Pats to be "educated." My 5th and 6th grade teacher called us "stupid donkey" if we didn't follow directions. I don't remember much of the content of the instruction from that time, but I do remember the pain used for emotional or physically punishment if we didn't follow the rules. Over time, my demerit chart seemed to have more marks on it than anybody else! I felt shame, immense guilt and self-loathing.
Once in 5th grade, my classmate Jack who sat at the front of class was sent to the corner for bad behavior. Unfortunately my desk was right next to the corner where Jack was sent. While I was sitting at my desk, Jack took a pencil out of his pocket and started to poke me with it. I turned around and poked him back with my wooden ruler. Sister "E" saw me poke Jack, took my ruler away from me, told me to flatten my hand on top of my desk and proceeded to hit me half a dozen times on the hand and fingers with my ruler. In front of the entire class. Law and order would be maintained. Classroom directives would be followed! If classroom rules were broken, serious negative consequences would be administered to the children including corporal punishment!
It wasn't just at St. Pat's that radical behaviorism and operant conditioning was big. In 7th grade while attending Urey Middle School, my math teacher took me outside to the hallway, pulled out her wooden paddle and gave me 3 whacks because I failed to produce my homework on time! My science teacher did the same thing too! After talking to my peers at I.U. and throughout my lifetime, I found out paddling as a form of negative reinforcement to comply with curricula mandates was a regular occurrence for children of the United States in the 60's and 70's. I felt shame and anger when corporal punishment was utilized on me. I learned if you don't follow the teacher's directions, you will suffer! I began to associate math and science classes with physical and emotional pain. I also learned there are figures of authority that are inhumane, obtuse and mechanistic.
If you attended the schools I attended in Walkerton, Indiana back in the 1960's and early '70's, you learned behaviorist learning principles were central to the school curricula. The reality of the school setting as described by Elliot Eisner, is this. There are two forms of curricula experienced simultaneously by the learner. The intended curricula as Eisner describes is "curricula in vitro." In vitro activities and content should impart authorized knowledge to the learner through a sequenced presentation of content, organized for the benefit of the teacher and scaffolded to gradually increase complexity for the benefit of the learner. The second form of curricula within the school setting according to Eisner relates to the globality of the learner's experience related to the teacher's pedagogical practice, instructional methodology, management techniques and classroom and school culture. Eisner calls this "curricula in vivo."
My "in vivo" experiences taught me if children do not conform to strict curricula guidelines then negative reinforcement will be administered either through psycho-emotional means or somatic means as an abrupt intervention to force compliance. The resulting stress, psychological pressure and physical pain experienced by the child is overlooked. Teachers and administrators can create first and second order negative associations with school, learning and activities with their students when curricula is structured around behavior modification. Children's formative K-12 educational experiences integrated within an "in vivo" curriculum structure that is narrow, organized around authoritarianism, structured around a narrow framework, forced upon children and outside their control will lead to lasting memories that may have immense unintended consequences.