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AnAmerAffidavit

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

166. The Limits Of Behavioral Theory: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

The Limits Of Behavioral Theory 

The multibillion dollar school-materials industry is stuffed with curriculum 
psychologized through application of behaviorist theory in its design and operation. What 
these kits are about is introducing various forms of external reinforcement into learning, 
based on the hypothesis the student is a stimulus-response machine. This surrender to 
questionable science fails its own test of rationality in the following ways. 

First and foremost, the materials don't work dependably. Behavior can be affected, but 
fallout is often negative and daunting. The insubstantial metaphysics of Behaviorism 
leads it to radically simplify reality; the content of this psychology is then always being 
undermined by experience. 

Even some presumed core truths, e.g., "simple to complex, we learn to walk before we 
can run" (I've humanized the barbaric jargon of the field), are only half-truths whose 
application in a classroom provoke trouble. In suburban schools a slow chaos of boredom 
ensues from every behavioral program; in ghetto schools the boredom turns to violence. 
Even in better neighborhoods, the result of psychological manipulation is indifference, 
cynicism, and overall loss of respect for the pedagogical enterprise. Behavioral theory 
demands endless recorded observations and assessments in the face of mountainous 
evidence that interruptions and delays caused by such assessments create formidable 
obstacles to learning — and for many derail the possibility entirely. 

By stressing the importance of controlled experience and sensation as the building blocks 
of training, behaviorism reveals its inability to deal with the inconvenient truth that a 
huge portion of experience is conceptualized in language. Without mastery of language 
and metaphor, we are condemned to mystification. The inescapable reality is that behind 
the universality of abstraction, we have a particular language with a particular 
personality. It takes hard work to learn how to use it, harder work to learn how to protect 
yourself from the deceptive language of strangers. Even our earliest experience is 
mediated through language since the birth vault itself is not soundproof. 

Reality Engages The Banana 

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