[from Mary Powers 970129]
The wonderful one-hoss shay is the subject of a poem by Oliver
Wendell Holmes (senior) called "The Deacon's Masterpiece".
This is a rather dark (and paranoid?) position to take:
My own personal feeling is that people/society want to
believe in something called free will so that those in
control (govt/religion/authorities) can let themselves off
the hook and take the moral high ground when it comes to
deciding what should happen to the "less able" people.
Free will allows the concept of personal responsibility, so
the authorities can say that criminals "chose" to be bad and
that is all there is to it, without really considering the
person's background, or what brought them to such a
state. The result is that only the symptoms of the criminal
society are addressed without looking at the underlying
causes (with only lip service to rehabilitation).
It is certainly true that "responsibility" is a word with a lot
of moral baggage, finger-pointing, and blame. But many people
take on responsibilities of their own free will (yes!), with no
social "oughts", internalized as self-blame, driving them to do
I feel that it is more positive to forget about free will
and personal responsibility and consider that the behavior
of many people is shaped by their experiences in a negative
But it is not experiences alone that shape behavior, but the
interaction of experiences and the person/controlsystem. This
statement of yours expresses the S-R point of view:
experiences -> behavior. But not all children succumb to the
pressures of a rotten environment. You are right, though, that
only lip service is given to rehab - but I think that's because
most rehab programs don't work vey well. And why should they?
They've been based on whatever trendy theory comes along, like
behavior modification, and so forth.
There is a PCT-based program that appears to be working quite
well - at least in the cases where the people involved
understand PCT. I don't mean in a technical sense. Quite a good
proportion of people (with little or no background in
psychology - in fact it helps NOT to have such a background)
easily grasp the concepts of behavior as control of perception,
the autonomy of people as control systems, and the idea that such
autonomy is what responsibility is.
[Obviously PCT is going to be in as much trouble with
"responsibility" as it is with "perception" and "control"]
In the school program that Ed Ford is teaching around the US,
responsibility is equated with people being control systems.
This applies to students, teachers, parents, bus drivers,
cafeteria workers, etc. The first thing this does is relieve
teachers of the burden and blame of being responsible for the
actions of misbehaving children, with considerable positive
effect on morale and classroom atmosphere. Children who disrupt
are not punished, but are sent to a special classroom where they
are helped to find out what they were trying to achieve by their
disruptions and to work out alternative ways of achieving their
goals. This is called the "responsible thinking" room, which I
think sucks - it used to be called the "social skills" room, a
far less loaded and more accurate term, in my opinion. Properly
done, this is not detention, but a learning experience that
children want and appreciate.
This program dances on the edge of being simply old wine in new
bottles. I heard a teacher give a talk about it to some other
teachers, and it reeked of blame and punitiveness, was drowning
in paperwork, and was dealing with issues other than disruptions
that interfered with teaching and learning. That school was not
certified in the PCT-based program, nor were others similarly off
the track. However, schools where the principles behind the
program are understood have had some dramatic results - including
inner-city schools, a juvenile detention center, etc.
It's too soon to tell whether or how long improvements will last.
It probably sounds as trendy as all the others, but it is based
on a model of how humans work - a model we all know and love
On Sloman: interesting that both Bill and I forgot the exchange
with him completely, even though it was only 2 1/2 years ago.
Looking at it now, I can see why: he was condescending and
belittling, on the basis of a superficial reading of some of
Bill's papers and the opinions of some (unnamed) other people.
He was absolutely convinced that control of perception was about
hallucinations. Bill wrote back at some length and Sloman
apologized, but since then apparently has not read BCP and
certainly did not ask to see the little man demo, although he
seemed to think it sounded sort of interesting. This is a
passive sort of attitude that doesn't cut much ice - it is not
Bill's responsibility (hah!) as he sees it to spoon-feed PCT to
What amuses me is the phenomenon that in a very small
community you find the same kind of dogmatism, guild
defense, terminology barriers, rhetorics etc. that you find
in all the big established ones. This is perhaps an
inevitable part of community building...
Ah, Oded. The usual negative remarks. I find your cynicism
about the PCT community rather dogmatic ;-). You speak, I think,
as a committed outsider, which is no different from being a
committed PCTer or committed anything else.