Apps: RE: the Ford program

[From Bill Powers (950823.0900 MDT)]

Hans Blom (950823) --

     I am a rather unorthodox PCTer (if I am recognized as such at all)

Hans, what you have said to David Goldstein in your commentary on his
case qualifies you in my mind as a first-class PCTer. In particular, one
paragraph electrified me with its insight:

     This is most probably a need of the MODEL, not a physical need. He
     needs a FEELING of ever present closeness -- in the abstract sense.
     I.e., the boy does not feel loved. If you FEEL loved, you will
     still feel loved when the other person is not there physically.

And this, of course, tells you that you are LOVABLE by at least one
person, which must have a tremendous effect on your perception of
yourself as a player in the social system.

In addition to the world-models of which you speak, which are really
judgments of the _properties_ of the world, there are models in our
perceptual structures that tell us what exists in the world and what
state the world is in right now, where "the world" means all of
experience including ourselves. While I don't believe that the lower-
order control processes in a person involve literal world-models of the
kind you expressed as an Extended Kalman Filter, the power of your
application of the model concept in higher-order processes convinces me
that we must think in these terms at the higher levels of organization.

As to your comments on controlling other people, I find little to object
to. One only has to recall what it is about other people that is
actually controllable, on many occasions, without overwhelming physical
force: their _behavior_, which is to say their physical actions. I can
easily get you to step out of my way, as long as doing so doesn't
violate any of your goals. All I have to do is ask politely. If where
you are standing has no particular value to you, you will change the
place where you're standing without any objection. If you're near the
front of a long line of people waiting to buy tickets to a concert,
however, you may not be so willing to stand aside.

The evil in controlling other people comes from having a desire that
they be under your control as a specific social arrangement, a power
relationship. In such cases, it is not sufficient that you get what you
want without inconveniencing anyone else. The point is to have enough
power that you don't need to think about whether anyone else is
inconvenienced, hurt, disappointed, or destroyed. The point is to be
able to make others do what you want without having to negotiate. That
is evil in the sense of being a self-destroying way of life, impossible
for everyone to adopt.

     My basic position is that each of us needs to control the outside
     world as best as we can, including the people in it. Now PCT says,
     that people are autonomous control systems and that, for that
     reason, they cannot be controlled. My position is that,
     nevertheless, we want to control them (use them as "tools" -- or
     get away from them if they are "hindrances" -- in order to best get
     what we want).

The key is that each of us does this to get what we want. When we
recognize the autonomous nature of ourselves and other people, we can
get what we want more easily, not less easily. We will see how to enlist
the aid of other people without arousing hostility and opposition. In
large part, this comes about through being able to distinguish between
what is important to yourself and what is not, so that you can allow
others to make use of you in the same ways you would like to make use of
them. When you see social interactions as a matter of negotiation among
equals, the potential for conflict drops sharply, greatly reducing the
amount of effort that is required simply to cancel someone else's
effort, with no useful resultant.

I think your comments to David were just the sort of thing I hope PCT
can produce.


Joe Sierzenga via Ed Ford (950822) --

Joe, that was an eloquent presentation of the program. I am interested
in this term, "relaxed alertness." Could you expand on that? I get the
general picture of an accepting attitude in which you're paying
attention but without evaluation. Sounds good to me. What is "brain
compatible learning?"

I am pleased to see that you support my view, which is that the program
Ed actually teaches is very effective and does not rely on reward and
punishment or what I called "operant conditioning." I hope you realize
that I am trying to distinguish very clearly between what is actually
taught and done, and the way the program is described in words. I claim
that the description doesn't clearly show what is different between PCT
and other approaches. The description is much more authoritarian than
the practice. It's almost as if the description were constructed to
satisfy people who still want to do things the old way (thus the
emphasis on obeying rules under threat of removing privileges, sending
children home, and calling the police as a backup). Perhaps this is
politically necessary, but it does carry a message that is different
from the things you describe.

     Teaching PCT to people who have at the heart of their systems
     concept the beliefs that behavior can be controlled by the use of
     punishment, rewards, detentions, suspensions and having to pay
     penance for unwanted behavior is not an easy task. What we are
     asking teachers to do is to re-examine their beliefs and eliminate
     many of their old established ways of thinking about discipline.

This, it seems to me, is the heart of the program. Perhaps the thinking
is that if you come right out and say this in the beginning, you will
put off the people you're trying to reach and not be able to get the
program installed. But the other side of the dilemma is that if you
_don't_ say this, you make the program look much more conventional, even
supportive of the old beliefs, and this will encourage people to fall
back on those old beliefs just at the point where they shouldn't. When
they do that, the program will seem to fail, and the failure will be
blamed on PCT rather than deviating from the principles of PCT.

     I have watched Ed present his program in many communities in
     Michigan. Rita does understand this program at a level that allows
     me to implement and expand it into other areas in the school
     setting. Ed has taken a theory and developed a mental model to be
     implemented in a school setting and its possibilities explored.
     And, yes, Rita not only successfully learns to use it with her
     kids, but her life and the life of her family evolves from chaos to
     harmony. And she understands PCT at level at which she needs to

You fill me with hope, Joe.
Ed Ford (950822) --

     The statistics should also show the kids are happier. There was a
     decrease of 100% (7 month period prior to the program) from 16
     weapons found on students to none the first full year of the
     program. That would indicate there is less fear and concern about
     coming to school. Physical assaults went from 98 to 37, a 62%
     decrease, that would indicate the children are learning to get
     along better. Also, fighting went from 85 to 34, a 60% decrease,
     another indication they are getting along better.

Look, you don't need to convince me that things are working better in
this school. Everybody agrees, so far, that they are. But if we don't
retain a degree of healthy skepticism ourselves, we'll just be out there
in the tent holding another revival meeting, with a string of witnesses
testifying to their miraculous cures and ignoring every case where it
didn't work. There is no program -- NO program -- that works perfectly
the first time it is tried, where there are no contradictory elements
that need fixing. Instead of patting each other on the back and telling
each other how wonderful we are, we should be looking for the false
notes, the wrong impressions, the wrong messages being delivered, and
trying to get rid of them. If we don't do that, sooner or later someone
else will point them out, someone who is not friendly to our cause.

What I wish another boy...HADN'T said when asked about his plan was

     Bill, he was just repeating a rule. Is it not the place of schools
     to teach rules? How are children to follow rules IF THEY DON'T

I think it is the place of schools to teach ABOUT rules, so a child can
do something other than simply repeat back the words. If the only plan a
child can come up with consists of the literal words in which adults
express the rules, he or she hasn't done any thinking at all. This gets
awfully close to the old style of discipline where the adult says "I
don't want any excuses from you. I don't care why you did it. All I want
from you is a promise that you'll never do that again, and if I don't
get that promise, you're going sit there until I do get it."

Whatever works about your program, that is NOT what makes it work.

     maybe you've created a perception of the people in the educational
     system that is somewhat different than it really is. Most of these
     people struggle to work with kids who haven't a clue as to how to
     socially get along. The average teacher spends anywhere from 30 to
     50% of her/his time with discipline. My process reduces that to
     less than 5%.

I agree, and it's a great result. But I think my perception of "people
in the educational system" is generally similar to yours; isn't that
what you're trying to do away with, the way people in the educational
system are now acting? If what you're teaching is working, it's not
because of the attitude "I don't want any excuses, I don't care why you
did it." Your system is working not BECAUSE because of taking an
authoritarian, power-based approach, but IN SPITE of the fact that such
elements inevitably creep in. The power of PCT is demonstrated by the
fact that even when the trappings of the old approach are still present,
simply recognizing that children are in control of their own lives and
treating them accordingly, even some of the time, can make a tremendous

     Come on, Bill, are you still out to "get teachers or administors".
     Is your past perception from school getting in the way of your
     present OBJECTIVE way of looking at what we have done? Shouldn't
     the fact that teachers are able to teach up to 50 and in some cases
     80% more of their time a solid indicator that kids, being less
     disruptive, could possibly be more content?

As I keep saying, I'm not arguing with results. But we don't know
exactly what is producing these results. It's like the witch-doctor's
dilemma about the magic brew: was it the eye of toad, the tail of newt,
the water, the quinine in the bark of the tree, or the chants that cured
this patient's fever? When you don't know what was actually effective,
all you can do is repeat everything you did, so as not to accidentally
leave out whatever it was that worked. The success of a program is not a
blanket proof that every element of it contributed to the success. It is
perfectly possible that some elements are working against others, in
which case the whole program would work even better if the contrary
elements were corrected.

As to being out to get teachers and adminstrators, I would have little
to gain from that. My experiences in school, relative to teachers, were
largely pretty good, because as I said, I learned how to work the
system. I saw what was happening to other kids and figured out how to
avoid arousing the same punitive measures with respect to myself. But I
had to work out most of the stuff about rules myself, a process that
went on long after school was finished. I knew perfectly well what the
rules were; I simply didn't see any sense in many of them, and I was
very slow in figuring out why such rules were, or at least were agreed
to be, necessary. I could see the power, the anger, the desire to have
control, the desire to punish, very clearly, and that rather got in the
way of considering how to play the game. Fortunately, I kept running
into individual teachers who didn't play the game by the same rules of
power; if it hadn't been for them, PCT would probably have been invented
in a cell in the Elgin State Penitentiary. I would have been one of your
tough cases, Ed.

     It seems to me you don't trust the testimony of teachers or
     administrators that the children are doing better and are happier.
     If that's true, then "a man convinced against his will is of the
     same opinion still." I thought you had bought into the program
     when you wrote the forword to my book. I thought the objections
     you had voiced had been satisfied.

I do trust their testimony about the results. But that doesn't mean that
I buy any explanations as to what produced the results. You teach a
great many things, not just PCT but things from Reality Therapy and
things you learned from your own youthful experiences and experiences
raising your own kids. Somewhere in all these things are some that are
effective. Finding out which they are is not automatic; getting rid of
elements that are believed to be helpful but are not is also not

I bought into your program, and still do, because after all our
discussions I could see that what you were actually teaching followed
the precepts of PCT in spite of the way your descriptions sometimes
sounded. I said as much in the first paragraph of my foreword to
_Discipline_, where I warned the reader not to take your words too
literally. I also mentioned that you knew what was possible to change
and what was best left the way it is until we know more. I still
consider this to be one of your strongest points -- but to agree with
me, you would have to admit that you are in fact leaving some things
they way they were, not only in the schools but in your own thinking. I
mentioned this in a positive way because I believe it is a positive
aspect of you and of what you teach: you are working out how to get from
here to there, internally and externally. This is the real-life
approach, not leaping to some intellectual illumination, but working out
the steps one by one from where you actually are. I have no problem with
buying into your program. But I have never bought anything that didn't,
sooner or later, call for some repairs.

Using and developing PCT methods does not require signing a loyalty oath
and defending even its flaws against criticism. It's just a theoretical
system, and it will always need correction and improvement. If we have
successes in applying PCT, that's great, but it doesn't mean we should
stop trying to see what does and doesn't work, trying to make the
results even quicker and better, and understanding better why we see the
effect we do see -- and why, sometimes, we see something else. A 60%
reduction in fights is not a 100% reduction. What are we doing wrong,
that there are any fights at all?
Best to all,

Bill P.