[From Bruce Abbott (991214.1105)]
Rick Marken (991213.2100) --
Bruce Abbott (991213.2155 EST)
I've read quite a bit of Skinner's work, and I can't recall
him stating _any_ ideas about parenting that could be
characterized as "ignorant and cruel." So please, don't
leave me in ignorance. Show me the evidence in Skinner's
writing to back up this astonishing (not to mention libelous)
Skinner's ideas about all behavior (parenting is one kind of
behavior) were ignorant because he had no idea that human
behavior is aimed at satisfying internal wants and needs.
Unlike most people's ideas about behavior, Skinner's were based on
replicable experimental data, so I hardly think that the term "ignorant"
applies. He was aware that behavior tends to get organized in such a way as
to satisfy internal wants and needs, but he believed that progress could be
made in making life better for people by focusing on creating environments
for people in which they would learn to function in ways that led to
personal satisfaction and happiness. That is, he thought that the problem
could be solved by providing individually tailored environments in which
learning (reorganization) would produce this outcome.
I don't think there can be any doubt that the environment of the individual
is an important factor in reorganization -- what works in a given
environment strongly affects which organizations will persist and which will
be reorganized away. So Skinner's emphasis of the importance of the
individual's environment is anything but ignorant.
Your original statement, however, was not that Skinner was ignorant of
control theory but that his ideas about parenting were ignorant. So again,
I would like to see some evidence that Skinner offered some ideas about
parenting that could be characterized as "ignorant and cruel."
ideas were cruel because he recommended depriving people
(unnecessarily) of what they want or need ("reinforcers")
until they did what you want.
Please show me where Skinner recommended depriving people of what they need
until they did what you want. In particular, please show me where he
recommended that parents deprive their children of what they want until they
do what the parent wants. From what I've read, he did not recommend
depriving anyone of anything, and was staunchly opposed to the use of
I wonder whether you have read what Skinner actually did write, or are
simply extrapolating from your vastly oversimplified view of behavior
analysis. For example, have you read _Beyond Freedom and Dignitity_?
_Walden II_? _About Behaviorism_? Or is your "knowledge" of Skinner based
on purely on hearsay?
Don't get me wrong -- I certainly find plenty to disagree with in Skinner's
writings. But statements such as yours usually reveal more about the
ignorance of the critic than about the ignorance of Skinner. So I am asking
you to back up your statements with data. A few illustrative passages
giving his parenting recommendations will do. Since you are such an expert
on Skinner's parenting advice, you shouldn't have any trouble complying.