[From Rick Marken (991216.1500)]
Unlike Bill, I don't think this is an aimless and boring
conversation. I think it's about a very interesting and
important (and, apparently, very misunderstood) topic: how
to _use_ the PCT model as a basis for practical applications.
Bruce Nevin (991215.2323 EST)--
Here's a PCT principle: Coercion is a bad idea because
it leads to undesired consequences, especially if your
intention is to help children learn to be responsible,
This is not a PCT principle. It's one of _your_ principles.
PCT doesn't say whether coercion is good or bad. (Think
about how good coercion sounds -- even to you -- when you are
talking about pulling your child out of traffic). PCT just
says what coercion _is_ (control of behavior by overwhelming
force or the credible threat thereof). Examples of PCT
principles are things like:
-- Behavior is the control of perceptual variables.
-- You can't tell what a control system is doing (controlling)
by simply looking at what it is doing (it's observable
actions and the consequences thereof).
-- Human beings are functionally organized as a hierarchy of
input control systems.
-- Two control systems controlling the same perceptual variable
relative to different reference specifications are in conflict;
each will end up exerting maximum possible force on the controlled
variable, canceling that proportion of the other system's effect
on that variable.
Some time ago, when I asked "What is it about the PCT model
that led the developers of RTP to decide on _any_ particular
practice?", you [Bruce Nevin (991214.1650 EST)] pointed me
to Tom Bourbon's description of the history of RTP (available
I'm afraid I didn't seen anything in there that directly
answered my question. That is, I saw nothing in there that
explained how the PCT model motivated the selection of any
particular RTP practice.
I think the best way to show how _I_ think the PCT model should
be used as the basis for practical applications is to show
how I would use it. What I will do is describe my own school
discipline program, also called (coincidentally) RTP (for Rick's
Teaching Program), and explain how the practices of that program
(which are surprisingly similar to those used in the Responsible
Thinking Program) are based on an understanding of PCT.
My RTP program is implemented in support of school administrators
who want fewer disruptions and more teaching going on in their
school. My RTP program assumes that all the people involved in the
school -- students, teachers, administrators and RTP consultant (Rick
himself) -- are hierarchical input control systems (PCT principle
# 1). Based on my understanding of PCT principle # 1 I know that
teachers and administrators are controlling for many perceptions,
including something like the perception of a school with a lot of
well behaved students actively learning what is presented in the
classroom. I know that the students are controlling for all kinds
of things too, some of which result in observable behaviors that
are an insuperable disturbance to some of the perceptions that are
being controlled by the teachers, administrators and other students.
I also know that the RTP consultant (me) accepted the job because
he is controlling for helping the teachers and administrators (and
the students who want to attend class in peace) get their
perceptions under control.
Existing data on school discipline problems suggest that less
than 2% of the students in any given school are controlling
perceptions that consistently result in observable behaviors
that are a disturbance to the perceptions that are being controlled
by teachers and administrators (see Bourbon, MSOB). So very few
students (at most 20 in a 1000 student school) are creating most
of the problems in the school. The RTP consultant can see that this
is happening largely because the teachers themselves are disrupting
the class through their well intentioned efforts to control the
rare disruptive kid. The teachers' disruption results from the
fact that, by trying to control the student's behavior, they are
placing themselves in conflict with the disruptive students (PCT
Principle # 2) _and_ becoming a disturbance to the students who
want to learn.
The first RTP practice derived from PCT is aimed, therefore,
at reducing the disruptions created by such conflicts. This is
done by teaching the teacher how to avoid getting into conflicts
with disruptive kids: _stop trying to control their behavior_. Of
course, the disruptive kid can't be allowed to continue disrupting
class so the teacher can't just ignore the disruptive student . So
the teacher also has to learn how to _gently_ remove disruptive kids
from the classroom. There is no formula for doing this. The teacher
must learn to control (vary her actions as necessary) for having
the kid leave the classroom _without "fighting back". There are
some tricks that the teacher can use, such as asking the kid
"what are you doing?" or "what are the rules?' This usually
diverts the kid from disrupting and can be the beginning of
gently encouraging the kid to leave the room.
The main thing is to make sure the teacher knows that s/he is not
supposed to try to get the kid to behave properly. The teacher's
only job is to teach the class and remove disruptive kids _gently_.
Of course, the administrators can't allow the kids to just leave
school when they disrupt class. So the RTP counselor tells the
administrator that s/he must provide an on-campus area for the kids
to go when they disrupt. This area should be a separate, staffed
classroom (since the administrators don't want the kids to be
unattended). So the RTP consultant has to make it clear to
administrators that, in order to implement Rick's Teaching Program,
they must invest in an extra on campus facility -- the RCR or Rick's
Chat Room -- that is staffed by a _high quality_ teacher trained
in counseling techniques (so we're talking at least a $50,000+ per
year staffed position). I would recommend one RCR per 500 students
(just in case all the disruptive kids on campus were active at the
same time; I wouldn't want the RCR teacher to have to handle more
than 10 students at a time).
Having a high quality teacher in the RCR is important for several
reasons. First, administrators want to get kids back into class.
PCT tells us that the disruptive kid is a hierarchical control
system (by PCT principle #1). The RTP consultant knows, therefore,
that we can't arbitrarily control the kid's behavior. If we want
to see the kid producing a particular result (like being in class
without distracting anyone) the kid himself has to adopt the goal
of producing this result on his own for his own reasons. A trained
counselor or therapist can use various techniques, such as the method
of levels, to facilitate this process. But, ultimately, if the kid
never wants to cooperate in class he will have to stay in the RCR.
So a skilled RCR consultant is needed to deal with the possibility
of "chronic offenders" (people who spend all their time in the RCR).
Also, a high quality person should staff the RCR so that going
to the RCR is not seen as a punishment by the kids who go there. If
the RCR is seen as relatively attractive, teachers will find it easier
to get disruptive students to the RCR without creating much disruption.
That's about it. The program works well because we make it _very_
simple for the teachers. The teacher only has to learn two things:
1) _never_ try to control kids in class and 2) _gently_ remove
disrupters. The teacher is not led to believe that she is "helping"
disruptive students in any way. She is not told that she is
"teaching kids to obey the rules" by asking "What's the rule? ";
or that she is "teaching kids to be responsible" by saying "I see
you have chosen to go to the RCR" " Teachers who are told this
sometimes come to believe it. So the teachers make the mistake of
thinking that it's _their_ job to teach the kids the rules and
how to be responsible; that is, they fall right back into the role
of controllers. This is likely to be one reason why the success
rate across schools for other, similar discipline programs is
To summarize, Rick's Teaching Program (RTP) is based on two basic
principles of PCT: 1) people are hierarchical control systems and
2) attempts at arbitrary control of hierarchical control systems
creates disruptive conflict. The goal of the program is disturbance
free classrooms (and playgrounds). We achieve this goal in the context
of the PCT principles by carrying out the following practices: 1)
teacher's don't try to control disruptive kids; teachers just
teach and remove disruptive kids gently (a form of control, true,
but one that doesn't require constant disruptive output from the
teacher) and 2) "problem" students are handled by the RCR specialist,
not the teacher.
Richard S. Marken Phone or Fax: 310 474-0313
Life Learning Associates mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org