[From Bruce Abbott (991213.1455 EST)]
Rick Marken (991212.1812) --
Bruce Abbott (991212.0930 EST)
Congratulations. I think you have found a beautiful new velvet
glove to conceal the iron fist of behavior modification. It's
You've lost me there. Perhaps you would care to elaborate. Is there an
argument here somewhere?
No one will ever notice that you care not
a whit about the child's own structure of wants. And those who
disagree with you will appear to be advocates of disruption and
For the record, it is simply not true that I "care not a whit about the
child's structure of wants." You have been doing a lousy job of reading my
mind for years, and this is just one more example.
Those of us who have taken the "other side" of this argument have never
suggested that the "child's own structure of wants" is irrelevant. The
argument has been that the child can adapt to the rules if the child
perceives them as fair and reasonable, and fairly and reasonably applied.
Bruce Nevin has pointed out that children do this sort of thing all the
time, as when conforming to the rules of "playing tag." Given this, it
would seem that the evidence is against your conclusion, supposedly derived
from HPCT, that imposing restrictions on behavior necessarily leads to
conflict and dissention.
No one has suggested that you are an advocate of disruption and chaos,
either. Is that how you think you appear?
The objective of the program is to help the child to reorganize
in ways that allow the child to continue to control those
perceptions important to it while respecting the rights of
others and thereby avoiding serious conflict.
Yes. What could be nicer? We force a child to commit to making
no disruptions for the child's own sake. Anyone who points out
that forcing this commitment ignores the child's own structure
of wants is obviously an advocate of classroom mayhem.
You continue to ignore the one-on-one interaction between child and adults
that goes on in the RT program. It is designed so that the child can see
for himself or herself why accepting the rules and procedures of RTP is a
good thing for everyone. As Bruce Neven points out, the child still has
other alternatives, such as attending another school.
You also continue to ignore the fact that the child has other means to
control perceptions important to it, which can still be exercised while
refraining from doing those things that will create a classroom disruption.
For this reason the dire consequences you envision for this rather minor
restriction on the child's freedom simply do not materialize.
Why _wouldn't_ you want to guide (not "force") the child
through a reorganization process like this?
Why, indeed? In my case, it's because I believe it's better
for a child to make such a commitent for his or her own reasons
(see Bill Powers (991212.0809 MDT)).
Believe it or not, Rick, those of us on this side of the argument believe
the same thing, and said so long before Bill did. Evidently neither of you
were paying attention, because you now appear to believe that this is some
sort of counterargument to our position.
My own view, however, is that even if the agreement were
"forced," the child would begin to perceive the benefits of
compliance after a bit of experience with the procedures,
and would thereafter comply voluntarilly.
Of course this is your view. It's reinforcement theory.
Beneficial consequences (rewards, reinforcements) will
stengthen the child's commitment. But in PCT, the result of
reorganization is not predictable. As Bill Powers (991212.0746 MDT)
notes "That reorganization could include getting rid of you".
It's not reinforcement theory, it's control theory. If it's good (from the
child's viewpoint), and there are no conflicting reasons against it, the
child is going to control for it.
Your example is an extreme one that is unlike what the child
in the RTP is asked to do.
Exactly _what_ you require the child to do is beside the point;
what you require may seem obviously reasonable (like not disrupting)
or unreasonable (like keeping the nose a certain distance from
the keyboard). The point is that your concern is with what
_you_ want (a nondisruptive child, Gould's nose a certain
distance from the keyboard), not what the child wants.
Whether the _child_ (or pianist) perceives the request as reasonable or not
is what is important here. The best that the teacher can do is to lay out
the case and hope that the child is pursuaded.
When we begin to discuss what is good for the child, we enter dangerous
ground, because different people will reach different conclusions. A major
problem is that the child, being immature and inexperienced, often does not
know what is good (or bad) for it, and is likely to do things that are not
in its own best interests. Those who presumably have a more mature
perspective (parents, teachers, etc.) are charged with providing the proper
guidance, both for the child's own good and for the good of society.
Sometimes this means that what the child wants cannot be what the child
gets, and that what the child gets may not be what it currently wants. (She
may thank you later.)
I don't see that it would matter to your analysis whether they
were forced or adopted the commitment voluntarily.
That's correct. Forced or voluntary, a person cannot commit to
an arbitrarily selected reference state for a perception (look
at how hard it is for you to commit to a diet). If you want a
person to control a particular perception at a particular level
you have to let the person figure out how to fit that into his/her
existing hierarchy of goals. This is almost certainly what happens
in the RTC room in successful RTP programs. A good RTC teacher
knows how to work with the kids to help them "go up a level"
and see what higher level perception they could control by not
disrupting in class. Fred Nickols (991211.1035 EST) describes
the process nicely (I've edited Fred's comment to make it a
statement rather than a question):
if the reference levels for the perceptions to be controlled are
negotiated, discussed and adopted in an atmosphere of fairness
and understanding, especially an appreciation of the person's
limitations, stages of development and competencies ...the
adoption of externally-posed reference levels [don't] wreak the
same kind of havoc
Bruce Nevin and I and others have been talking about the importance of
negotiation from the start of this conversation. Now that you realize that
it can be characterized as "going up a level," suddenly it becomes important
to you. (You ignored it prior to this.) You now state our point of view as
if it were against our point of view, when all you are really doing is
agreeing with us.
By the way, please explain how "going up a level" does this. As far as I
can tell, it's not part of HPCT.
What we've been discussing are commitments that are fair and
reasonable, even from the child's point of view.
How are you determining that these commitments are fair and
reasonable from the child's point of view?
This assessment takes place, if I understand correctly, in conversations
with the child about the procedures and their reasons for being.
I know that this
is actually done in successful RTP programs; but the program
you are describing doesn't take the kids wants into consideration
at all. You are apparently willing to force the kid to make a
commitment not to disrupt and rely on reorganization to iron
That's not what I've been advocating at all.
I think you are describing the way most schools
are currently run (but you are using PCT terminology). I
don't think it works. A reorganizing kid is a violent kid.
Oh? This view predicts that there will always be _incredible_ violence in
evidence during piano lessions, basketball practice, and video-game
sessions, because of the reorganizing going on. As this does not seem
generally to be the case, your assertion is disproven.
There is apparently plenty of reorganizing going on in
I would hope so! (Isn't that what schools are _for_?)
First of all, conventional schools are generally not as violent as you would
have us believe. Most kids get along fine with their teachers and with most
of their schoolmates. A tiny minority is responsible for the violence we
all hear about. Second, I wouldn't attribute what violence does occur to
reorganization, but to the existence of well-developed control systems whose
means of control involve violence against property, other students,
teachers, and administrators.
Bruce Abbott (991212.1215 EST)
The child, having the best intensions to keep the commitment,
may have temporarily forgotten it in the heat of the moment.
So I presume that you are an advocate of posting the Ten
Commandments (or whatever your favorite set of moral
commitments may be) in the schools? Since it's so easy to
forget those commitments in the heat of moment, it must be
good to have them around all the time as a reminder.
It's easy for a child to forget a commitment in the early stages of
practicing it, when the child has not yet developed a reliable control
system for keeping it. Later it becomes habitual, and no further reminders
are necessary. And no, I am not an advocate of posting the Ten Commandments
or any other "set of moral commitments").