(repeated?) Applications questions; schools

[From Bill Powers (950817.0700 MDT)]

David Goldstein (950816.1050) --

     I said the discussion format is PCT based. The questions which Ed
     asks and the PCT relatedness are:
           step1--Exploration: This helps to identify the perceptions
                  going on in the student when the misbehavior happened.
           step2--Evaluation: This helps to identify the reference
           steps3 and 4: This helps the student to think of an
                  alternative way the goal could have been accomplished
                  which would
                  have been more acceptable and to increase the
                  the gain of the alternative control system.

Could you talk a little more about how these steps accomplish goals, and
whose goals they are? It seems to me that we have two distinct classes
of goals here, those of the people running the institution and those of
the students or in your case residents (maybe you can see others). What,
for example, would be a staff member's image of the ideal resident --
how would a resident behave so that the staff member -- you for example
-- would experience no error? Are there ways in which staff members
could change their goals or behavior to become more acceptable to the
residents, without violating other important goals of the staff members?
Specifically, in the above, who is helped to identify whose perceptions
and goals, and for what and whose purposes? If you viewed the basic
problems at your institution as being interpersonal conflicts, what
would some of these conflicts be? Would any internal conflicts be

Applying PCT, I think, is mostly a matter of trying not to take sides
and learning to see how each person's actions are an attempt by that
person to bring the world to a state that the person prefers to
experience. There doesn't seem to me to be any way in which one person
can set another's goals, or alter the loop gain in another's control
systems; that's an internal operation, and will be done only if it's
perceived as being to the benefit of the person doing it. This applies
equally to residents and staff members. People can offer ideas and
understandings to each other, verbally and by their actions, but these
ideas have to be evaluated in terms of existing frameworks of goals and
understood in terms of a lifetime's experiences. And the important
changes have to come from within.

I think people can influence and help each other, but this is a process
of negotiation and problem-solving in which the outcomes are likely to
be surprising more than predictable. As you can see, I don't view the
problem as one of getting residents to behave to suit the staff, or
getting the staff to behave to suit the residents. Either of those ways
of seeing it would be too one-sided, favoring one side of the conflict
and simply arousing opposition from the other. The question really is,
as I see it, how to bring everyone closer to a state of satisfaction
with the way everyone is behaving, within the context of the larger
system that can't, for the time being, be changed very much (although
the world may still hold some surprises for us).


Rick Marken (950816.2135) --

     Maybe it would help people understand the PCT model of behavior if
     you could describe your vision of an application in which PCT is
     used as the main organizing principle. Perhaps an application to
     education. What would be your vision of an application of PCT in
     elementary (K through 6th grade, say) education?

It would be hard to come up with a specific program without being in the
situation. That's what I'm hoping will result when people who understand
PCT are actually working in that situation. My role is mainly to remind
people of the principles of PCT and to point out any instances where
other and contrary principles are apparently being used, where a PCT
principle might work better.

Learning PCT is, to a large extent, a matter of unlearning what you
already "know." The easiest way is always just to go on doing what's
worked for you in the past, even when you know, intellectually, that PCT
suggests some different approaches that have a chance of working much
better. It's that little chance -- and maybe not so little -- that PCT
won't work better than keeps people from taking the risk. Changing
horses in the middle of the stream, when you imagine actually trying to
do such a thing, is in fact risky. There's a certain position where
you're not firmly on either horse and have less control than you had
even on the nag you want to abandon.

The best way to work up the courage to get off the old horse and
completely onto the new one is to experience some successes with PCT. I
guess this just takes time. What I worry about is that while you're
still trying to work up the courage, the old ideas are still in control
and they make it much more difficult to apply PCT. How can you really
try to see children as autonomous beings, and rejoice in that fact,
while you're still concerned with getting them under control? How can
you fully appreciate the real nature of reward and punishment while
you're still relying on them? Even more difficult, while you're in an
institutional setting and trying to make sure the children get a good
education, how can you step back far enough to consider how unnatural it
is to confine children to hard seats 6 hours out of every day (plus
homework) while you pump what you believe to be information and
attitudes into them? PCT, fully appreciated, forces us to question even
what we would be much more comfortable just accepting. It leads us to
ask questions for which we don't have answers. Reorganization is

Rick, I wish I knew enough to lay out a whole educational system based
on PCT. But I don't. I don't work in the trenches. The people who are
already there are going to have to bear the burden and make their own
mistakes while they work out the transitions that are necessary. All I
can say is, here's how I understand PCT. Does it make sense to you? Does
it still make sense when you're working with children? Can you see the
principles at work in them and in you as you interact with them? Are you
doing, saying, believing things that you really know to conflict with
your understanding of PCT? If so, which approach are you going to
choose, and why, and when?

Or to put it into Ed Ford's words, is what you're doing getting you what
you want? If not, can you think of a better way? And will you make a
committment within yourself to try the new way and just give it a fair
test to see if it works better for you? Or in Tracey Kidder's words
(_The birth of a new machine_), are you ready to sign on to PCT?
Best to all,

Bill P.