[From Dag Forssell (980427 10.00)]
I forwarded RTP relevant posts on CSGnet Saturday to Tom Bourbon. Here are
Subject: Re: RTP on CSGnet
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Thanks for sending the material from CSGNet.
I have as few questions and comments.
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 17:06:50 -0400
From: Bruce Gregory <bgregory@CFA.HARVARD.EDU>
Subject: A Worked Example
[From Bruce Gregory (980424.1707 EDT)]
. . .
Children are hierarchical control systems. So are teachers. Sometimes the
former interfere with the efforts of the latter to exercise control. Since
hierarchical control systems resist interference with the efforts to
control, "disruptive" students pose a problem for teachers.
A more or less minor point. *All* control systems act so as to eliminate
the effects of disturbances to their controlled perceptions. *All*
control systems, even single loops, or loops all at a single level, not
just hierarchical control systems.
The RTP process
is based on the assumption that remaining with their friends is a system
level controlled perception for most students.
Why would that reference signbal be at the systems level, if it exists
A disruptive student is
threatened with a major disturbance of this perception (being removed to the
room where he or she must work out a plan to re-enter the classroom). If the
unwanted behavior persists, this disturbance is applied.
As I understand it, when RTP is applied the way Ed ford intended it, the
focus is not on "*the* unwanted behavior," but on the occurence of
disruption, in the form of disturbances to others' controlled
In order to regain
the control of the "with my buddies" perceptual variable, the system must
adjust the reference levels of lower level control systems. If it fails to
successfully make these adjustments, the student experiences continuing
large error signals and eventually is expelled. This process, unlike the one
I described in an earlier post, is humanistic.
Ed's program, does not call for expulsion. In the states, expulsion and
suspension are usually mandated by the local school board for certain
major offenses. Tim Carey handled this subject very well in the next
Date: Sat, 25 Apr 1998 07:28:02 +1000
From: Timothy A Carey <t.a.carey@UQ.NET.AU>
Subject: Re: A Worked Example
[From Tim Carey (980425.0735)]
> [From Bruce Gregory (980424.1707 EDT)]
. . .
The only change I would make to what you've written concerns the sentence
> If it fails to
> successfully make these adjustments, the student experiences continuing
> large error signals and eventually is expelled.
Where RTP is most successfully implemented, my understanding is that school
personnel work really hard at being continually "invitational" to the kids
who are, at the moment, not controlling for whatever it takes to keep them
in the classroom. I don't know that being expelled is actually part of Ed's
program. In fact, the kids and/or their parents would be more likely to
"self-expel" if they didn't ever develop a "strong" reference for being in
class (in whatever form this might take).
That is also pretty much the way I understand what happens in RTP.
Date: Sat, 25 Apr 1998 05:06:07 -0600
From: Bill Powers <powers_w@FRONTIER.NET>
Subject: Re: A Worked Example (RTP)
[From Bill Powers (980425.0437 MDT)]
Bruce Gregory (980424.1707 EDT)--
>Children are hierarchical control systems. So are teachers. Sometimes the
>former interfere with the efforts of the latter to exercise control. Since
>hierarchical control systems resist interference with the efforts to
>control, "disruptive" students pose a problem for teachers. The RTP process
>is based on the assumption that remaining with their friends is a system
>level controlled perception for most students. A disruptive student is
>threatened with a major disturbance of this perception (being removed to
>room where he or she must work out a plan to re-enter the classroom). If
>unwanted behavior persists, this disturbance is applied. In order to regain
>the control of the "with my buddies" perceptual variable, the system must
>adjust the reference levels of lower level control systems. If it fails to
>successfully make these adjustments, the student experiences continuing
>large error signals and eventually is expelled. This process, unlike the
>I described in an earlier post, is humanistic.
This is what one would deduce from Ed Ford's description of the process
(all but the "humanistic" part). However, as it actually plays out, there
are some significant differences. One is that the personal interactions
between teachers and students are specifically constrained, as part of the
RTP program, to be neutral or friendly, not punitive or revengeful. Even
though the process is described as a punishment (taking away the privilege
of being with one's friends), the children evidently do not experience it
I'm not so sure that Ed describes the process as a "punishment." No, I
know he does not, at least not in any recent writings or presentations.
In the beginning, Ed did talk about a student moving to "more
restrictive environments," but even that way of speaking is less
frequent these days.
On parent nights many of them take their parents to meet the
teacher in the special classroom, and on occasion students will request a
transfer to the special classroom in order to cool off and avoid creating a
That is a very informative phenomenon that I have heard about in all
kinds of schools, ranging from elementary and primary schools, to an
alternative school and a high school in a juvenile prison.
In fact, nobody knows what role the desire to "be with my friends" plays in
this process. I suspect that it's fairly minor.
I might agree with that idea, but I am not certain. I have *many*
unanswered questions about why good things happen in many schools where
people use RTP. I have even visited a few schools where it is obvious
that good things have happened, and it is equally obvious that most
people on the staff have mangled RTP almost beyond recognition. I have
not seen many schools like that. Indeed, in most schools where the
process is severely distorted, the situation reverts to its previous bad
state relatively quickly.
The handicap under which RTP operates is that it's embedded in a coercive
system that can't be changed without abolishing the whole school concept.
The student who is determined to disrupt is in fact punished upon being
handed over to the juvenile "justice" system, which does not use RTP. The
system is basically coercive once the student fails to take advantage of
the special classroom as expected, and it's coercive in that the student is
simply not allowed the choice of staying in the classroom AND disrupting
it. The adults are physically in charge, and the cops are called if there
is any effective resistance to this state of affairs.
All true. RTP must operate in exactly that kind of system.
In my view, what is most effective about RTP is that the teachers are
taught that the students are autonomous control systems and basically can't
be controlled by peaceable means -- so the teachers don't have to try. The
teachers are taught not to lose their cool, and to treat the students (even
offenders) with respect. What choices are actually possible for the student
to make are treated as real choices; if the student doesn't want to make a
plan for re-entering the classroom, for example, that's OK.
Yes. The feeling of calm that pervades a school where teachers learn
this "secret" is amazing. So, too, is the feeling of conflict in a
school where teachers insist on continuing the failed old methods to
"control" students' behavior.
The main thing that changes as a result of RTP, I believe, is the way
teachers treat the students. Classroom conflicts are de-escalated, and
there is less for the children to fight back about. The level of tension
seems to decrease markedly. Since the most dramatic initial change induced
by RTP is in the teachers' behavior, I think we can conclude that by and
large, there's not much wrong with the kids except ignorance of practical
social behavior. RTP is really an adult therapy program, although you'd
can't sell it by calling it that.
Excellent comments. As soon as most students sense the change in the way
teachers treat them, they change the way they treat teachers. A few hold
outs, on either side, continue to treat people on "the other side" in
the same old ways. A student who does that is called a "repeater" or a
"frequent flyer" by the staff. The same terms should be applied to
Best, Bill P.
Date: Sat, 25 Apr 1998 08:19:13 -0400
From: Bruce Gregory <bgregory@CFA.HARVARD.EDU>
Subject: Re: A Worked Example (RTP)
[From Bruce Gregory (980425.0814 EDT)]
Bill Powers (980425.0437 MDT)]
> This is what one would deduce from Ed Ford's description of the process
> (all but the "humanistic" part). However, as it actually plays out, there
> are some significant differences.
A very clear statement. Thanks.