When Training Beats Education, Civilization Dies ~ C.S. Lewis
What a difference 20 years made!
Education Week, the nation’s premiere professional education journal, generally speaking not known for its promotion of views supporting traditional academic education, was willing to publish my article dated May 5, 1999 (twenty years ago) which warned against the use of computers in the schools. It also (see its note at end of article) gave some coverage to the upcoming publication of my book “the deliberate dumbing down of America: A Chronological Paper Trail”, something the national and state conservative movements, organizations, and media refused to do since they knew the computer and operant conditioning were essential for Soviet polytechnical workforce training, now enabled by tax-funded charter schools, choice, vouchers, etc. with no elected school boards, thanks to passage of the ESSA legislation in 2015 and Republican President Donald Trump’s support for the corporate fascist (public/private partnership) workforce training agenda.
May 5, 1999
THE COLUMBINE TRAGEDY – OPERANT CONDITIONING
by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt
TO THE EDITOR:
An important question should be examined in the wake of the tragedy in Colorado: “What was going on inside the brains of the two boys who committed this terrible crime?”
Not only should Americans point the finger at violent television as a reason for copycat violence, they should also examine the effects of computers and computer games on the human brain. I am no expert, but I know that the computer is an operant conditioning machine, and no less than the late Harvard University psychologist B. F. Skinner, the father of operant conditioning, referred to it as his “box”. Operant conditioning bypasses the brain, with all the important functions that distinguish man from an animal: memory, conscience, imagination, insight, and intuition, functions by which human beings know absolutes and truths.
Use of computer programming (simulation and virtual reality) to train individuals to fly an airplane, perform surgery, and so forth serve a useful purpose. But the same simulation/virtual reality computer programming, when comprising war game videos that allow the individual to engage in killing in a bloody and violent atmosphere, can, if played over and over again, desensitize the individual to the evil act of killing. The player, like a programmed robot, may find it increasingly easy to carry this distorted vision of reality outside into other areas of his life, such as a school building or playground. If that individual happens to be full of hatred, it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what “programmed” action he or she may want to take in order to vent the hatred and frustration.
The use of computer-assisted conditioning, upon which school programs for all disciplines is based, can be used for training an individual to perform. Skinner said “I could make a pigeon a high achiever by reinforcing (rewarding) it on a proper schedule” and “What is reinforced (rewarded) will be repeated.” Such “training” is not education in the traditional sense. With traditional education, a student is capable of transferring what he learns to other areas of his life, at some future time. He can store the information for future use; it is in his brain where it can be reflected upon, where his soul, memory, and conscience are able to influence the information and decisions he makes.
Not so with operant conditioning, where no such transfer occurs. Children who spend their school years being trained in this manner can be expected to experience a certain frustration and dehumanization in their behavior, since the creative functions of the brain are being constantly cut off. Operant conditioning experiments on animals have caused similar frustration and violent behavior.
Unless we examine the use and effect of video games and of 12 years of computer use in the classroom that stresses operant conditioning, we may experience more Littletons. Is it too far-fetched to assume that he who is trained like an animal may just end up behaving like one?
Charlotte T. Iserbyt
The writer, a former senior policy adviser to the U.S. Department of Education’s office of educational research and improvement, is the author of the forthcoming book “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America: A chronological Paper Trail”.
P.S. FROM CHARLOTTE:
Click COMMON CORE: The Madness is in the Method for proof of neoconservative involvement in changing U.S. education from academics to Skinnerian/Pavlovian polytechnical training (aka socialist workforce training, using our children to spin off profits for the global elite). Another Neoconservative’s Horse’s Mouth Tells it Like it is…