DSM: Abstraction vs shaping

Robert Swanson (robertswanson@icehouse.net)
Wed, 15 Nov 2000 00:01:39 -0800

There is a gulf I think most people have experience with. It is the gulf
between abstract learning and what one learns on the job after getting out
of school. Experience almost always is needed to shape behavior. As
intensely as the administration of SVS worked out the details of function,
after opening school a shake up was necessary in the administration.
Administrative behavior was shaped. Students too. As good as freedom sounds,
some students find they have to adapt, shaping their behavior from waiting
to be told what to do to self-initiation. Were a public school to suddenly
turn off the bells and tell students to vote on teachers and behaviors, I am
certain there would be chaos, at least until a culture had taken shape.

>From an infant to an adult learning their fourth job, behavior adapts
through shaping. Intellect wants to believe we are reasonable people who
simply listen to or observe with reason and so respond. It holds this belief
regardless of hitting its head into the wall every time emotions or instinct
get in the way. We simply SHOULD act reasonable. (And thus did my parents
bring me up - supposedly I would behave a certain way because I should. Did
this work for you?) Schools intellectually believe that teaching via reason
should work, never mind that it does not.

Sometimes the evidence is all too obvious. Two college students were to
level my garden and check the level by pouring water in a gutter. I used my
quality intellectual reason to tell them to shovel about six wheelbarrow
loads of dirt to level the garden and then check with the gutter-level. This
had little effect on shaping their behavior. They insisted on using a rake.
They refused to use the gutter. After an hour they finally put the gutter
down and poured water. Excitedly, they called me down to the garden saying,
"Robert, look, the water runs uphill, even when we lift the end like this"
(eight inches off the ground and still water ran to that end). Still they
insisted the ground was level, and refused my reason that water don't run
uphill. Their behavior was not changed by reason, it was, however, shaped a
little when I reduced their pay by four dollars per hour. So, this is the
intelligence intellect is shaping in our schools.


on 11/13/00 6:31 AM, Rick Stansberger at rickstan@zianet.com wrote:
> Robert Swanson wrote:
>> Shaping student behaviors gradually into the SVS model may be easy in many
>> public schools. robert
> Robert, to turn a factory school into a public school doesn't have anything to
> do
> with shaping student behaviors. What you'd do is simple turn off the bells,
> drop
> the curriculum, and turn the government over to the students and the parents.
> All
> faculty, administrators and staff contracts would be decided on by the
> Meeting, and
> you'd re-open as a Sudbury school. Nobody would be shaping anybody's
> behaviors.
> Students would probably be the easiest to adapt to this. They'd probably LOVE
> firing their teachers -- and hiring a few back, along with some neat new ones.
> Likely the Principal and the Assistant Principals would be out of a job,
> unless the
> kids really liked them, and even so, they'd have to do something other than
> push
> paper and students around. The coaches wouldn't be able to pick and choose
> among
> the students as to who filled out team rosters, so most of them would go
> elsewhere.
> Most parents wouldn't have a clue about the democratic governance thing, so
> only a
> few parents would get in there and vote, at least in the beginning.
> Maintenance
> staff would probably be required to do more than just fiddle with the pipes,
> and so
> probably most of them would either leave or also get involved in other ways.
> The
> buildings and athletic fields would remain. So would the libraries and labs.
> They'd just be used in different ways.
> Rick

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