Sunday, January 19, 2014

Square Pegs Round Holes- Behaviorism

A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.
B. F. Skinner
The boy is in a new class. He is a different kid right now. Teachers do make a difference and poor teachers are a real disservice to the profession. Over the years this is something that the cuter half and I have noticed.....the teachers make the classroom.
FOR example, the boy had a wonderful teacher in summer school before HS. This guy taught him HOW to read a book and write a paper about it. The boy was happy to take classes and although he got a C in the class his senior year this teacher TAUGHT him how to do what he needed to do. The boy did so well that he is now in another lit class that is really teaching him HOW to research and what to look for when doing so.
Same with math, the boy was taught his freshman year by a teacher (who I wasn't always on good terms with) was able to CATCH the boy up to grade level by the end of the year. This guy is a great teacher. He was able to teach this math class and help the boy learn. Later the boy got another great math teacher who was able to catch him up even more and now the boy is doing it on his own.....which is wonderful.

This sounds so easy and simple. It isn't. The cuter half and I are constantly reviewing, talking to and discussing the assignments with the boy. We have hired tutors, academic coaches and others to keep the boy going.....and to save our sanity.

We are finding that our sanity is kind of a big deal. Both the cuter half and I are really working hard at our grown-up jobs and then come home and work with the boy, play with the 'putens and then clean up the messes that somehow reproduce themselves when we aren't here. We are thinking that the clothing piles in the laundry room is having sex at night to make more clothes for us to wash never seems to end.

I have been reviewing a  new class with the boy this semester. This means I have refresh what I have already learned. It has been a while and frankly I am not really into the class  he is taking right now....there is a TON of information and put it this way the writer of the book is not a chronological writer....this guy and his co-hort jump all over the place with the terms, the studies and the other stuff. This is an Aspie nightmare book and the boy is trying to read it and assimilate what is going on and just getting frustrated. Which means I step in and try to put in all in one part.....reviewing what I went over years ago....and running into familiar names and theories that I had left behind in what I call another life.

BF Skinner was a behaviorist. Reading the basics of his theories made me think that they could be applied (simply, and not as technically as he probably would have appreciated) when dealing with the boy and having to study for classes that he is ready for academically but telling me that he feels like a square peg trying to force itself into a round hole.

(I have been doing this for years- and I STILL think I am a square peg)

Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.
B. F. Skinner
Wikipedia has a brief biography:
Burrhus Frederic (B. F.) Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) was an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974.
Skinner invented the operant conditioning chamber, also known as the Skinner Box. He was a firm believer of the idea that human free will was actually an illusion and any human action was the result of the consequences of that same action. If the consequences were bad, there was a high chance that the action would not be repeated; however if the consequences were good, the actions that led to it would be reinforced. He called this the principle of reinforcement.
Skinner called his particular brand of behaviorism "Radical" behaviorism. Radical behaviorism is the philosophy of the science of behavior. It seeks to understand behavior as a function of environmental histories of reinforcing consequences. Such a functional analysis makes it capable of producing technologies of behavior (see Applied behavior analysis). This applied behaviorism lies on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum as the field of cognitive science. Unlike less austere behaviorism, it does not accept private events such as thinking, perceptions, and unobservable emotions in a causal account of an organism's behavior:
"The position can be stated as follows: what is felt or introspectively observed is not some nonphysical world of consciousness, mind, or mental life but the observer's own body. This does not mean, as I shall show later, that introspection is a kind of psychological research, nor does it mean (and this is the heart of the argument) that what are felt or introspectively observed are the causes of the behavior. An organism behaves as it does because of its current structure, but most of this is out of reach of introspection. At the moment we must content ourselves, as the methodological behaviorist insists, with a person's genetic and environment histories. What are introspectively observed are certain collateral products of those histories."
"In this way we repair the major damage wrought by mentalism. When what a person does [is] attributed to what is going on inside him, investigation is brought to an end. Why explain the explanation? For twenty five hundred years people have been preoccupied with feelings and mental life, but only recently has any interest been shown in a more precise analysis of the role of the environment. Ignorance of that role led in the first place to mental fictions, and it has been perpetuated by the explanatory practices to which they gave rise."

Most of the time our Aspie is reacting to what is happening around him. He is scared, unsure and frustrated with the gen world he is required to live in. He is adapting himself to a social environment that generally does not accept him and essentially is forcing him to live in a round hole and if he steps out of that (esoterically speaking) he will be "told in no uncertain terms" where his place is and where he belongs.

To me, this is a limitation of education.

The boy is very good with talking and participating in class and although things may not be perfect he is willing to try.  However, he is stepping out into areas where generally most Aspies do not go. He is taking classes and is doing well. He is driving. He is doing an internship he is living a life. He is telling us what he would like to do and how he would like to do it. He knows where he wants to be.
Internally the boy knows what he needs to do and is trying his best to do it. He recognizes he needs supports and although we have told him he will have the tools he needs by the time he graduates he is still worried and uncertain. He may change some of his environment but it is unlikely he will move or have much contact outside of what he is already doing. It would surprise me if he were to have additional contact with people who generally don't have a lot to do with him now....maybe I am wrong and maybe people who will give him a chance will change....who knows but for now we are working with what we can....and for some weird reason Skinner reasonates in my thought process.

Give me a child and I'll shape him into anything.
B. F. Skinner

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