A NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCE OF BEHAVIORIST THEORY

November 29, 2011

Behaviorist Theory has drastically changed  the landscape in terms of using corporal punishment in schools, in public, or in the home. The mere mention of corporal punishment brings out all the screaming banshee defenders of Behaviorist Theory. Scathing articles are written questioning the sanity of anyone that even hints of the positive effects of corporal punishment. Victims of the overuse of corporate punishment are brought before the press and the TV cameras. Pictures of blistered bottoms appear, and then emotionally and mentally damaged adults are interviewed. Rightfully so, the excesses and improper use of corporal punishment must be aggressively pursued, exposed, and punished.  The real problem is Behaviorist Theory is so entrenched in the thought processes of Americans, and our education system, any positive effects of corporal punishment are minimized and never discussed. Of more importance the basic theories and negative aspects of Behaviorist Theory are never discussed, exposed, or challenged. What are the negative  effects of Behaviorist Theory?

Could bullying in our schools and society be one negative effect of Behaviorist Theory?  Bullying was present in schools and society in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Bullying was definitely not the huge problem that it has become in the 80’s, 90’s, and twenty first century. There is a correlation in the acceptance and use of Behaviorist Theory and the massive increase in the bullying problem in America. The  negative effects of Behaviorist Theory can be see in the areas of empathy and self-esteem development of our school age children.

Watching the development of children over the years, the use of empathy and the understanding of empathy does not appear in ample amounts, until the ninth or tenth grade. Before those grades, students find it hard to put themselves into another student’s,  or a teacher’s situation. A bully puts little to no effort into understanding how another student or teacher feels or thinks.

At the elementary level a recess period or play period can quickly turn into a scene of mass chaos. Very quickly a fun play time can turn into payback time, survival of the strongest time, and a bullying time. How much empathy development or self-esteem development can be found or developed in these situations?

Behaviorist Theory has allowed bullying situations to become prevalent throughout schools. How can this be so? Behaviorist Theory will not allow a student to be punished in any physical way. Behaviorists believe a paddling will cause huge psychological and emotional problems in the development of a student. Furthermore, a paddled student will grow up thinking, physical punishment is the way to solve problems. The consequences of these beliefs are a bully can physically hurt and punish every student in the school and he knows he will not face physical punishment himself. The mental and self-esteem processes of every student in a classroom or school can be damaged or destroyed, as behaviorists strive to protect the mental and self-esteem processes of the bully.

Behaviorist Theory has become so entrenched in school policy that teachers find it hard to discipline a bully. Teachers breaking up a fight must not bruise, scratch, stretch a joint, or redden any part of the bully’s body. An administrator or teacher can face disciplinary procedures, if any of the above consequences show up on the body of the bully. A teacher can face disciplinary action, if a teacher uses harsh language, intimidating language, or yells at a bully. The sad truth is, if a bully starts to cry from any action of school personnel, that adult faces the possibility of reprimand, disciplinary procedures, or the judge.

A large amount of students in Behaviorist Theory Environments become bullies. The consequences and punishments for bad behavior, espoused by Behaviorists, will not change bullying behavior. Students in these environments come to believe, they are stronger and smarter than teachers and administrators of the school. Students come to understand and believe, they are bullet proof to any discipline consequences. Armed with these beliefs, students are enabled and empowered to be discipline problems and bullies. Bully behavior, huge discipline problems, poor manners, a lack of respect for teachers, administrators, adults, other students, and the school are the final results of following Behaviorist Theory.

What happened to a bully before the arrival of Behaviorist Theory? In the “old school days”, school personnel verbally confronted and reprimanded a bully. A bully quickly understood that his bullying behavior was wrong and unacceptable. If a bully assaulted a student, he was dragged down (often by the ear) to the office. In the office the bully was paddled by the principal. Behaviorists believe these are wrong consequences for bullying behavior.

What effects did “old school consequences” have on the school, teachers, victims, and bullies? A bully learned, quickly, that his behavior was wrong. After a paddling a bully started to develop empathy for the victims of his behavior. A bully facing unpleasant and real consequences, changed his behavior. Facing real consequences, a bully came to understand the teachers and administrators were in charge of the classroom, school, and student behavior. Administrators armed with unpleasant and real consequences for bad behavior and bullying could produce safe schools. Students could come to school without the fear of being bullied every day. Of more importance, teachers, unencumbered with Behaviorist Theory, could call a bully a bully. Teachers, to a much higher degree, could verbally and mentally challenge a bully to change his behavior. A student on his way to becoming a bully could change his behavior, and mentally and emotionally became a student with more self-respect and self-esteem. Along the way, he also became a productive, courteous, and happy member of the student body.

A huge bullying problem is just one negative consequence, that Behaviorist Theory brought to our schools. Behaviorist theory has brought several other negative consequences to our schools. Other negative consequences will be a topic of a future post.

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