Oh Behave!

October 31, 2015 - Radical Pedagogies

behavourism My tiny (or otherwise occupied with other things) brain had not pulled aside the “behave” part of the word in Behaviorism until now. We spent a day researching last week, and I started to understand the very basic principles of Behaviorist theory (i.e. using conditioning techniques on humans), but I wish it had occurred to me earlier that what the average Behaviorist really wanted to do was to have their subject behave.

Behaviorism has its roots in turn of the 19th Century psychology. The key thinkers are John Watson, Ivan Pavlov, and Burrhus Skinner. Conclusions about the ways that humans learn (and think) were made through experiments on animals, and then applied to humans. The style of thinking has be debunked in much of modern psychology -yet it is still fundamental to much of how education works: bells, uniforms, tests, grades, merits,

John Watson boldly claimed that given “a dozen health infants…I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select” (Watson, J. B. (1930). Behaviorism (Revised edition). Chicago: University of Chicago Press). In this sense, Watson is advocating for a generic education fits all, where the teacher holds knowledge, and the student is a vessel ready to receive information. The learners cultural or social background are not part of this educational exchange.