Uncovering the How-To Manual of Behavioral Programming
IT WAS IN 1986, then, that Pennsylvania Group researchers - who included, by this time, people in Washington, D.C. - felt like they had entered the Twilight Zone. They were looking for proof that the idea of inducing psychological conflicts in order to "cure" them did not represent establishment g, or at least did not have the blessing and endorsement of the federal government.
What Group researchers expected to find was evidence to support the contention that the U.S. Department of Education and its colleagues in other government agencies really had no idea what was going on in education; that they neither endorsed nor disapproved behavioral teaching strategies because they didn't understand what they were; that officials had allowed a branch of experimental research to be pursued at the Labs and Centers and to be promulgated in the nation's tax-supported (and even private) schools because the bureaucracy was out of control and, essentially, doing its own thing.
What Pennsylvania Group researchers did not expect to find was a how-to manual with a 1971 U.S. Office of Education contract number on it entitled Training for Change Agents; or seven volumes of "change agent studies" commissioned by the U.S. Office of Education to the Rand Corporation in 1973-74; or scores of other papers submitted by behaviorist researchers who had obtained grants from the U.S. Office of Education for the purpose of exploring ways to "freeze" and "unfreeze" values, " to implement change," and to turn potentially hostile groups and committees into acquiescent, rubber-stamp bodies by means of such strategies as "the Delphi Technique. "
No longer was it mere speculation that federal funds for education were being used to pursue behavioral objectives instead of academic ones; here were official texts and documents, solicited by the U.S. government, saying so specifically. With the training manual in hand, it was learned also for the first time precisely how sophisticated psychological manipulation techniques were being used to defuse potentially hostile elements - like parent groups (PTAs), teachers, and community watchdog organizations - so that they are maneuvered into accepting programs and strategies of which they really do not approve.
To say that the Group was shocked by this find would fail to capture the essence of the moment. The room that first examined Training for Change Agents looked like a mass dental examination - every mouth was open.
Change agent training was launched with federal funding under the Education Professions Development Act (1967). The original purpose of the Act was to provide funds to local education agencies to attract and train teachers because of the then-critical shortage. But by the early seventies, these funds were being used by the U.S. Office of Education, under the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, "to award grants to colleges and universities for the training of change agents." The Office of Education even ran one elementary school in Gary, Indiana, jointly with the Behavioral Research Labs to test change agent theories! It is not known whether parents knew anything about it.
By following up references on "behavioral strategies," Pennsylvania Group researchers stumbled onto a series of documents about "how to gain social acceptance for an innovation." In these documents, schools repeatedly were referred to as "experimental laboratories." Each time researchers ran across terms like this, they tried using it to gain access to additional reference material, by author and title, from the ERIC computer system. 'Thus, terms like "laboratory," "behavior," "operant conditioning," "social reinforcement," "internal-external control," when linked with the word education(al), eventually turned up listings for "change agents" and "educational change." Subtitles were found on "training change agents...... the role of the state facilitator," and so forth. A less obvious subheading, "performance contracts" revealed even more change agent documents.
One of the first papers the team read was Clyde Hall's 21-page "How to Implement Change." In it, he explained "the science of planned change," which translates to legislated and managed change. In one passage the reader learns that:
[i]n a managed change process an outside agent is usually involved which is referred to as a 'change agent' and the population with which it works is called the 'client system'.The Hall paper goes on to discuss the techniques of "freezing" and "unfreezing" attitudes - today called "programming" and "de-programming." But he was not talking about students' attitudes; he was talking about teachers' attitudes being changed - through teacher workshops, inservice education, and revised college/university teacher education programs. The change agent, he states, would only be withdrawn when "the new attitudes are stabilized."
It turned out that Ronald G. and Mary C. Havelock were the major sources of research and information on change agents for the federal government. Four lengthy papers of theirs, including case studies of change agent teams in three schools, were uncovered in addition to another text, The Change Agents Guide to Innovation in Education - all paid for, in whole or in part, under government contract.
But the Training for Change Agents text was the researchers' gold mine. It sought to justify, among other things, deceiving the public about learning programs and their intended usages. The strategy for doing this is called, appropriately, the fait accompli. The Havelocks say that in certain cases it is best not to tell the truth about the substance of an educational program until after the fact (the fait accompli), when the "profound results" supposedly will render its merits obvious.
It is worth mentioning here the results of one change agent program on drug education that used peer pressure to resist drugs. According to Havelock's 1973 "Guide to Innovation in Education" (Handbook II, page 24) the program actually increased students' tolerance toward marijuana use and promiscuous sex. The change agent in charge, as well as the program's supporters, were baffled. School authorities, of course, had gone to a lot of trouble to garner community support for the class (billed, again, as a "pilot program"), so this result wasn't advertised. Nevertheless, the change agent continued to garner support for the program until it was placed in the curriculum over the objections of parents and the community.
Another problem with this particular project, states the change agent recounting the incident, was that because he had failed to make a formal survey of parent reactions to the course concept, a furor erupted when he announced that "teaching morals" was being avoided. The program was to help students "make responsible value judgments" - a goal which, he says, he had "been intentionally sliding over ... in ... discussions with the public." In any case, his noble objective backfired according to the results, since the students became more permissive of drug use and promiscuous sex according to follow-up surveys. To minimize the damage to the program, then, the opposition was labeled "extremists" and the course, despite its disappointing results, was continued.
A typical chapter subtitle (page 44) in the Havelock text, Training for Change Agents, reads "Extinguishing Existing Attitudes, Knowledge and Behavior." An excerpt from page 151 states:
The first role [of the change agent] is that of advocate-organizer-agitator ... who clarifies and defines the problem ... by helping it to surface or escalate.Again, the idea gets back to inducing a conflict and exploiting the results.
The Rand Corporation's change agent studies - full of statistical data and very hard to obtain - are essentially a set of feasibility studies. Apparently, the federal government wanted to know how difficult and costly it would be to move forward with a national version of the change-agent program. Volumes II and IV, respectively, of the Rand series are entitled Factors Affecting Change Agent Projects and Factors Affecting Implementation and Continuation. Without going into depth on these lengthy statistical studies, the titles here give a pretty good idea what the thrust of the work was. As with the other change agent documents, the federal contract number is emblazoned plainly on the front cover of each Rand volume.
Training of change agents apparently is done through the behavioral colleges - alluded to earlier. Change agentry is not a subject one majors in, exactly; it is something one more or less works his or her way into as a result of clinical and/or theoretical work performed in behavioral science. In other words, it appears that the kingpins in the behavioral field - CFAT people and others who already have made a name for themselves - scout out individuals/colleagues whom they believe will make good change agents.
What happens is that local education agencies (LEAS) discover at some point that they need help in promoting or implementing certain programs and policies. It may be a pilot program (one of those "innovative programs" department heads can access through the NDN computer), or a new guidance program, or some new policy they think parents won't like. So they call on the state, the curriculum creators, or even the federal agency (if the program concerns a federal initiative or policy) to request "technical assistance." The "help" local schools may receive from the state or federal agency will come in the form of a "change agent" - sometimes called a "technical assistant" or a "facilitator."
To implement a curriculum, the change agent will instruct the teacher by launching the pilot program.
To gain community and/or parental support for a policy, mandate, or curriculum, the change agent will form a committee comprised of the people from whom support is sought. He or she will serve as a lightning rod to draw out the objections (and, more important, the objectors) so that the target group can be manipulated toward an affirmative consensus.
This is why the change agent must be an "advocate-organizer-agitator," as described in the Havelock quote earlier.
As an "advocate," the change agent gets the target group to trust him (or her), by making the group believe he/she is on their side, a "good guy," someone who really cares what each individual in the group thinks. If the group is composed of teachers, the change agent will say: "I know how much time you spend on paperwork." If the group is parents, the change agent will commiserate: "It's so hard to get kids to want to learn, isn't it."
The change agent goes through the motions, acting as an "organizer," getting each person in the target group to voice concerns about the policy, project, or program in question. He listens attentively, forms task forces, urges everyone to make lists, and so on. While he is doing this, the change agent is learning something about each member of the target group. He is learning who the "leaders" are, who the loudmouths are, which persons seem weak or noncommittal, which ones frequently change sides in an argument.
Suddenly, Mr./Ms. Nice Guy change agent becomes Devil's Advocate. He dons his professional agitator hat and pits one group against the other. He knows exactly what he is doing, who to pit against whom. If the change agent has done his homework, he has everybody's number, as the saying goes. He deftly turns the "pro" group against the "con" group by helping to make the latter seem ridiculous, or unknowledgeable, or dogmatic, or inarticulate - whatever works. He wants certain members of the group to get mad; he is forcing tensions "to escalate." The change agent is well trained in psychological techniques; he can fairly well predict who will respond to what. The individuals against the policy or program will be shut out.
This is called the Delphi Technique. A specialized application of this technique applied specifically to teachers is called the Alinsky Method. The setting doesn't make a lot of difference except for the fact that specific groups of people tend to share certain characteristics and knowledge, which means using a specialized application of the basic technique.
The method works. It works with adults. With teachers. With schoolchildren. Even church groups. And the targets rarely, if ever, know they are being manipulated. Or, if they suspect it, they don't know how.
Eventually, certain trusted teachers, sometimes department heads, are made change agents in their own right. They conduct inservice workshops and generally get other teachers behind a program - enough to implement it, in any case.
Get The Book!Educating for the New World Order by Bev Eakman - a detailed investigation into the formation, strategy, methods and results of Outcome-Based Education.
Suggested Reading List - the Demise of the Educational System - OBE (Outcome-Based Education), NEA (National Education Association), educational psychology, German psychology & influences, demise of public education, educational sabotage, Wundt, Pavlov, Dewey, Skinner, Watson.
Say NO To Psychiatry!
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