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By Charlotte Iserbyt
June 6, 2014

Click on following video link from Bosnia, formerly part of Communist Yugoslavia. The time spent viewing this video may be the best time you ever put into studying what is really going on in your child's classroom now that books have been removed, and each child will have his/her own computer, connected with the central offices' data base. Be sure to check my new for Anita Hoge's pending excellent submissions related to assessment, data collection, and the use of your child's and your family's most private information: to whom it is being given, and for what purposes.

Click to view the video
DOSITEJ project - empowering education

There were concerns in United States academia, back in 1972, regarding the wholesale use of computer technology in education. Were these concerns put aside due to global corporate and political pressure? Don't forget the late Professor B.F. Skinner, the U.S. father of operant conditioning, referred to the computer as "his box." The following quotation comes from my book the deliberate dumbing down of america (p. 196-197), explain in clearly Professor Skinner’s views regarding the use of “his box” in the classrooms of America. From an article titled “THERE HAS BEEN A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE ABOUT TEACHING: B.F. SKINNER ARGUES that Pedagogy Is Key to School Reforms” by Susan Walton, Education Week, August 31, 1983:

“Improving methods of teaching would do more to help public education than would lengthening the school day or any of the other reforms proposed by the National Commission on Excellence in Education and other groups that have recently issued reports on education. So argues B.F. Skinner, the Harvard University psychologist whose pioneering theories about and studies on the “conditioning” of behavior have had a substantial impact on education. Still a source of controversy 40-odd years after Mr. Skinner began his research, those theories have been instrumental in the development of mastery learning and the “teaching machines” of the 1960s. The behavioral scientist’s work has also been an integral part of the debate over individualized instruction.... Central to Mr. Skinner’s thinking on education are the notions that children should be allowed to learn at their own pace and that teachers should rely on“reinforcers” or rewards, to strengthen patterns of behavior that they want to encourage.

Mr. Skinner argues that computers, as they are most commonly used, are essentially sophisticated versions of the “teaching machines” of the 1960s…. Pointing to recent articles and reports on how to improve education, Mr. Skinner argues that one central fallacy is that it is more important for teachers to know their subject matter than to know how to teach it. Mr. Skinner also advises that educators stop making all students advance at essentially the same rate.... No teacher can teach a class of 30 or 40 students and allow each to progress at an optimal speed. Tracking is too feeble a remedy. We must turn to INSTRUMENTS [emphasis in original] for a large part of the school curriculum. The psychologist also urges educators to “program” subject matter. “The heart of the teaching machine, call it what you will, is the programming of instruction—an advance not mentioned in any of the reports I have cited,” he writes. He argues “the reinforcing consequences of being right” will eventually prompt students to do what they are supposed to do, but to elicit the behavior the first time,their behavior must be “primed” and “prompted.” “Programmed instruction,” Mr. Skinner contends, makes “very few demands on teachers.”

Here’s a brief video clip (1:22 min) of Professor B. F. Skinner himself giving a demonstration of advanced pigeon training to birds who had already been conditioned.

Here are some very important quotes from BF Skinner:

(1) Operant behavior is shaped and maintained by its consequences for the individual. Both processes have controversial features. Neither one seems to have any place for a prior plan or purposes. In both, selection replaces creation.

Personal freedom also seems threatened. It is only the feeling of freedom, however, which is affected. Those who respond because their behavior has had positively reinforcing consequences usually feel free. They seem to be doing what they want to do. Those who respond because the reinforcement has been negative and who are therefore avoiding or escaping from punishment are doing what they have to do and do not feel free. These distinctions do not involve the fact of freedom.

(2) Operant conditioning shapes behavior as a sculptor shapes a lump of clay. Science and Human Behavior (NY: Macmillan & Co., 1953)

(3) I could make a pigeon a high achiever by reinforcing it on a proper schedule. Evans, Richard I., B. F. Skinner: The Man and His Ideas, (NY: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1968)

THE MEAT OF THIS ARTICLE FOLLOWS!!! (I hope you read through to this point! Since this is the point of the article.) The following quotes are from leading American educators associated with the National Education Association, and from one official in the U.S. Department of Education regarding the potential misuse of computers in the schools. First, in 1984, SCHOOLING AND TECHNOLOGY, VOL. 3, PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: A COLLABORAtive Model, An Interpretive Report on Creative Partnerships in Technology—An Open Forum by Dustin H. Heuston, World Institute for Computer-Assisted Teaching (WICAT) was published under a grant from the U.S. Office of Education, HEW, National Institute of Education, which, under the heading “Discussion: Developing the Potential of an Amazing Tool” in Schooling and Technology, stated:

“We’ve been absolutely staggered by realizing that the computer has the capability to act as if it were ten of the top psychologists working with one student.... You’ve seen the tip of the iceberg. Won’t it be wonderful when the child in the smallest county in the most distant area or in the most confused urban setting can have the equivalent of the finest school in the world on that terminal and no one can get between that child and the curriculum? We have great moments coming in the history of education.” [excerpted from my book the deliberate dumbing down of america, page 213.]

Let's step back in time to 1972 and 1981 when plans were being made by leading computer technologists/scientists for the implementation of computers in the schools. I, Charlotte, while working in the U.S. Department of Education in 1981-1983, examined a request for federal funding of Project BEST: Basic Educational Skills through Technology, the federal grant that I leaked to Human Events, for which I was subsequently fired.

In doing so I located, deep in the education archives of the Department, in a separate building, a document (scroll down to end of article) which was referred to in the Request for Funding of Project BEST. This 1972 document, edited by Donald Ely, who subsequently became involved in the 1981 Project BEST which I leaked to the press, is of extreme importance since it reveals the concerns of leading computer experts related to the power of the computer to change one's values, attitudes, and beliefs.

The National Education Association also expressed some of the same concerns outlined in the 1972 paper. Here is the NEA's 1981 SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON INSTRUCtional Technology Report which was presented to their 60th Representative Assembly, held July 4–7, 1981. This report was related to the problems of programmed learning (computer assisted instruction), and stated:

In its coming involvement with a technology of instruction, the profession will be faced again with the challenge of leadership—by example and by effective communication— the challenge of convincing the public that education is much more than treating students like so many Pavlovian dogs, to be conditioned and programmed into docile acceptance of a do-it-yourself blueprint of the Good Life.

The problems associated with technology, in its final analysis, are problems of freedom and control. Whose freedom? Whose control? As a result of its study, the committee urges the Association to view the problems and promises of instructional technology not as a single issue but rather as a broad continuum of issues affecting all aspects of education and teaching—from purposes to products, from political pragmatism to professional practice. Most problems produced by technology have to do with the human use of human beings. In his book, The Illusion of Technique: A Search for Meaning in a Technological Civilization (Doubleday: New York, 1978), William Barrette observes that—

“Human creativity exceeds the mechanisms it invents, and is required even for their intelligent direction.... If we try to flee from our human condition into the computer we only meet ourselves there.”[Excerpted from my book, page 174.]

Evidently, in 2014, the use of computers has been accepted without examining the ethical questions posed in the 1981 NEA paper, or the 1971 paper. One should also refer to my blog Post "Education, Technology, and Individual Privacy" by Larry Grayson, one of the leading computer technology experts in the U.S. Department of Education. Click on: ABCs of Dumb Down: HOW TO HELP PROTECT STUDENTS...

The following excerpted material from a 1972 document is also taken from my book (pp. A-35-38) is from a report, “The Field of Educational Technology: A Statement of Definition,” by Donald P. Ely, Ed., October 1972:

...Is technology neutral?

The oretically, technology in the “pure” state is neutral in its operation, simply the powerful and faithful servant of the society it serves but does not affect. But institutionalized technology in the real world is never that pure. Once embedded in socioeconomic systems, it tends to become self-justifying and self-perpetuating and does indeed affect the society it serves.

Technology neatly separates ends from means, and attempts to become neutral by divorcing itself from value-laden ends. However, if technology is independent of means, then its worth must be measured by the degree of success and the efficiency with which it achieves the goals set before it. Thus, the technological thrust in modern society is to continually refine and strengthen the means whatever the goal.

The net result, which has been pointed out by many scholars of technology, is that the means tend to become the ends. The means which sometimes serve as the end of technology are NOT neutral. As most critics of technology have pointed out, these means have effects—effects which are not neutral at all. Whether the effects are positive or negative is a question for debate, but neutrality is a choice which does not exist.

For example, it is clear that technology has effects on man, but what are they? One position is that technology exerts a subtle force to reduce human beings to standardized components which can readily be assimilated to whatever system is being served. It absorbs them into man-machine systems by robbing them of their humanity and making them human machines.

The opposing position states that technology makes humaneness and difference possible. It creates the options we need for true freedom, and creates a world which allows divergent value systems.

The opposite of the neutral technician is what we might call the concentrated professional. This person realizes that the means make the ends possible, and that cooperation or hindrance makes ends possible or impossible. The concerned professional has a point of view about the ends and then decides whether or not the work being done will make possible positive or negative ends.

If it is decided the work will bring about negative ends, the concerned professional refuses to perform it.

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The scientist working on genetic selection and manipulation because “it can help eliminate disease from the human race” and those who have quit working on it because it will “lead to totalitarian domination by a master race” are examples of concerned professionals. Regardless of their position, they have considered the ends of their work and made a decision to work or not based on how they viewed those ends.

It should be clear that the concerned professional does not have to be a “liberal” or a “conservative.” The concerned professional must however, show moral sensitivity to the effect of what he or she does. [emphasis in original]

It does not matter what position an individual comes to as long as it is not “I’ll do it because it can be done.”…

Another version of this article originally appeared at Charlotte Iserbyt's NEW Blog: Please go there and ENJOY a virtual tour through time with specific focus on American education, past, present, and future!

� 2014 Charlotte T. Iserbyt - All Rights Reserved

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Charlotte Iserbyt is the consummate whistleblower! Iserbyt served as Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education, during the first Reagan Administration, where she first blew the whistle on a major technology initiative which would control curriculum in America's classrooms. Iserbyt is a former school board director in Camden, Maine and was co-founder and research analyst of Guardians of Education for Maine (GEM) from 1978 to 2000. She has also served in the American Red Cross on Guam and Japan during the Korean War, and in the United States Foreign Service in Belgium and in the Republic of South Africa.

Iserbyt is a speaker and writer, best known for her 1985 booklet Back to Basics Reform or OBE: Skinnerian International Curriculum and her 1989 pamphlet Soviets in the Classroom: America's Latest Education Fad which  covered the details of the U.S.-Soviet and Carnegie-Soviet Education Agreements which remain in effect to this day. She is a freelance writer and has had articles published in Human Events, The Washington Times, The Bangor Daily News, and included in the record of Congressional hearings.








Technology neatly separates ends from means, and attempts to become neutral by divorcing itself from value-laden ends. However, if technology is independent of means, then its worth must be measured by the degree of success and the efficiency with which it achieves the goals set before it. Thus, the technological thrust in modern society is to continually refine and strengthen the means whatever the goal.