Whole Sort Of Genl Mish Mash
You got my attention with this one. Excellent article, by the way. I wish more people were yelling its contents from the mountaintop (but I’m not going to hold my breath).
I believe, over time, the Educationalist error becomes apparent in the lack of progress of a typically developing child. The damage becomes particularly pronounced in children who have educational or developmental delays.
I have personally witnessed, for example, autistic children who have transitioned from a very well structured classroom where target skills are broken down into small component skills, and the small component skills are learned systematically until the target is acquired, into a classroom using a “self-directed” methodology. Theoretically, according to the Educationalist, the children should flourish in such an environment. The sad reality, however, is that nearly every child who transitions from the former, highly structured learning environment into a “self-directed” learning environment suffers significant regression, resulting of loss of acquired skills or, in some cases, reoccurrence of previously extinguished self-injurious or aggressive behaviors.
The Educationalist’s error, therefore, has caused real and lasting harm to these children. If the error is not soon corrected, independence will probably not be an option for many of the children who, in the proper learning environment, have a very real and attainable chance of becoming self-reliant when they reach adulthood.
The article writer wrote:
Such thinking is contradicted by the obvious fact that self-expression is not innate but acquired: the self, too, is a social product.
This “obvious fact”, in my opinion, was nearly lost in the body of the author’s essay, but the point he is making is critical to recognize. All learned behaviors are the product of some previous conditioning. Take, for example, one of the most fundamental means of self-expression we acquire – speech. Different speech sounds that comprise words were reinforced during very early stages of development in China, than those that were reinforced in England or the United States. As language develops, those sounds and words are paired with objects or abstractions that elicit certain responses (whether pleasant or unpleasant) and those typical responses in the respective cultures shape the use of language in literature, oratory, and conversation. Our social environment shapes so much of our behavior, that I would not be able to begin to try to discern the line of demarcation between my “self-expression” and conditioned responses. Such a line, if I were to construct one, would probably be imaginary.
In my view, there is very little room in the conditioning process for randomness and spontaneity. If an apparently random behavior is reinforced by chance, then the result could be either the a case of accidental learning, acquisition of superstitious behavior, or a behavior that has very little resistance to extinction (because there is no way to continuously reinforce that behavior).
I believe the foundation of great artistic ability is learned. Genius may impact the speed at which requisite skills are acquired (i.e., become conditioned), but the simple fact of the matter is that a systematic approach to developing those foundational skills equips the child to begin to learn how to generalize (or discriminate) that acquired knowledge appropriately to create a beautiful piece of art. Even “creative” behavior is shaped, however. If you paint something and you are reinforced by the positive feedback you get from your critics, you are more likely to repeat many of the links in the chain of responses that were reinforced. In a different social circle, the same painting may be harshly criticized and, in such a case, the chain of responses is less likely to be repeated (i.e., the behavior will be extinguished).
Thanks for providing me with a moment's distraction, Brad. I enjoyed it.