B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) And His Humanistic Learning Machine That Wants to Change Your Child's Worldview

By Brannon S. Howse

In 1972, Burrhus Frederic Skinner—behavioral psychologist, author, and professor at Harvard University—was given the Humanist of the Year Award by the American Humanist Association. It was a well-deserved honor.

An avowed atheist, Skinner was one of the early promoters of using a machine for “remediation.” Its purpose was to aid in developing programmed learning or corrective thought control. A behavioral psychologist, Skinner believed that man is controlled by stimuli from the environment and, therefore, can never make a decision in which he exercises free will. He explained why this belief is so central to his approach to psychology: "the hypothesis that man is not free is essential to the application of scientific method to the study of human behavior." At least he made his assumption clear.

He even predicted the results his pre-supposition would lead to:

"We must expect to discover that what a man does is the result of specifiable conditions and that once these conditions have been discovered, we can anticipate and to some extent determine his actions." 

In other words, once the right stimuli, or the right conditions, are discovered, the one in charge of the stimuli can control anyone. According to Skinner in Beyond Freedom and Dignity, his vision postulates a new sort of Have’s and Have-not’s: 

"[Man] plays two roles: one as a controller, as the designer of a controlling culture, and another as the controlled, as the products of a culture."

As long as environment is controlled, he proclaimed, behavior can be controlled.

According to the New World Encyclopedia: 

[quote] Skinner is popularly known for his controversial books Walden Two and Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Walden Two describes a visit to an imaginary utopian commune in the United States in the 1940s. In this community, the productivity and happiness of the citizens is far in advance of that in the outside world, due to their practice of scientific social planning and the use of operant conditioning in the raising of children. Walden Two, like Thoreau's Walden, champions a lifestyle that does not support war, foster competition and social strife. It encourages a lifestyle of minimal consumption, rich social relationships, personal happiness, satisfying work, and leisure.Beyond Freedom and Dignity advanced the thesis that social concepts such as free will and human dignity (by which Skinner meant belief in individual autonomy) were obsolete, and stood in the way of greater human happiness and productivity. [end quote]

Creating a utopia—even in a writer’s imagination—in a small-scale, controlled community is difficult, so building it in reality on a national scale requires a quantum leap in methodology, and nowhere is the leap better prepared for by the influencers in this book than in our educational system.

The Obsolete Teacher


As school curriculum has been re-engineered by the likes of Benjamin Bloom, the job of teacher is being transformed by the work of the late B.F. Skinner—transformed to the degree that some believe the role of the teacher is disappearing from America's classrooms. Bloom’s "higher order thinking skills" and the behavioral psychology of B.F. Skinner have met in today's computer programs. The result is classrooms that no longer require a teacher, merely a facilitator to indoctrinate children with the desired government worldview. One observer noted, "Our teachers will be reduced to computer disc DJs."


In a publication titled "Technology and Outcome-Based Education in Minnesota," the Minnesota Department of Education describes this changing role: 

[quote] Machines are becoming the information givers of our society. Since professional information givers of the past may quickly be replaced by these machines, teachers need to define themselves, and act as diagnosers, prescribers, creative climate makers, instructional designers, coaches, and learning facilitators. . . . Teachers must stop functioning as information givers, putting learners in rows, trying to transmit information through worksheets and lectures. [end quote] 


Sidestepping teachers is made easier with the OBE mindset in which excuses are built into the system to allow students to underachieve. In an effort to bolster their argument for the continued use of the Whole-Language approach to reading, for instance, educators have decided some readers are "genetically indisposed toward learning phonics." 


The teacher-as-facilitator model is merely an idea that has “come of age.” As early as 1968, the "education reform movement" laid the groundwork for its future policies. A report from an educational conference at the time reveals the agenda of the educational elite: 

"The teacher will have disappeared, and his place will be taken by a facilitator of learning, focusing attention on the prime period of learning . . . from infancy to age six or eight . . . He [the student] will never be graduated."

Social engineers call this "life-long learning." 


In a 1969 speech before the 22nd Annual Teachers Education Conference at the University of Georgia, Dean Corrigan predicted that Skinner's "teaching machines will pace a student's progress, diagnose his weaknesses and make certain that he understands a fundamental concept before allowing him to advance to the next lesson." 

Programming Humans


While computers are a tremendous asset to our society and to education, technology has the potential to facilitate the "Big Brother" thinking of bureaucrats who see education and schools as a way to control society. Within the framework of B. F. Skinner’s worldview, computers can, in a hunter-becomes-the-hunted twist, be used to program people.

Skinner believed in Darwinian evolution accroding to New World Encyclopedia, and saw little difference between humans and animals: 

[quote] Skinner argued that the so-called humanistic characteristics of species, which presumably set Homo sapiens off from the rest of living evolutionary products, are in fact an illusion, created over history to give humans a sense of security. In fact, for Skinner, to be human meant to be in control, to understand and use environmental contingencies to self benefit. [end quote] 

Skinner and Karl Marx had the same mindset that dominates today's social engineers, who believe a perfect world or utopia can be created by establishing the right environment through proper conditioning, programmed learning, corrective-thought control, coercion, brainwashing, and manipulation. Dr. Skinner was so skilled at behavioral programming that he trained pigeons during World War II to pilot and detonate bombs and torpedoes. In B.F. Skinner, The Man and His Ideas, author Richard Evans quotes Skinner: "I could make a pigeon a high achiever by reinforcing it on a proper schedule." Skinner believed that by using the teaching machines he developed to reinforce desired behavior in animals, he could also program humans. 

The New World Encyclopedia makes the education connection:

[quote] Skinner's work has also been applied to the field of education. He formulated principles of programmed learning, in which reinforcement of small, incremental steps with immediate reinforcement, or reward, for the correct responses would presumably lead to learning not only of sensori-motor responses but also of verbal responses and conceptual knowledge. In fact, his ideas have been successfully incorporated in "teaching machines" as well as computer assisted instruction. [end quote]


Alienating Children from Parents

Professor Kenneth Goodman, former president of the International Reading Association, wrote to President Jimmy Carter denouncing programs based on the philosophies of B. F. Skinner because many were being funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Goodman explained to the president exactly what B. F. Skinner's programmed learning was all about:    

"In behavior management, outcomes are assumed or arbitrarily determined and the behavior of human learners is shaped, conditioned, reinforced, extinguished, rewarded or punished until the learners achieve the target behavior."

Under Mastery Learning and Outcome-Based Education, teachers are expected to track, record, and correct improper attitudes, values, feelings, and emotions of their students—an impossible task unless the teacher has help. Today computers and specialized software can track and correct students who exhibit the politically incorrect responses, even without the aid of a teacher.

Why do the agents of change want to track the beliefs of our children? One reason is to aid the diabolical quest to inculcate into our children the elite’s “higher minded” beliefs and values. And this must not be hindered by the beliefs of the child's parents. When children exhibit wrong attitudes and beliefs—likely those instilled by their parents—remediation, corrective thought control, and re-programming will be the order of business. The computer is the fastest and most effective means by which to track both a student's moral and character development to correct his or her wrong developmental behavior. 

Using Eskimos to Mold Beliefs

In 1963, under contract with the U.S. Office of Health, Education and Welfare, the National Education Association managed the Technological Development Project. It published a statement of what it was working on: 

[quote] Another area of potential development in computer applications is the attitude changing machine. Dr. Bertram Raven in the Psychology Department at the University of California in Los Angeles is in the process of building a computer-based device for changing attitude. This device will work on the principle that students' attitudes can be changed effectively by using the Socratic method of asking an appropriate series of leading questions logically designed to right the balance between appropriate attitudes and those deemed less acceptable. [end quote]

In the 1970s, a controversial social studies program called Man: A Course of Study was introduced into many American schools, and it is still in use. What was the purpose of this program? The stated purpose was "to help children by exploring in depth the lifestyle of an obscure Eskimo tribe."20 

But who designed the course? Why Eskimos, and how was it supposed to help children?

A team of experimental psychologists under Jerome S. Burner and B. F. Skinner created the course to mold children's social attitudes and beliefs along lines that set them apart and alienated them from the beliefs and moral values of their parents and local community.21 That was the assessment by Congressman John Conlan of Arizona on April 9, 1975, on the House floor.

Rep. Conlan hit the nail on the head. Skinner's programmed learning focuses on setting children apart and "alienating them from the beliefs and moral values of their parents"—particularly if those parents have attempted to instill in their children a Biblical worldview. 

Forcing Students into Line


Eventually, every school child will be working on his or her own computer, on individualized projects and assignments. Why? Because every child will have different attitudes, values, feelings, and emotions that need remediating. What will really be happening, of course, is that every student will have varying shades and types of political incorrectness that must be changed. 

According to the educational elite, every child is sick and in need of help. Dr. Pierce, professor of education and psychology at Harvard University, explains the challenge each student presents:

[quote] Every child who enters school at the age of five is mentally ill because he enters school with an allegiance toward our elected officials, our founding fathers, our institutions, the preservation of this form of government that we have, patriotism, nationalism, sovereignty. All this proves that the children are sick, because a truly well individual is one who has rejected all of those things, and is what I would call the true international child of the future. [end quote]

Curriculum will be designed to correct this “mental sickness.” Of course the question that arises is: What makes every five-year old in America sick? Could it be the five years of love and attention the child has received from his parents? Yes, in fact, that is exactly what "experts" think makes children sick. Dr. Pierce says they come to school with a set worldview—one with which he disagrees. This worldview that Dr. Pierce finds so sickening, of course, came from the child's parents. 

What Pierce really objects to is parental authority and influence, Judeo-Christian values, the traditional American family, and the Biblical worldview.

Research journalist Geoffrey Botkin notes that this is where the computer comes into play: 

"In coming stages…the government can determine how to remediate, or fix, the way the child thinks with custom software for every child . . . [the software] can create custom individualized computer drills that can force every student into line."

In the October 1999 Education Reporter, Phyllis Schlafly reported that the state of Massachusetts has developed a computer tracking system to follow personal data on every student in the state. The Massachusetts Department of Education calls it the Student Information Management System. According to Schlafly, "SIMS will eventually allow students to log onto any personal computer and access customized homework pages and personal homework folders." 

While this may sound great to some, the potential for abuse by the state is so real that it sounds frightening to me. If my concern seems unwarranted or perhaps extreme, there is reason to believe this is exactly what the educrats in Washington have in mind. 

Collecting Data about Your Child


The April 15, 1970 Washington Star featured an article titled, "Set Up Data Banks, Allen Urges Schools" by John Matthews. Matthews quotes then-U.S. Commissioner of Education James Allen as encouraging local school systems to have a central diagnostic center:

" . . . to find out everything possible about the child and his background. . . . (The Center) would know just about everything there is to know about the child—his home and family background, his cultural and language deficiencies, his health and nutrition needs and his general potential as an individual."

Allen suggests that professionals would write a "prescription" for the child "and if necessary, for his home and family as well." And how would the professionals determine which children need a prescription? According to Allen's plan, each child would "be evaluated before 6 years of age, then again at 11 and 15."

Later that same year, the Dallas Morning News on December 12, 1970 reported in “School Survey to Begin,” an article by Karen Elliott:

"By 1972, administrators expect to have complete computerized records on each of the 180,000 students in the district. When this is completed. . .they will begin compiling information on Dallas teachers and on students’ home life and socioeconomic background."

That was more almost 40 ago! The collection of student information has only increased, due both to the public's sheep-like acceptance of the practice and to improved technology that makes it easier than ever. Phyllis Schlafly’s 1999 article in Education Reporter offered an update on the progress of tracking students: 

[quote] The Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) will begin issuing ID numbers to about one million public school children this fall through a computerized tracking system called the Student Information Management System (SIMS). The system will require school districts to provide at least 35 bits of information on each student, including scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests, career plans, race, and other personal data.

[quote] The Massachusetts' Eagle-Tribune reported on August 22 that SIMS will create permanent records that will follow students throughout their years in public school. Information that formerly remained with the individual school districts will now be under state jurisdiction. The Massachusetts Department of Education's own handbook points out that SIMS data may be shared with other state or local agencies without consent, and that it will be possible for federal agencies to subpoena the state for information. Michael Sweeney, a lawyer and school committeeman in Lawrence, Massachusetts, called the process of identifying all the state's school children "outrageous" and termed it "Big Brotherism." He noted that, "a third of the information they are collecting is totally unnecessary. Any time the government starts centrally collecting information, people should worry." [end quote]


Perhaps your response is, “Well, I don't have to worry because I don't live in Massachusetts.” But Schlafly reports: 


[quote] Massachusetts officials point out that their state is not the only one introducing such a system. "About 20-25 other states have implemented or are developing similar systems." [end quote]


In a television documentary on America's educational system, Geoffrey Botkin discovered that even in 1978 the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers warned about the unlawful political abuse of electronics technology, a warning that was ignored. In 1994, IEEE published a summary of the abuses that had occurred by then:

1. The collecting of psychological, medical, sociological data on students and their families without their knowledge or consent via the NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

2. The "going on line" of the education supercomputer, the Elementary and Secondary Integrated Data System in 1989. This system linked the U.S. Department of Education with all 50 state education departments.

3. Promoting the above under the rubric of "educational restructuring" under names like Outcome-Based Education while withholding from the public the nature and extent of the data collection.

America's social engineers will stop at nothing to achieve their goal of reprogramming our youth. "Withholding from the public" is a favorite strategy for concealing their methods of collecting data about our children. B. F. Skinner would probably approve heartily of the conditioning we’ve received to think that “what we don’t know won’t hurt us.”

Copyright 2009 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative. 

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