Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Change of Heart?

Well, blow me down! Psychologist Tanya Byron, with a previous record for rather rigid behaviorist techniques, recommends home education as a possible solution for bullying in school.

"You can take your daughter out of school and give her a break until the school sorts things out (get support from your GP who can also provide letters about your child’s stress), or you can move her to another school. You have the right to educate her at home and you can set the curriculum with the help of organisations such as education-otherwise.org. "

Wonder how that all fits together then.

9 comments:

Allie said...

She apparently has now has some reservations about the sort of programmes she used to do. Not sure where I read that, though.

Anonymous said...

On the Raising Kids website, Dr Byron says:

"Dr Tanya Byron tells Raisingkids.co.uk why she's moving on to pastures new and what made her decide not to film any more parenting programmes.

RK: Are parents being given too much advice and information?
TB: Well I've just written a book which is going to be published in September called Your Child Your Way. Last year a number of publishers all asked me to write a parenting book and I didn't want to write another parenting book. But I've written a book that deconstructs the notion that there is a right way to parent. And I feel it's going too far – parenting's become a well-marketed product and that's why I'm not making any more parenting television programmes. I'm making different ones now from the BBC. "

D

Carlotta said...

Great to hear!

Superficially it seemed to me that by suggesting a bullied child be removed from school, that she was saying that parents should reward failure. Couldn't quite see how that sat with her other behaviourist techniques!


But perhaps it makes sense afterall.

Pete said...

Funny, she never struck me as that sort of behaviourist... and anyway, why is being bullied a sign of failure, a behaviour to be disincentivized?

She was pretty much the only one of the "parenting for the fretful" crowd I had any time for... and she was emininently reasonable about kids use of technology on the radio the other week (essentially, parents should know what their kids are playing / doing online, and as for long term "damage" from computer games, she's not saying anything until she's seen the evidence".)

Carlotta said...

Hi Pete,

In great haste and not to give a full answer just for now...

She seemed to me to have already had a change of heart and mind prior to the video consultation.

re: Byron's form of behaviourism...I have absolutely no time for the positive reinforcement malarky. To paraphrase Godwin - if something is good, then it can be shown to be good. ie: just explain the benefits of good behaviour. Don't try to manipulate and be covert and potentially irrational...and thereby assert probably mystifying and unnecessary hierarchies.

ie: explain the rationality behind moral theories.

Carlotta said...

In slightly less haste...and your question distracted me for quite a lot of our journey, Pete, though did manage not to drive off the road....re: "why is being bullied a sign of failure, a behaviour to be disincentivized?"

I was speaking from what I imagined to be her perspective at that point in time...ie: that if a child is bullied, and presumably he/she would rather not be, then it could be said to be a failure on the part of the child to stop the bullies from bullying. This, after all, is not an uncommon belief in schools...that it is somehow the victim's own shortcomings that results in the bullying.

Pete said...

Wow, that's a pretty nasty (though sadly, if tacitly, common) attitude to attribute to someone else... have you seen her indulging in that kind of "blame the victim" nonsense?

I know it's common amongst many cog behaviour types, especially in the life coaching fraternity, but I never saw Dr TB doing that kind of thing, that i can remember.

Also, positive reinforcement, in my experience, works a great deal better when the person is told the whole of the why's and wherefore's of the reinforcement. I haven't seen TB working otherwise, really...

As for "explaining the benefits of good behaviour", well, by doing so, you're de facto providing cognitive feedback, I don't think it can be done unemotionally, and any attempt to do so would, if I tried it, be far more manipulative and passive aggressive than open handed positive and negative reinforcement techniques.

Carlotta said...

Wow, Pete,...you are opening up a box of goodies here!

To start with my weakest point, you asked:

"have you seen her indulging in that kind of "blame the victim" nonsense?"

No, not specifically in relation to this problem, though unquestionably have in numerous other incidents, where I felt that she imposed positive reinforcement on the child when it really was not their fault at all. I was perhaps being unfair in this instance, though am not sure how far I was being unfair.

I suspect that even if she didn't indulge in a belief that it was the victim's intractable shortcomings that were responsible for the failure to stop the bullying, that she might well, at least in her previous life, have viewed being bullied as a failure of the coping strategies of the victim, and that positive reinforcement in this context would relate to trying to correct these shortcomings.

"Also, positive reinforcement, in my experience, works a great deal better when the person is told the whole of the why's and wherefore's of the reinforcement. I haven't seen TB working otherwise, really..."

On the few occasions I remember her providing these sorts of apparently rational explanations, she did so in such an infallible and dogmatic sort of a way, that it was impossible not to suspect that she adhered to a toe-curlingly awful epistemology. I distinctly remember her saying something entirely along the lines of..."I know I am right...I am an expert. I have a degree in psychology, I have loads of experience and I know what I am doing..." which had to leave any Popperian with their pseudo-scientific radar on and their fallibility buttons set to sensitive, with the very strong suspicion that she hadn't a clue!

"As for "explaining the benefits of good behaviour", well, by doing so, you're de facto providing cognitive feedback, I don't think it can be done unemotionally, and any attempt to do so would, if I tried it, be far more manipulative and passive aggressive than open handed positive and negative reinforcement techniques."

Ok here's the thing: one can (and I believe should) offer moral explanations (indeed all theories) tentatively....as would all good critical rationalists, knowledge being tentative and all that! In a relationship of critical rationalists, there is no unquestionable authority. A child may challenge a parent and vice versa. Both may grow knowledge together. If a child is able to offer a good alternative explanation that with criticism appears better than the parent's theory, the parent will adopt the child's theory.

Also, in this scheme of things, both parent and child will be seeking moral explanations that make both sets of people happy, since this in itself seems to be a sensible and rational moral theory.

All of which means that moral explanations are set in a context which ensures an absense of manipulation and hierarchy.

I do find it difficult to see how positive reinforcement cannot but be inherently much more hierarchical and therefore, without any other apparent fault, much more irrational.

I blogged about Dr. Byron's methods and a better epistemology here:

http://daretoknowblog.blogspot.com/2005/06/debilitating-effects-of-positive.html

This had a link to the Taking Children Seriously website which explains this much more fully, though suspect you did Popper at uni, Pete, so probably old hat.

Dr. T said...

Good for her. I think everyone should do this, then the schools can be left with nothing but the bullies bullying each other, learning all about self-esteem.