A disclaimer: I taught in one of those facilities for a year, and interned in another. So I perhaps have a perspective different from some. But: None of what he (or she) says surprises me. A “Behavior Center” is all about behavior, not pedagogy, and students fall behind for every year they stay in the center. Yet the notion of “mainstreaming” students in a “Behavior Center”… it never happens. The brutal way that the system was enforced at the special school he attended… far too common.
In my own case, I subverted the system and went to a military-style merit/demerit system, with heavy emphasis on the “merit” part, with plentiful rewards for students who exhibited desired behaviors. I maintained the paperwork that said I was following “the system” but it was fake, every single scrap of it was fake. The school I taught at was nowhere near as brutal as the school mentioned above… but there was another school, the one where I interned, that was more brutal, where causing pain to children was done on a regular basis, where children regularly spent extended periods of time in the timeout room.
So why do these things happen, you ask? I’ll tell you why they happen. It isn’t because the staff are evil. The staff are generally people with the best of intentions who do care about the students. These things happen because the staff at these schools doesn’t know any better. They do what they were trained to do by people who themselves didn’t know any better, and are told that they must keep doing what they were trained to do or the children will never get better. As a practical pragmatist I abandoned what I was trained to do when it clearly simply didn’t work to help the children, and instead moved to applying the behavioral theory that I’d learned in college, adapting it to my conditions and adding a military veneer because that’s what I knew… but to do that I had to do what I did, which was fake the paperwork saying I was following “the system”. But “the system” didn’t work. And most people simply follow “the system” whether it works or not, trusting those who tell them that if “the system” isn’t working, it’s just because they’re not trying hard enough or are doing it wrong. Something which I was told multiple times before I finally abandoned “the system” as simply not working for me and my students. But people have faith that if they just follow “the system” correctly, it will work for them. Because after all, they’re just peons, not experts. And the experts say it’ll work, and give them reasons why it should work if implemented right, so… it isn’t their place to question “the system”.
Thinking about that, the same applies to politics as practiced today. Right-wing economic prescriptions don’t work. As a practical pragmatist, I look at that and say “we need to try something else.” But a right winger says that the right-wing economic prescripts WILL work, if we just implement them correctly. If they aren’t working, it’s because we’re not doing it right — we aren’t doing enough austerity, we aren’t cutting government spending enough, we’re not tightening up the money supply enough. That’s what their experts tell them, that all we have to do is follow “the system” correctly, and it will work. Even if it doesn’t work. Even if it has never worked. Because what else can you do, if this is what the so-called experts say has to be done?
So it goes.
– Badtux the Pragmatic Penguin