On Walden Two – October 4, 2016

In Walden Two, behavioral psychologist, B. F. Skinner, writes about a utopian world in which babies are programmed to hate the sweet smell of flowers and love the odor of garbage so that, at some point, they will function as totally content garbage collectors.

I am often reminded of this when I witness the soulless application of today’s fill in the blank educational system in which achievement is as much about the completion of checklist as it is about the processing of numbers – you’re done with your education. Get out of here. Go find a job. Or, as Spock would say, “Live long and prosper”.

Somewhere along the line “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic” became too complicated, too demanding.

But, why? Unlike a video, reading gives one the ability to stop and concentrate on what he is reading. To think.

Writing introduces one to the concepts of declension: nominative, dative, accusative – gerunds. Correct sentences require structure. This requires creativity, thought.

Arithmetic is not just about answering a series of multiplication or division problems – please don’t mix these together. It requires the comprehension of information and the application of known theorems or formulas to arrive at the correct answer.  Again, this requires thought and reasoning capability.

Education has become soulless. Loud music and videos (conveniently stored on our iPhones) allow us to go through live and avoid the often inconvenient activity of thought.

I recently visited the campus of one of the most respected technological universities in this country. I was disturbed at how everyone moved along, earplugs in place, without acknowledging the presence of other human beings. A din of the noise from their devices protected them against interaction with others.

At the risk of being labeled a conspiracy theorist, I have to ask, is this all by design?

Just like with Walden Two, utopian systems cannot survive where there is independent thought.

Consider this the next time you cringe when someone else’s thoughts disturb your comfort zone.

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