Thorndike won, and Dewey lost. You can’t understand the history of education unless you realize this. I don’t think you can understand the history of education technology without realizing this either. And I’d go one step further: you cannot understand the history of education technology in the United States during the twentieth century – and on into the twenty-first – unless you realize that Seymour Papert lost and B. F. Skinner won.

Skinner won; Papert lost. Thorndike won; Dewey lost. Behaviorism won.

It seems to really bother folks when I say this. It’s not aspirational enough or something. Or it implies maybe that we’ve surrendered. Folks will point to things like maker-spaces to argue that progressive education is thriving. But I maintain, even in the face of all the learn-to-code brouhaha, that multiple choice tests have triumphed over democratically-oriented inquiry. Indeed, when we hear technologists champion “personalized learning,” it’s far more likely that what they envision draws on Skinner’s ideas, not Dewey’s.

Source: Behaviorism Won

See also:

Mood after skimming some recommended industry books: Ween your leadership off leadership books and prescriptions of behaviorism and peak neurotypicalism.

Why Computing Belongs Within the Social Sciences

I agree. Computing is already a social science.

Computing has productized and popularized the worst of the social sciences, notably behaviorism.

Persuasion and Operant Conditioning: The Influence of B. F. Skinner in Big Tech and Ed-tech

Instead, adopt the best of social science so that we stop doing harm at scale.

Design is Tested at the Edges: Intersectionality, The Social Model of Disability, and Design for Real Life

It’s been a thoroughly demoralizing few weeks on the advocacy front with a progressive Democrat endorsing ABA in education and the vile flood of ableism from the left directed at disabled self-advocates for sharing tales of ableism in the gig economy.

I cling to the bright spot that is Alfie Kohn’s powerful piece of advocacy against behaviorism in ed.

Autism and Behaviorism

See also his previous piece on behaviorism.

It’s Not About Behavior

…behaviorism represents a reductive, experience-denying caricature of science that is still trapped in the century-old ideology of logical positivism. It gives real science a bad name.

Source: Autism and Behaviorism – Alfie Kohn

If their theory collapses the richness of human experience into measurable behaviors and their practice relies on objectifying children, is it really surprising that the widespread antipathy for ABA expressed by people who have had it done to them doesn’t seem to faze its practitioners and proponents one bit? Behaviorists see only behaviors. The experience of those to whom they’re doing things is, if you’ll excuse the expression, outside the spectrum of what they’ve been trained to detect and address.

Source: Autism and Behaviorism – Alfie Kohn

ABA is rooted in an ideology that proudly stays on the surface, committed to reinforcing whatever behaviors the people who control the reinforcements endorse and extinguishing those they don’t. This focus on behavior — on that which can be seen and quantified — isn’t just problematic theoretically (reflecting a truncated understanding of human psychology) and ethically; it also fails from a practical perspective, as has been demonstrated repeatedly. If you train an autistic kid to stop rocking or squealing or flapping his hands, you have done exactly nothing to address what elicited that self-regulating or self-stimulating behavior and its emotional significance to him. Kids need to feel safe; ABA just eliminates the (unusual) ways he tries to attain that safety — for example, by elaborately praising him for “quiet hands.”

Source: Autism and Behaviorism – Alfie Kohn