The Three Educator Challenges
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
· Social relationships are governed by what psychologists call “differential reinforcement”. That is, society attempts to control the behavior of its members by rewarding the behaviors it wants more of and punishing the behaviors it wants less of. Because this approach is so woven into the fabric of daily life, we generally take it for granted…it seems “natural”.
· Reward-and-punishment may be the only way very large groups (like cities and countries) can function (a questionable idea). But, for small, human-sized groups, like families or schools, reward-and-punishment is very ineffective and inefficient. This is because humans are selected by evolution to seek liberty and to reject control.
· A WED Educator’s first, great, challenge is moving away from a “Control” model to an “Authority” model. We define Control as crude, hierarchical dominance. Control invariably results in some ugly mix of mindless rebellion and deadening compliance (Fromm used the term “irrational authority” for our “Control” – which he said results in sado-masochism – and the term “rational authority” for our “Authority”). Interest in Control is largely delusional – we cannot effectively and efficiently Control others while promoting their fullest development. We define Authority as voluntarily granted influence. It requires respect for the autonomy of the individual. Not attempting to Control others encourages them to let down their defenses and grant Authority, opening up to educational guidance. Note: Isn’t it ironic how we proudly proclaim our desire to help people become confident, independent, critically-thinking, and impossible to manipulate – unless it’s us doing the manipulating! Then we just want them to do as we say, just because “we said so”.
· A WED Educator’s second, great, challenge is to neither punish nor enable imbalanced behavior. Punishment is retaliatory violence and so is antithetical to the unconditional Love of the Ideal Parent/Ideal Educator and the Core Principles of WED. The simple, honest message of punishment is “you have hurt, now you will be hurt”. Violence begets violence, and so this approach is not only unethical, but ineffective. When someone does not practice The Behavioral Guidelines© of the group, they need our Love and support – but we must also be careful not to enable their imbalance. Following WED’s Four Rs, we first Reflect on our perception and practice, and prepare ourselves to gently Remind the person of our mutual commitment to practice The Guidelines (using questions!). Then, after sufficient attempts at reminding are made, we may be forced to Restrict a member from the group. Now, it is true that we know Restriction will feel punishing to the restricted member (Note: For hundreds of thousands of years if you were restricted from the group, you died…so, Restriction is deeply encoded in the human brain as intolerable. This is why humans are what anthropologists call “gregarious animals”). We are relying on the internally punishing feeling of Restriction to help the restricted member consider their natural need to be a positive member of a group – but we are not doing the punishing. Restriction is the group’s way of respecting an individual’s autonomy to decide whether to practice with the group or not, fulfilling its duty to promote the pro-socialization of each member, and protecting the group as a whole from negative influence, while affirming that practice of The Guidelines are non-negotiable for all members. Restriction should result only in safe separation from the group and group privileges until and hopefully when commitment to practicing The Guidelines can be reconfirmed. To do more than that is to move from loving, natural consequences to violence. If handled properly, even physical restraint (by EMT or police – not by a group member) can be an expression of positive group culture and enlightened leadership. Finally, when it can be believably confirmed that a restricted member is recommitted to practicing The Guidelines, they must be Reintegrated. Remember, we are not interested in punishing – only practice!
· A WED Educator’s third, great, challenge is avoiding adversarial dynamic. We must model our commitment to practicing The Guidelines by avoiding any impulse or inducement to fight. Our verbal and paraverbal message must be “I choose to remain a loving, positive member of our group, and there is nothing anyone can do to change that”.