"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, January 10, 2014

When Corporate Psychology Replaces Child Development, KIPP Style

Dr. Martin Seligman is the most prominent leader of the popular movement and corporate cult known as positive psychology, which Dr. Bryant Welch describes as modern day version of Norman Vincent Peale's "power of positive thinking."

Dr. Seligman is also the richest leader of the movement, after landing a $119 million contract from Pentagon generals in 2009 to administer positive psychology treatments to returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some clips from Bryant Welch's reporting on this:

. . . .In August of 2009, in an announcement carried by the New York Times, Dr. Seligman reported that the military has developed a $119 million program to train 1.1 million American troops in the techniques of "Positive Psychology" aka the Psychology of Optimism. "Positive Psychology" was developed by Dr. Seligman. While Positive Psychology has developed some following in the mental health field, personally, I have not been able to find a meaningful distinction between it and Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking. Both emphasize substituting positive thoughts for unhappy or negative ones.
In announcing the new military program, Dr. Seligman explained his view of the connection between Positive Psychology and military trauma.
"Psychology has given us this whole language of pathology, so that a soldier in tears after seeing someone killed thinks, 'Something's wrong with me; I have post-traumatic stress,' or P.T.S.D.. The idea here is to give people a new vocabulary, to speak in terms of resilience. Most people who experience trauma don't end up with P.T.S.D.; many experience post-traumatic growth." . . . .
. . . . A "new vocabulary" is not what Johnny needed. When the mind is overwhelmed by emotional trauma, as it often is in combat where troops see comrades blown to bits, it is not fixed by mind control techniques that replace negative thoughts with positive ones as the positive thinking model implies.

To the contrary, had I told Johnny to change the way he thought about things I would have been denying him any form of human understanding and contact which can only occur in a reality-based acknowledgment of one's predicament. No, this does not mean Johnny should spend a lifetime wallowing in self pity. But it does mean that reality had to be acknowledged. There had to be at least one person in his life who could acknowledge with him that what had happened to him was "catastrophic."
This same principle is true with troops preparing for combat. A mind that accepts exhortations to "look at things differently" is neither independent nor resilient. It is compliant and vulnerable to exercising bad judgment or no judgment at all. That is the primary lesson we should have learned from Abu Grahib. . . .
What does this have to do with KIPP, besides the fact that Seligman helped KIPP co-founder, David Levin, develop his character training total compliance program that has become as important in KIPP schools as the achievement testing regime.  
The character training that most of us know, based on  honesty, stewardship, kindness, generosity, courage, freedom, justice, equality, and respect?  Gone at KIPP.

Seligman and Levin have a new list of virtues to suit the market-based positivity: zest, grit, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity.

With Seligman's name now tainted by blood money from the Pentagon for converting returning GIs with PTSD into smiling zombies demanding another tour of duty, the magic wand of positivity has been passed to Seligman's disciple, Angela Duckworth, who has developed specific lessons to help children understand that adults yelling at them is their own fault--and that the yelling will stop if they can work harder, be nicer, and oh yes, be more positive.
Now YOU can join in the positivity training to learn how to brainwash your own children at home, your students at school, or yourself!  On Coursera, with David Levin, Adjunct professor of Positivity.  Ta-da!  
The course is offered through the entirely-bogus Relay School of Education, which offers teaching credential for training non-teachers in how to raise test scores under any condition.  Get it woven into your students' DNA today!  Teach them to stop feeling poor and to start thinking positive.
And now, here's Professor Dave on Adderall, or is that Ritalin?
See you in class!!!  

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