Monday, April 26, 2010

"What will I get if I do what you want me to do?" Parents boycott PBIS at Monseigneur Remi-Gaulin school in Kingston, Ontario (part two)

(Photo by Jer Kunz)
Used with permission from, the following is from Marvin Marshall's January 2009 newsletter:
I recently received the following e-mail: "I was horrified to have a group of SECOND GRADERS ask me what I would give them if they did the work I had just assigned.  I know that rewarding has become the standard for teaching in many schools.  I hope to see this modified over time.  I hope to interest the staff at my school in learning more about the concepts of the DWS {Discipline without Stress} approach for encouraging students to become responsible, excited learners."
Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is one of these increasingly popular programs. It was created for special education students and is now being thrust on all students in many schools. The program prompts the type of student thinking described above, namely, "What will I get if I do what you want me to do?"  
PBIS is a variation of the old Skinnerian approach designed to reinforce desired behavior by using rewards as incentives. In the process of using external manipulators, intrinsic motivation for long-lasting responsible behavior is reduced--as has been repeatedly proven. Gene Griesman, Ph.D. is quoted in my book: "Several years ago, I had the opportunity to do a lengthy interview with B.F.Skinner. I concluded that I do not subscribe to much of what he taught--for example his rejection of all inferred states such as attitudes and motivation.
Last month's e-zine reported on a school in Canada that mandated teachers use the PBIS approach.  Kerry followed up on the case. She decided to see if there had been any more happening in the Canadian school where PBIS was put on hold due to the parents who decided to challenge this system.  Following is her post:
"It was Marv's posting of the original article in his December e-zine that prompted me to check in on this story again. In a follow-up article, the newspaper explains that the group of six parents hired a lawyer and prompted the school board to halt the use of PBIS in the school. There was something in Ontario law that states that parents must be consulted when the school alters its code of conduct." 
"No wonder when I contacted the woman myself and thanked her for sticking up for kids in the face of this PBIS program, she said she cried! I think the whole experience has been absolutely devastating, not only for the six families who questioned the rewards approach but also for the school.  It's too bad that such a thing had to happen to these families (whose children, keep in mind, were ALREADY WELL BEHAVED and no one ever suggests otherwise--not even the principal can say that these kids ever presented a problem at all) who simply didn't want their child's motivation level tampered with. They were already self-disciplined and well behaved; why try to appeal to them in a lower fashion with external rewards?"
"The woman, Adele Mercier, told me that when the PBIS program was in operation (and kids wore tags around their necks for teachers to punch holes in), students had to have a certain number of punches in order to try out for a soccer team, join the chess club, play on the adventure playground or even walk in the Terry Fox Walkathon to raise money for cancer. Can you believe it??"
"It's just so amazing to me that a very large number of parents in the school think that this type of thing is okay. They should be thanking the six families that took a stand. Unfortunately, much of what they think is based on misunderstandings and ignorance about the well documented [negative] results of rewarding."