The Past Is Prologue: Suggestions for Moving Forward in Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Posted on October 10, 2011

The Past Is Prologue

The behavioral approach to teaching was relatively new in 1967 and considerably more helpful to teachers than the psychodynamic ideas of just accepting behavior and trying to understand unconscious motivations (Berkowitz & Rothman, sildenafil 1960). We were really excited by the ‘‘new’’ science of applied behavior analysis, cheap and the early work of Ivar Lovaas at University of California, help Los Angeles, with autistic children and the launching in 1968 of the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis really thrilled us. Frank Hewett’s book The Emotionally Disturbed Child in the Classroom (Hewett, 1968), which described the engineered classroom, was a significant contribution to educational methodology for students with EBD. We thought these publications were just more examples of how a behavioral approach was going to revolutionize everything. We saw almost unlimited possibilities for understanding human behavior (especially that of students with EBD) and how to shape and maintain desirable behavior. Our early years as doctoral students and beginning assistant professors were heady days indeed, ones that seemed kissed by the sun of scientific advances.

And now…

As you pursue your own career, we also hope that you will keep this in mind: What is popular today ultimately may not be the wave of the immediate future or even of the days you have left to work, regardless of any scientific evidence in its favor. Politics, religion, or ideology may carry the day in the short term (well, 50 or 100 years may seem like forever, but, believe us, it’s not). Ultimately, scientific evidence wins out over the alternatives because order always overcomes disorder (Wilson, 1998). So, our advice, even though we’ve had our share of disappointments (Kauffman, 2003; Nelson, 2003), is to persevere, to pursue the vision of Enlightenment science, which is to find the regular (i.e., things that happen with regularity under given conditions) or predictable in the seeming chaos of behavioral disorders. The futures of children and youth with EBD depend on it!

Authors: C. Michael Nelson, University of Kentucky, and James M. Kauffman, University of Virginia

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