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6 Lake Village In the lab the experimenter tries to be a dictator. He tries to achieve total control, changing individual variables at his discretion. . . . As soon as the experimenter himself becomes a subject, certain methodologies become far less practical and far less attractive.” —Roger Ulrich, “Toward Experimental Living, Phase II” despite the fact that Skinner’s utopia was eagerly discussed in the academic realm, few Walden Two communities were born directly out of academia . One of them was Lake Village, founded in 1971. Although the community departed rapidly from the behaviorist path, Lake Village was originally conceptualized as a scientific, behaviorist experiment, complete with funding, progress reports, and the collection and interpretation of scienti fic data. In keeping with the manner in which almost all of the communally oriented behaviorist readers interpreted Walden Two, the Lake Village group understood Skinner’s utopia less as a blueprint for communal living than as an invitation to design its own version of a new, improved society that would make extensive use of the experimental analysis of behavior . At the center of the founding group stood thirty-four-year-old Roger Ulrich , who became the head of the psychology department at Western Michigan University (WMU) in Kalamazoo in 1965 and quickly turned the department into a widely known center for behavioral research (Ulrich, “Some Moral” 36). Ulrich’s research was mainly concerned with the relationship between pain and aggression in laboratory animals but soon expanded to the application of behavioral techniques in the field of education. Together with a group of students, Ulrich founded a preschool program called the Learning Village. This preschool, located in a disadvantaged area of Kalamazoo, was designed to use behavior-modification techniques with young children who were likely to perform badly in school. Looking back, Ulrich recalls that he “really believed that behavioral engineering could make 02.41-78_Kuhl.indd 55 3/29/05 4:01:05 PM 56 . walden two among behaviorists profound changes in human life, and that, with a little caution, those changes would surely be for the better” (“Some Moral” 37).The enthusiastic young teachers of the Learning Village were therefore surprised to learn that some of the people in the African American community they were primarily serving were somewhat resentful of the white teacher/black student setup, no matter how well-intentioned and progressive the teachers (Ulrich and Metheany 26–68). These first hands-on experiences with people resenting the introduction of positive-reinforcement procedures without being asked to participate in the design left Ulrich and the other young teachers of the preschool unperturbed : “It was as if we had found a new religion. The entire universe was accessible and easily packaged. We used Science to explain everything just like some Christians use God” (“Experimental Living II” 58). Soon after the LearningVillage opened its doors in 1967,Ulrich was taking his enthusiasm for Skinner’s new science one step further. If behavior modi fication was effective with students, why not apply it to society as a whole? Combining the ideas of teaching young children and living communally, Ulrich proposed a community of behavioral engineers who would take in abandoned children and give them a home. Not only would the new communards use behavioral techniques to improve their own behavior, they would also mold a generation of children free of aggression and eager to help solve society’s problems: “Originally, as I attempted to get into doing an experimental community, I saw it as an extension of my earlier efforts in behavior analysis and modification. I thought, wrote, and said that I and my friends could, in a group living arrangement, apply the scientific analysis of behavior to our own lives. We could, at the same time, be both subjects and experimenters” (“Some Moral” 37). It seems that the fundamental difference between a setting in which one modifies the behavior of other people and a setting in which one’s own behavior is open to modification was not perceived at this point in the planning process, or at least not perceived as a problem. As will be shown later, the future communards were confident that science would provide objective answers about which behavior ought to be reinforced and by whom. This trust in science and the desirability of appointing scientists as omnipotent decision makers for the sake of utopia, strongly reminiscent of Walden Two, is spelled out clearly by Ulrich: “For the most part, Skinner was our...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780252091650
Related ISBN
9780252029622
MARC Record
OCLC
811409117
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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