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Volume 2, Issue 1 (1973)

Humanistic Goals and Behaviorist Technology

pp. 3—9

“Are you a behaviorist or a humanist?” This question is being asked of some of us with increasing frequency. Recently I have been tempted to reply that the question is analogous to “Are you a woman or a person ?” Many of us, and our ranks are growing daily, are both behaviorists and humanists. But having said that, I must immediately confess to some unsureness about what being a humanist means in the context of the question. People who ask the question appear to mean by humanist something which is in fact opposed to or irreconcilably different from behaviorist. But to me, humanist implies no such thing. The term is used so broadly and easily today that it clearly does not connote a rigorous philosophical position. Rather it seems to be intended to convey a caring about human values and persons; and, perhaps, an opposition to the dehumanizing (a better-understood word) forces besetting us on every side. Terms like affective, warm, and open are often heard in discussions of humanism. When I apply the term to myself I mean that my overriding concerns are with making this world more conducive to and receptive to the human spirit as it loves and cares for other human spirits. It means that schools should be for kids, not against them. It means that administrators should respect and support teachers, not manipulate and patronize them. In short, it means “up” with people. (And, obviously, it means that it is acceptable on occasion to use fuzzy, vague terms to try to illustrate real and important concepts.)

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