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Too Much Science In Walden Two By B.F. Skinner

1446 words - 6 pages

Too Much Science?

In the 1930s, Europe began to fall under the shadow of socialism with the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, the Communist Revolution in Russia, and the Fascist uprising in Italy. Americans tried to ignore this growing crisis in Europe for as long as possible; even some in the United Kingdom were not unduly concerned with this sudden change. Some people, including authors Aldous Huxley, were startled and put their fears down on paper. Huxley’s Brave New World shows an unsettling optimistic front that covers the disturbing reality of a futuristic socialist world. After the war ended, more novels about the socialism appeared, George Orwell’s 1984 and B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two as a few examples, though they are complete opposites on the views of socialism presented.

In Walden Two, the tone is very positive. The head of the community, a man named T.E. Frazier, explains every aspect of the thriving communal settlement to a group of curious enquirers. The party includes an old colleague of Frazier’s, a psychology professor named Burris, a philosophy professor named Augustine Castle, and two veteran soldiers from World War Two named Steve Jamnik and Rogers, along with their girlfriends Mary Grove and Barbara Macklin, respectively. Frazier walks them through all the workings of the Walden Two community, from the agricultural processes, sheep herding techniques, and work schedules to the moral code, education system, and personal relationships. He says that one of the problems with the United States government is that it does not use the scientific process to find out what the people of the nation need and want. He claims that everything runs so smoothly in Walden Two because the community is set up as an experiment, whether the people who live there realize it or not. A good example of the experimenting process is the education system that was set up in Walden Two.

Education seems to be completely opposite of the standard in American schools, even today. Frazier explains that the children begin their “ethical training” (Skinner, 98) at the age of three or four. This training teaches the children to have high levels of self-control and high tolerances to annoyances, jealousy, envy, and anger; emotions that are found all too often in our society today. The children are tested in many different ways to develop a keen sense of obedience; one of the tests involves young children who are given lollipops but are not allowed to eat them until they are instructed to do so. Frazier explains, “Then the lollipops are concealed…Then a strong distraction is arranged – say, an interesting game. Later the children are reminded of the candy…. A day or so later, the children all run with the lollipops to their lockers [and put them out of site]” (Skinner, 98). While most Americans would react as Mr. Castle does, with revulsion to the very idea of doing such a thing to a toddler, Frazier claims that the...

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