In the history of America, the period of 1880 to 1933 were pivotal for this nation’s education. New theories of how to educate children were being birthed at ivy league colleges that would gradually trickle down to be taught in every school room in America. It was a time of great change—and not for the betterment of our children in our schools.
One of the more prolific change agents was Edward L. Thorndike. Mr. Thorndike graduated from Harvard in 1897. While at Harvard, he began investigating instinctive and intelligent behavior in chickens. He wrote a dissertation for his degree in education on “Animal Intelligence.” In 1911, his work was published as a book. His theories still stand today as a benchmark in educational psychology.
Edward L. Thorndike believed in evolution and wrote in his book, “His [man’s] instincts, that is, his inborn tendencies to feel and act in certain ways, show throughout marks of kinship with the lower animals, especially with our nearest relatives physically, the monkeys. His sense-powers show no new creation. …” Dr. Thorndike wrote concerning teaching, “The best way with children, may often be, in the pompous words of an animal trainer, ‘to arrange everything in connection with the trick so that the animal will be compelled by the laws of his own nature to perform it.’”
The theory of evolution, applied to the mind, was used by Thorndike and other evolutionary psychologists as a basis for building a new theory of learning by conditioning. This method of teaching completely omits any consideration or training of the spiritual component of a child. Score one more huge win for humanism in American education! The truth is, if our children are trained as animals, we should not be surprised when they are without a moral compass and act accordingly.