By Editorial Staff
Published May 2, 1989
SAN DIEGO, CA (FR) – A founder of “value free education” now says he is sorry for the way his philosophy has affected America’s young people, and says he owes parents an apology.
Dr. W.R. Coulson, a veteran educator and former faculty member at International University in San Diego, recently told his story in the American Family Association Journal.
In 1967, Coulson helped organize a project to test the effectiveness of what was at that time called “affective education.” Funded by the R.J. Reynolds family, the famous cigarette manufacturers, the program was instituted in a system of Catholic schools on the West Coast. The goal of the program was to subvert the established educational emphasis on reason and intellectual pursuit, and to replace it with a value-less curriculum focusing on feelings.
“We thought the exploration of feelings is a more complete process and inherently more democratic,” said Coulson. “Everybody has feelings. We wanted the schools to focus more on feelings, and we didn’t want to get into an argument about it.”
Many educators did not receive the new approach warmly, Coulson admitted: “An increasing number of faculty were becoming uneasy, suspecting they’d been led to collaborate with an enemy, an enemy with little interest in perpetuating their traditions of mindfulness.” After working on the project through 1968, Dr. Coulson resigned as research coordinator. However, the R.J. Reynolds company has continued to promote the work through its multi-million dollar program called Helping Youth Decide and by independently helping an organization called Quest.
Today, Quest conducts value-free education programs in public schools for children in 50 states. The value-free approach to classroom instruction has also been adopted by other similar projects, such as Here’s Looking At You, Me-ology, Project Charlie, Ombudsman, D.E.C.I.D.E., and dozens more of similar origin.
Coulson also added that the school system which provided the testing ground for the original value-free classroom – the Immaculate Heart schools – eventually collapsed. “There are no more Immaculate Heart schools,” he said. “TMP was the cause: Too Much Psychology, Too Many Psychotherapists.” This psychologically-based curriculum has taken deep root in American public schools today, and is evidenced by such classroom activities as “Values clarification,” death education, and other exercises which attempt to deal with children’s fears, sexual frustrations, and resentments rather than simply offering academic instruction.
“Youthful experimentation with sex, alcohol, marijuana, and a variety of other drugs – whatever’s popular at the time – has been shown to follow value-free education quite predictably,” said Coulson. “We now know that after these classes, students become more prone to give into temptation than if they’d never been enrolled. One cause lies in an educational philosophy that calls on students and teachers alike to disbelieve in the concept of temptation. Moral absolutes are routed … in favor of a psychotherapeutic imperative.”
In retrospect, Coulson said the plan “turned out to be a deadly scheme we hatched those 20 years ago. Carl Rogers (the principal investigator in the original project) died last year. He and I and our project teammates owe the nation’s parents an apology.”
Coulson also added that the tobacco industry – which funded the original project – has profited well by the value-free curriculum because it has encouraged experimentation with cigarettes and other drugs.
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