One for the books

Steve Edward Miller

Photo By Larry Dalton

If you have a beef with the way schools are run these days, then you might consider giving Steve Edward Miller, author of the book OurTeachersKill.Us, a call. With the consultation of his wife, Joan Dolores Miller, a graduate in behavioral science from California State University, Sacramento, Steve is striving toward a renaissance in today’s education. He hopes that by implementing the fundamentals in his book, which are largely based on 60 years of independent studies into behavioral psychology, he can create a movement to improve education and end violence in schools across the nation. Call him naive if you want; he doesn’t care. “I’m a persistent little guy,” he says. For more information, visit him on the Web at www.OurTeachersKill.Us.

So, you identify two main problems in your book with our schools. What are they?

The problem lies in the textbooks. Bottom line. … I’m 84 now. Seventy years ago, I was a freshman in high school, and I failed mathematics. … Forty years later, in Lafayette, Calif., I saw a little ad in the newspaper about a new way of teaching mathematics. So, I went over there, and I went into their evening school, and I discovered that they had textbooks there that had been submitted to students. They’d watch and see where the student gets hung up. [Then] they took it back, and they wrote that blunder out. They submitted it back and forth, watched for errors, found it, came back. … So, guess what they had? They had a book that would teach mathematics without a teacher. There were 40 of us in that class. … Every one of us got a straight A. There is no reason to fail in mathematics or anything else. … And if we just have that alone, you know, every child would succeed. Practically every child.

And the other problem?

There’s one other problem that we have in our society, and that is that very few of us understand, really, why we do what we do. … We have condensed it [to] only 20 rules as to why we do all that we do. … What I do in my book is I tell how to use [the 20 rules of control] to learn faster, to behave better.

And you think these 20 rules will help prevent school violence?

Yes, because I demonstrate them throughout the book. How to use them and how not to use them. Just for example: the three major causes of abuse, violence and crime. Shock-loading is one. “Shock-loading.” That phrase comes from an experiment with some rats. You had a rat colony [where] we took away their toys, we made everything cold, so they were miserable all the time. … Part of the reason they call them “shock-loaders” is because the rats in their own community, they had to cross a copper strip that was giving them little shocks [whenever they would get] food. So, these are pissed-off rats. … After a few weeks of that, we take a couple of rats from the deprived colony, we put them over in a peaceful colony, and they started out trying to kill everybody in sight. So, these are rats that have really been made mean. This happens in our society. … When you under-educate students, and they don’t know how to make a decent living, and you’ve also “shock-loaded” them, you’re going to have major abuse, you’re going to have major violence, and you’re going to have crime. This is fixable. It is fixable. And that’s what the book is about is how to fix it.

Well, do you think that math class was kind of your inspiration?

No, not really. It was just fascinating because I had blamed myself, like everybody else blamed me, for failing math. … [But] it wasn’t us; it was the books. But I talk in [my book about how] the reason we have so many teachers, really, is to explain the gaps, the teaching gaps, the confusions and the other explanations in all of our textbooks. We have to have teachers to try to explain them.

So, would you say you are proposing that we don’t necessarily need teachers, if we just have the right textbooks?

I’m saying that we need a lot less teachers. … More teachers, for goodness sakes, could sit in, you know, and sort of monitor a class of 400 kids. … There are some classes that you will need a [teacher for]. For example, say, like chemistry. But there’s a way to clean that up. And that is you could take a video of students and a teacher teaching, say, a lab course. And you’ll play the video back to the experts. They’ll see where the students have been confused, what questions they ask. So, the next time the teacher will take that knowledge, re-teach the course. … But there will be fewer and fewer questions each time.

OK, so your ultimate goal is to simply condense our textbooks?

Well, basically, fix the textbooks. That’s the biggest thing. The next is to teach the children and the teachers and the parents about these 20 rules of control. And that’s it in a nutshell.