Jennifer Nackerud for Congress
A little bit about the journey of running for US Congress
I have been asked about my stances on political issues. I am running as a Libertarian, because I believe in the Libertarian platform. Please visit the Libertarian Party's website for information regarding my approach to social and political issues.
In my job as a Registered Behavior Technician, and as a graduate student studying ABA therapy, one of the main objectives of my daily work is to hypothesize the function of behaviors. Is a child attempting to obtain attention? Could she be wanting a toy, but doesn’t have the vocabulary to ask appropriately for it? Is the child seeking to avoid something aversive? Asking these questions, and observing behaviors for data-tracking, can lead to much more effective intervention than a simple, “Stop that”, or , “No!”, because, by seeking to understand the function of a behavior, we can offer functionally-equivalent alternatives to the undesirable behavior.
For example, perhaps a child who screams during story-time at school finds story-time aversive, because he has to share space with peers. If we simply put him in time out, he learns that screaming serves the function of getting him out of the story-time he does not want to attend. Based on the science of behaviorism, he will now be more likely to scream again. A skilled behavior analyst might teach the child, instead, to simply ask to sit in the back row, away from the peers that bother him. He can now access what he needs, without disrupting the classroom, and the teachers will no longer be reinforcing his screaming.
Do I claim to be an expert on these concepts? Absolutely not, I am only in my second year of graduate school, as well as in the field, entirely. What I have learned, so far, though, has greatly impacted the way I view the world around me, not just at work. It has been tremendously empowering to rob the power of “explanatory fiction” from the actions of those who may hurt, offend, or annoy me.
Behaviorism can be used to analyze a variety of behaviors around us, including that of current “social-media activists”. What is it that causes such visceral negative responses to social and political problems in our current climate? Surely, the answer lies in multi-faceted explanations, ranging from modeling seen from the top (holy Twitter wars, Mr. President), to the social reinforcement of seeing a new “like” as each comment gets angrier and angrier.
One hypothesis, I have, is that perhaps our anger is really maintained by a fear of saying, “I don’t know”. How much easier, and socially acceptable, is it to shout at anyone who disagrees, than to have to say, “Wow, this is a complex issue that I don’t really understand and I am not ready to take a stance on it”?
I propose to you a challenge this week, as you go about discussions online, and in real life: discover the power of saying, “I don’t know”. In school and at work, I learn so much and am open to so many new things when I start with, “I don’t know”. As a candidate, I don’t know everything! As a mom, I don’t know everything! As a wife, I don’t know everything! As a behaviorist, I don’t know everything! As a Libertarian, I don’t know everything! I want to learn, though, and I want you to learn and be opened to new solutions as you do.
“I don’t know” opens many more doors to studying and understanding than unchecked angry responding. Conversations based on learning, and not proving points, are a rare find. Grab coffee this week with someone you know will encourage you to be a thoughtful activist, and spread the mojo!