What was it like to grow up with Dr. B.F. Skinner as your dad? Dr. Skinner is famous for having discovered how animals learn in nature and how humans learn through positive reinforcement. He named the phenomenon Operant Conditioning and it set the world on fire as people learned its power to change the behavior of animals and humans and as they misunderstood some of its implications. Dr. Julie Vargas describes growing up in a home where loving care prevailed and she and her sister learned good life habits and pleasurable pastimes as well as the ability to choose who they wanted to be and what they wanted to do. Her father talked openly with his daughter about what he was discovering in his work, how people and animals learned new skills through operant conditioning.
Julie loves children and knew she wanted to be a teacher from a young age. She ultimately pursued her love of teaching as a career, helping to develop the use of behavior science as a teacher during her graduate studies many years later. She and her whole family had learned to train pets through her father’s work, and she knew teaching people, particularly children, was best done through positive reinforcement also. She and her sister had been raised with this approach, after all. She studied what universities had to offer in the realm of behavior analysis, as the new field developing from Dr. Skinner’s work was called. She ultimately became a teacher of the teachers who wanted to use behavior science, or behavior analysis, to improve education for all children.
During her career in education, Julie loved nothing more than helping a teacher come up with a great plan for a student to learn something that had previously been challenging to both student and teacher. She used behavior science to help teachers develop a plan on their own and then to test the plan and measure the results. In our film, you will hear from Dr. Julie Vargas herself about many of the students and teachers who benefitted from her sharing of behavior science and how it changed their lives.
Dr. Julie Vargas started the B.F. Skinner Foundation to continue her father’s work, maintaining the publishing of his many books and papers, archiving photos and film clips from his career, and continuing his inspiration and support of behavior analysts all over the world. She continues this important work as well as speaking regularly at conferences to professionals who actively use behavior science to improve the lives of children with disabilities and children who are fortunate enough to attend schools where behavior science is the basis of their educational program. She also continues to train a few animals, currently training a wild rabbit in her back yard to eat treats from the hands of herself and her visitors.