The New/Old Problem of Behavior Modification

Behavior modification is back en vogue (although, I don’t think it ever really left).

In New York City, the Board of Health is on it’s way to banning 16-ounce soft drinks from being served in city restaurants.  As Dr. Steven Safyer stated, “For the past several years, I’ve seen the number of children and adults struggling with obesity skyrocket, putting them at early risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer . . . This policy is a great step in the battle to turn this health crisis around.”

Is the option of a 16-ounce sugary drink all that different from the option of two 8-ounce sugary drinks (Something still allowed in restaurants)?  It is if your primary goal is behavior modification.  Sure, the real problem is not one of poor policy and ordnance enforcement.  The real problem is sinful human beings who live with a self-centered, hedonistic worldview and who want to participate in conspicuous consumption. But, the policy makers of NYC are at least being honest about their abilities within government.  Behavior modification via option limitation is a “great step” towards enforcing healthy living.

The same kind of logic is being put into university policy at the University of Oregon., where an estimated 60% of the football team smokes pot.  To curb this undesired behavior, the administration has turned to a familiar friend: behavior modification via new school policy:

Student-athletes receive counseling and education after a first positive test. A second positive test results in a “behavior modification contract” between the student and the coach. A third results in being suspended half of of the games played in a season for that sport. Dismissal and loss of scholarship does not occur now until a fourth positive test.

I appreciate that these organizations have admitted what others in government/universities want to keep secret.  Without the uplifted call to conversion of the heart, the only tool in the arsenal of the non-Christian institution is behavior modification.  Thus, I applaud secular institutions for being consistent.  I just don’t think it is going to ultimately work out for them.


About Doug Hankins

Although not a Christian in his youth, Doug came to believe in Jesus during his teenage years. When not playing sports or pastoring Doug is probably spending time with his wife, reading a good book, or drinking some hot tea. Doug's first book Dawson Trotman: In His Own Words is available wherever books are sold. You can follow Doug on twitter.
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