America's teachers are being trained in a harsh interrogation technique that produces false confessions

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Well, at least without all those troublesome reminders of society’s failings and self-loathing, the grade average will go up and the country won’t look like it carries educational beliefs that don’t actually work.

That couldn’t be the point of skipping right to expulsion, right?


The photo that accompanies this article is not the Reid technique. It Nazi dental torture, which is different.

despite evidence that interventions such as counseling 
yield better results for student health than criminalization.

Won’t anybody think of the criminalizers?


But is it safe?


If the students still don’t confess, they will get detention, which will take place at an undisclosed location for an indefinite amount of time.


In the UK a consultant psychologist was paid to investigate the success of various intervention techniques being used in Young Offenders’ Institutions. He concluded that of all the methods used, only one was successful, and suggested that all the others should be dropped as ineffective and the effective scheme rolled out nationwide.
The report was shelved because “budget had been assigned to all the techniques in use”.
[personal communication].


Detention is so cool…


I might be tempted to think this was part of some evil conspiracy to destroy America’s schoolchildren if I didn’t know how allergic American institutions were to evidence-based policy. I was reading about the various police forces around the world that, unlike the US, engage in evidence-based policing, and the studies done on US policing practices that are totally ignored. So as a result, US cops continue to engage in interrogation techniques that are known to create false confessions, witness identification techniques known to cause false identifications, crime prevention programs known to increase criminality (e.g. “Scare Straight” programs), etc. So why shouldn’t schools be the same? Although it can’t be all blamed on incompetence - there’s obviously a fair amount of apathy involved, when it comes to the treatment of minority students.


The problem I have with the Reid Technique is that it never attempts to solicit nor identity facts - it is purely about blame and guilt. Anyone who is subjected to this technique- even if innocent and educated - could well leave a false confession.

One of the key “indicators of guilt” in this technique is crying. If the accused cries, the interrogator will use it to infer guilt. That will never work well with children.

Further, another key aspect is that it strongly encourages that a heavy, long lasting punishment be held over the accused where the only way to avoid, say, life in prison, will be to confess to something where the penalty is just a fine. The interrogator will also say there is sufficient evidence to convict. All of that can be - and usually is - pure BS, and the worst BS is when the person thinks they’re admitting to a crime whose punishment is benign but is actually quite severe.

The Reid Technique is a Bad Idea™ but on children it’s just plain abusive.



I went to the assistant principals offer to talk about an incident that scared my son. A shop teacher/coach was so enraged at another kid that he knocked my son to the floor on his way to pin the other kid to the wall. My son was both scared and angered because the teacher was out of control. The assistant principals response to me was " why are you so bothered , those kids of yours are just adopted anyway." Fortunately the principal overheard this and quickly explained that his own brother was adopted and that his family loved their both sons. That was years ago but the disregard for a kids value struck me hard…Only a chosen few are valued, the rest are just trash to be disregarded.


It’s the natural outcome of the Joe Clark school of education which has dominated American schools since the 1980s.


I see this all the time with kids coming into my treatment groups. They are cornered without their parents or any caring adult present and told they will face long sentences in a prison hungry for boys I’ve had kids cry just explaining what they had gone through. Many were given copies of the confession they needed to write in their own handwriting if they wanted to have a chance at all. This is done to poor kids only. Race doesn’t make much difference if you’re poor and have no one educated to support you then you’re guilty if they say you are. The kids refer to public defenders as public pretenders because they seldom bother to help the kid.


As with all authoritarian regimes, truth and falsehood of the confessions don’t matter. The confession and the punishment are the point.

Interestingly, this is a disturbing trend I’m seeing crop up in political circles as well. Get people to confess that they are guilty of something- it doesn’t matter if it’s true.
Then they’re less inclined to question whatever ridiculous claims they’re faced with. And accept whatever solutions are being pushed on them as a means of dealing with the guilt that they’ve been implanted with. And if at any point they do resist, you can hit them over the head with whatever guilt they’ve already accepted. It’s ingenious, and a sure tell of twitching authoritarianism if you see someone trying to apply it.


They got nothing on Catholic Nuns, I mean nothing.


"The researchers also found that officers trained in the Reid Technique “tended to believe that adolescents were just as capable as adults of withstanding psychologically coercive questioning, including deceit.”

The interrogators were themselves coerced by the technique.


Just give them a pack of cigarettes, youth will talk. Works on police precincts and in black sites overseas, as well as in all of the lovely dramatic narratives featuring the same!

/jk, really just be kind and establish a bond. Works for regular folks, prisoners, people in therapy, etc. The continual overreach of America’s authoritarian impulses, especially in the face, not just of research but of common sense as well, is terrifying.


I have this fantasy of a kid sitting in the vice-principal’s office and calling them out and embarrassing them. “Oh my god - we’re doing a Reid! This is so exciting! Oh man, what tab are we on with your over-priced state-funded seminar? 15 - Diminishment? Should I pretend to cry so we can skip to ‘Indicators of Guilt’?”

Maybe if it was possible to track down through state audits what schools use this technique, you could convince more rebellious and industrious students to distribute 'Know You’re Rights" style campaign on Reid to short-circuit the effectiveness of these tactics and cut down on unnecessary disciplinary and criminal marks on disadvantaged children’s records.


number of high school students suspended or expelled each academic year
increased “from one in 13 in 1972-’73 to one in nine in 2009-’10”—a
nearly 40 percent rise.

The horrifying thing here is not the rise of 40% but the fact that it was already 1 in 13 in 1972. I was 17 then studying for my A-levels (UK). I’m absolutely certain that the rate of suspensions and expulsions was considerably lower than that not only in the schools I attended but also in the rest of the schools in the medium sized town I lived in.

Surely these numbers are shocking all by themselves and suggest a long established and systemic failure.

Of course what we need to know is what is the distribution of this statistic. We have the mean, but without some measure of dispersion it is hard to make sense of it. I wish that everyone who quotes mean values would also quote median, mode, standard deviation.

Sorry, most of that is strictly off topic.