In June 1982, Dr. Oscar Dowdell-Underwood walked away from a career in suburban education and administration to accept a principalship at Ralph J. Bunche Elementary School, an underperforming school located in a neighborhood blighted by poverty, drugs, gangs, and violence. Most of the students at Ralph J. Bunche had internalized the messages of hopelessness that permeated their disenfranchised and marginalized neighborhood. Based on the belief that perpetual negative messaging in one’s environment leads to dysfunctional self-imaging and corresponding negative behaviors, such as non-learning, Dr. Dowdell-Underwood immediately sought to employ a method of educating that would effectively combat negative messaging and affirm the students’ value, abilities, and self-regard, and by extension, unlock their inherent power to achieve exponentially. The heart of this methodology is the cultivation of healthy self-perception as it relates to five environments:
1. The Intellectual Environment
2. The Social Environment
3. Emotional Environment
4. Verbal Environment
5. Physical Environment
In 1998, Dr. Dowdell-Underwood testified before the United States Congress regarding the success of his methodology. This approach to educating K-12 students is popularly known as the “Underwood Method" and is outlined in The Assassination of Human Potential.