In the early days of this blog we covered psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenners’ Ecological Systems Theory (BEST) and the fact that he acknowledged that all those nesting ‘systems’ starting with the individual was simply a metaphor. Unfortunately when BEST is taught now to teachers or K-12 students it is treated as a description of the world as it is and more importantly, should be. Maybe it was that admission that started my worrying about the implications of students unable to recognize the Inapt Metaphor or False Guiding Principles or Core Concepts. When I read though that Christian Classical Education intended to be Ideas-First instead of fact-based, I was alarmed and decided to investigate further. Not because I am against that kind of education, but because I believe all parents and students have a right to know when their mental models at a neurological level are being manipulated via the classroom or digital learning.
Dr Pangloss, for anyone who skipped over reading Candide in college, had a naively optimistic view of the world and what might be. My fact-based knowledge of history and the enduring consistency of human nature under an amazing variety of situations through the ages tells me that deliberately cultivating Panglossian visions “through which to understand the world and imagine how one could be” is a dangerous thing. That latter quote was from a then Yale Law Prof who has now moved on to Harvard and is connected to their Berkman Center for Society and the Internet. A wonderful position in other words to use digital learning to target students’ mental models of how the world works. That’s precisely what Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom does and it is the source Coding for All and Connected Coding were relying on when they wrote: “In this book, we have viewed teaching and learning computer coding as being wrapped in theories of mind, community, and culture.”
The fact that these to-be-required ‘computer science’ or digital learning initiatives we have covered in the last two posts are grounded in theories and not fact (and Marxist political theories at that) is generally not disclosed. The fact that these theories are very useful for anyone desiring Social Reconstruction of the Real World is also not generally mentioned. The fact that the World Bank in its Annual Meeting in October 2015 in Lima, Peru stated its determination to target Mental Models as its new global emphasis on development and cited the Mind, Society, and Behavior program at Harvard’s Ed School and Cass Sunstein’s Nudging and Behavioral Insights work at that same law school that Benkler is now at should be remembered as well. Cambridge along the Charles, in other words, is a very good place to be to plan theories and a means to gain implementation for:
“This new practical individual freedom, made feasible by the digital environment, is at the root of the improvements I describe here for political participation, for justice and human development, for the creation of a more critical culture, and for the emergence of the networked individual as a more fluid member of the community.”
Gives a whole new meaning, doesn’t it, to where ‘computational participation,’ as Coding for All turned out to entail, is actually going? Beckler wanted to “enable us to look at the world as potential participants in discourse, rather than potential viewers only.” Since I have the book and recognized an Amartya Sen Development as Freedom/ Capability Theory influence in Beckler insisting that “what matters is the extent to which a particular configuration of material, social, and institutional conditions allows the individual to be the author of his own life,” Beckler does in fact cite Sen as the source of his inspiration later in the book. Where, oh where, is the K-12, college, law, or public policy student supposed to understand all these pushed practices are simply grounded in theories hoping to change the perception of the world as it is? Will they even have heard of Pangloss if Making Caring Common becomes the basis for their very admission ticket?
Also going on in Cambridge (covered in a previous post) with the involvement of both MIT and Harvard, the State of Massachusetts, UNESCO, the OECD, the World Bank, and others is the Center for Curriculum Redesign under Charles Fadel. CCR recently published the “overarching purpose for education in society” and it is straight out of Sen’s global work again. Does this sound Panglossian to anyone else?
“In the ideal case, all the individuals within each society (and the global society) have their physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, self-actualization, and self-transcendence needs met, and the society itself is thriving and meeting all of its needs, with each level enhancing the others.”
Oh, dear. That sounds like CCR is building its Theory of the Competencies Learners Need to Succeed around Urie’s BEST theory being true. Behavioral Science 101 I suppose: false beliefs that are created to drive future behavior in desired ways are theoretically true, even though they are factually false. Speaking of Panglossian and theoretically true but factually false, we had the announcement of the New Citizenship Project this past week to shift the dominant idea of the role of the individual in society. https://issuu.com/newcitizenshipproject/docs/ncp_report/1 It too fits in fully with everything this reenvisioning of education is pushing to implement in reality, with deceitful and false explanations for why. Does a push for ‘computational participation’ as the new focus for the classroom make more sense if one wishes to shift “the idea of the citizen can be understood almost entirely as the societal manifestation of digital technology”?
Does the invisible targeting of Mental Models, both unconscious and deliberative, make far more sense if there is also to be an organized attempt to sell “a deep shift in our conception of human nature”? Won’t an Ideas-First curriculum and Activities focus come in handy? If a student fails to recognize just how thoroughly what he or she has internalized as values, beliefs, attitudes, motivating ideas, guiding principles and themes has been thoroughly manipulated by political power and educators, then they are primed to believe:
“at its core, the promise of the internet is something much greater: a many-to-many, not just a one-to-many society, in which we can all play a part not just in choosing between the options offered to us, but in shaping them.”
Perfect priming for anyone with the Marxist goals of transforming the world as it currently exists. Without a body of facts, how is a student to reject being told:
“As Citizens, we are not entirely separate from one another as completely independent individuals, but as fundamentally rooted in and interdependent with one another. But this is not a moral statement of what ought to be; it is simply a new understanding of what is, now available to us to act on.”
I bolded that last because that’s how these theories get implemented even though factually untrue or just a statement of desired morality for future conduct. Now we are going to come back to the admissions in the title that were made in the book Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education. Anyone who ever saw the old detective show Dragnet can think of the music and the episode ending with this admission as “these aspirations are all true. Only the ‘lenses’ change. Those remain consistent with how particular groups of Transformationalists wish the actual world to be perceived.” Here is author Douglas Wilson: “teaching students to think in terms of a fixed reference point is not the same thing as indoctrination…We cannot bring every thought captive by allowing some thoughts to aspire to autonomy.”
Again, Classical Christian Education as conceived and explained by Douglas Wilson simply gave me a wonderfully succinct quote on the goals of Ideas-Driven, neurologically embedded, education, which seeks to specify what a student internalizes as their guiding and motivating models of the world, how it works, and how it might change. The fixed reference point could be Amy Gutman’s Democracy, John Dewey’s Democratic Humanism, Ervin Laszlo’s Systems Thinking, or Uncle Karl’s Human Development Society. Here it is explicitly religious in doctrine. I think we can always make a case though that prescribing the internalized neural web is ALWAYS intended to be religious in how it guides and motivates likely future behavior.
Substitute then other reference points or lenses into what I am quoting:
“God is the Light in which we see and understand everything else…Christian education must therefore present all subjects as an integrated whole with the Scriptures at the center.”
Fascinatingly quoting the Marxist “French existentialist philosopher Sartre understood this when he said that without an infinite reference point, all finite points are absurd.” That’s ironic as I have read plenty of political theories that would put their desired Ideology, internalized via education, as functioning precisely in the way Wilson wants Christ or Scriptures to function. Since I have never encountered a more explicit and quotable explanation of what I shorthand as Cybernetics, here we go.
“We are not to limit the light of Christ to our understanding of Christ. We must understand the world in the light of Christ…every fact, every truth, must be understood in that light…The Bible…does provide a framework for understanding these so-called ‘secular’ subjects…If religion is excluded from our study, every process of thought will be arrested before it reaches its proper goal. The structure of thought must remain a truncated cone, with its proper apex lacking. The Christian educator’s job is not to require the students to spend all their time gazing at the sun. Rather, we want them to examine everything else in the light the sun provides.”
I bolded proper apex because again the nature of the desired guiding and motivating concepts and principles varies between Christian Reconstructionists, which is where Wilson places himself, and the political Reconstructionists with a Marxist Humanist secular orientation, which is who I cited elsewhere in this post. The desire to structure thought does not vary though, unfortunately. Neither does the desire to be the provider of the lenses through which experiences get interpreted. I have written about educator Michael Fullan and how his Transdisciplinary vision is now CCR’s and UNESCO’s push globally. Yet it fits fully with how Wilson wanted subjects to be seen and used as well. Only the lenses change.
“Without God, particulars have no relationship to other particulars. Each subject has no relationship to any other subject. Christian educators must reject this understanding of the universe as a multiverse; the world is more than an infinite array of absurd ‘facts’. The fragmentation of knowledge must therefore be avoided.”
Now does anyone fail to appreciate how this vision would adore K-12 education that is suddenly mandated by federal law to be about cultivating and assessing annually for all students’ Higher Order Thinking Skills and Understanding?
Suddenly it’s not just Lauren Resnick and other education profs wanting to check to see if the interpretive lenses ‘Transfer’ to new untaught subjects or wicked scenarios where there is no single correct answer.