Winston Churchill presciently observed that “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” That’s the irony to the argument that the world is now changing so fast that students no longer need actual personal knowledge of what has gone before. What worked well and what led consistently to catastrophe. In fact if the world is in flux to a significant degree, that calls for more factual knowledge, not less. Instead, of the absurd argument now that relevance involves real world problems or concrete situations from a student’s everyday life, relevant knowledge is best obtained from what has endured over time. Guideposts of personal living that have consistently led to prosperity to be emulated or disaster to be avoided. In either case, familiarity and appreciation for what works, and does not, and why should be the essence of education, K-12 or higher ed, academic or vocational.
When I wrote “Learning to Learn” on July 18 I was relying on the Small Planet book for the discussion of New Minds. The actual copy of New World New Mind:Moving Toward Conscious Evolution (1989) was in transit though. When it arrived I discovered a book that was far more graphic than I would ever have imagined that tied together so much of the changes in education, the economy, society, culture itself, and US and Western political systems we have been discussing in numerous posts. All in one place. It explained ed reforms in the 90s and the entire Sustainability push over the past 20 years and current efforts in all these areas. For now there are two hugely important aspects of the book we must appreciate immediately.
The first is the repeated assertion (with co-author Robert Ornstein) that the “past is no longer prologue.” To be more explicit:
“Learning about the past–the knowledge, the ideas, the concerns–is useful only insofar as the past perseveres into the present.” (284)
I guess no child ever again needs to learn about castles, armor or what led to the Fall of the Roman Empire. In fact, the book goes on, with plans for designing and creating “an unprecedented new world,”
“Getting ‘the basics’ is important, but getting a new curriculum is even more so.” (195)
Like the Common Core? 21st Century Skills? Outcomes Based Education? OECD’s Competency? That’s the curriculum to create “new mindedness” which will take “a major worldwide cultural effort.” If only the authors had access to vehicles like UNESCO or the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) or the International Council for Science (ICSU) or the International Social Science Council (ISSC). Why wait. That’s the other key aspect of the book that we really need to talk about now. Listing John P Holdren of the Energy and Resources Group at UC-Berkeley as a person to thank on the Acknowledgments page. Citing the Ehrlich-Holdren book from 1988 on The Cassandra Conference to provide “early warning of humanity’s building population-resource-environment problems.”
If only someone was in a position to implement the alarming aims of New World New Mind we might need to worry. Well John Holdren is the Science Czar for the Obama Administration and the National Science Foundation reports to him. Which would put him in charge of creating the Belmont Forum in 2009 and the Belmont Challenge in 2010 and the Belmont Forum’s activities in launching the Future Earth Alliance (FEA) in 2011. And when the Future Earth Alliance created its final framework document in February 2012. Holdren remains as FEA prepares to become operational in 2013 with the aim of “achieving a sustainable global society.” Is anyone surprised that the social, economic, human development goals and behavioral changes EFA is seeking mirror the New World New Mind vision?
We need to pivot though because our worldwide cultural effort has latched onto a new vehicle to try to get the US Senate to ratify the UN Disability Treaty this week. Completely unaware of how that will pull in UNESCO’s Learning to Learn, Learning to Be nonacademic education vision for all students in the US. And not through the temporary regulations being stealthily used now but through a ratified treaty that sounds considerate and kind-hearted. Let me explain.
There was a global education conference last week in Cairns, Australia that American educators attended to get ready for Common Core here. They blogged in excitement about the Competency Wheel created by educators from Alberta, Canada. Basically the wheel is a visual of the affective attitudes and values and skills desired for students anywhere in the West. What the already in power want and no more is a valid description of what seems to be in store for our students. Getting them ready and willing to go along with that New World and Future Earth I suppose. Following the wheel back to Alberta by internet brought me the ubiquitous 21st century skills. No surprise. More importantly though it brought me to a 2011 report “Supporting Positive Behaviour in Alberta Schools: A school-wide approach” and a 2005 document “The Heart of the Matter: Character and Citizenship Education in Alberta Schools.” Appendix A to Heart of the Matter even has Nel Noddings’ work that we so recently tracked to student wellbeing in Oz.
These 2 documents not only combine virtually every stealth ed initiative we have mentioned as a key component of the actual implementation of the US Common Core, but they do not pretend it is still about content. That anyone is trying to transmit knowledge anymore beyond the basics of literacy and numeracy and political issues that can be manipulated to create a sense of urgency for social change. No. Thank goodness the Canadians are honest enough to say explicitly the Common Core is desired values. And not the ones that make you grateful for the Maple Leaf or Stars and Stripes.
Positive behavior measures are now being pushed globally (I have the book) as a unobtrusive way to use education to gain desired social change. In the US http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/how-social-and-emotional-learning-as-the-primary-focus-is-coming-in-all-the-windows/ it is now coming in through anti-bullying campaigns and PBIS/RTI for all students. The PBIS continuous improvement troubling curriculum is being required for all students through the disabilities laws and rules. UNESCO has been pushing social and emotional leaning as a primary emphasis all over the world as an equitable focus for schools since not all students are equally able in an academic orientation.
That was my first thought when I heard about the UN Disability Treaty yesterday and anger that Senator Jim DeMint had put a hold on considering it. Then I remembered the work I had done on Universal Design for Learning. Originally designed to give disabled students equal access, UDL was quietly incorporated into how Common Core must be implemented in classrooms. Instead of alternative methods for some, UDL mandates that only universally accessible methods and practices be allowed for any students. It explicitly mentions lectures and textbooks as discriminatory.
I knew that but had forgotten the implications until my brain woke me up early this morning. Reminding me that the metacognitive, learning to know yourself, alternative classroom activities UDL pushes as accessible for all students fit the methods to obtain New Mindedness outlined back in 1989.
I don’t think any of this is coincidental. Do you?