Imitating the USSR in Striving to Discover How the Child can Become What He Not Yet Is

Well of course that lurid title is based on an actual quote. And one that goes to the heart not only of the actual Common Core implementation but also the broader social, economic, and political transformations being sought. And it is from the 70s so this has been the driver of what has gone on in the decades ever since. All over the world but especially in the US as education and cultural and social transformation were always poorly understood components of the Cold War era struggles. It is time to do some fundamental explanations of those misunderstandings and woeful ignorance of where the battlegrounds really have been.

Now I have talked about American psychology prof Urie Bronfenbrenner numerous times because his Ecological Systems Theory has been so influential in what future teachers are now taught in ed schools all over the world. And the BEST metaphor of systems thinking is a key component of global ed reform. Except the fact that it is an interpretive theory and non-factual metaphor to influence future thought and action tends to get left out of both the teachers and the students’ classroom exposure to systems thinking. For them, especially when you add in lots of graphically visual computer modelling of the supposed “interdependencies” and possible impacts, this Systems Thinking metaphor quickly becomes reality. Which is of course the goal. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/so-now-common-core-rejects-individual-thinking-to-embrace-soviet-psychology-ecology/ is where I first address BEST and cite the US embrace of it and the sociocultural understanding of the mind last summer.

And that aspiration of false beliefs to influence future behavior calls to mind what Urie (that name is too long to keep typing. Anyone with aspirations of changing the future to a world that has never been should be on a first-name basis with us–his funders and victims) described as “perhaps the only proposition in social science that approaches the status of an immutable law–WI Thomas’s inexorable dictum: ‘If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.’”

False beliefs and supplied manipulative mental concepts can be, and in fact are being designed to be, hugely influential on future behavior. Real in their consequences. And we may all think of education as being about the transmission of knowledge from the past, but the social scientists think education is all about changing future behaviors. Changing moral and spiritual values and feelings and all the components of the personality that will turn into the adult’s character. And the behavioral scientists, especially in the US at the premier ed schools, have controlled the agenda for decades.

The US, especially Columbia, Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford, is where the world came for their Graduate Training in the behavioral sciences. Before going back to Sweden or Germany or the Netherlands or Australia to then drive ed reforms there. Ed reforms that were always designed to go hand in hand with an inexorable drive towards a Government-Directed Welfare State. Here’s the order according to an influential Swede (who cites to Urie and Margaret Mead) speaking in 1980 who was heavily involved with UNESCO, OECD, and those poorly understood but influential international “assessments.”

“legislation and implementation of the Welfare State to a large extent has to precede commitments to educational change: first full employment and decent standards of living, and then education.”

And what does the last stage of ed reform that is an integral component of that Welfare State look like? Described in a book on Quality Education from the 60s based on everyone globally adopting the Swedish ed reforms, see if this vision does not sound familiar. Think of the “student-centered,” activity and task and project oriented, and social and emotional learning focus we have been chronicling as the real Common Core implementation.

“The fourth [stage], finally, is characterized by emphasis on meaning [as in a meaning-making approach to literacy?] and understanding [as in deep and grounded in emotion?], problem-solving [real world and thus authentic?] and pupil activity. Discipline is more relaxed and positive [introduce PATHS or PBIS as in Cleveland instead of expulsions]. More stress is put on the emotional life of the children.”

So when Urie developed BEST he was looking to, in his own words, restructure established institutions and their values and what he called their ideologies. To Urie capitalism and individualism were just as much an ideology as Communism. We apparently get no bonus points for success or mass prosperity or the absence of gulags. Even mass murders but maybe Urie just did not want to believe bad consequences of his preferred systems. And we are not talking about his personal political beliefs here. Beyond his influence over teacher ed and the Systems Thinking permeating the classroom and psychology in general, not a single day goes by that I do not get multiple searches looking into Bronfenbrenner or BEST. It is clearly dominant in the teacher professional training for Common Core and many teachers are alarmed at what they are hearing. And seeing.

Well these next revelations will be like throwing kerosene on a fire then. But unlike the false beliefs dominating the Common Core and the sought transformations in all the rest of our systems, including us since we are designated as socio-technical systems, this is all factual. Socio-technical may sound nerdy but it was in a federal Ecosystem rebuilt around Sustainability report from this summer that the major tech companies helped on. Thanks so much.

Apparently Urie was an exchange scientist at the Soviet Institute of Psychology in the mid-60s. He wrote that Soviet psychologist A N Leontiev personally pointed out to him the fact that American research on human development was limited to social and economic systems that presently exist or occurred in the past. He quotes Leontiev as saying:

“It seems to me that American researchers are constantly seeking to explain how the child came to be what he is; we in the USSR are striving to discover not how the child came to be what he is, but how he can become what he not yet is.”

So when I write about changing American education to the Soviet model or using Vygotsky’s research or sociocultural theory or the troubling implications of BEST or even Marx’s human development theory, I am not trying to be provocative. Well, maybe just a little to get attention as this is gravely important. This is education to try to gain a different type of mind and motivating personality. That’s not just my opinion. I am like a court reporter here with all these quotes that date back to mid-70s speeches before publication in the July 1977 issue of American Psychologist. Urie developed BEST to move educational research outside of the lab to try to no longer “perpetuate the status quo.” He wanted to see if what he called “evolving social systems” in the West were “susceptible to significant and novel transformation.”

And to give you some idea just how serious and all-encompassing Urie’s aspirations for BEST were he complained that:

“We are loath to experiment with new social forms as contexts for realizing human potential. ‘After all,’ we say, ‘you can’t change human nature.’ This precept underlies our national stance on social policy and much of our science in human development as well.”

Urie also described what the Soviets called the “transforming experiment.” According to him:

“By this term they mean an experiment that radically restructures the environment, producing a new configuration that activates previously unrealized behavioral potentials of the subject.”

But the Soviets had a problem. When they left the lab, the ‘transforming experiment’ “degenerates into dutiful demonstration of ideologically prescribed processes and outcomes.” Ahh, poor things. By the 60s and 70s the indoctrination had been too penetrating for too long and the Soviet Union has ceased to be a reliable place to employ a useful “transforming experiment.” Where to go? What to do? Go West young man was apparently the answer and that is what has happened.

It is hard not to see the ed lab pushes of the 80s and all the curriculum and instructional transformation centers on campuses as not being Leontiev-Urie transforming experiments on the unsuspecting West. Especially the US. Or the 90s Outcomes Based Education or Achieving Excellence push that swept the globe, especially anywhere with a tie to English-speaking people.

Or the actual Common Core implementation today. Transform every aspect fundamentally all at once. Include the economic system to gain a radically new form of capitalism as we discussed in the last post.

Urie complained that in the 60s USSR “systematic data yield to anecdotal accounts.” No worry. Now we have a national Data Quality Campaign and the Harvard Strategic Data Project and the longitudinal ability to track each student’s Growth.

Too bad Leontiev and Urie passed away before all their dreams came to fruition.

What will the “significant and novel transformations” be? All the way down the unconscious level of each student.

I guess we are now revisiting the always tragic issue of can you change human nature.

 

2 thoughts on “Imitating the USSR in Striving to Discover How the Child can Become What He Not Yet Is

  1. Thank you Robin for your dedication to educating us on the direction of Education in America. I just finished listening to your hour long podcast with Aaron Franz, and am glad I did. I’ve read your blog for some time now, but hearing you explain things helped me to more fully understand your message.
    I have recently read Václav Havel: The Power of the Powerless and I think his explanation of, what he calls, the “post-totalitarian system” is precisely the result of a citizenry that is devoid of anyone with an Axe-Makers mind. Thanks again for all you do.

    • Such kind words. Thanks for taking the time to listen to the podcast. People tell me it does help pull the reasons for what is going on together in their mind.

      I too have read Havel and he does get this. I have talked to a number of refugees from Eastern Europe and they almost want to cry because I am describing a world they grew up with without meaning to. It simply rings true with their experience that it is consciousness being targeted. Read some more graphic blueprints on that today.

      The Axemakers Mind is indeed the counter of an illustrative Generative Metaphor. Works for those of us with our own set of facts and experiences filtered through that knowledge. Which can defy a herd.

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