When I read something troubling and manipulative about change in the nature of education for the 21st century or in a recent book like America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, I have recourse to comparable pushes from previous decades to help me examine what is really going on. And what the likely consequences will be. Professor Lester Milbrath, who we met in the last post, also had a 1989 book Envisioning a Sustainable Society: Learning Our Way Out where he laid out the vision for the to-be-sought wholesale transformation that remains current today. Key of course is what Milbrath called social learning-new values and beliefs of cooperation that would guide perception and thus learning itself. Milbrath especially wanted “systemic and futures thinking modes” to be developed first in students and then applied by a variety of institutions until “the public could learn to demand this kind of thinking in the planning and decisionmaking of their governments and other social institutions. This mode of thinking would be a key component of a society programmed to learn.”
Now society is NOT demanding that kind of thinking nor that governments take on that kind of decision-making Overlordship but federal agencies have usefully (to themselves) seized this kind of coercive authority anyway. Either by Executive Order or regulation or overly broad readings of court cases. And now of course the public sector wants Mindsets in citizens amenable to someone having such sovereign power. Over the decisions that history shows are best made by private individuals who have to bear the consequences of lousy decisions. In unlikely to be accidental timing, the Obama Administration in the US and the OECD and UNESCO globally are currently pushing wholesale transformation of K-12 and higher ed. They can thus try to cultivate worldviews that either embrace, or ignore, wholesale changes in governance of society and citizens.
We have already encountered the Humanist Psychologists like Maslow and Carl Rogers whose theories for change are so useful to turn to. Let’s go back to one of the main creators of systems thinking, Kenneth Boulding, and a book published in 1964, The Meaning of the Twentieth Century: The Great Transition, to examine the importance of what a person thinks the world is like. So we can understand why this is the bullseye in the middle of the noetic transformation template and has been for decades. Before I lay out Boulding’s quote, let’s follow it up with his next concession that what people “think need not of course be true.” As he says “It is sufficient to note that the presence of any image will affect a system in a certain way.”
So those seeking transformation first need to create beliefs about the nature of the system they want to change and then plant beliefs about why it is unsatisfactory, and then prime for what should be changed. Education has always been useful for this goal but the advent of computer gaming and immersion of students in virtual, deliberately created worlds, takes the possibilities of implanting the desired images to a whole new level. A fact quite apparent here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/when-gaming-intends-to-shape-and-distort-our-perceptions-of-everything-around-us-viva-la-revolution/ for reasons that seem to have everything to do with what SRI has always pushed in education (more in a moment). Here’s the crucial point that schemers who want the world to now be guided by social science theories have long known. It’s time we all did too.
“the social systems of ants and bees are essentially static in nature and do not exhibit adaptation to the environment beyond what biological mutation can provide. With man, however, comes self-awareness and awareness of a whole system in which the self is embedded. This can produce conscious effort toward a change in the system of the world whether biological, physical, or social.
In any human social system, therefore, the image of the world possessed by its human participants is a vital element in the over-all dynamics of the system. We cannot tell what the system will do unless we know what the people in it think of it, for what they think affects their behavior and their behavior affects the system.”
And that Crucial psychological fact with a capital C is what has guided higher ed for at least two decades now. Common Core and 21st century learning are designed to bring it to K-12, public and private, globally, in any country with a tradition of individual liberty. especially the US. Think of it as cultivating Milbrath’s needed Social Learning component. But also have no doubt about what is going on via education and its close ally, the media, that insist dangerously that we should “stop dichotomizing the world and develop a pragmatic, indeed a social scientific approach to the problem.” As when Boulding wrote that in 1964 and now, there remain groups that wish us harm just waiting for us to naively simply begin to “see mankind as a whole.”
Last week MIT announced a new videogame to teach students empathy http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/11/teaching-empathy-through-digital-game-play/ called Quandary. Players “win the most points by accurately predicting each character’s reaction.” Helpfully the game is said to address multiple Common Core standards and be appropriate for grades 3-8. Now since the characters are not real people, the game is also a highly useful technique for fostering false beliefs about people and their values and what drives them. Unlike the real world or even an accurate history textbook, the Quandary characters will be driven by what the game designers want students to believe about the world. Those desires become the guiding images for students during their most pliable, personality formation, years. And in that post I linked above, game designer Jane McGonnigle was quite forthright in the intentions to use games to create images of a desired future and the need for change.
Both Jane’s boss, Marina Gorbis (see tag for her) and Willis Harman (discussed in linked post) worked during the 80s at SRI. Now I first became familiar with what used to be known as the Stanford Research Institute when SRI kept coming up as the grant evaluator for university partnerships aggressively pushing constructivist math and science on K-12 in return for multimilliondollar grants from the National Science Foundation. Just imagine how much better I would have understood the dynamic of why aggressive implementation (whatever the outcry or results) brought renewals for a new term if I had better understood SRI as a hive of Humanist Psychology. But better late than never as we evaluate this interview with SRI’s Director of Research in Informal Learning Environments being pushed by the MacArthur Foundation as part of their Reimagining Education digital learning initiative.
http://dmlhub.net/newsroom/expert-interviews/exploring-alternative-visions-assessing-informal-learning-environments is a good basic short overview of the belief about learning now being pushed by the foundations and the federal DoED. It asserts without proof based on desires for cultural change that “learning is not about knowledge accumulation and test performance, but about participating in activities that are well designed or that naturally provide an opportunity to become better at something.” Now if that sounds to you like a shift to Milbrath’s Social Learning without saying so, here’s a bit more of this new vision of 21st century mandated education. In these new school environments:
“it’s much more about kids trying, maybe failing, and maybe succeeding, all the while engaging with the materials and each other and doing so in ways that show they are attending to the resources and the possibility for building skills in that environment that help them solve a problem, accomplish a goal, or succeed at a game.”
Maybe Quandary? This is education that assumes a Great Transition is to finally be eminent. Seeking to create the Mindsets to make it so all while misrepresenting to parents, taxpayers, and teachers what is really going on. Lest we all rebel and tell the Malevolent Marshmallow Brain Superintendent or Consultant to quit trying to blow up the society and economy that produces the taxes that overpay them for their willingness to push such nonsense without scrutiny and usually with deceit.
That link mentions another April 2010 paper “Naturalizing Assessment” that I managed to secure with some appreciated help. In case you cannot get a copy, it graphically explained the whole point of such reimagining and new theories of learning and the nature of the classroom as being this newsworthy goal–Redefining Learning to Focus on How Well Prepared Individuals Will Be for Adaptive Behavior in New Situations.
Now the New Situations are of course the sought Great Transition wholesale social, political, and economic transformations being masked under euphemisms like Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community or Harry Boyte’s cooperative commonwealth or just the term ‘democracy’ as Gar Alperowitz likes to now use.
Let’s take a hard look in the next post on the erroneous assumptions in the required classroom implementations to get us to a new “sustainable” public sector centric collectivist society.
That no one tells us about unless we start with the Great Transition and trace backwards to the how.