Muzzling Minds All Over the Globe While Trumpeting Higher Order Skills

One of the hardest aspects for those of us who have grown up in free countries, especially the United States, is to grasp what it is like to live in a society committed to having its citizens think ideologically. Through the prisms of political theory. With the lens of  models supplied and practiced with until the filtering becomes quite unconscious. Reflexive. Habits of mind common to almost everyone that are at the core of perceptions and daily behavior.

I should have had this insight last Christmas when a friend who had grown up behind the Iron Curtain began to tear up at hearing some of my stories on what was being targeted and why. She knew ideological thinking from her childhood. Maybe it was reading that 1988 KEEP book I wrote about a week ago on creating the “dialectical growth of concepts” to be interpretive and integrative filters in each child’s mind. I was ready to really grapple with this painful aspect of the real implementation template of these global education reforms.

But I think the epiphany started with reading The Devil in History by Rumanian emigrant, now Maryland poli sci professor Vladimir Tismaneanu, and phrases like “their [the Communist regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe] main weakness was a failure to muzzle the human mind.” Oh. Just imagine importing their theories and this time trying on an unsuspecting West via unappreciated education reforms. Describing from his experience, you can imagine my shock at reading descriptions of “conceptual frameworks” that “acted to make sense of general experience for all: all real phenomena could be judged against it and were ascribed value, form and essence in its light.” Do you know how often I have encountered conceptual frameworks in tracking the real Common Core? CRESST itself even told the Hewlett Foundation reassuringly that the actual assessments would be built around those, not the content standards.

Tismaneanu in describing the “continual assault on the mind” he associated with building new values and beliefs and a new Identity (and yes those terms do get used interchangeably in Ideological societies along with Worldview) reminds us pointedly that:

“However socially conditioned the individual’s thinking may be, however necessarily it may relate to social questions, to political action, it remains the thought of the individual which is not just the effect of collective processes but can also take them as its object.”

I have never lived in a society where it is considered “seditious” to maintain your individuality but plenty of people have and they have written about it. When I first wrote this alarming post on Yrjo Engestrom and where I saw the Global Cities Education Network taking us , I grasped that he did not sound like he was describing a dead philosophy or theories. But I did not yet know that in 1991 he wrote an essay called “Activity theory and individual and social transformation.” Gulp. That sounds just like the aspirations we have been encountering. And it took some searching but this weekend I located a copy. On the servers at Harvard Graduate School of Education as an assigned reading. Maybe to go with the 10 Cs I first described here? And if you are not sure yet we are dealing with ideology notice how often trains get used as the desired metaphor. I am just repeating all the uses. Which begins to make more sense once we know that (from the essay):

“Activity theory has its threefold historical origins in classical German philosophy (from Kant to Hegel), in the writings of Marx and Engels, and in the Soviet Russian cultural-historical psychology of Vygotsky, Leont’ev, and Luria.”

OK then. That also brings in Urie Bronfenbrenner and his Ecological Systems Theory that is at the center of the Common Core Social Studies Conceptual Framework. And Activity Theory is now centered at UC-San Diego and Michael Cole’s CHAT research which I have mentioned several times. But the very First International Congress on Activity Theory took place in Berlin in 1986 with Cole and Engestrom participating. That’s about the same time that Cole was thanking the Carnegie Corporation for financing the importation of psychology theories from “our Soviet colleagues.” Following up on the links between the term “Authentic Pedagogy” and Vygotsky and Cole’s work pulled up a 1987 seminal document I had never seen before. Published by the National Academies of Science and written by Lauren Resnick (who would co-chair the New Standards alternative assessment project in the 90s version of these ed reforms before serving on the Common Core creation panel) the document is called “Education and Learning to Think.”

That report, which I found on a server listed as a Common Core Precursor Document, is the source for the now ubiquitous term–Higher Order Thinking. And that document also thanks Cole and his Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition for related work that Carnegie also was financing. Thanks a lot Andrew. Might have been better to let your heirs dissipate the fortune with too many mansions and gaudy vehicles. Since Higher Order Thinking is such an important term to today’s actual classroom emphasis under the Common Core and Texas version but also the ancestry of these ideas, let me quote Lauren’s definition with her italics intact. And remember this is for all children. Concepts and expansionary thinking for all you might say.

–Higher order thinking is nonalgorithmic. That is, the path of action is not fully specified in advance.

–Higher order thinking tends to be complex. The total path is not “visible” (mentally speaking) from any vantage point.

–Higher order thinking often yields multiple solutions, each with costs and benefits, rather than unique solutions.

–Higher order thinking involves nuanced judgment and interpretation.

–Higher order thinking involves the application of multiple criteria, which sometimes conflict with one another. [We have discussed in other posts how this type of mental dissonance can force the need for new mindsets and models.]

–Higher order thinking often involves uncertainty. Not everything that bears on the task at hand is known.

–Higher order thinking involves self-regulation of the thinking process. We do not recognize higher order thinking in an individual when someone else “calls the plays” at every step. [Here Lauren seems to be alluding to sequential, linear mathematics or science where you learn theories that someone else developed and proved. AKA traditional math and science]

–Higher order thinking involves imposing meaning, finding structure in apparent disorder. [If that reminds you of RECAST, David Perkins of Project Zero is listed as involved with this report].

–Higher order thinking is effortful. There is considerable mental work involved in the kinds of elaborations and judgments involved.”

Well, it is my belief that all those are euphemisms for saying higher order thinking is ideological. It is training students to think in terms of assigned categories and imagine different futures for everyone one involved. Planning. Imagining a different economic structure. Other ways to organize societies. Solutions for alleged catastrophes. Creativity that is not impeded by knowledge of what worked or led to catastrophe in the past. Not your own conceptual understandings as gifted students have developed them through the ages but supplied concepts and models and definitions.

There were more congresses on Activity Theory and they were absolutely chock full of Russian psychologists. Which actually makes sense as I will show you in the next post that CHAT and what is now called ISCAR–International Society for Cultural and Activity Theory–are related to the so-called New Thinking that Mikhail Gorbachev transitioned to in the mid-80s as part of perestroika. And why it appears that the restructurings were not just physical but also altered mindsets, values and beliefs, and new interpretive theories. Global this time.

Remember Davydov and his Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete as the new mode of ideologically oriented systems thinking was called? He died in 1998 and was revered at that year’s ISCAR Congress in Copenhagen where his planned address was read instead. The most recent Congress was in 2011 in Rome, Italy. Guess which names showed up as part of the International Scientific Committee for that ISCAR conference? Why that would be Michael Cole, Yrjo Engestrom, and Lauren Resnick. Just in time to make sure the US Common Core implementation and assessments align with ISCAR philosophy and those higher order skills criteria from so long ago.

In case you are too busy to check, the described foundations of ISCAR fit perfectly with what Engestrom described above in 1991 as the source of Activity Theory. Which is also the current basis for most education degrees in the US. Especially the Masters and Doctorates.

Now I am just getting started on all the links involved. And I have read too much history not to have a perspective on what we are looking at here.

But I want you to get used to an idea that I have known for a while but this time approached through a new direction.

The Cold War simply did not end quite in the manner we believed. And the potentials of Activity Theory and a stealth noetic assault on Western values and beliefs appear to be the reasons we were played.

It was a good strategy but unfortunately the answers of why lie in history and political theory books I have now read.

Digest the above revelations and then we will talk some more. And no I am not speculating here. This is way too serious for conjecture. But it is fascinating too because it also makes perfect sense. Actually more sense than the spun stories once you get used to the idea.

Aspiring to Create New Habits of Mind and Mental Models Suitable for A New Culture, Society, and Economy

As far as I know no one from MIT or Harvard stood on the banks of the Charles River holding a rally to jettison what the Systems Thinkers on both campuses call the “dominant rational/experimental model” of Western thought traceable to the Enlightenment. No, that rejection might have drawn attention to the desired shift to an “existentially-oriented approach.” Better to commit such aspirations to print in books and in lectures that only the elected to be Social Change Agents are likely to read or hear. The rest of us are just supposed to be confused when so much emphasis on Learning keeps resulting in ever decreasing levels of knowledge. You’d almost think there was a commitment to wholesale social, political, cultural, and economic change starting at the level of the individual student.

A student whose school activities and assessments and interactions with ICT technology can be used to develop a new Sense of Self. The last post mentioned David W Shaffer and his proposed Pedagogical Praxis for the classroom. Shaffer embraced the theories on Reflective Practice created by an MIT Urban Studies and Education Professor by the name of Donald Schon. He’s the one who did his dissertation on Dewey that I mentioned in the last post. Schon was a proponent of action research in the classroom to gain new mental maps and what Schon called “generative metaphors” that would guide a student’s future behaviors and actions. Remember those Ill-structured tasks we discovered Pearson plans to use in the Common Core and ATC21S and Texas STAAR assessments? Schon gives the reason for the the reliance of ill-structure beyond the social interaction it forces. When a student encounters a problem he regards as unique, Schon recognized the student would see it through the concepts already in his repertoire.

Schon liked that word “repertoire.” You and I can already sense the reason that the 10Cs Model of Diversity Awareness and Social Change pushing race and class oppression is now so popular at Harvard Ed school. Those become Generative Metaphors that influence how unique real world problems will be interpreted by students. And their teachers and administrators. Remember the C3 Social Studies Framework that is now part of the Common Core push and our concern that it was pushing metaphors like Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Thinking that are not factually true? Another useful Schonian Generative Metaphor that will come to be believed as true the more often it is used. Which certainly explains the language in the Framework about wanting students to practice daily with the C3 conceptual lenses.  Supplied Concepts=Generative Metaphor guiding Future Behavior.

It’s all consistent with what Shaffer’s Pedagogical Praxis encourages citing Schon. A student engages in activities at school and acts in daily life and then reflects on the results with peers and mentors. This action followed by inquiry and reflection (my IB Parents will recognize the significance of those terms. Which is why I believe the IB program has essentially become the Advance Guard in gaining implementation of this Action Research model) then becomes the Means for students to gain New Ways of Thinking. The desired outcome from school and daily living with such an experientially-oriented education is that the student will over time Reframe her Identities and Interests in relation to the experiences and the perspectives of others in the community. That’s why the Aspiring Social Change Agents and Theorists are so fond of referring to the Learning Community. School becomes the place where the Group changes the person from the inside-out.

I have written quite a bit about Peter Senge and Systems Thinking and also how the Positive School Climate Executive Order is becoming a means to stealthily shift to a social and emotional learning focus that looks almost precisely like the developmental model to remake human nature Karl Marx described repeatedly. Still as I was tracking the PATHS to PAX  SEL curriculum to a school piloting a Positive School Culture in Arizona, I was surprised to see Senge’s The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook listed as the implementation guide. So schools implementing Positive School Cultures and Climates will be practicing Senge’s Systems Thinking and they may not be going to Camp Snowball to set off alarms of concern among parents. Ah-Oh. Better get a copy of that Fieldbook. Sounds like Systems Thinking is coming to schools everywhere.

So I did and it turns out to have a whole section on the desired new Mental Models for students to fit all the desired Transformative changes in virtually every social system we could list. That would include us if you remember what Senge’s Presencing and MIT lecturer partner Otto Scharmer wrote in his 2010 Seven Acupuncture Points for Shifting Capitalism to Create a Regenerative Ecosystem Economy that I have already written about and linked to. Of course that was before I located that UN IHDP document that said Senge and Scharmer were among the futurists helping to shift education and business practices globally towards the IHDP desired fundamental revision of human behavior. Anyway Scharmer said in that article that the purpose of these new mental models was to allow a “reconnect with the deeper sources of inspiration and Self in order to reinvent both onself and the system.” I think he means all the systems and we should take him at his word on the desired intentions of all these changes and new models of Learning and desires for Irreversible, Second-Order Change we keep hearing about.

Rereading Scharmer’s aspirations as I did yesterday reminded me so much of what Alice Bailey described that I am going to link to that old post if you have never seen it. . I am sure that the fact that the Ford Foundation also created the named chaired professorate Donald Schon held at MIT from 1972 onward is purely coincidental. Since that foundation seems to show up constantly from the 50s to the present to fund desired transformative changes to all our social systems. No wonder our friend Jeannie Oakes went there to head their ed efforts in November 2009 just like we were in the end game and it was time for the final assault.

Back to the Fieldbook and the desire for new mental models (page 237 in my copy). Senge says Mental Models refers to:

“both the semipermanent tacit “maps” of the world which people hold in their long-term memory, and the short-term perceptions people build up as part of their everyday reasoning processes. According to some cognitive theorists, changes in short-term everyday mental models, accumulating over time, will gradually be reflected in changes in long-term deep-seated beliefs.”

Which is of course just the thing desired if you want Transformative Change in future behaviors. So the Reading Wars and the Math Wars and frustrations over integrated math and no more lecturing and the Digital Learning/ICT focus and the Actual Common Core implementation I have been describing all these months and the global ed reforms are all driven by a desire for Action Research on children involving those cognitive theories. Got it? And  Senge then goes on to tell us that “two types of skills are central to this work” of gaining the desired new mental models.

“They are Reflection (slowing down our thinking processes to become more aware of how we form our mental models) and Inquiry (holding conversations where we openly share views and develop knowledge about each other’s assumptions). The techniques we most favor for learning these skills emerged from ‘action science,’ a field of inquiry developed by theorists and educators  Chris Argyris [and he's the link to Harvard's Business and Ed Schools and is cited in Zuboff's book from the last post as a mentor to her]  and Donald Schon.”

I am giving you a break Senge does not give in the Fieldbook where his sentences are too long. He goes on after mentioning Argyris and Schon to say their work is “aimed at exploring the reasoning and attitudes which underlie human action, and producing more effective learning in organizations and other social systems.”

Now when I wrote this post back in August, I speculated that it looked to me like the Harvard Strategic Data Project involved pushing Systems Thinking on participating districts like Fulton and Gwinnett Counties in Metro Atlanta and Charlotte-Meck in North Carolina and Boston Public Schools. Now that we know of Chris Argyris and Schon’s work and its aspirations as action science, there is no question. Students in those districts are being used as guinea pigs to collect data for what Argyris and Schon called Double-Loop learning.  What will it take before the student acquires “new capacity” for different types of behaviors?

Schon wanted people and institutions that were malleable and flexible enough to “become capable of transforming themselves without intolerable disruption.” I would argue that Aurora and Sandy Hook and Columbine may well be warning us that all this SEL/systems focus experimentation that has been going on in some schools and districts for almost 20 years  is in fact intolerable to some personalities. It sure is too coincidental to ignore as the number of districts and students undergoing action science research continues to grow. Common Core will be turning our schools into a giant petri dish of social science action research into what it will take to gain Systems Transformation.

Which is not something an education degree or a Harvard Masters in Public Policy or an Urban Studies degree or a Social Psychology degree should license anyone to do.

To our kids. With our money. To this Great Country. To the rest of the world looking to the US for guidance.

Making Race and Class Oppression the Locomotives Driving the Positive School Climate Mandate

That does seem confusing doesn’t it? Instead of transmitting the knowledge gathered through the Ages so this current generation of students can mull that over and build on it, we seem to be embarking on a Game of Fruit Basket Turnover in our K-12 schools and colleges and universities. Required by federal regs or at least executive orders, NCLB waivers, and accreditors’ edicts. Whatever it takes to get Equity in Credential Attainment. Even if that means no one knows much and the scabs picked at and pulled off to gain a widespread sense of oppression to justify and create demand for a wholesale political, social, and economic Transformation create a toxic, flammable mixture of citizen rage. Plus cultivating dependent citizens with unrealizable expectations that only a Strongarm State can hold together.

Before I walk you through “The 10C’s: A Model of Diversity Awareness and Social Change” currently being cited by ASCD as part of their Whole Child Common Core Initiative as well as the National School Climate Center as part of the creation of the required Positive School Culture, let’s remember that famously true saying that “a society that values equality more than liberty will end up with neither.” If government officials can enforce equal results despite real differences, they are treating citizens in vastly different ways. Not only is that not equal, governments that develop a taste for telling certain people what they can and cannot do want to continue that power. And with everyone. Let’s think about the untouchable power of Government Officials in such a Political Favorites and Clients Economy with what really made capitalism unique. Since so many people seem to confuse the Crony Capitalist/Political Class Dirigiste economy with Capitalism now:

“In a free market system, in order for one to get more for himself, he must serve his fellow man. This is precisely what Adam Smith, the father of economics, meant when he said . . . in 1776 that ‘It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.’ . . . Free-market capitalism is relatively new in human history. Before the rise of capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving one’s fellow man.”

My thanks to the great Walter Williams for reminding us that a world where the federal government now intends to mandate that “I=We and We=I” through the schools may well take us back to those days of officially sanctioned plunder. That no government in history has ever been able to decree an equitable, just and peaceful society. Remember that as we go though the 10C’s. Where they say they are going has always been unattainable and is in fact undesirable to many if it means living as part of a Yoke, like Oxen or Cattle, being told what to Do and Feel and even what may be Known. Let’s be very careful we do not allow everything that works to be destroyed by educators and politicians and Businesses seeking to profit from Connections pushing an Impossible Utopian Dream.

The 10 Cs is a two-part model that includes the 5Cs of Awareness and the 5 Cs of Change. And it is not a model just cooked up for the Obama Administration’s ed reform push. No, it goes back to 1995 so it was created originally to be part of the 90s version under the Clintons known as Outcomes Based Education. We were always supposed to have our values and personal attitudes manipulated via education in fundamental ways. Our schemers prefer a different definition than they tend to tell us about. They wish to try to draw out a new kind of human being. You don’t mind a little experimenting on your children, do you?

The 5 Cs of Awareness are: Color, Culture, Class, Character, and Context. The 5Cs of Change are: Confidence, Courage, Commitment, Conflict, and Community. That last word is where all these education reforms we have examined are going. Community “means working collectively and collaboratively with others toward a shared vision.” And if a student does not share the vision at the start of the 10 Cs he must at the end. You see, the 10 Cs regards individualism as an unacceptably Eurocentric belief. School then becomes about creating values, attitudes, and beliefs so that each student not only values their own 10 Cs, “but the 10 Cs of others as well.”

Not a moment then to waste to see how students are to be taught to see themselves and others. Remember too that like emotions, this is also a type of learning accessible to all. The plan is to start with “an inventory of ourselves and examine our own experiences to more effectively confront issues of personal and societal oppression.”  First, each student is to be taught to look at skin color as an essential, unchangeable aspect of one’s individual/group identity. Charming, huh?

Then we move on to Culture which the students are told is always changing. I would point out that is not necessarily true but is very useful for schemers who would like to jettison an existing culture while creating a new one based on Theories of Utopia as well as political theories that have a tragic past. The students will be told that male and female are socially constructed, assigned roles that differ from culture to culture. The Culture lessons seem to be long on a “Free to Redefine” element without any accompanying lessons that redefinitions have consequences.

“The third C is Class and addresses power relations. It examines individual and group identity relative to power, authority, hierarchy, status, and the degree of access to, control over, or ownership of resources, including wealth, education, employment, housing, etc.” Now most kids have little idea what decisions and training went into their parents having what they have, or not, and the good or poor choices made. We are setting ourselves up for students decreeing “Ice Cream for All!” with no awareness there is a limited amount of milk and sugar available and it’s already been sold to others for necessary uses apart from dessert.

Instead, of reality and the inevitable tradeoffs of finite resources, we are to get student jam sessions that “the failure to recognize power imbalances is a key obstacle to productive and authentic dialogue about diversity because it avoids the fundamental issues of access, ownership, and control over one’s own/group life.” So students are to be encouraged by teachers and principals and facilitators (all living on salaries and benefits paid at taxpayer expense) to each “identify and accept the power that we do have, and creatively use that power in the service of social justice.”

Oh yeah, as part of that lesson students get told “we all have an obligation to use whatever power we possess in ways that work for peace and justice.” Something to keep in mind during the upcoming holidays if your college student comes home for turkey and dressing with a barrelful of new attitudes being cultivated for those tuition dollars. Not just a K-12 model you see.

Character then turns out to be all about the importance of Group Identities. Beyond the Eurocentric comment, it tells middle class White students that they believe in individuality because their “group identities of Color, Culture, and Class have been validated at every turn.” So Dominant Group Members put their primary emphasis on their C of Character. Only someone living at taxpayer expense would think deemphasizing personal Character in favor of parity with Social Group Identity was a Good Idea. Let’s just chalk this C up to the continuing assault on the legitimacy of the Individual.

The fifth C is Context. “The reality in which individuals and groups exist in time, location, environment, and the socio-political, economic, and historical conditions which influence individual and group experience.” Yes, it sounds to me like Bronfenbrenner Ecological Systems Thinking that we talked about here. . Heh, at least we are finding consistency in the Real Common Core implementation. Even if it IS light years from the rhetorical sales campaign. So Context shapes the meaning of Color, Culture, Class, and Character and is like “the basket that holds the other Cs together.” So our students who are largely ignorant of past history are being encouraged to think you can redesign societies, economies, and political structures. They will not see the Likely Downside of Wholesale Change. They are just being pushed to promote it.

How? The C of Confidence–”Reclaiming and redefining one’s personal and group identity and abilities, in ways that are inclusive of all people, will build confidence and unleash creativity that can enrich and enhance the quality of life for all people.” Maybe but history says probably not. Next C of Change is Courage to push for “movements for peace and social justice” despite likely backlash.

3rd C is (sustaining) Commitment. It is the “focus, strategy, determination, and consistency, driven by love. . . that is the deep and consistent passion for justice and embrace of humanity that has always driven social revolutions.” Reality check here from Scrooge. That is not what drives social revolutions. Gracious People. Read some history books not written by Howard Zinn.

The 4th C is (Engaging) Conflict. It means the “reflection, struggle, and creative tension that promotes growth and justice. . . when channeled appropriately, it is a force that can propel us forward.” Yes, right into an abyss. Just ask the French about 1795 how well delusions over human nature as a basis for a revolution worked out there.

And that gets us back to the 5th C-Community. Or not. I personally do not think these 5 Cs will create Community. I do think that widespread pushing of these 10 Cs will destroy a great country. Extinguish the greatest beacon for freedom the world has ever known. Squelch the only economic system that encourages cooperation among ordinary people that leaves all of them better off.

No one pushing the 10 Cs has to live with their likely pernicious consequences. We do. and we have every right to know about and object to this planned focus of K-12 and higher education.

That seems to be already starting judging by some assigned handouts printed out at home by 9th graders. The ones who will be voting in 2016 for the first time. Make more sense now?