Consent from legislatures, state boards of education, local school boards, misunderstood charters, or NCLB waivers should not count in countries founded on the principle that governments must respect a zone of privacy around individuals. If that zone exists at all anymore, it should certainly protect against governments collecting student data to ensure compliance with the appropriate psychological development to share visions of political and social transformation. Through all of our discussions of the constant social and emotional learning components to the actual implementation either on this blog, or as my book details, being required by the accreditation agencies overseeing virtually all schools and districts, someone will invariably write to me and say “but that sounds like brainwashing.”
That is the reality but it’s such an off-putting term, conjuring images of adult prisoners in totalitarian countries being put through physical and mental torture, that it is not a term I have ever wanted to use. An Australian reader though asked me if I had read Eric D. Butler’s work written during the Cold War. I had not, but looking at it was a reminder that the Russians and Chinese had another word for brainwashing activities that actually does fit with the real function of the phrase “continuous improvement of student learning” and all the intended data gathering that goes with the required emphasis on the Whole Child-physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. That phrase is “psychopolitics”–changing political demands and beliefs and the prevailing culture through psychological monitoring, techniques, and practices.
We are not speculating about this either. Remember, for example, Urie Bronfenbrenner’s work with Leontiev as a graduate exchange student in the early 60s and now the critical importance of the Bronfenbrenner Ecological Systems Theory to the real Common Core classroom implementation? Or to provide yet another timely and global example http://efareport.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/a-celebration-of-the-efa-global-monitoring-reports-impact-and-role/#more-4149 on January 29, 2014 UNESCO released its vision of what education globally will look like post-2015.
Before you think that will not bind your country remember the accreditation agencies view UNESCO as who they take their marching orders from. So in a country like the US where policy makers want central political power to decide what goes on in every school, public or private, and what every student will come to believe and value (usefully hidden in vague terms like outcomes and standards and competency) without that centralizing being apparent, the accreditation agencies are being increasingly empowered by the states and the federal government to play that central role. Completely unappreciated by the typical parent or taxpayer.
When I rattle off the phrase about “changing values, attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors” are you ever tempted to start muttering the phrase in a sing songy way because it just keeps recurring? Let’s put it into a particular current context and expressed intention then. Speaking of other constantly recurring phrases, this is from page 177 of that UNESCO report fascinatingly called Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality For All under the heading “Education needs to be part of the solution to global environmental problems.” Please remember that the UN does not use the term environmental problems to mean Do Not Litter. It sees the solution as jettisoning individual choices in favor of state planning using computers and data around the principle of equity within countries and between countries. My bolding for emphasis and personal observations in brackets.
“Education’s vital role in preventing environmental degradation and limiting the causes and effects of climate change has not been sufficiently acknowledged or exploited. By improving knowledge [this is where systems thinking, interdependence, and the constant push on human agency and Albert Bandura's psychological work all come in. It's not about facts], instilling values, fostering beliefs and shifting attitudes, education has considerable power to change lifestyles and behaviours that are harmful for the environment.”
Issued less than two weeks ago, these very real aims for transformation using data and education are so not a theory about some kind of conspiracy over the use of education globally. It’s an open proclamation of intent. And remember the ultimate threat to the environment if you are a central planner is the independent individual making their own choices and some of them doing it with well-stocked creative minds and the able use of logic and reason. Butler, in writing about how much the Fabian Socialists had aided in creating popular perceptions that favored what Communism hoped to achieve, pointed out that:
“All central planners fear individual freedom because no one can predict how the individual will use his freedom. Central planning requires that planners have effective control of all aspects of human activity. The exercising of freedom by the individual is essentially a creative and spiritual activity.”
You get that control invisibly through misunderstood but quite intentional actual definitions of student ‘growth’ and ‘success’ and ‘learning’ and data being collected around students who “demonstrate mastery of competencies aligned to standards.” Uniform standards, where how to get there can vary but the necessity of getting there cannot. That’s what “tight-loose” fidelity of implementation means by the way. What is loose is how a teacher or computer gets the student to change, not the type of change that must occur.
Psychopolitics was defined in the past as the “art and science of asserting and maintaining dominion over the thoughts and loyalties of individuals, officers, bureaus, and masses.” That is precisely what UNESCO has said it intends to use education to do. That is precisely what all the stories of outrage over troubling Common Core curricula seek to do. There’s no real dispute over what is being sought via education or what types of transformation it relates to.
That’s why we have to face it sooner rather than later and appreciate that this is not, in fact, unimaginable. It’s a norm associated with a desire to centralize political power and deprive individuals of their own decision-making power, lest they do or create something unexpected and genuinely innovative. Like critical thinking, the words ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ get used disingenuously. They are used to describe what is being sought by these K-12 education reforms precisely to obscure the reality that the real goal is to shut down that very threatening capacity of some individuals.
I am going to end this post with two more examples from history that remind us of how vital standardizing and limiting the mind is in any society seeking to vest final decision-making authority in government officials instead of the people themselves. Eric Butler also points out that Lenin made it very clear that he was most interested in the attack upon the mind. He cites a book, The White Nights, that detailed intimate conversations between Lenin and Pavlov (of dog experiment fame) in trying to standardize (Butler’s term in something he wrote decades ago) human thought and behavior. Butler also points to a Canadian Royal Commission Report on Communism which discussed The Development of Ideological Motivation and conceded that “There is no doubt that the Communists have studied exhaustively every possible method of attacking the mind.”
Butler also cites the concerns of a Dr Sargent in 1953 addressing the BBC that the Communists were largely concerned with “changing men’s thoughts and beliefs on a mass scale.” Sargent went on to express his belief that “ultimately the fate of the world will depend on the conversion of the masses to one idea of life or another.” Well, we know from the above quote what idea of life UNESCO and other UN entities will be pushing. It ought to concern us too that the part of UNESCO devoted to digital learning remains headquartered in Moscow and that most of that UNESCO work remains untranslated from the Russian language. Free to tap into all that psychology research on changing thoughts and beliefs.
In my book I lay out all the controversial aspects of K-12 education reforms that indisputably track back originally to the Soviet Union. It even includes the very definition of what pedagogy actually is and what the colleges of education have been pushing for at least the last 20 years and in some places far longer than that. It matters that we have been using all that psychological research on how to interfere with how an individual mind perceives reality.
It especially matters that every aspect of education now is aimed at that very level with no means of complaining if anyone does accurately recognize what is really being sought and why. Which is why it is so vital that as many people as possible, as soon as possible, begin to recognize the true aims and deliberately obscuring definitions of all these relevant terms being used.
This need not be the No Way Out situation being deliberately imposed on all of us.
It will, however, take genuine knowledge about the evils people in power will do if there are no effective constraints anymore. And this world of Competency and that’s to be it is all about limiting such genuine knowledge or ability.
Not if I can help it. Just call me the Queen of Unauthorized Knowledge.