Did that get your attention? Mine too. The first part came from a January 2003 article in the Journal of Transformative Education. The latter part is me recognizing from all the Common Core rubrics I have seen how the same principle makes it to classrooms as higher order cognitive tasks or rigor. This is taken from the body of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)’s recent report Principles to Action. Mathematical tasks are “classified as low level when they have little or no ambiguity about what needs to be done.” So those word problems you remember doing in Algebra that involved using symbols for ratios tied to the real world that taught logic and analytical skills and also might have genuine uses in life as an adult are unacceptable because there is a fixed solution. Beyond the reenforcement of the Axemaker Mind, the traditional type of math problem supposedly does not prepare a student to deal with a world in flux and to act despite uncertainty on the likely consequences.
When humanist psychologist Carl Rogers shifted his focus “from psychotherapy with individuals [and writing books as we have seen with Abraham Maslow and the NEA] to transformation in larger social systems,” he decided that large group work would be a fine way to go about “changing hearts and changing consciousness” in order to get to the desired Person of Tomorrow. http://insightu.net/content/library/journals/jtevol01no01january200364-79.pdf Since the Quartet of planned Transformations we just finished to supposedly create Climate-Resilient Pathways in advance fit so well with the “deep change is different from incremental change in that it requires new ways of thinking and behaving…Making a deep change requires walking naked into the land of uncertainty” theme, I thought it would make a fine way to illustrate the targeting of the inner mental models and value systems of the student in classes that still have subject names.
Back to NCTM’s P to A again as they like to shorthand it where, speaking of using large groups to provide a mind altering herd effect per Rogers, teachers are to “establish an equitable environment that engages all students in the collective work of understanding mathematics.” As Rogers foresaw “person-centered group processes” are a good place to acquaint individuals “with the urgent societal need for people to voluntarily make personal sacrifice for the common good.” The group becomes a place to reject the West’s conception of “the individual as a separate, conscious agent disappears into the service of the interconnected whole. The African concept of umbuntu (“I become me through you and you become you through me”) is an example of such a connected worldview.” Since we have already tied down that those Career Ready and Positive School Climate edicts lead straight to cites of expected communitarianism, we might as well add an African name for what will be expected of students to show the desired proper attitude of change and inclusion.
Again from P to A “students are actively involved in learning that involves productive struggle with mathematical ideas leading to a disposition of perseverance in problem solving.” Such struggle, perseverance, and Grit is far less embarrassing for most of us than walking around in our birthday suit, but every bit as deliberately intended to cultivate a mindset to act in the face of uncertainty and “tolerating ambiguity.” You see, it’s not just teachers, Principals, and those Gypsy Supers who are being primed to be Transformational Change Agents. NCTM one more time–” mathematical tasks are viewed as placing high-level cognitive demands on students when they allow students to engage in active inquiry and exploration or encourages students to use procedures in ways that are meaningfully connected to concepts or understanding.”
http://www.nextgenscience.org/sites/ngss/files/EQuIP%20Rubric%20for%20Science%20%26%20Response%20Form_Finalv1.pdf is the new eval that tells us when there is meaningful connection going on so that a lesson includes “the blending of practices [behaviors], disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts” to create “three-dimensional learning to make sense of phenomena or design solutions.” That instructional materials eval was for the Common Core Science Standards, but the same three dimensional concept is in the comparable rubrics for ELA and Math. Not only does that account for the second part of this post’s title, but the required 3 dimensions are targeting the student’s inner mental models of reality in precisely the way the cybernetic theory of control over human behavior laid out. Gold stars to all readers who read 3 dimensions and gasped: “but that’s Piotr Galperin’s image [provided by activity in a physical context], associations [those cross cutting concepts], and overall core understandings.”
NCTM also just loves the idea of concepts to guide perception of reality. In fact, they have also figured out a way to make math class a place to ignite the burning passion for transformation in the social, economic, and political spheres too. P to A insists “mathematics educators must be pushed to grapple with the complexity and particularities of race, marginalized status, and differential treatment by providing a lens for examining social, institutional, and structural inequities that contribute to differentials in the opportunities to learn mathematics.” Not to worry though, the teacher will be provided with an accurate understanding of history and economics to use in explaining the causes of such inequities to the students. Christopher Columbus started it.
Sorry, but turning math class into a medium for theorizing about social justice as a group process to reach consensus reminds me again of that Rogers’ article talking about “members of the group suspend their assumptions and judgements to become empathically attuned to others in the group as equally unique and sovereign coparticipants in the same larger community.” No. No. No. Particularly when the article went on to describe the mind altering and compliance enforcement potential of such conscious communities or integral groups and praised the belief that members will undergo deep change as a result of their willingness “to go along with it–not because they are conforming but because they believe that their individuated aims and the community’s aims are one.” Remember it’s not just math or Lit class. To be an Effective Principal under ASCD guidelines is to be pushing the Fostering Communities of Learners and Whole Child visions.
Notice that the Rogers article quoted the creator of the term ‘Excellence’ in education, Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi, who we just keep running into. In all the Professional Development for the Common Core using Csik’s flow concepts though, no one has ever mentioned that the altered consciousness sought in teachers and students is “like being on some mind altering drug without the chemicals.” Sure does explain the giddiness of the administrators afterwards though on the utter joy from using the techniques in classrooms. Gets you to that same place again in altering consciousness then with all your clothes still on. Thank goodness.
The NCTM vision of mathematics education “that works for all students” where students may work on “problems that take hours, days or even weeks to solve–mirroring the world for which we are preparing them” really does sound like math class to change how the world is perceived. The hyping of “digital tools that allow teachers to take learning much deeper” sets up the vision we just keep coming across to let programmed virtual reality be the preferred substitute now for the real world. Students come to see “math as a useful tool in understanding the world in which students live,” with nothing to tip them off that false perceptions are being deliberately cultivated to drive the belief in the need for fundamental transformational changes.
Digital learning for all gets mandated to supposedly drive equity and then those “available tools and technology help teachers and students concretize and visualize [Galperin's Image again] mathematical abstractions.” Suddenly a discipline created to provide a symbolic system to reliably and unambiguously describe, and abstractly manipulate, actual reality in ways that created the civilizational progress we take for granted becomes a conceptual tool for misperceiving reality in politically useful ways.
At least if you have fundamental transformations on your mind.
Like Rogers, NCTM, and most of the central office employees in your local school district.