One of the ways to cope with these very real assertions of wholesale, non-consensual authoritarian change led by people who really do quote Mao Tse-tung for inspiration is to go back in time. To appreciate the same institutions, people, and funding sources were pushing comparable ideas decades ago. Explicitly using education to get there. It’s a holiday week in the US when we celebrate our Declaration of Independence so I thought it was a good time to revisit what was clearly mischief in Philadelphia in 1976. Called the Interdependence Assemblies, we don’t have to speculate about the intentions. Harlan Cleveland, then the head of the same Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, pushing the Racial Equity Theory of Change now, digital learning, and a new kind of mindset and view of knowledge, wrote the report.
Before I explain what The Third Try at World Order: American Self-Renewal in an Interdependent World laid out, let’s see what helpful piece of advice Harlan wanted to impart from the mass-murdering Mao. It was in the context of starting to “understand interdependence not by theorizing about it, but by getting on with it.” In a 21st century determined now to make education about activity instead of mental knowledge, it is always good to double check the actual sources of the vision. Here Mao is quoted as saying: “If you want to know the taste of the pear, you must change it by eating it yourself.”
I may never knowingly eat a pear again. Harlan followed that quote with his desire for “the emergence of a new American worldview” through “five parallel and simultaneous shifts in very basic assumptions and attitudes.” Isn’t it useful that 4 years later Jimmy Carter federalized US education with its own agency? So much easier to get this desired shift of perspectives via (1) the discovery of ecology, (2) the nature of power, (3) the double imperative of fairness, (4) doubts about the ‘Western Model’, and (5) a New Style of Leadership. The last one proclaimed by the way that a “collegial, consultative mode of behavior” would now be mandatory.
Before I talk further about this vision that we are seeing today in this omnipresent language about “participatory governance” and “deliberate democracy” and a Principle of Affected Interests that gives rights of decision-making to every supposedly affected group, I want to remind you of an old post that really does directly link that 1976 report to the actual Common Core implementation vision. Plus the remake of higher ed around democracy. I first explained who Harry Boyte was here. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/viewing-education-as-the-prime-lever-for-international-social-change-community-organizing-everywhere/ Harry now has a tag because of his work for the Obama Administration involving remaking the nature of college, but here is also a link to his current plans for K-12 as well and the nature of citizenship generally. http://civicstudies.org/author/harry-boyte/
In the book I explain that Harlan Cleveland announced that in 1986 he began working to transition the US and the USSR to a successor economic system to both capitalism or communism. Details are in the book using Harlan’s own words and why it matters so much. In Boyte’s book described in that post above he mentioned working with Harlan at that same time while both were in Minnesota. Almost all these books I am reading with this new governance vision cite Harry Boyte and Benjamin Barber and his Strong Democracy Civil Society vision.
That’s why it matters that Benjamin Barber now wants mayors and cities to be the centers of political power in 21st century America. It’s the place to force collectivism and economic justice invisibly. I am going to have more to say on that in the future, but there are in fact plenty of links between what is engulfing us today whether enough people recognize the commonalities or not, and what Harlan Cleveland, the Club of Rome, the Aspen Institute, and the Convocation of UN Leaders he wrote that report for wanted back in 1976.
Harlan saw the Declaration of Interdependence adopted in Philadelphia that most of us have never heard of as the “instrument” of a new planned adventure in “world order politics” that would be based on the primacy of human needs. It would supposedly become a means of “American self-renewal–that is, to get our tail ship back on a course that has history with it, not against it.” I think this vision was actually designed to hobble America, suck away its exceptionalism, destroy its prosperity, and to do much of this destructive work through education. I think outcomes-based education as I explain in the book was to fulfill this toxic vision of altering perspectives and attitudes and values in fundamental ways, and that the actual Common Core implementation is the end game of this same vision.
When you are watching fireworks this week, listening to a rousing Sousa march, chanting “USA. USA” to the US soccer team in World Cup action, or even putting on that tacky Red, White, and Blue swimsuit you only wear once a year, remember there is nothing accidental about the shifts of the last 40 years. The attacks have been cultural and stealthy and at the level of the human mind and personality, but they most definitely are not theoretical or fanciful or the product of an overactive imagination. Harlan pitched into his Mao quote by using the Webster’s dictionary definition of an attitude as a “state of readiness to act…that may be activated by an appropriate stimulus into significant or meaningful behavior.”
Guess who intended to provide the appropriate stimulus? Still do. Harlan went on to say that “we might look for clues to future American behavior in attitudes that are already in transition.” Yes, indeed and to all those who agonize over what is being sought via education to create economic, social, and political change, just watch Americans celebrate on Friday. The way back is to acknowledge what is dear and that it has been under assault. Deliberate attacks through our institutions cannot survive well yet except in the shadows.
That’s why it’s up to each of us to drag these intentions into the sunlight of public scrutiny. If your child or grandchild or employee never learned why America is exceptional and has been the indispensable player in the world, teach them. If the community organizers insist on a different view of civics education and want to enshrine it into new federally mandated workforce training they provide, tell every politician you see this week at a parade or barbeque that it’s not OK. To actually read that 812 page Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
The third try at world order was to be based on the same “growing awareness of the interdependence of peoples, problems, and policies” that is the focus today. If only Americans would adopt “changes in attitudes and institutions at home” and fashion “new cooperative attitudes” abroad, the world could supposedly become a “community.”
Wasn’t true in 1976 during the height of the Cold war when this was a highly dangerous prescription. It’s not true now when this same philosophy appears to be the new basis for the US foreign policy in a very dangerous world. We keep encountering a determination to use education to guide perception about the way the world and the future might be, instead of a factual recognition of reality.
Let this post be a clarion call to enjoy loved ones and friends this week, but do it while recognizing that the way of life we are celebrating and taking for granted has been under continuous assault. Those attacks are scheduled to reach a fever pitch in the next few years with the intention that no one would appreciate the linkages in time.
That isn’t going to happen anymore. Let’s celebrate that epiphany and start our way back.
Together. Collectivism is not always bad as long as it recognizes that renewal can only come from the individual. It can never simply be on his or her behalf.