The title comes from a quote used in a 1963 book where Ervin Laszlo quoted J M Bochenski in the context of who would prevail in the Cold War and where the actual battlefields lay. Bochenski had written: “If the free world has any chance to win the spiritual struggle at the level of thought, it needs genuine philosophy.” By ‘philosophy’, Laszlo meant “a scheme of ideas” through which a student or an adult can frame what they perceive or ignore in their day to day life, and then use the supplied ideas to “unflinchingly explore the interpretation of experience in terms of that scheme.”
It turns out the “essential battle is waged at the level of thought” in the fundamental struggle between Individualism and Collectivism. That was the little discussed battle field where way too many professors were apparently looking for a synthesis between Individualism and Communism and creating theories and using pedagogy and never telling the rest of us what was up. It matters now though because I can go back into the books Laszlo published offshore in the Netherlands in the early 60s and read almost verbatim what is being enshrined as a federal mandate in the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 as personalized learning. I can see it in the language used in that Young Adult Success Framework linked in the last post and it goes beyond troubling language like page 13 where:
“The conception of success we use in this report has both an individual and a societal element. It is not simply about meeting one’s own goals; success is also about contributing to the larger good, having a meaningful place within a community, and working toward a positive change in the world.”
Laszlo wanted to come up with a means of “developing a scheme permitting the synthesis of concrete individuality with relational existence” because that would bridge the gap where the “Communist concept of man subordinates the idea of individual being (a ‘rigid, metaphysical view’) to that of social existence (‘socialized man’). As a result their social organization subjects the rights and freedom of individuals to the interest of the social group.” That gap compares to the historic Western emphasis on the individual. Laszlo wanted to bridge that gap by hyping the relational experience of the Individual just like that Young Adult Success Framework does with how it describes the build-up of each child’s sense of Identity and meaning-making. It is as if Laszlo were an adviser on that Framework.
Or maybe this take down of the Individual and the Axemaker Mind and emphasis on subjective experience and “the ways young people are making meaning” and “effective developmental experience” are straight out of the Blueprint of what Laszlo said would be needed to build a “Society that could be governed by idea…form an idea at the base, of what was essential in society, and then build a political scheme for the proper adjustment of the ‘superstructure,’ i.e. of social organization (as Communist theory claims to do).” If that sounds like an “I have a better way to get to the same goal of Marx’s Human Development Society where everyone’s needs would be met” that is precisely how Laszlo’s vision for what he called the Essential Society reads. It also fits with where the Young Adult Success Framework, I believe, mirrors the language of what ECAA will mandate as well. “…the framework is about building a society where all children grow up to reach their full potential, regardless of which side of the economic divide they were born.”
I want to quote Laszlo’s Chapter called ‘Government by Idea’ because this entire vision explains why it is so difficult to get politicians of either party, from the Senate and House to state legislatures and local city councils to give up the power bestowed by this vision. It has never created mass prosperity, but it has certainly created lots of prosperous politicians and benefitted their allies and cronies. Here we go:
“the organ of rational guidance for the individual is the mind; for a nation it is its government. A government can guide a nation toward its essential form [and tout it as a 'fundamental transformation'?] by organizing its institutions in such a way that all individuals are granted equal freedom in the fulfillment of their essential needs. The government must have a clear idea of the nation’s integral economy and then build a political axiology on it, to serve as a basis for its policies.”
That is PRECISELY what is occurring now at all levels of government and precisely why developmentally-oriented learning standards like the Common Core grounded in experience and behavior and the Whole Child have always been viewed as an essential component to the broader transformation. I explained that in my book Credentialed to Destroy but Laszlo’s insights are a nice supplement because they go so fundamentally to where ECAA is taking us by design. If not Lamar Alexander or Patty Murray, then some of their staffers have created a piece of legislation that fulfills the desire for “ideological power-politics [that] may [force] the transformation of a people’s ontological [factual; how they perceive reality] concept of society.”
Laszlo openly admitted “its acceptance [this new kind of society] remains pending upon the shift of emphasis in the individual’s mind concerning the primacy of the ontological concepts of individual being and social existence. (It is one of the aims of this work to inquire into the possibilities of producing such a shift by means of a totalitarian ideological campaign.” A Totalitarian Ideological Campaign confession of intent? Then enshrined into a legal obligation of all schools in all states in the US via federal law? Is Laszlo in DC today doing a victory dance while the Senate considers ECAA? Thought at the level of the individual mind, the appropriate conception of society, and the duties of others toward meeting your needs have to be altered in “every society’s representative majority” so that means schools, the media, politicians, and a majority of the US Supreme Court are needed to jettison the primacy of the Individual. Right now it feels like we are in the same place as this 1963 acknowledgment:
“whereever Soviet power penetrates, however, the second form of interaction is superimposed on the first: The Communist ideology’s ontological structure comes to act on the political thought of the people, and together with the full-scale reconstruction of the social order, helps to emphasize the primacy of social existence over individual being concurrently with the collectivist structure of the ideology.”
Not to be mean but that vision of interaction of the individual as a relational product of social existence is what ed schools teach and award doctorates for parroting. Pedagogy now in these theories fits Laszlo’s definition of the Totalitarian Use of Social Theories where “Upon application the theory will come to bear upon the development of actual conditions in a society [and the minds and personalities of real students]. An applied theory this influences the political philosophy of a nation, and it may even become its ideology.”
Laszlo called for his Essential Society to be achieved by systematic presentations of Ideals and italicized for emphasis just like that. He knew that “ideological use of social theories is almost unanimously rejected in the West.” His answer though still is in use in the ECAA emphasis requiring annual testing by states of Higher Order Thinking and Understanding and in the Harvard Project Zero Teaching for Understanding Framework, which I happen to have a copy of. All of these use the terms ‘understanding’ and comprehension not in the Axemaker mind sense of Objective Knowledge and abstract concepts existing apart from me as a perceiver of experiences. No, Laszlo recognized that political transformation towards Collectivism and away from Individualism needed an entirely different mode of comprehension.
A mode that ECAA is about to mandate for all students as a matter of federal law to be monitored and manipulated for each student at the level of their mind and personality. Anita Hoge recently wrote an Open Letter outraged about all the references in ECAA to social and emotional learning and non-cognitive factors and rightly so. https://docs.google.com/document/d/16h1GbMGqDLeqS8QnBnraPqeKuFzMxkqaTygrUU_Izr0/edit What I would add to her letter comes from all the cybernetics research I have done for my second book as well as my Laszlo library. The desired and to be mandated mode of spontaneous, visual, relational comprehension HAS to be grounded in emotion or as Laszlo admitted “we then assign a concept to the cloud which is primarily emotional in nature but which serves as efficiently as the rationally derived concept in transforming the perceptual into conceptual, and thereby making it comprehensible.”
That may be but one mode of comprehension is easy to manipulate, harder to get caught abusing, and is far more likely to be conducive to a systematic presentation of new Ideas to transform a society or economy around. Say like the ideas of Equity, Debt Bondage, Institutional Racism, Climate Change, Social Justice, Democracy, and all those other Enduring Understandings or Core Disciplinary Ideas or Cross-Cutting Themes or other conceptual ‘lenses’ we keep encountering in the actual Common Core classroom implementation. The Young Adult Success Framework called for their development as the Mindset and Worldview that would define Identity, precisely in the manner Laszlo called for as needed for his Essential Society.
I want to remind everyone of what this spontaneous comprehension is designed to do. relevant to Gaming and the Maker Movement and Project-Based Learning, this visual, aesthetic comprehension “does not result in a rational idea, rather it produces a concept with a primarily emotive content.” What did that mean for Laszlo’s vision for transformation away from Reason and Individualism? “The assigned concept has primarily an emotive content; it may be felt as joy, fear, an undescribable elation, a premonition of unknown things, and so on. The fact is that we have an (emotively charged) concept without having employed a reasoning process. This, in short, we hold to be the essence of the spontaneous mode of comprehension.”
I have emotive content too. Horror at how close we are in the US to enshrining this into federal law.