Placing a Global Bet that Psychology Infused Via Education Can Change Human Beings and their Institutions

Supposedly for the better which is why the initiative is called Positive Psychology to sound inspirational. But citing back to Abraham Maslow and Carl Rodgers’ work as foundational makes this push about more than instilling good work habits and hope. This Organizational Development (OD) push, that Appreciative Inquiry from the last post and systems thinking a la the higher profile Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer are an intrinsic part of, plans to act on the theory that human beings can be changed for the better. Globally but especially the US.

And it fully intends to try using the Global Quest for Educational Excellence and all those poorly understood international tests like PISA and TIMSS as the drivers of change. While you are thinking it’s about finally getting more knowledgeable students who are better at reading or math, these taxpayer funded visionaries have figured out how to also use Positive Behavior Interventions and Positive School Climate Executive Orders and data collection around Student Growth to drive continuous improvement toward “inspiring and shared moral purposes.” How very communitarian.

Apparently all the hyping about closing the Achievement Gap is just a ruse. Instead, the US CCSSI is part of a global attempt at “establishing the new and eclipsing the old in human systems.” So exciting that it really was italicized just like that in the 2010 Framework document I am describing today.  Coupled to a 2012 book by two Boston College professors called The Global Fourth Way laying out what really makes for a high performing school system. Hint: it’s not what you know but what you feel and are willing to do about it. Supposedly equitable outcomes for ALL students and Deweyan Quality Learning that changes the Whole Personality are just the thing that will “produce the economic and social outcomes that are essential for economic dynamism, social cohesion, and democratic ways of life.”

And before you get excited about the economic dynamism aspect during this Great Recession you should know it is premised on the idea that “going green might well become the biggest business opportunity of the twenty-first century.” Or not as all those bankruptcies from ventures like Fisker and Solyndra that got tax dollars in the 2009 Stimulus Act should show.

So once again the education component that is the real Common Core implementation is tied into a political and social upheaval that is not being advertised and an economic vision that shows no likelihood of working. No matter how many AI Summits like “Green City on a Blue Lake” cities like Cleveland hold envisioning a new green future and an extension of relatedness that will somehow save the Inner Cities and economic blight. The vision, that has Positive Psychology architect, Marty Seligman of UPenn (save Philly somehow please!) and David Cooperrider (a Taos Institute founder and Case Western, in Cleveland, prof), reportedly giving speeches to lots of famous companies, the US Army and Navy and the US Environmental Agency (no wonder it now plans with systems thinking), and the UN Global Compact among others around 2010, is called Innovation-inspired Positive Organization Development. Or IPOD as they call it to create an “economy and ecology of strengths.”

I wonder if they put their IPOD speeches on an IPad? Sorry. That IPOD Framework even mentioned that there was a “recent business leaders meeting at the UN to collaboratively design the future.” I guess it’s not collusion when it is for a good cause like Sustainability and preserving current markets. Which we should all keep in mind every time you hear “Business needs the Common Core or 21st Century Skills or Career Pathways.” This is SO not about what is best for our individual futures. In fact that’s why you keep hearing all these references to organizations. According to IPOD’s vision, organizations like schools and businesses are to become:

“institutions that serve to bring our highest human strengths into the world in a magnified way…They exist to serve a life-enriching purpose, and accomplish things no individual set of strengths can accomplish alone.”

Oh, I don’t know about that. An individual mind can be quite intrepid which is truthfully the whole problem with the old transmission of knowledge curriculum. It’s the real reason it must be jettisoned in the 21st century. None of these people want herd-defying individuals figuring things out without authorization or creating world-altering technology breakthroughs without permission. So they take Uncle Karl’s human development theory and give it a new disguise that sounds inspiring. .

The IPOD approach to change then is to be “collaborative [like group projects and Communities of Learners], educational based on experiential learning [hands on projects! service learning for credit!], dialogical [Courtney Cazden's discourse classroom community], and contextually conditioned upon inquiry [just like a good IB Learner!] into the relevant content and process of a human system.”

No wonder we keep hearing a requirement for relevance and a link to real world problems. You get the IPOD, Fourth Way, vision implemented without having to mention it or get approval. Thus the IPOD framework says the “DNA pulsating through” it can be described by three essential features:

1. That special spirit of inquiry [they do love italics for emphasis] that seeks “to learn, experiment, seek feedback and build shared understanding through dialogue and open exploration of things that may never have been collectively explored.” How expensive and unproductive if simply based on the feelings of deliberately created Know-Nothings. Next.

2. The collaborative design of the future. Now this impossibility is based on the very accurate observation that “people build their commitment to change in direct proportion to the degree that they are actively engaged in designing the change.” Which is why you are unlikely to get the PTA President or members of your local School Council to listen to you when you point out, for example, that Spence Rogers’ own books cite Mao as a good example of leadership and that makes him a poor choice for teacher professional development.

The collaboration also primes all participants for the “assumed centrality of interdependence in organizational life” to force recognition that it is “the quality of the relationships, the processes–how the relationships give or deplete life” that make a human system work. No wonder relationships are one of the new 3 R’s along with Relevance and the imaginative Rigor [think of that Spirit of Inquiry above as what Rigor is really about].

3. A positive view of the human being. Now this is the age old question that has kept philosophers speculating for centuries. You will be glad to know that IPOD comes down on the side not supported by history. IPOD has not only “proclaimed a belief in people” from its “infancy.” It goes on to [this is a little long but it is a vision worth quoting in full. Maslow to Marx with the behavioral sciences thrown in to boot]

“Insofar as we might discover the conditions that help bring out the best in life–for example, Abraham Maslow’s studies into peak experiences–then we might well be able to apply this knowledge in our institutions. Drawing from the entire mosaic of the social sciences–from anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, and biology and more–OD would be unique in not only propagating a collaborative, inquiry-driven approach to change but would be centered on advancing the developmental potentials of the human being. [And you thought I was being sarcastic about Uncle Karl or his 20th century leading advocate Erik Erikson and why they matter to CCSSI] Instead of being woven at random, like an afterthought design into our economic and organizational fabric, human development would be at the center. Lines would radiate out from the human dimension to all the others–the economic, technological, strategic, structural, political, etc.”

That would be truly all-encompassing and people focusing on who owns the means of production are not keying in on what parts of Marx’s vision are back for a 21st Century run.  The framework also mentions the good prof Csik as a key component of this positive psychology vision . Why look, excellence just like the Fourth Way. What a coincidence. Not.  But it also notes that for a new OD as described here to “truly emerge, it would need a new human science knowledge base.”

Well, guess what? All that data being thrown off –measuring Student Growth or soft skills or attitudes, values, and beliefs and continuous improvement in PBIS or PATHS and other “mental health first aid” or social and emotional learning curricula as we see from CASEL– is just what OD needs to be its “human science knowledge base.” No wonder ICT vendors are so excited. No wonder the accreditors now require its collection. And the US federal government by requiring teacher evals based on “multiple measures of Student Growth.”

Should it trouble us that the World Economic Forum just put out a report on creating the 21st century economy around ICT and Big Data? Coincidences surely abound these days.

Who Needs Pitchforks to Get Political and Economic Revolution? Education and Time Will Do Fine

Back during a previous coordinated stealth assault on our economy and political structures, Professor Benjamin Barber published a Clarion Call book called A Place For Us: How to Make Society Civil and Democracy Strong. It is the perfect illustration of why I see the actual Common Core implementation and the real End Game intentions so much differently than anyone else. Not only am I reading documents and regs that will control what is to happen, I read the support for the vision as well. Which includes Professor Barber. And simply withdrawing the book from library shelves will not stop the analysis. That merely emphasizes how important the vision and the explanation in the book actually is.

That nerdy expression from the previous post “Generative Metaphor” from Donald Schon’s tool chest to get us to a new society or my new favorite “anticipatory schemata” from a different well-known prof will certainly come in handy if the Goal is the “transformation of the role of work in our economic system will hence have to await the transvaluation of our civic and moral systems.” No need to make an issue of what Political Ideology you want people to embrace thoroughly. You just make it a supplied concept or metaphor or schemata that their school uses from an early age in the classroom to help the young tykes frame their takeaway perceptions from their daily experiences. Now you didn’t really think that all the talk about activities and tasks and actions was really about a better way to learn, did you? It’s a better way to unknowingly imbibe deeply of ideology and never even be aware of it. Students learn to perceive experiences through the supplied framing concepts.

Next thing you know students believe deeply what all these professors want us all to be shifting towards (from Barber’s conclusion).

“Democracy can be our most magnanimous employer. Citizenship can again be the most human of all occupations. .. [history] appears now to be conspiring with [civility]. In a provocative realization of Marx’s prophecy anticipating a new world of abundance no longer rooted in endless labor, our society is moving toward conditions that could nourish the resuscitation of civil society–not just public work but public play, cultural leisure as well as civic labor, fun no less than ferment, the joys of living in place of the burdens of earning a living.”

Barber is not the only one who sees all this Systems Thinking and reimagining of education as moving us towards a new future vision grounded in what Uncle Karl wrote so long ago. Others though leave out the explicit mention that is probably what got Barber’s book pulled off the shelves. When I read Shoshana Zuboff’s 2002 The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism I went back and reread Maurice Berman’s passage on Marx and Modernization in his book to doublecheck that meeting everyone’s needs did in fact form the essence of Uncle Karl’s ultimate economic and social vision.

Yep, so her new enterprise logic of a “distributed capitalism” based on everyone’s “need and support” as its organizing principle basically gets us to a 21st century version of the M word. She wants “Buyer-beware”  to give way to “United We Stand” and a reinvention of the employment relationship and the idea that “all enterprises should work for them.” Honestly this vision, which also fits with Senge’s Fieldbook from the previous post, will have the least capable employees the most assertive about their right to be consulted. Capable people tend to be too busy. I am not picking on Shoshana. She has a right to her beliefs just like we have a right to recognize the political and economic theory she is describing as well as the significance of citing Erik Erikson’s theory of human development in her creation of the “psychologized individuals” who will be demanding that society be changed. Won’t the real Common Core come in handy for that if the goal is to create “powerful drives toward interdependence, affiliation and community-building, but in ways that no longer depend upon a priori criteria such as kinship or geography?” Not to mention the real definitions of College and Career Ready we have tracked down.

So K-12 schooling is where those individuals get “psychologized” so they are “educated, opinionated, rights-claiming, and keen to act. They have concepts, ideals, and information.” Shoshana left out schemata as what organizes their view of the world and I’d be willing to bet most of the information supplied will not be accurate. Shoshana’s new individuals will be primed by school and then university to “demand a high quality of direct participation and influence.” Probably in inverse proportion to the genuine value of their contributions to the workplace apart from showing up. But if you believe in the “evolution of the human-spirit” education is your tool of choice.

And Shoshana is not the least bit alone in her aspirations. was a McKinsey award winner last fall at Harvard B School to reimagine a fourth sector of the economy tailored to needs. These ‘for-benefit’ firms will integrate social, environmental and financial value creation. All at the same time. And if that sounds pie in the sky. shows North Carolina on board to foster this new sector that blurs the distinction between public and private. It has Aspen Institute support which means virtually all the big foundations involved with Common Core are also involved with promoting this Fourth Sector idea. Won’t this go well with Aspen’s Effective Teacher eval push? Evals will likely go a long way towards forcing the classroom teacher to cooperate with “psychologizing” individual students as envisioned above. Plus I found this same paper being pushed in Australia. That means this is a global reimagining.

In the last post I talked about Otto Scharmer’s Seven Accupuncture Points paper but not what he called Capitalism 3.0. What his and Senge’s Systems Thinking work in the schools and businesses and on higher ed campuses is intended to achieve as the End Game. And remember we have the UN-affiliated IHDP describing Senge and Scharmer as pursuing the vision of the future that they and Paul Ehrlich’s MAHB are also pursuing globally. I am thus not alleging anything.  Scharmer’s economic vision functions much like Zuboff’s distributed capitalism. He envisions value-chain relationships of the politically chosen enterprises in “distributed situations” that “link all players along the value chain, from sourcing raw materials to the end consumer.”

Scharmer wants a “new coordination mechanism” other than private choices driving this value chain of goods and services “that revolves around creating collective action that arises from shared attention and common will.” That does sound decidedly like central planning and coercion but I am sure the generative metaphors and schemata and social and emotional learning in K-12 will prime the personality not to mind this time. Then Scharmer moves on to what is really the essence of what everyone really seems to be wanting from Systems Thinking. And I say that after tackling Donald Schon’s very graphic 1971 book Beyond the Stable State yesterday. Just trust me or we will be here all day. If these profs do not actually use the M word as Barber did they keep describing its fundamental tenets as their aspirational vision.

I am going to cite a long passage from Scharmer (p 12 if you pull report) but he is speaking for a large number of others and this is the End Game that goes with both global education reforms AND all the hyping about whether manmade carbon dioxide is leading to imminent catastrophic global warming. Think Vehicle for Change. Excuse for Change. Desired Vision of the Future.

“are we willing to accept that we are not separate from each other, but are economically and socially a highly interdependent field of interrelationships and communities?

And if we agree that the multi-level connection exists, are we willing to lend a hand to each other? If the answer to that is yes, then the highest-leverage economic intervention would be to simply create a basic human right to a basic income for every human being that, if combined with free or inexpensive access to healthcare and education, would create a level playing field that gave everyone a chance to pursue their aspirations and dreams–to put their real creativity into the service of the larger community.”

That’s what all these profs envision. It’s what Uncle Karl and his good friend Friedrich wanted too so long ago. It’s what the Fourth Sector is getting at and Capitalism 3.0 and distributed capitalism. And it utterly ignores human nature and the results of comparable aspirations in the past. And I tackled the futility of this before with some help from Friedrich Hayek here

But we all deserve a public debate on what is really being sought and whether it can work. I am ready. But right now this vision is coming in the backdoor uninvited while we are in another part of the house or at work ourselves.

We have every right to insist if it wants another chance in the 21st century, this radical vision must knock on our front door and make its case. To all of us.


Who Knew Karl Marx had a Human Development Model? Or that It Fit Our Facts So Well?

Or that it could be put in place in the US by executive fiat at the federal level? All you have to do is misinterpret the nature and language and case law of the federal civil rights laws. And then repeat. Early, often, and adamantly. It’s not like someone with a working knowledge of con law also reads education declarations and documents. It’s also not like changing the nature of education in the classroom could have any impact on a society or economy. Or political beliefs. Or future behaviors.

About a week ago the US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent school districts a letter announcing that “We Must Provide Equal Opportunity in Sports to Students With Disabilities.” It included a 12 page Dear Colleague letter from the DoEd’s Office of Civil Rights. A number of commentaries (Rick Hess and Mike Petrilli among them) have wondered where such a pronouncement came from and noted how impractical it is. Equal opportunity in sports at whatever cost. What no one seems to be paying attention to is what both letters declared. To  quote Arne directly:

“Federal civil rights laws require schools to provide equal opportunity.”

No actually federal civil rights laws do no such thing. Congress can rewrite them or the courts can change their interpretation of them. But Arne and his employees, even the ones with law degrees, may not. Especially on a Friday afternoon in the first week of a Second Term in office. If you read the OCR letter you will see that sports is just an illustration of a much broader right Arne and his Department want to create. And they explicitly want to include learning disabilities, not just physical ones.

Think about that. If federal law did mandate that those with learning disabilities have an equal opportunity to students without disabilities or who are just plain brilliant, then school and high ed could not really be about intellectual pursuits anymore. That’s a playing field where inequalities in capabilities exist. Must change playing fields then. How about social and emotional learning since everyone has feelings? That would be an equal opportunity arena. All students can also interact at some level. Especially with computers. We also have a push now to promote life skills. Everyone can do that too. Except they usually leave off the full name: Life Skills for Psychosocial Competence. Can’t imagine why anyone would want to ditch such a graphic tipoff as to what is really going on.

There’s another possibility for our Equal Opportunity classroom. A developmental progression that focuses on personality development in a social context. That would be the education theories of Erik H Erikson. He practiced in Chicago and it’s hard to imagine Arne is not familiar with his views of child development or the sociocultural approach to education. Especially since the University of Illinois in 2007 published a paper in Educational Theory announcing all of this as the new approach to education.,%20DePalma,%20Drye,%20Whose%20development,%20ET,%202007.pdf . And also because numerous government agencies including the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation embraced sociocultural theories instead of cognitive theories grounded in individual thinking as the basis of their future work. is the post from July 2012 describing that official report and its troubling implications.

What I had not read in July was a 1982 book by CCNY/CUNY professor Marshall Berman called All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity.  That book laid out Marx’s developmental ideal and “how crucial” it was to all his political beliefs. Also that it was grounded in the German humanist and Romanticist culture of Marx’s youth. Berman did leave out the part about how that ideal facilitated the national collective mindset that led Germany to launch two world wars in the 20th century. But then Berman is an admirer of Marx and that’s such a picky little detail for me to mention. Berman does mention though that this Marxian/Romantic German developmental ideal was “still very much alive in our own day” and that Erik Erikson is its “most distinguished living exponent.” Erikson actually passed away in 1994 but his work does clearly seem to be gaining momentum. Probably because without Berman’s book it would be harder to link it directly to Marx.

With that book though we don’t even have to infer. We can quote directly from Berman and Marx (pages 96-98 if you want to locate a copy).  Marx has a vision of education that does not transmit the values and knowledge of the current culture which he of course wanted to disappear. Hence the Melt into Air metaphor he used. Educators pushing Marx’s personal development theories today through later adopters, like Dewey or Erikson or Vygotsky, are pushing the same goals. Change the foundations that support the current economy, society, and political structures.

That’s in fact why this type of education is not just called Progressivism. It’s also known as Social Reconstruction and that is precisely where that Equal Opportunity declaration takes us. Very similarly to the goal Goodwin Liu also laid out for the Common Core here . Same basic desired Transformation goals coming from a variety of directions. With the same vehicle–education, K-12 and higher ed and creating false beliefs and new values to get different future behaviors. At least from a voting majority. What Paul Ehrlich and his MAHB seek as well

Berman first quotes this passage from Marx’s Communist Manifesto:

“In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we will have an association in which the free development of each will be the condition of the free development of all.”

A desire that 21st century educators will relabel as the Universal Love Principle or Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory and impose in the classroom in the name of Character Education or a Positive School Climate. Let’s continue on with how crucial this developmental ideal was to Marx. Berman cites several examples but this one rings consistent with the actual current definition of  College Ready: “the goal of communism is ‘the development of a totality of capacities in the individuals themselves.’ Berman goes on with this passage from The German Ideology that is consistent with the Communitarianism we are have found in Career Ready Practices and the Positive School Climate (again!):

“only in community with others has each individual the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions; only in the community, therefore, is personal freedom possible.”

Bill Ayers just loves that definition of freedom. I do believe it’s what sent him into education in the first place. I mean who would know? Who reads Marxist professors to locate such a quote back to Marx himself? Me when the footnotes cite someone.

This final quote from Marx is reflected in the actual definitions of Student Growth and Student Achievement being used in the States as part of Common Core. It’s why feelings and social and emotional learning and changes in values, attitudes, and beliefs measured through collected data about each student and classroom are so much a part of the actual Common Core implementation. This is from Volume One of Capital:

“it is essential to communism that it transcend the capitalist division of labor [that would be differences in knowledge and skills among students in less stilted language]… the partially developed individual, who is merely the bearer of one specialized social function, must be replaced by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labors, ready to face any change in production, for whom the different social functions he performs are only so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers.”

That’s a fairly concise summary of what is now being called College and Career Ready if you go back to the original documents as I have. It also fits perfectly with the OECD’s definition of Competency driving international education reforms through PISA.

Now I am not saying everything going on in education globally is about resurrecting Communism. For one thing it now has a terrible reputation. But education globally is trying to displace any right of individuals to make their own decisions about how to live their lives. Right now the 21st century being shaped for us through education is the Age of Statism where politicians and government employees and Business and Nonprofit cronies make decisions for us. It’s not to be the Age of the Individual or the Consumer or widespread prosperity.

And the educational theories being used to mold New Kinds of Minds and Different Personalities really do track back to Marx. Which then makes 20th Century history hugely relevant to where we are headed in the 21st.

I wish this was not true but it is. And the only way to get us off this current planned pathway is to stare this Marxian foundation square in the face.