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  http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/01/we-must-provide-equal-opportunity-in-sports-to-students-with-disabilities/ 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. http://ematusov.soe.udel.edu/vita/Articles/Matusov,%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.  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/so-now-common-core-rejects-individual-thinking-to-embrace-soviet-psychology-ecology/ 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 http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/morphing-the-common-core-into-a-new-rewritten-us-constitution-by-mandating-false-beliefs/ . 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.