Transcending the Individual Mind as the Analytical Unit of Learning While Still Guiding How We Will Act

In 2003, Peter Senge, also tied to MIT’s Sloan School of Management just like Alex Pentland from the last post, wrote an article “Creating Desired Futures in a Global Economy” based on remarks he delivered at his Society of Organizational Learning’s first Global Forum. It was held in Helsinki, Finland. Like John Dewey’s purposes for education, Peter Senge’s purposes or Alex Pentland’s or those who push practices unaware of their background, the purposes still attach to the desired education practices. No matter what or where. No matter how pure the heart may be or how noble the personal intentions. The purposes need to be a part of every discussion of education reform, and no degree from any institution should enable anyone to impose these practices with their undisputed collectivist intention in a country that intends to remain free.

Otherwise we have precisely what seems to be occurring. Education being used to mount a nonconsensual political coup at the level of the human mind. In that article Senge quoted a physicist David Bohm, who in 1980 expressed the sentiment that “the most important thing going forward is to break the boundaries between people so we can operate as a single intelligence. [J.S., another physicist] Bell’s theorem implies that this is the natural state of the human world, separation without separateness. The task is to find ways to break these boundaries, so we can be in our natural state.” Senge apparently agrees with Bohm and gave a similar quote from Einstein.

He also waxes on about the Global Consciousness Project at Princeton (interestingly, that’s the same noosphere project I drew attention to in the book). If this were simply a matter of personal beliefs that would be one thing, but when these beliefs drive education policy no one should lose the right to avoid declared manipulations of minds and feelings, values or complete personality, just because the person pushing these ideas got a certain kind of degree or works at a school or district or university or government agency or has a lucrative consulting contract.

If the nature of the education policy or practice is to foster that Marxist change in the student and the world to make history that we encountered in the last post, then the people pushing these policies are Marxists. Whether they admit it or not and whether they are aware or not of the ancestry of what they are pushing. I don’t know about what you feel when reading the word Marxist, but when I have to type it feels like I am insulting someone. Like telling them they have bad breath or must turn sideways to make it through a door. For many of the people developing and pushing these education ideas though, it’s a term of pride. And when it comes to pushing Vygotsky’s theories or those of Piotr Galperin, who we are going to talk about today, it is not merely that they personally had Marxist sentiments or lived in a country under its sway.

Using education to create “forward-looking transformative practices that are needed to enact history in the present” is the entire purpose of their theories and instructional practices. If the actual implementation of the Common Core in the US and comparable education reforms elsewhere are grounded in Vygotsky (usually admittedly if you know where to look) and Galperin (by the function of the required practices and how closely they align with his theories), then the purpose of the education reforms is every bit as much of a Marxist transformation as anything that happened in Russia in 1917 or Cuba in 1959. Nobody is goose stepping or shooting or fleeing abroad this time, but that does not change the aim. Nor does it change admissions that these theories and practices are “ideology-driven” to foster a different kind of future world.

What Galperin set out to do, and what his decades of research on students in the USSR showed, according to Igor Arievitch and Jacques Haenen, was how to use the “active construction of actions in the external form [what the Common Core calls learning tasks]” to guide “transformation of those actions into mental processes.” That’s what ‘teaching students how to think’ and a ‘thinking curriculum’ actually mean. To put it in the language used in a different essay by Arievitch and Anna Stetsenko, Galperin’s systemic-theoretical instruction laid out “how to arrange teaching-and-learning processes [what he and we now call by its Russian name obuchenie] in such a way that they indeed lead to a profound developmental change in children’s minds.”

How you ask? You provide a conceptual understanding from the beginning that encompasses the point of instruction (maybe true, but what a student is to believe regardless) and what types of physical phenomena it applies to (supposedly) and the (mostly invisible) relationships among those phenomena that physically exist in the real world. So real physical things encountered in daily life by a student or adult evoke “a chain of images, associations, and concepts”  in the mind that is designed to pop up like a reflex response. Let’s tap that knee says the doctor.

Now if whoever created the textbook or software or video wants actual knowledge, you could actually use Galperin’s “technology of instruction” to accurately build up a fairly accurate understanding of reality. Such programmed instruction is not inherently bad, but there’s no real safety valve to protect against manipulative creators of virtual reality gaming or software or any other means of instruction from pushing concepts that are not true or do not apply. Nor is there any means of ensuring that the taught relationships among things accurately reflects real, verifiable, connections. Like Senge’s systems thinking, the instruction may be about hoped for connections transformation advocates want students to believe exist.

Because the manipulative potential of Galperin’s ‘technology of instruction,’ as his research demonstrated, stems from the fact that it orients future behavior in predictable ways. In other words, systemic-theoretical instruction has tremendous potential to anyone wanting to change reality and guide perception and govern individual behavior. All without saying so. Well, at least not at the typical PTA meeting. Now how is this different from that theory you learned in science class or as an interpretation in history? Glad you asked. In traditional education, those theories come from known facts. Remember though we are in the age when facts are being rejected as boring, or too print intensive, or unnecessary in a world of search engines.

Theory in the Galperin instructional practice and to Alex Pentland in the last post, and as used throughout the actual ed reform mandates, comes first. It comes from the philosophy that there is nothing as practical as a good theory for fostering social transformation. It shapes and alters how people perceive reality. It interferes with the absorption of facts when they do manage to come along. Remember all the classroom visions we are seeing pushed are experiential. Usually in a group. Physical activity. Visual encounters. Projects. All the references we have been encountering about providing students with ‘lenses’ or ‘Understandings of Consequence’ or ‘Enduring Understandings’ or ‘Generative Metaphors,’ to cite a few examples we have encountered, all seem to be used precisely as Galperin outlined. That means this is the attached vision (Arevitch & Haenen 2005):

“In fact, Galperin’s teaching strategies can be used to reduce if not virtually eliminate the gap between declarative and procedural knowledge. Namely, in his stepwise teaching model, each action that students master can be comprehended conceptually because it is introduced, from the beginning, in its functional relation to a broader, meaningful task to be learned.

At the same time, each concept students are learning is represented as a sequence of procedures (actions) that serve as a basis for solving problems. Therefore, declarative [facts traditionally] and procedural [how to do it] knowledge are essentially merged into an integrated whole. This can be achieved when teaching and learning are organized into meaningful activities, thus putting the acquisition of new knowledge to the service of orienting and guiding new actions.”

Highly useful theory of education, instruction, and knowledge to anyone with a transformation agenda, isn’t it? We started with Peter Senge, let’s close with a statement from the same paper since it applies to so much of the stated rationales for needing these so-called 21st century education reforms.

“The fundamental difference between creating and problem solving is simple. In problem solving we seek to make something we do not like go away. In creating, we seek to make what we truly care about exist. Few distinctions are more basic.”

Few education theories then would be more useful than one that orients future behavior in predictable ways.

Psychological Approach to a Humane Politics: Restructuring the West Quietly and Effectively Via Ed

We stopped to pick up that nerdy expression Triune Consciousness in the last post because it rather succinctly explains why nothing in education over the last several decades makes much sense to us. We have a worldview on what education should be that makes it very difficult to accurately perceive that education has become about creating a new “framework of values, a philosophy of life, a religion or religion surrogate to live and to understand by.” The German expression for such an all-encompassing guide of daily perception is weltanschauung. We just translate it Worldview and it has been officially under attack for decades. Why? Because of a belief that humanistic psychology could adopt the human development component of Uncle Karl’s vision and use K-12 and higher ed institutions to invisibly change personal perceptions and culture. Shifting “personal politics can make for a more humane politics for both America and our larger world.”

Triune consciousness then simply reflects the idea that a new, radically different structure of social relations needs to be grounded in emotion and passion. In order to create a need to act to change the world as it now exists to the vision desired. I think such “a ‘knowing-of-the-heart’ which is not an unambiguous knowledge like that of clear and distinct ideas…” is a dangerous thing for our schools, churches, or universities to be cultivating. But I am also warning everyone that such a dramatic shift is precisely what is being sought in the Positive School Climate, Flow, systems thinking, happiness, mental health first aid, and other pushes we have discussed previously. How do I know for sure? Why the people involved have told me in their books and conferences and websites. It is all grounded in the humanistic psychology of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. That appears to be the all-encompassing vision we are dealing with. Still.

I am beginning to think that this naive idea that we can redefine what humanity is and promote specieshood and use education to target the foundation of all social institutions: “how people think and feel, how they comprehend the meaning of being human, how they experience the self, how they perceive their relationship to the environment and each other” really came under an organized, global attack back in 1962. First we have Robert Tucker, the Princeton poli sci prof laying out the idea that the US was closer to little c communism than the USSR and pushing Uncle Karl’s human development vision of the future. Then we have Evald Ilyenkov coming up with his new dialectics that supposedly will later inspire Gorbachev but was also very interested in altering perceptions. Remember our trips through the nerdy expression “Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete” and how Ilyenkov’s work has recently been brought back into print in the US by those Cultural-Historical Activity Theorists in San Diego?

To that interesting cauldron of timing that was almost certainly impacted in a delaying way by the Cuban Missile Crisis later in 1962, let me add a fascinating link. In 1962, the ASCD, then a division of the National Education Association–the NEA–published Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming: A New Focus proposing that the nature of education be dramatically shifted with Maslow and Rogers among the authors. The new type of education would be centered in the psychological tenets of humanist psychology in order to build on human potential to change, instead of the transmission of knowledge. Sound troublingly familiar?

The 1960s and taking these ideas in the direction of hedonism may have stopped much of the historic role of schools in academic learning but the desire to use school’s to alter student’s personalities hit a snag. The Journal of Humanistic Psychology created a dialogue all through the 70s and early 80s on what a good instrument for changing society and the nature of the economy HP (no, not Hewlett Packard even though all the foundations now are imbibing these theories deeply) would make.

Somehow that magical year of 1986 became the point in time to put all those broader political and social intentions and Maslow’s ideal of using education to integrate self-improvement and social zeal into another book. This one was called Politics and Innocence: A Humanistic Debate with Maslow, Rogers, Rollo May and others participating. One of those was a Walter Nord who pointed out that the “writings of Karl Marx have much in common with what modern writers have described as the essence of humanistic psychology.” That’s our HP and we had noticed that striking resemblance in function and sought effects. Nord simply points out that HP needs to be used to create support for “major changes in economic organization and the distribution of power.” Systems thinking and outcomes-based education to the rescue please!

Then in 1999 during the last round of Radical Ed Reform at the federal level before Gore’s loss slowed down the full implementation, the ASCD published an updated book edited by H Jerome Freiberg. It contained the original 1962 essays with new contributions from people like Barbara McComb’s from the Aurora, Co ed lab, McREL, involved in the A+ Achieving Excellence systems thinking, OBE innovation, that would later become an issue in Columbine. This “Motivation and Lifelong Learning” paper  http://www.unco.edu/cebs/psychology/kevinpugh/motivation_project/resources/mccombs91.pdf published in 1991 gives a good feel for what HP sought whatever it calls itself. Plus it makes its links to the current lifelong learning push and what that League of Innovative Schools is really trying to research on suburban school kids without parental consent. The 1999 book was called Perceiving Behaving Becoming: Lessons Learned.

In 2013 HP comes in as the social and emotional learning mandate that the accreditation agencies are requiring in their standards for what constitutes “Quality” as well as what gets incorporated into all that planned gaming. How am I so sure about Positive School Climate though? Because Carl Rogers writes repeatedly about what he calls the “psychological climate” and the “growth-promoting climate.” It’s the necessary school, classroom, and social environment that may prove Rogers belief:

“I do not find that this evil is inherent in human nature. In a psychological climate which is nurturant of growth and choice, I have never known an individual to choose the cruel or destructive path. Choice always seems to be in the direction of greater socialization, improved relationships with others. So my experience leads me to believe that it is cultural influences which are the major factor in our evil behavior.”

I think Rogers is wrong. Rollo May did too but that is the guiding philosophy behind the Positive School Climate mandate. Use education to change the student’s values, attitudes, beliefs, and emotions and you can change future behavior. Do it in enough students, especially if the heads of foundations and other social and political institutions are quietly on board with this invisible revolution and you can supposedly get an out of sight revolution.

How else do I know for sure that we are still dealing with HP in 2013 in the plans for the actual Common Core implementation? Because Martin Seligman of the Positive Psychology and global School Wide Positive Behavior and Happiness pushes said it tied to Maslow’s work.   http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/martin-seligman/ Because Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi, whose work is described here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/excellence-means-education-putting-what-we-feel-wish-for-and-think-in-harmony/  also ties his work back to Maslow and does the research on that nerdy word “conation” that is tied to the OECD’s Subjective Well-being excuses for making us the Governed.

Finally there was the Third World Congress on Positive Psychology, June 27-30, 2013 in LA that Seligman and Csik basically led. http://www.ippanetwork.org/assets/1/7/IPPAThirdWorldCongressProgram.pdf is the program that clearly ties it all to Maslow and shows the global importance of the Positive School Climate model to achieving the desired transformations.

I think I will close with the admission from the End of Innocence book (citing Frankfurt School member Erich Fromm) on how important it is to use education to reframe “all perceptions of reality” whenever social change is sought. School then becomes a method of social conditioning that gets at the “system of categories which determines the forms of awareness. This system works, as it were, like a socially conditioned filter; experience cannot enter awareness unless it can penetrate the filter.”

Whoever creates that mental filter creates what is perceived as reality. What will guide future action and what will be ignored despite real consequences.

Now you know why we keep hearing about conceptual lenses and Understandings of Consequence and Generative Metaphors and Mental Schemas and frameworks. Every radical with plans of transformations is familiar with Fromm’s insight. We needed to be too.

Student-centered learning=humanist psychology emphasis in the 21st century classroom

Now you know why all recourse from an alarmed parent or taxpayer or teacher is being turned off.

Cultivating Understandings of Consequence to Guide Daily Life and Prompt Desired Behaviors

Dialectic is such an off-putting word that it is easy to ignore what it is trying to say about a desired vision for how the world ought to work in the future. Especially if you are a political radical hoping for a reason to push transformation. Before the Enlightenment and especially before Darwin published his views of a spontaneous, non-directed biological evolution, both philosophy and religion had developed ways to see the world as a whole. All aspects of it–human, natural, and divine–as related together in an orderly way. The common term used for that all-encompassing vision is a cosmology. When I read Engestrom’s desire to get back to seeing the world in terms of systemic causal relationships–Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete– where none actually exist, I saw that desire to reorder the nature of the world back into a cosmology view. Without saying so. I saw the same intent in that Rand report mentioned in the last post encouraging students to come up with broad principles from isolated facts. We are really in the realm of belief here, not knowledge.

The difference between me and another commentator on that clearly designed to be globally influential Rand  report is that when I read the grey box blurb on “Correcting Misconceptions about Complex Causality” I immediately recognized I was reading BS. I had read too much disdain for seeing the world in terms of factual and linear, cause and effect relationships to not be suspicious that somehow it was perfectly permissible to think in terms of causality with the so-called ecosystem. Moreover, I recognized that drive for a holistic view of the world because a few weeks ago I read a 1982 book called The Return to Cosmology: Postmodern Science and the Theology of Nature. Written by Stephen Toulmin, it was the source of the Koestler example in the last post.

Toulmin wanted very much for our now 21st century humanity to rethink its place as independent of nature. In fact, by the early 80s he viewed a first “movement toward a revival of ‘natural religion,’ and a reunion of science with ‘natural theology,’ is already underway, though not necessarily under explicitly theological colors. The traditional issues of natural religion are forcing themselves on public attention, though under other names.” The commentators who have remarked over the years that the theory of Catastrophic Manmade Climate Change behaves more like a religion than science might well want to consider Toulmin’s insider observation of what was going on. It’s on page 261.

The problem though is it now comes in as Engestrom’s Theory of Expansion basically whitewashing these old Soviet and Eastern European systemic political theories. Or via the current NSF funded Understandings of Consequence Project being run by Project Zero at Harvard. Which is where searching the names in the footnoted Misconceptions of Complex Causality support took me. Tina A Grotzer and Belinda Bell Basca to be more precise than what the Rand report provided. I think they thought a footnote should suffice to take their word that the assertion was true. No, I actually located their “How does grasping the underlying causal structures of ecosystems impact students’ understanding?” that dated back to a conference from 2000. Hmm, that would be the last go around at US comprehensive radical ed reform. Back when the rest of the world moved ahead of us in gutting the transmission of knowledge as too individualistic. And not apt to a world in flux.

I got to read about RECAST–REvealing CAusal STructure. Structure of course being another name for seeing the world systemically and looking for relationships among things instead of individual characteristics. And I thought of how useful RECAST would be to an education reformer wishing to create widespread and influential misconceptions about how the world works. Just how useful it would be to get at and impact “how we frame experience or information.” To be able to provide “a flexible repertoire of models that [students] understand how to map to relevant occasions.” Tracy Benson of the Waters Foundation did say in print that Systems Thinking was about controlling personal behavior. That would do it and it would be quite invisible.

Then I followed up on the related idea of EcoMUVE–Advancing Ecosystems Science Education via Situated Collaborative Learning in Multi-User Virtual Environments” which of course is the gaming like River City we have already encountered in posts like this one http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/students-must-see-themselves-as-active-participants-in-social-change-and-designers-of-social-futures/ . And I saw that NSF sponsorship of Understandings of Consequence and language asking me–”What inherent default assumptions do humans make that influence how we reason about complexity in the world?” Well, quite honestly, most people cannot very well because they are actually not too good with abstractions. So they will simply have to take the concepts as provided and use them as instructed.

Now, how useful is that for a Project Zero Group also representing IB in creating Global Consciousness and the CCSSO (supposed state creators of the Common Core) in their related Global Competence push? Secondly I remember that the NSF has changed its policy and is now explicitly using K-12 education to squelch climate skepticism. And I have all those documents and have written about it.  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/if-reality-is-ignored-or-disregarded-when-do-we-become-a-state-against-its-people/

Plus I remember our cosmology aspiring professor writing in a 1974 essay included in his book how so many scientists with aspirations of how society should be organized sought to apply the laws of physical systems to living systems. But that when you do that, you are applying physical laws to philosophical matters. Trying to get human affairs to organize themselves systemically even though as Toulmin said regretfully in a footnote:

“After many years of loose talk about ‘ecosystems,’ many leading ecologists are now shying away from the term…The phenomena so referred to (food chains etc.) also lack the stable, self-restoring character of physiological systems, i.e., are not fully ‘systemic.’ If only they were!”

Toulmin even described how French biologist, Francois Jacob, and his attempt at Biological Structuralism, was dealing with “cultural and social integrons” that are unfortunately not sufficiently systemic in the way he desires. So, Toulmin noted wistfully, talking of systems in “politics, culture, and society” does not change the non-causal, non-systemic nature. It’s just a case of bad analogizing to develop a theory to get desired results in human behavior. Something Paul Ehrlich has said he is still doing with IHDP. In fact he says we are more than five years into the global transformation affiliated with the UN.

How to get there? Well, let’s face it, what is the likelihood of a non-footnote detective reading Toulmin? Slim so the analogy to physical systems should stand for most teachers and students and the general population. Just mention “the Second Law of Thermodynamics says” and they will listen. Totally unaware it is NOT a Law of the Universe but a universal law that ONLY applies to a ‘thermally isolated’ system, which is one that “is shielded against all interchanges of heat with bodies outside itself.” Used elsewhere Toulmin said you are trying to use science to argue philosophy. Without admitting that is what is happening.

The year after Toulmin’s book the theories to repair the damage to the wonderful usefulness of inapt analogies and false beliefs to generate Social Transformation began anew with the publication of “Structure-Mapping: A Theoretical Framework for Analogy” by Psych Prof Dedre Gentner. Those of you who have always wondered precisely what higher-order thinking in these assessments such as STAAR in Texas or the OECD’s PISA should realize that “structural analysis=higher order relations.” The idea in all this developing analogizing work is for a student to take what that have been taught about complex causal relations and apply it to a previously untaught area without a clear solution.

Then hopefully as Professors John E Hummel and Keith Holyoak have discovered in their LISA, Learning Inferences through Schemas and Analogies, research:

“People are able to induce schemas by comparing just two analogs to one another. Indeed, people will form schemas simply as a side effect of applying one solved problem to one unsolved target problem.”

Whether it fits or not. Driven not by similarities but by being told there is a causal relationship among the two domains. Even if there is no visible correspondence of characteristics. In fact NSF has also funded research into “Causal Models as Inference Engines” within the last few years. All of which reminded me of the passage in the Rand report where “teachers ask students to engage in high-road transfer by making conceptual connections between scientific laws [like mass and motion] and situations they may encounter in their lives.”

Where again it would be inapt but would any student be in a position to know that? Reading through all the Understandings of Consequences classroom projects and what is sought by NSF and what is in that Rand report and Engestrom’s Learning by Expansion, it is very difficult NOT to see all these so-called education reforms as designed to get students to believe and then feel compelled to act on things that very well may not be true.

Back to cosmology without saying so. Back to people needing direction without pointing out that is the intent of the reforms.

What happens in a world when so much of what is believed is not so?

And so much of what is important is no longer widely known?

 


Treating Western Society and its Economy as a Train in Need of Rebuilding and Central Direction

When you get down deep into the aspirations on using education to shift the West away from its historic focus on individuals and economic freedom to considering new, untried forms of organizing societies and economies, you quickly come upon the desire that “learning” NOT reenforce currently existing “systems.” The fact that what is being called systems are actually people, like me and you, who are supposed to have legally protected rights to autonomy and private decision-making gets conveniently left out. That the countries to be reorganized have a history of success in the unprecedented opportunities available to their people gets left out. That free markets where they exist have delivered unprecedented prosperity to even the poorest among us also gets left out as inconvenient facts. Systems. Just systems that can be rebuilt with enough Big Data and supercomputers into a smarter planet. No one stops to ask whose vision of “smart” is being imposed.

Our friend, psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner of Ecological Systems Theory and transforming the West as an experiment fame  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/imitating-the-ussr-in-striving-to-discover-how-the-child-can-become-what-he-not-yet-is/ understood well that the theories he and others were creating were not based on some type of hypothesis about factual reality. They were and are aspirational. If implemented, these psychological and political theories become a means to “transcend the contexts given to you to produce societal change and personal developmental change.” That would be personal change in Uncle Karl’s sense of the word.  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/who-knew-karl-marx-had-a-human-development-model-or-that-it-fit-our-facts-so-well/ . Or now hiding so well under the real definition of Student Growth. With lots of personal affective data being collected and shared to see how the developmental Learning is progressing.

We have a new global Change Agent to talk about. A professor who split his time between Finland and the University of California at San Diego, Yrjo Engestrom. His writing is important to our global story because of his Theory of Expansion and the influence of his book Learning by Expanding. Exciting for him and concerning to us, his Activity Theory is clearly the influence behind what are now being called euphemistically the Learning Sciences. As in the April 2012 Rand Corporation report for that Global Cities Education Network discussed here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/misportraying-the-conspiracy-covers-up-the-broader-plans-of-political-and-economic-transformation/ . The report is called Teaching and Learning 21st Century Skills: Lessons from the Learning Sciences and it again shows why making poorly understood and defined goals like 21st Century Skills the new purpose of education has so much potential for anyone with aspirations for stealth cultural transformation.

Hidden at least in the West except at conferences of the like-minded. We know Urie was downright confessional on his aspirations in print. So quite frankly is Engestrom in his books and articles if you take the time to read them. What a fun weekend I had! The train metaphor in our title comes from Engestrom but he is quoting a frustration that Urie had with education in the US and the West generally. That human development in the West “takes place like in a moving train. One can walk forward and backward through the cars, but what really matters is where the train is going.”

I personally am hoping if I am being likened to a train car that I get to be a sleek luxury bullet train car and not something Amtrak has operating. But I digress. Engestrom then went on to say that Urie’s train metaphor “exemplifies the central problem embedded in most of the available societally and ecologically oriented analysis of development” [those originally Marxian or Soviet theories get to hide now by just being referred to authoritatively as the Learning Sciences. See above].

Here is the money quote that could have come from a myriad of social and behavioral scientists and education professors. Think of Engestrom as their voice too.

“The environments or societal contexts are seen as historically changing, but not as being constructed and reconstructed by the people living in these contexts. Contexts are imposed upon, not produced by humans. Nobody seems to be driving the train.”

Luckily as my regular readers now know the videogaming vision attached to the actual Common Core implementation will give students plenty of practice in constructing and reconstructing worlds. Even embedding them in strategies of what to do after a Zombie Apocalypse. How exciting and engaging! Engestrom’s sentiments on wanting a driver of a collective train are not the least bit unusual for someone who grew up with Uncle Karl’s theories of historical progression. In fact author Arthur Koestler who was so disillusioned by the turn Stalinism took that he wrote one of the great novels of the 20th Century, Darkness at Noon, could never quite shake his dislike of spontaneous, undirected processes where ever they occur naturally. Like in biology or chemistry. He still wanted direction. Central direction.

The kind that comes from cultural evolution if you can make education about transforming personal and prevailing values, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. What became notorious as Outcomes Based Education but now hides quietly as unappreciated definitions of Student Growth and Learning. Still there but unlikely to be detected except maybe by hyperactive due diligence attorneys who read too much. Now Engestrom’s globally influential work made no attempt to hide just how much it was grounded in Soviet theories of dialectical materialism and how to try to push “a historically new form of activity into emergence.”

He certainly did not write in 1987 or again in 1999, when his book was translated into German and Japanese and he wrote a new Introduction, like someone who saw Uncle Karl’s or Soviet theories generally as assigned to the ash heap of history. For supposedly comatose or dead theories they appear in his pen to be full of vim and vigor and still existing hopes for transformation. I suppose it helps that our guard was down because “We won!”

In 1991 Engestrom wrote an article, published in Great Britain, that is clearly the blueprint for the reimagining of high school we are seeing globally and in the US as a component of Common Core. The article was called “Non Scolae Sed Vitae Discimus: Toward Overcoming the Encapsulation of School Learning.”  Now if that title was not pompous enough sounding, the actual article goes on to lay out “The Formation of Theoretical Concepts by Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete in Instruction.” Developed by V V Davydov based on Uncle Karl’s theory of finding defining relationships that can then filter everyone’s everyday analysis of reality, that theory was the subject of a great deal of research for decades in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. And it does not seem to have gone gently into that dark night either.

And neither ‘abstract’ or ‘concrete’ in Davydov’s theory have the meaning we commonly associate with them. ‘Concrete’ is NOT seen as “something sensually palpable.” Abstract does NOT mean “something conceptual or mentally constructed.” No, in this Davydov/Engestrom theory ‘concrete’ means the “holistic quality of systemic interconnectedness.” Which means that all of our encounters with Systems Thinking and Peter Senge and Appreciative Inquiry that push to teach students to see the world as interconnected and interdependent and full of relationships are back to Davydov’s theories.

Which in turn are explicitly supposed to be an updated, supercharged version of Dialectics. That’s not me alleging that. It’s me quoting those statements and then recognizing where else they are now being used. It also means that dialectical view of ‘concrete’ absolutely saturates that C3 CCSSO Social Studies framework I wrote alarmingly about here. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/tearing-up-the-fabric-of-a-free-society-the-new-college-career-and-civic-life-c3-framework/

It is behind the 21st Century definition of ‘transferable learning’ in that Rand Global Cities Education Network report mentioned above. It is why we should be alarmed by that report asking “students to make analogies between a topic and something different, such as between ecosystems and financial markets.” Which are actually not analogous but neither the teacher nor the students are likely to recognize that. And if they all believe there is a connection and they act on those beliefs, we are back to our consequential false beliefs problem. Donald Schon’s Generative Metaphor who is absolutely cited by Engestrom by name.

The same guiding but false belief problem comes in when that Rand report “asks students to generalize broad principles from a specific piece of information.” Oh yes, that’s a good thing to practice. Practice creating and relying on dogma without anyone pointing out that is what is being practiced. No wonder students are being asked to computer model the discredited Limits to Growth scenarios from the 70s as part of Common Core science. It may not be factually true but it can now still be influential on future behavior. Plus bolstering that perceived need for transformation.

Some of you may have noticed that Common Core makes lots of references to student conceptual understanding for an approach that is so hostile to factual information. That is entirely possible if we are back to dialectical view of what concrete means as the real operating definition of conceptual understanding. Davydov’s ‘kernel’ becomes Common Core’s ‘lens’.

Which means that all of Davydov’s or Engestom’s or Uncle Karl’s aspirations for these theories come in too. Unannounced and so unopposed. No wonder the Chinese government thinks the Learning Sciences views in that Rand report are suitable in Shanghai and Hong Kong as well as the West.

They were subjugation theories against individuals and economies when they were written and they remain so now. Even if only a few of us appreciate those facts now.

Or should I say yet? And be more optimistic?

Can an Education Degree Authorize Bait and Switch Political Insurrections With No Recourse?

No I am not talking about a car loan. And I am also not picking on teachers. Truthfully we could substitute a psychology, sociology, anthropology, or even a legal degree in the place of the education degree. The very important point to recognize is this: can education credentials empower people to disregard the language of the US Constitution or comparable legal protections in other countries? Because right now all over the world we have colleges and universities creating degree programs that are designed to use educational institutions to change mindsets and values and beliefs and attitudes and feelings of the students passing through. Higher ed and K-12. Soon to be preschool. A long time to be under organized assault with data being gathered on your current personal attributes. All while getting paid with taxpayer funds.

And the reports they are issuing if you know where to look state or cite to quotes like this: “we support the development of a revolutionary socialist movement in the United States.” As taxpayers are we bound to support that agenda as long as the person pursuing it has the right kind of education credentials? Is there really nothing we can do? You can say vote them out of office but many with this desire are tenured profs or appointed bureaucrats. That inflammatory quote came from Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis’ Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life that I have already mentioned in a previous post. So when one of the reports this week from the Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education cited that book, I knew exactly what economic vision went with their vision of fairness and a just society for all in the 21st century.

The Gordon Commission is largely out of sight since it was set up by Educators Testing Service in Princeton using grants made to them. But out of sight does not mean not influential. Not with the movers and shakers selected for that Commission and their connections to the actual Common Core implementation and education globally. And these reports have an explicit economic and political vision attached to them. And cites to people with notorious philosophies like Michel Foucault. Are we all just screwed because these people are education professors or evaluators or vendors and that means a free pass?

How about if the report on “Technological Implications for Assessment Ecosystems” starts off with a quote from Paulo Freire and his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Here goes:

“The role of the problem-posing educator is to create, together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge at the level of the doxa is superseded by the true knowledge at the level of the logos. [Freire is interested in shifting away from academic knowledge to everyday practical knowledge like what David Orr called Slow Knowledge]. Whereas banking education [Freire's term for the transmission of subject-matter knowledge] anesthetizes and inhibits creative power, problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. [or at least how radical political reformers wish reality to be seen. Think Don Schon's Generative Metaphor altering daily perceptions] The former [banking education] attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness; the latter [problem-posing] strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality.”

Now isn’t that just the mentality you want in people developing the tasks and problems used to assess students? Oh, I forgot. The 2 authors, John T Behrens and Kristen E DiCerbo, now work for Pearson. You know the global publishing giant so involved in developing the Common Core curricula and the assessment administrator for Texas’ STAAR as well as both CCSSI consortia, SBAC and PARCC? http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/mandating-global-citizenship-mindsets-by-assessing-whether-students-adopt-social-altruism/ talks about how Pearson’s Chief Education Advisor, Michael Barber, once advised UK citizens that Global Citizenship could replace God and Marx as a guiding value. Is it a conflict yet to be involved with all these assessments and having employees writing alarming reports for the Gordon Commission?

What if the employees also write that assessments are “complex performances parallel to those learners would complete in the real world?” Sure sounds vocational to me. Especially with that report stating we are shifting from the Item Paradigm, which had questions with correct or wrong answers and sought particular information, to the Activity Paradigm. In the Activity Paradigm the assessment is not for particular information but rather an interest in “assessing specific attributes of an individual.” I feel so much better.

Especially after a search of the authors’ names brought me to the website of the Journal of Educational Data Mining. No more need to stress over hypotheticals involving education’s collection of Big Data on students. We appear to be there. How lucrative for Pearson. Is it publicly traded? Can we all cash in on this connected boondoggle? Precisely what data will come from assessments involving “activities” that “request action,” “have features.” “provide attributes, ” and “provide multi-dimensional information”? In other words, it’s not what a student knows but the essence of who they are being assessed while the student is a captive in a K-12 institution.

Seriously no need to worry about the fact that “digital devices of all kinds are typically enabled to collect data in ubliquitous and unobtrusive ways.” After all it was a different Gordon Commission report that pointed out that “Practices of assessment do not so much reflect the nature of the individual as they construct the individual in their terms.” Gulp. Did you understand that aspect of the Common Core? Is that what educational institutions in a free country are empowered to do while lying to the public about the nature of the changes? You may want to take another look at the nature of these performance assessments and Pearson’s confession that they are really assessing 21st century skills. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/throwing-an-invisibility-cloak-over-the-classroom-to-get-to-deweys-participatory-social-inquiry/ . Behrens and DiCerbo also mention they are assessing 21st century skills.

Which is also a problem. A 2004 book, The Education Gospel: The Economic Power of Schooling, is also popular among the insiders planning the 21st century on our behalf while profiting greatly. The book explains that all educational institutions now are engaged in what it calls the “Occupational Purpose of Schooling.” The College for All, increasing high school graduation rates through gaming or whatever it takes to keep everyone in place to get their diploma, and Equity of Credentials drives we have talked about are creating dangerous expectations in students. A belief that there is a promise that if they stay in school and get the degree, they will find “well-paid jobs with prospects for the future, careers or vocations rather than mere work.”

That implied promise so many are relying is the Education Gospel. It in turn requires what the authors call the Foundational State–the kind of reinvented workplace we have already seen Peter Senge’s Fieldbook and Zuboff’s Support Economy pitch as an intrinsic component of all these ed reforms. The prerogatives of employers and students and parents supposedly just have to be subordinated to the needs of the Foundational State. Which, 1, 2, 3 “requires a very different approach to politics and democracy than we have now. It provides a clear vision of the common good: a society in which human capacities are consistently and equitably developed.” Which is a good summary of Marx’s human development theory. Back for its 21st century run on the Industrialized West via stealth and education and apparently poorly understood assessments.

I will close with a quote from the end of the book where the authors note:

“Perhaps we as a nation cannot develop the politics necessary for the Foundational State. But then we should stop prattling on about “skills of the twenty-first century,” the “common sense” of college for all, and the imperatives of the knowledge society including lifelong learning, because we cannot achieve any positive version of vocationalism without the policies of the Foundational State.”

And I say, amen to that. The Swedes said basically the same thing when they piloted these ed reforms as part of their move to the Welfare State in the 1950s and 60s.  You cannot unlink the actual Common Core implementation from the radical political, social, and economic changes that are essential components. Everyone consistently says so if you know where to look.

I know where to look and have. Already downloaded and hard copied. Can we get enough parents and taxpayers and politicians to listen in time?

Targeting How Students See the World So They Will Feel An Irresistible Compulsion For Change

As I have charted through the economic or political or ecological visions of the future that underlie all these ed reforms,  I keep mentioning the lack of knowledge. The insistence that being able to search for information with a search engine is enough. That it no longer needs to be either in a student’s brain or a conceptual remnant, developed by the student from facts that passed through of how the world worked. What had led to tragedies in the past. What character traits worked well. What acceleration towards a personal abyss always felt like and what tends to provoke it.

The fact that education at all levels, K-12 and higher ed, plans to largely take that away under accreditation mandates or visions of equity that require only curricula ALL can engage in (even if it’s as a member of the group with project or problem-based learning) is so counter-intuitive to each of our experiences of what works. And what will not. So I wanted to spend some time today quoting these no knowledge aspirations. I am really not kidding. Or exaggerating. Or going to great trouble to locate a juicy nugget to get you outraged to take action. Every once in a while only a nerdy, 10 dollar word will do and here comes one—omnipresent. This essential component of the vision of the future is everywhere in these sources. It goes back decades. And it is integral to the vision.

As my readers who read the Climate Skeptics sites like Jo Nova or Watts Up With That or Bishop Hill  all know, yesterday the remainder of the ClimateGate emails as well as the password were released,. As we await those revelations of additional coordination to prevent reality from intruding on lucrative grants and false models intended to guide public policy, let’s think about the determination to shut down unapproved knowledge itself. This post was already outlined when that wonderful news came out yesterday. But the facts in this post just became more important.

Because paradigm shifts away from anything other than experiential education are being sold as supposedly necessary to prevent ecological calamity. This quote is from a Pew financed book published in the US by two Australian professors ready to accept a global authoritarian government to force compliance with this Climate catastrophe vision of the future. The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy, published in 2007, put it this way in describing universities in the future:

“The freedom to pursue knowledge as the individual sees fit is a mistake, for freedom must be considered in the context of the needs of society as a whole. . . The Real University will have an agenda, which includes priorities for those tasks to be pursued that are essential to the future well-being of humanity.”

And you can bet it will be Paul Ehrlich’s and UN or OECD bureaucrats, with their tax-free salaries, deciding what will be in humanity’s interests and what will constitute well-being. I will get to that in a minute. Once again reminding you that Agenda 21 is no legend. It’s the mandate for action repeatedly cited in everything from the definition of Global Citizenship to Education for Sustainability degree programs. In fact, here’s a cite to a 2008 publication in case I run out of room in this post  http://www.developmenteducationreview.com/print/issue6-focus3?page=show . You can read about how education for knowledge is akin to “colonization of the mind” and thus unacceptable or how Education for Sustainability needs a systems or relational approach to be taught in the schools and universities. That way students will be trained to always look for “contexts and connections in order to build up whole pictures of phenomena rather than breaking things into individual parts. It is a way of seeing which focuses on processes, patterns and dynamics…”

And it will likely create ways of seeing that are factually untrue but they will be politically powerful and likely to compel action to create change. Why? Because as Oberlin Professor David Orr describes it as Biophilia and the Next Generation Science Standards just call “hands-on science,” the new preferred method based on experience:

“links sensory knowledge with the emotions that make us love and sometimes fight.”

In fact, Orr wants students to redefine what is patriotic and unpatriotic in terms of the environment and also fair shares of natural resources. Patriotism “should in the future also come to mean the use made of land, forests, air, water, and wildlife. To abuse natural resources, to erode soils, to destroy natural diversity, to waste, to take more than one’s fair share, or to fail to replenish what has been used, must someday come to be regarded as unpatriotic. And ‘politics’ once again must come to mean, in Vaclav Havel’s words, ‘serving the community and serving those who will come after us.”

http://exacteditions.theecologist.org/read/resurgence/vol-29-no-3-may-june-1999-6536/85/3?dps= is a link to the full 1999 Orr essay on “Rethinking Education.” As you will see it is a paradigm shift and it looks just like the implementation we now have coming to classrooms near us soon. Or already there. All actually based on the disputable premise that “the skills, aptitudes, and attitudes that were necessary to industrialize the Earth are not the same as those that are needed now to heal the Earth, or to build durable economies and good communities.”

And if that durable economy sounds like a needs economy as Scharmer and Zuboff envision in that earlier post or Harry Boyte’s concept of community, they do seem to have read each other’s work even if they do not actually talk. Who knows? They all, including that Pew book above, keep talking about wisdom and usually italicizing it just like that. Before we talk about that “approved deep understanding that compels approved action, ” I want to mention a crucial point on all this Harry Boyte lays out in his Chapter on “Spreading Everyday Politics.” He recognizes that in the information age, “those who do the conceptual organizing are in a particularly powerful position.”

That’s true of Hollywood and the nightly news but it is especially true in an education world both trying to deemphasize factual knowledge AND come up with the filtering metaphors that students will come to see the world through without appreciating they are metaphors and not reality itself. We know Don Schon saw this and loved its possibilities for social change with just the right Generative Metaphors. We have seen it with Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory now being taught as fact to both teachers and students. Harvard Professor AN Whitehead even came up with a name for it–”the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.” Now instead of a warning, that fallacy is being deliberately cultivated as a key, politically useful component of desired 21st century thinking.

Wisdom in the vision ( I am using the Pew book again) being pushed for education in the future is all about “a desire and an active striving for values.” New ones. And just like Milton Rokeach figured out so long ago, it’s because values drive future behavior. This philosophy of wisdom treats the purpose of education as being to “help us develop wiser ways of living, institutions, customs and social relations-a wiser world.” But one not based on book learning from the past. One based on feelings and hopes and what David Orr (cited by name in the book) calls “slow knowledge.” It involves how to do practical things in the belief that book knowledge “may allow people to become greater and greater destroyers of ecological services.”

But which is more likely to lead to actual destruction in the 21st century? Jettisoning the accumulated knowledge of the past for political theories of what might work? Psychological theories of how human nature might change if education becomes more visual and group-oriented and grounded in social and emotional learning of new values daily in the classroom?

And virtually none of these underlying assumptions driving ed reforms globally are on anyone’s radar. Except mine and now yours.

I feel a bit like Mr FOIA of ClimateGate. This is too grave to be allowed to stand without at least trying to stop it by bringing it to your attention.

Done. Time for breakfast and the carpool line.

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. http://www.managementexchange.com/hack/develop-support-dna-new-capitalism 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. http://www.fourthsector.net/attachments/39/original/The_Emerging_Fourth_Sector_-_Exec_Summary.pdf?1253667714 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 http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/being-grateful-for-what-we-know-and-appreciating-why-it-matters/

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.

 

Aspiring to Create New Habits of Mind and Mental Models Suitable for A New Culture, Society, and Economy

As far as I know no one from MIT or Harvard stood on the banks of the Charles River holding a rally to jettison what the Systems Thinkers on both campuses call the “dominant rational/experimental model” of Western thought traceable to the Enlightenment. No, that rejection might have drawn attention to the desired shift to an “existentially-oriented approach.” Better to commit such aspirations to print in books and in lectures that only the elected to be Social Change Agents are likely to read or hear. The rest of us are just supposed to be confused when so much emphasis on Learning keeps resulting in ever decreasing levels of knowledge. You’d almost think there was a commitment to wholesale social, political, cultural, and economic change starting at the level of the individual student.

A student whose school activities and assessments and interactions with ICT technology can be used to develop a new Sense of Self. The last post mentioned David W Shaffer and his proposed Pedagogical Praxis for the classroom. Shaffer embraced the theories on Reflective Practice created by an MIT Urban Studies and Education Professor by the name of Donald Schon. He’s the one who did his dissertation on Dewey that I mentioned in the last post. Schon was a proponent of action research in the classroom to gain new mental maps and what Schon called “generative metaphors” that would guide a student’s future behaviors and actions. Remember those Ill-structured tasks we discovered Pearson plans to use in the Common Core and ATC21S and Texas STAAR assessments? Schon gives the reason for the the reliance of ill-structure beyond the social interaction it forces. When a student encounters a problem he regards as unique, Schon recognized the student would see it through the concepts already in his repertoire.

Schon liked that word “repertoire.” You and I can already sense the reason that the 10Cs Model of Diversity Awareness and Social Change pushing race and class oppression is now so popular at Harvard Ed school. Those become Generative Metaphors that influence how unique real world problems will be interpreted by students. And their teachers and administrators. Remember the C3 Social Studies Framework that is now part of the Common Core push and our concern that it was pushing metaphors like Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Thinking that are not factually true? Another useful Schonian Generative Metaphor that will come to be believed as true the more often it is used. Which certainly explains the language in the Framework about wanting students to practice daily with the C3 conceptual lenses.  Supplied Concepts=Generative Metaphor guiding Future Behavior.

It’s all consistent with what Shaffer’s Pedagogical Praxis encourages citing Schon. A student engages in activities at school and acts in daily life and then reflects on the results with peers and mentors. This action followed by inquiry and reflection (my IB Parents will recognize the significance of those terms. Which is why I believe the IB program has essentially become the Advance Guard in gaining implementation of this Action Research model) then becomes the Means for students to gain New Ways of Thinking. The desired outcome from school and daily living with such an experientially-oriented education is that the student will over time Reframe her Identities and Interests in relation to the experiences and the perspectives of others in the community. That’s why the Aspiring Social Change Agents and Theorists are so fond of referring to the Learning Community. School becomes the place where the Group changes the person from the inside-out.

I have written quite a bit about Peter Senge and Systems Thinking and also how the Positive School Climate Executive Order is becoming a means to stealthily shift to a social and emotional learning focus that looks almost precisely like the developmental model to remake human nature Karl Marx described repeatedly. Still as I was tracking the PATHS to PAX  SEL curriculum to a school piloting a Positive School Culture in Arizona, I was surprised to see Senge’s The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook listed as the implementation guide. So schools implementing Positive School Cultures and Climates will be practicing Senge’s Systems Thinking and they may not be going to Camp Snowball to set off alarms of concern among parents. Ah-Oh. Better get a copy of that Fieldbook. Sounds like Systems Thinking is coming to schools everywhere.

So I did and it turns out to have a whole section on the desired new Mental Models for students to fit all the desired Transformative changes in virtually every social system we could list. That would include us if you remember what Senge’s Presencing and MIT lecturer partner Otto Scharmer wrote in his 2010 Seven Acupuncture Points for Shifting Capitalism to Create a Regenerative Ecosystem Economy that I have already written about and linked to. Of course that was before I located that UN IHDP document that said Senge and Scharmer were among the futurists helping to shift education and business practices globally towards the IHDP desired fundamental revision of human behavior. Anyway Scharmer said in that article that the purpose of these new mental models was to allow a “reconnect with the deeper sources of inspiration and Self in order to reinvent both onself and the system.” I think he means all the systems and we should take him at his word on the desired intentions of all these changes and new models of Learning and desires for Irreversible, Second-Order Change we keep hearing about.

Rereading Scharmer’s aspirations as I did yesterday reminded me so much of what Alice Bailey described that I am going to link to that old post if you have never seen it. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/producing-docile-instruments-and-captive-souls-putty-at-the-hands-of-the-predator-state/ . I am sure that the fact that the Ford Foundation also created the named chaired professorate Donald Schon held at MIT from 1972 onward is purely coincidental. Since that foundation seems to show up constantly from the 50s to the present to fund desired transformative changes to all our social systems. No wonder our friend Jeannie Oakes went there to head their ed efforts in November 2009 just like we were in the end game and it was time for the final assault.

Back to the Fieldbook and the desire for new mental models (page 237 in my copy). Senge says Mental Models refers to:

“both the semipermanent tacit “maps” of the world which people hold in their long-term memory, and the short-term perceptions people build up as part of their everyday reasoning processes. According to some cognitive theorists, changes in short-term everyday mental models, accumulating over time, will gradually be reflected in changes in long-term deep-seated beliefs.”

Which is of course just the thing desired if you want Transformative Change in future behaviors. So the Reading Wars and the Math Wars and frustrations over integrated math and no more lecturing and the Digital Learning/ICT focus and the Actual Common Core implementation I have been describing all these months and the global ed reforms are all driven by a desire for Action Research on children involving those cognitive theories. Got it? And  Senge then goes on to tell us that “two types of skills are central to this work” of gaining the desired new mental models.

“They are Reflection (slowing down our thinking processes to become more aware of how we form our mental models) and Inquiry (holding conversations where we openly share views and develop knowledge about each other’s assumptions). The techniques we most favor for learning these skills emerged from ‘action science,’ a field of inquiry developed by theorists and educators  Chris Argyris [and he's the link to Harvard's Business and Ed Schools and is cited in Zuboff's book from the last post as a mentor to her]  and Donald Schon.”

I am giving you a break Senge does not give in the Fieldbook where his sentences are too long. He goes on after mentioning Argyris and Schon to say their work is “aimed at exploring the reasoning and attitudes which underlie human action, and producing more effective learning in organizations and other social systems.”

Now when I wrote this post back in August http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/do-you-live-in-a-district-piloting-deep-and-continual-personal-change-in-the-individual-student/, I speculated that it looked to me like the Harvard Strategic Data Project involved pushing Systems Thinking on participating districts like Fulton and Gwinnett Counties in Metro Atlanta and Charlotte-Meck in North Carolina and Boston Public Schools. Now that we know of Chris Argyris and Schon’s work and its aspirations as action science, there is no question. Students in those districts are being used as guinea pigs to collect data for what Argyris and Schon called Double-Loop learning.  What will it take before the student acquires “new capacity” for different types of behaviors?

Schon wanted people and institutions that were malleable and flexible enough to “become capable of transforming themselves without intolerable disruption.” I would argue that Aurora and Sandy Hook and Columbine may well be warning us that all this SEL/systems focus experimentation that has been going on in some schools and districts for almost 20 years  is in fact intolerable to some personalities. It sure is too coincidental to ignore as the number of districts and students undergoing action science research continues to grow. Common Core will be turning our schools into a giant petri dish of social science action research into what it will take to gain Systems Transformation.

Which is not something an education degree or a Harvard Masters in Public Policy or an Urban Studies degree or a Social Psychology degree should license anyone to do.

To our kids. With our money. To this Great Country. To the rest of the world looking to the US for guidance.