Let’s pretend for a moment that we are all in the same room mulling over why K-12 education is shutting down what works and expanding everything that has ever been controversial or even tragic. We could get out a White Board and pretend to be detective Kate Beckett on the TV show Castle and create columns of what concerns and mystifies us. Concrete, Down to Earth, Tangible Concerns. Then later as I am researching and footnote hopping, I read the title of a 1966 book called The Social Construction of Reality. I remember that White Board and how no one wants to allow Declarative Knowledge anymore (defined in previous post) that would accurately allow me to factually understand the Here and Now.
In fact, we have been noticing that everything to be required in the classroom now seems to be about guiding personal perception of what is actually going on in the here and now. Filtering how we conceive the who or what caused all the problems we are to now notice. We keep wondering why all the focus on emotions and showing your work instead of getting a right answer and making activities and experiences the point of classroom work. To quote again from The Parallel Curriculum book from two posts ago, when did we switch to reading a historical fiction book so that we can imagine how it must have felt to be alive during a time period like the Civil War? Is that history? How about if we use the book to “document the feelings, perspectives, and changes that occur for your characters over time.” That’s not factual knowledge. It’s simply priming the student to accept that a change in conditions could be a reason for personal change.
Psychological role-playing, in other words, seems to be all over classes that are supposed to be about science, literature, history, or civics. Even math. “How would you feel if… ” is psychological role-playing even if the description of your feelings, frustrations, and strategies for what to do next is going in your math journal so that “your teacher can read it and get to know you better.”
I keep bringing up the fact that the term ‘knowledge’ now is not about facts, but is rather concepts that are supposed to guide how we perceive all those activities and experiences. Why does that distinction matter so much? Well, the social psychologists have plenty of research they share among themselves that goes as follows:
“The notion of a concept is essential for understanding thought and behavior. If we want to understand, say, how a child learns through experience that stoves can burn, we assume that the child uses the concepts stove and burn; without this assumption, it is not clear why a child’s experience with one particular stove and one particular burn will be related to his or her experience with another stove and another possible burn. [In other words, if we want to get students or adults to analogize from one situation to another, we convince them that they involve comparable concepts. If we want to convince them about false connections, we train students repeatedly from a young age to believe that situations are connected or equivalent even if they are not.]
“It is only when we treat the objects and events of a situation as instances of concepts that we see what there is to learn. And just as it is hard to think about learning without concepts, it is hard to think about communication and reason without concepts. In short, concepts reflect the way we divide the world into classes, and much of what we learn, communicate, and reason involves relations among these classes.”
Providing the concepts to everyone then instead of each person building them up from facts is a tremendously fruitful means for psychological manipulation. Effective and largely invisible once created. What’s not to love if fundamentally transforming the here and now is the Goal, and undermining the historical Western sacrosanct treatment of the individual and the mind is the Means. Just target how that individual, while they are still young, learns to categorize their everyday experiences. Then make sure that any classroom work that previously bolstered the “ability of language to be an objective repository of vast accumulations of meaning and experiences, which it can then preserve in time and transmit to following generations” is either destroyed or seriously limited in duration and purpose.
We are back to our pretend Murder Board of what’s Being Discontinued and Expanded in Education and my reading nerdy books and then translating them so no one else has to. That is how I felt reading The Social Construction of Reality. It was like getting a Treasure Map to what would need to be stopped or emphasized if manipulation of how an individual saw reality was the Goal. Why? So that their future actions could be reliably planned from afar. How we order social experiences turns out to be a crucial fact to know if someone wants to predict and control other people’s behavior. It’s also something that adaptive software in a Digital Learning program or journals or showing your work in an open-ended question where there is no right answer all reveal. Rigorous assessments of the type required by the Common Core, a Higher Order Thinking Skills emphasis , or the ‘high-quality’ tests of 21st Century Learning all ferret it out too.
Coincidental? I think not as a TV detective would get to say. Keeping school work relevant to real life and everyday life situations makes the routine social stock of knowledge of the average student paramount. If school is no longer about facts, reading is Guided and not fluent, and visual presentations are considered on par with writing papers, then the typical person now exists in a place where “the reality of everyday life always appears as a zone of lucidity behind which there is a background of darkness.” Reading that passage from the 1966 book made me gasp because circumscribing personal knowledge in effect makes that zone of lucidity easy to manipulate. Later in the book, the importance of concepts and subjective categorization of experiences is mentioned as what makes us notice certain aspects of what happens and ignore others.
Now imagine that the Concepts and Principles provided are deliberately chosen to have just that very effect. The Goal? To make the student and the future ‘citizen’ they will become not just amenable to fundamental transformations in society, the economy, and political structures we now take for granted like the US Constitution. The student is to come to believe that radical changes are necessary and desirable. Hopefully the student will be ready to act on conditions and problems in the here and now to make fundamental transformations a reality sooner rather than later.
It turns out that a reverence for logic as in traditional math, chemistry, or physics and abstract proofs or grammar and old-fashioned vocabulary that can contain a sentence full of meaning in a single word are examples of how “language now constructs immense edifices of symbolic representations that appear to tower over the reality of everyday life like gigantic processes from another world.” Well, someone does still appreciate flowery language when they are driving home a point. Unfortunately, the point is how much preferable face-to-face interaction is, which would explain why the Common Core stresses listening and speaking and group dialogues and learning to reach that all important consensus within the classroom.
Once again the groundwork revealing the why in the classroom mysteries of the here and now was laid out back in the 60s attempt at fundamental transformations. We just had to peel back enough layers of the onion to locate this quote:
“In the face-to-face situation language possesses an inherent quality of reciprocity that distinguishes it from any other sign system. [In other words, we can see facial expressions and body movements and infer emotions from them.] The ongoing production of vocal signs in conversation can be sensitively synchronized with the ongoing subjective intentions of the conversants.”
A less convoluted way of making the same point is that conversation becomes the way to get everyone on the same page in how they describe their experiences and using the same concepts. Well, no wonder, we keep hearing hype for Blended Learning or the Flipped Classroom. Just let the computer or Kahn Academy provide what the last post called procedural knowledge and the 1966 book calls recipe knowledge–”that is, knowledge limited to pragmatic competence in routine performances.”
Does that sound like a Competency focus to anyone else?
So what’s your interpretation of why the actual planned classroom implementation under its variety of Orwellian names lines up so perfectly with how the known Social Construction of Reality by most people?
Could it be an organized attempt to manipulate their future behavior as long as accurate factual knowledge is kept to a minimum?
Is it politically useful to keep voters ignorant, aggrieved, and reliable in their likely reactions?