Progressively Producing New Kinds of Students Pre-equipped Via Schools to Work Harmoniously

Education professor James Paul Gee has once again told us graphically what is really intended. Even if I did have to go back to 1996 and a book printed in Australia to locate the toxic vision for using schooling to obtain “indirect control” over students and their future behavior. It’s all about the “arrangement of environments” like schools and the required classroom focus and later a mandated change in workplaces. The idea is that these environments can be restructured so that the physical environments and the required nature of the social interactions can “themselves, in a sense, encode control.” Gee concedes that “[s]uch an approach can easily take on the tones of manipulation.” You think? Anything for the Good Society or ‘cooperative commonwealth’ I suppose if you are on the receiving end of taxpayer or other money to Make It So.

The book the new work order: behind the language of the new capitalism explains how cognitive science and the school classroom can be used to ease the transition to a reimagined economic system for the 21st century. And fairly invisibly too. “Such new classrooms may very well progressively produce students pre-equipped to work harmoniously in distributed systems by internalizing core values, values that issue from the social practices and organizational structures of the system itself and not from any visible controlling center.” Now those required new social practices and the change in focus can come from a charter agreement that parents and taxpayers do not understand. From what I am seeing that recognition of “Oh My. What have we really agreed to?” is about to hit full force around many parts of the US.

But the example Gee used from 1996 is about to be a key component of all schools because a requirement of creating a Community of Learners is part of what will measure who will be deemed an effective principal in the future. And the accreditor AdvancED requires a transition to these Learning Communities with their requisite collective visions in its Quality Standards that went into effect in 2012. That’s how this comes in without parents or taxpayers knowing the schools have done a U-turn and gone to the kind of psychological change the student focus that Uncle Karl and John Dewey have pursued in their philosophies towards education for more than a century.

Gee kindly gives us the money quote on how these Communities of Learners are really to work and what the so-called ‘learning theories’ or ‘cognitive science research’ we are really dealing with here. These ‘learning communities’ are

“based on the idea that knowledge does not reside privately in individual heads but rather it is situated in activities and distributed, or as Lave puts it, ‘stretched over–not divided among–mind, body, activity and culturally organized settings (which include other actors)’. This is, of course, precisely our theme of distributed systems.”

Now none of this is factually true but implementing these theories at school and workplaces goes a long way towards shifting towards the type of transformed society I described in the last post. The Good Society Gal Alperowitz is pushing or the cooperative commonwealth of a Harry Boyte or the All-in Nation or The Spirit Society or that welfare state based on subjective well-being the OECD is pushing. Trust me as someone who has read all these reports and books. Remarkable  consistency of vision going on with ed based on technology and the imposition of these psychological theories in the classrooms as the vehicle. And if you are unlucky enough to live in a League of Innovative Schools district, your Central Office has volunteered your children and dollars to fund the research into what works and what produces change and what really motivates your children at an unconscious level they may even be unaware of.

Are we going to get what is being sought? Mercy no. Let’s remember something the French commentator Jean-Francois Revel wrote more than 20 years ago in Last Exit to Utopia reacting to similar nonsense in France. Where of course UNESCO and the OECD are based.

“there can be no society without inequalities. These may derive from differences between individual performance or from disparities in advantages controlled by the state–or more simply from the wall separating those who have one or more state privileges and those who have none. Here I am using the word ‘privilege’ in the exact sense defined by Littre as ‘an advantage granted to an individual or group and enjoyed to the exclusion of others, to the detriment of the common law.’…

The inequalities within productive liberal societies are constantly subject to a mixing process and always in flux. In statist, redistributionist societies, the inequalities are frozen in place.”

That’s where all this is actually headed. The Meeting of the Minds is all about seeking special favors from an alliance with political power. So is the Global Cities Initiative or that Citistates conference at the Rockefeller Foundation estate in Bellagio, Italy in 2002, 2007, and 2012 that we discussed in the comments. Another invitation lost. We are using misunderstood reforms in education globally to change to societies where “the state creates the special privileges that generate inequalities, beginning with those that [politicians and the public sector and their unions] bestow on themselves.” And then quickly their cronies. And we will not be prospering in this static society and we would probably not consent if asked. So we are not being asked. Through federal grants and regional equity initiatives and planning around urban economies, it is all simply happening.

And a subjective well-being global and national focus is a tremendously useful way to make all this invisibly so. All you have to do is use the schools to make new social relationships the focus and limit transmission of facts. Anyone noticed a movement in that direction? Then you simply have to target social and emotional learning just like that July 28, 2012 Positive School Climate Executive Order plus the accreditation standards require. And then you go after an area that uses another $100 word–the conative. What motivates the student? Precisely what Digital Promise is researching and adaptive computer software, gaming, and learner analytics throw off. Massively.

This is a good paper on precisely how invasive this holistic focus is and all the aspects of the student’s identity and personality that are to be considered fair game. To get the desired change to tolerate or hopefully help take action for the desired change. To the Good Society that will actually function as an insiders-only kleptocracy of the sort Revel recognized. And the Soviet Union operated for the benefit of its nomenklatura with their special stores and ability to travel abroad. http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/papers/holistic-view-of-schooling-rev.pdf Notice this vision takes the prof in 2011 to Athens, Greece to present this “new vision for educating children and youth” with his whole child and every domain–Spiritual Transcendence, Moral Character, Social, Volition, Thinking, Affect/Emotion, and Physical/Kinesthetic. That Becoming a Brilliant Star Framework certainly qualifies as a Your-Child-Will-Be -Ours, All Ours orientation.

And finally getting to do research through digital literacy initiatives on students to study motivations and the “use of personal agency or volition to make choices regarding thought, emotions, and behaviors” is crucial to getting the desired common good society. And it’s so cool because virtually no one is paying attention to these levels of planned psychological intrusions or the real reasons for them. And again, you cannot make ‘subjective well-being’ the focus of social transformation UNLESS you also make the psychological and emotions and what drives behavior and collecting all that data the focus of school.

By the way, late in the paper Huitt does ask the question of “whose rights should be central to the concept of citizenship” in the 21st century. The individual or the community? Want to guess where he comes out in this well-cited paper? Yes it did have to do with collective benefit and the UN’s Universal declaration of Human Rights and redistribution to ensure REAL “individual autonomy.” Like anyone is autonomous with all this deliberate psychological conditioning coupled to intentionally trying to alter “one’s view of reality and one’s relationship to it.”

As I was researching this post and where subjective well-being and these psychological intrusions inevitably take us, I came across a 2012 paper on Human Behavior Modeling put out by the Cognitive Sciences Lab at the University of Karlsruhe. It laid out how a focus on emotion and motivation and grit and conative drivers and measuring all this via intentional assessments can be used to make human behavior predictable. People can then be made through schooling  to act consistently with desired models of their future behavior.

We have a very high level of intentional social reengineering going on here all being put in place by principals and consultants and central office staff just pushing whatever garners them the next lucrative promotion or grant or contract. Only aware, I hope, of the line to be sold and the changes to be made but no genuine idea of the real reasons why.

Did you know the word ‘quisling’ refers to a real person? Major Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945) was the Norwegian army officer who collaborated with German occupying forces during World War 2 and ruled Norway a head of the puppet government. After being shot for treason after the German defeat his name became synonymous with traitor.

I can accept not knowing the full story I am telling as all these people move towards implementation of this toxic agenda while living at our expense. But if the provable facts do not cause a Cease and Desist, I suggest getting T-shirts printed up for presentation that say:

Quisling.

 

Digital Promise and 21st Century Skills as the Long-Sought Rapid Change of Minds for the Future

When I was looking for a way to explain what the effects would be from seeking new kinds of minds and personalities through ICT and tracking affective responses, I remembered the 1989 book New World New Mind: Moving Towards Conscious Evolution. Now I do occasionally pull books off the shelf to help illustrate a point vividly but the link of that book to the Digital Promise and 21st Century Skills initiatives is actually quite direct.

http://www.digitalpromise.org/how-practitioners-and-policymakers-can-work-together-to-innovate/ is a July 31, 2013 story on the meeting of League of Innovative Schools Supers and Admins with reps from the federal DoEd, the White House Domestic Policy Council (this push is a high priority for this Administration), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. John Holdren heads OSTP and his long-time mentor and associate Paul Ehrlich of hyping various global catastrophes fame (with his own tag) co-wrote the New World New Mind book. Ehrlich mentioned and thanked Holdren for his help on the Acknowledgments page.

Chapter 8, “The Beginnings of Real Change,” makes it clear this is a global program to use education to change “the nature of our minds and the training we give them.” According to Ehrlich and Robert Ornstein: “although the problems that humanity now faces are immense, at least they are of our own making. The mismatch of our brains with our environments has been produced by millenia of effort, by the skill, ingenuity, and drive of our species–by the very minds that are now out of step with the world they live in.”

Ornstein and Ehrlich wanted to extinguish that independent ingenuity and drive some people have through “a revolution in the way we bring up children and in the way we teach and what we teach.” They recognized, as all of us now need to, that traditional “schooling also changes the structures of children’s minds significantly [they mean at a physiological level]. Reading, writing, and arithmetic, so commonly taught, are not [emphasis in original] natural acts of the mind, but are radical transformations of the way the nervous system operates. The mind’s default positions are for talking and listening…”

Which is precisely why talking and listening as the purpose of the Discourse classroom, and required projects and group collaboration and communities of learners, is such a huge focus of the actual Common Core implementation. It is why print literacy is minimized and media and digital literacy are held to be just as important. It’s not a better way to learn. It’s an active pursuit using ICT of these New Kinds of Minds. After all Joel Klein, head of Rupert Murdoch’s tech-focused ed subsidiary, Amplify, actually said that was the goal to my face at a luncheon last fall. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/ridiculing-the-1860s-mind-as-unsuitable-for-the-21st-century-cui-bono/

So New Kinds of Minds remains the pursuit almost 25 years later and the other Ehrlich/Ornstein goal then becomes changing prevailing attitudes on politically useful topics. Cultural-historical activity theory or CHAT is a learning theory imported from the USSR created to change  the course of the future by changing the dominant culture itself. Through school specifically but also education generally. I’ll put it this way CHAT theorists also care about what stories get pitched on the nightly news and what the headlines read. What themes will the typical person come to believe are an issue as they go through busy lives? One of the CHAT theorists, a Finnish prof who also works in the US. Yrgo Engestrom (also tagged), kindly put his Learning by Expansion’s theory’s purpose into explicit published words in 2010. http://www.helsinki.fi/cradle/documents/Engestrom%20Publ/Studies%20on%20expansive%20learning.pdf

The article acknowledges a reality that the Supers and ed profs and principals do not bother to tell parents, politicians, and taxpayers so I will: “there are two basic metaphors competing for dominance today: the acquisition metaphor and the participation metaphor.” Now I will stop quoting Yrjo for a minute to point out that the entire actual Common Core classroom implementation this blog has been describing is dedicated to requiring the participation vision. Using misleading terms like equity and excellence and Quality Learning to get there. As I have been explaining, every entity that has a legal ability to regulate or mandate what goes on in the classroom is insisting that participation now win this competition. And it gets hidden in the insistence on group projects and collaboration. But Yrjo was even more graphic about what his and other CHAT learning theories are designed to do and change.

The key dimension underlying the acquisition vs participation “dichotomy is derived from the question: Is the learner to be understood primarily as an individual or as a community?” The participation purpose comes down on the community side of that question in direct contradiction to the West’s historic belief in the primacy of the individual. That is the question at stake in all these ed reforms. Pushing for this new answer behind our backs and without our consent is precisely what Digital Promise and 21st Century Skills are really about.

Yrgo again kindly says there are three more dimensions at stake with all these learning theories like his that are designed to push participation as the new radical vision of education to create “new activity structures for society.” Think workplace, neighborhoods, political processes. These ed profs and administrators have great ambitions while they are living at taxpayer expense. In each of these questions, it is the part I bolded after the “or” that is what is stealthily coming at us like a high-speed freight train whatever our state says it is doing on the Common Core. And in other countries too. Oh, and the ICT focus is a huge tool for gaining this shift.

*Is learning primarily a process that transmits and preserves culture or a process that transforms and creates culture?

*Is learning primarily a process of vertical improvement along some uniform scales of competence or horizontal movement, exchange and hybridization between different cultural contexts and standards of competence? [Think of this as hip hop being as valid a means of communication as a well-written insightful factual paper]

*Is learning primarily a process for acquiring and creating empirical knowledge and concepts [reflects reality in other words] or a process that leads to the formation of theoretical knowledge and concepts?

Now theoretical knowledge and concepts is of course another term for ideology but what do you expect from a theory designed to achieve massive social change as a direct successor to Uncle Karl’s now infamous theorizing? Yrjo leaves no doubt where we are all going with this quote: “While traditional schooling is essentially a subject-producing activity and traditional science is essentially an instrument-producing activity, [expansive] learning is an activity producing activity.” [his italics]

Now that kind of graphic lay out of intent to create transformative action in students is what is coming to our classrooms but the graphic warning is nowhere in sight. Instead we get far more innocuous sounding initiatives being paid for by the National Science Foundation such as Janet Kolodner’s “Learning by Design’s Framework for Promoting Learning of 21st Century Skills.” Janet is also the listed PI for the troubling and related NSF Cyberlearning push that I described here  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/the-need-to-know-as-we-understand-it-today-may-be-a-lethal-cultural-sport/ Now Janet’s CV is simply too solid for me to believe that she really thinks that a case-based method that is suitable for adult med students, who have a well-stocked brain of knowledge and analytical skills to be where they are, is somehow suitable for middle schoolers who generally have neither.

The truth is the whole Next Generation Science and Learning By Design and Case-Based Learning is just a rejection of science as an “instrument-producing activity” as in sharp ingenious minds or new unapproved technology without saying so. What Ehrlich and Ornstein sought in their book so long ago. It’s the excuse for a classroom centered around social interaction and designed to limit the cultural transmission of knowledge built up over generations that makes humans a very special species and some people downright extraordinary in their impact on all of us and the direction of civilization.

Kolodner sees people as “goal processors who make our way through the world trying to achieve our goals” which strikes me as a horrifically hobbling vision for the future. Like so many other reformers she wants to shift our daily perceptions going forward and limit us to our previous experiences coupled to theoretical framing school will provide. Yrjo would approve. The end result of these classroom activities are students who are adaptable to uncertain, new, and rapidly changing conditions. Which of course the ed reforms intend to drive. Students who are capable of complex communication and social interaction. The world trembles at the thought of a superpower preparing ALL students to be in the habit of listening and asking questions of each other and making presentations. We also get students capable of non-routine problem solving and self-management which is starting to sound a great deal like David Conley’s definition of College and Career Ready  created for the Gates Foundation.

Finally, students learn to be good systems thinkers and to see themselves as embedded in systems. Even if it is not true in reality, it is such a useful metaphor to get students to see themselves as part of a community instead of an independent individual.

No wonder Paul Ehrlich is running around giving UN presentations that humanity is more than 5 years into a global program to radically change human behavior.

Yes indeed, driven by education reforms that are poorly understood and collectivist political theories masquerading as learning theories.

 

Avenue for Achieving the Broader Social Vision of Equity, Full Participation and Collective Contribution

On December 19, 1969 Time magazine did a special issue in preparation of the upcoming new decade. In an article called “The Next Decade: A Search for Goals” Time began to set the framework for a hoped-for “profound change” in people’s way of thinking and acting. Here’s the aspect that is important to anyone, like a David Christian with his Big History or Paul Ehrlich with his catastrophe hype, who hopes for a conscious cultural evolution. By basically using education to remove the imagination ignition power of a store of facts coupled to reason. Here’s Time in 1969:

“The veneration of rationality was the special myth of modern man. The worldview created by the enthronement of reason included a universal belief in individualism and competition; now that myth is dying. Faith in science and technology has given way to fear of their consequences.”

Author Ayn Rand looked at such passages and the student riots of the 60s and what she saw in California’s universities and she remembered the deliberate Bolshevik assault on cultural traditions in her home country of Russia in the 1920s. Like me, she wrote to try to alert others of the urgency of what she saw and read. In 1970 she published an essay “The Left: Old and New” where she wrote this astute observation that is even more under assault today. Let’s listen to her informed voice because we will need these insights:

“reason leads to (and is the foundation of) individualism and competition, i.e., capitalism. Capitalism’s enemies know it. Its alleged friends are still twisting themselves into double-jointed pretzels in the struggle to evade that knowledge.

Let us also remind you that reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses–i.e., that reason is man’s only means of grasping reality and of acquiring knowledge–and, therefore, the rejection of reason means that men should act regardless of and/or in contradiction of the facts of reality.”

Handy, huh, if you are trying to use potential climate catastrophes to shift people globally into a Mindset to be Governed as we have also recently talked about? I have written before that James Burke’s book The Axemaker’s Gift made it clear that the assaults on how to teach reading and math that set off the so-called wars were really about diminishing the power of those abilities to nurture reason. To ignite an individual’s Axemaker Mind. That remains the goal now decades later in education reforms. That Bayard Rustin essay from the last post was not something that could be quoted by the mainstream press without jeopardizing the social, political, and economic goals themselves. Most of us are simply not going to be still or lay down if we know we and the traditions that created unprecedented overall national success and global prosperity are being attacked. So education becomes the means and the individual mind the target of an invisible, taxpayer-funded attack.

The MacArthur Foundation’s January 2013 report is simply the latest push to fulfill Bayard Rustin’s dream   http://dmlhub.net/sites/default/files/ConnectedLearning_report.pdf except with the treasure chest of untaxed gains from past innovative breakthroughs. Waiting I suppose to be called on by US Presidents frustrated that they are not getting their way with Congress on Climate Change legislation. ” I will call on philanthropies and college presidents” was in this week’s speech. And, oh, will they ever listen. Hard to find any group coordinating so actively to set in motion revolutionary transformations.

Connected Learning is all about using education as an avenue to a “broader reform and equity agenda” that will “serve the interests and needs of non-dominant young people and their communities.” And if all the report’s angry references to what “privileged families” do with their own children was not a dead giveaway on where this is all going, the report early on says it uses the term non-dominant (which it bolds for emphasis like these other terms) “instead of the more common descriptors of minority, diverse, or of color, as non-dominant explicitly calls attention to issues of power and power relations than do traditional terms to describe members of differing cultural groups.”

OK, well, we have known for a while, haven’t we, that the Common Core and 21st Century Skills were just a PR gambit in a much broader, hidden struggle? And I would agree. Education reform really is about power and intentions over future power relations. As in the public sector and its connected cronies want to call the shots in the future globally and have too few of us to matter in a position to object. So in part 1 to Connected Learning, MacArthur cites quotes from the heads of two other foundations, Spencer and Russell Sage, known for funding behavioral science research. That’s us folks and we behave more like the models if schools and the universities snuff out the Axemaker Minds of students and substitute politically useful concepts and ideas to be the guiding lenses of future behavior. Brought to us by people who prove in Part 1 they have no understanding of the economy because they don’t have to. The paychecks roll in regardless of knowledge. Fidelity and fealty to theory is all that matters now in too many places surrounding education.

Part 2′s lead-in cannot even get the name of John Dewey’s 1916 book right but this is all brought to us by foundations where the heart is pure, the intentions are noble, and the treasure chest is vast. Who cares then if the report is careless on facts or regularly uses the terms “our emerging hypothesis” or “we posit” in discussing what they plan to impose and set in motion. On students. In schools. And the rest of us given these express aspirations to remake society and gain a new economy. Car sharing and bike sharing and non-proprietary forms of business to get a more participatory economic future? Really?

Connected learning then is defined “by a set of values, an orientation to social change and a philosophy of learning.” Isn’t it good to know they are partnering with the federal DoEd on all this?   http://reimaginingeducation.org/speakers/ Connected learning is explicitly about achieving “progressive and equity-centered reform efforts in school and policy areas.” As Rustin and Harry Boyte noted this is about marching through and changing far more than schools and universities. All the social institutions are targeted. But it starts this time with all the new media and digital and computer gadgets. “Today’s technologies offer us the ability to pursue these progressive goals in new ways through purposeful integration of tools for social connection, creation, and linking the classroom, community and home.”

Connected learning “takes a networked approach to social change that aligns with our ecological perspective.” I will stop the quote for a moment to tell you the previous page absolutely referenced our old friend Urie Bronfenbrenner by name which means in comes his Ecological Systems Theory “metaphor” that classroom teachers and students never get told is just a metaphor. And long time readers know this also brings in Soviet psychologist Leontiev’s plans on how to conduct a behavioral and social change experiment in the West. As I say, fiction writers have nothing on education and political schemers in the ongoing struggle over power. Quickly the report disdains the individual unless he or she is contributing to the officially-endorsed vision of the common good and wants to put the emphasis on collective and societal goals. It sees digital and blended learning as means to achieve broader social, cultural, and economic visions.

And the second part of the quote I interrupted tells us again how offshoots like Agenda 21 and Clean Energy and Green Technology are in fact related through the broader overall social vision of change. “We believe that systemic shift requires linked efforts across different sites of learning, and that our best hope for educational change lies in connecting like-minded reform efforts.” It looks conspiratorial because it is intentionally coordinated. Especially through the foundations and federal agencies funding all these “like-minded” efforts at overall transformation.

All the Gaming posts I have written and GlassLab as assessments in the future come in as Institute of Play and its Quest to Learn school are one of the exemplary case studies. Those links and the Urie ones are easy to locate if you have not seen them via the tags. I am going to close with a link to an old post that readers of the report are not likely to recognize as related. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/we-are-at-the-historical-stage-for-the-emergence-of-one-particular-new-kind-of-person/

Do you remember that shocking James Paul Gee quote of the future aspiration that “There are no discrete individuals. Only ensembles of skills stored in a person, assembled for a particular project, to be reassembled for other projects, and shared with others within ‘communities of practice?”

The report’s Acknowledgments page thanks network advisor James Paul Gee for his thoughtful reviews and comments.

Not just a “networked” vision then but one with chilling implications that have been put to paper now and in the past once we know where to look.

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?

 


Dispensing with the Presumption that Education is About Improving Individual Minds

Say what? Did that title make you want to clean your glasses or bop yourself gently to make sure you are reading correctly? Yup, welcome to the world of communications among powerful decision makers that you don’t see but that are designed to both affect  what is coming to classrooms. And to redesign the future. All of ours. Without consent. All based on the disputable idea that is not being shared with you–the idea that “human beings and their institutions could be changed for the better.” Can they?

History tells us that a wholesale restructuring of a social system that evolved over time is a terrible idea and that incremental change is the way to go because effects of changes can then be seen and evaluated. But then those systems never had the opportunity to hire as a consultant someone who is a thought leader in Appreciative Inquiry or a research associate for the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. Much less the Co-chair of the 2009 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference held in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Did they do any climbing do you think or just embrace the joys of human potential while traveling at someone else’s expense? Do Not Know but I pulled that description off a presentation the Taos Institute did for the Houston Schools in 2009 called “Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools: Leveraging the Power of Our Community.” It was to be a national model and brought together a broad range of city stakeholders to chart a new course. I am thinking this AI Whole System approach that puts “future scenarios” into HISTORICAL and GLOBAL perspective (their bolding and caps) so students and adults have “shared understanding and great commitment to act” is going to come in so handy with the Green Urban Economy and Regionalism commitment of a redesigned future from our last two posts.

So good to know GCI will be coming to Houston in May where leaders, employees, and students have had AI training to engage in a “collaborative search to identify and understand the organization’s strengths, the greatest opportunities, and people’s aspirations and hopes for the future.” All reimagining paid for with contributions and Stimulus dollars and lots of public debt and now new visions for federal revenue sharing. Free to use the AI 4D Model of Dream, Design, Deployment, and Discover which is not a model anyone would use on their own dime or intentionally with their own kids.

As I have said before, with 40% of all federal spending currently being borrowed, what happens to all these Pie in the Sky Schemes to reimagine a Future by targeting kids consciousness when they become adults who firmly believe just as cultivated and monitored? But no one actually knows much or can do much but collaborate and want someone to provide for them what they have been led to expect is their due?

Can you really Create “Promising Futures through Social Construction” as associates of the Taos Institute are leading educators (and UN officials apparently) to believe? Let’s back up to how I got here because I do not go perusing school districts’ websites unless I have a reason. No, in yet another one of those troubling reports produced recently by the influential Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in American Education called “Social Epistemology and the Pragmatics of Assessment” I read many things I knew were factually untrue.

Note to future schemers: Using Legal Theory to Create a Barrier to Criticism just comes across to me as proof of playing games. I also have a real problem with the idea that a professor whose psychological views of knowledge and social constructivist perspectives might be over the heads of those bright Swarthmore students (according to a debate in a newsletter online from about 10 years ago) are now being taught as fact to K-12 teachers for implementation on students as part of the Common Core reforms.

As Kenneth Gergen said himself in his 2009 book Relational Being: Beyond Self and Community (that the title of this post came from), his views come from “an enormously important line of scholarship stemming from sociological and political theory” and that it is “especially important in its critique of liberal individualism.” Now elsewhere in his book Gergen mentioned advancing Marxian thought and the Frankfurt School (by name. Look up Lukacs, Adorno, Herbert Marcuse if you are not familiar. Need to move on). Which again raises the question. Why on earth would any free society with any aspirations for remaining free in the future be grounding their future educational practices and philosophies in what I would honestly describe as Individual Subjugation Theories?

Gergen wrote that communitarian works like Habits of the Heart that we have already discussed reveal “in touching detail the insidious implications of individualist ideology for human relationships.” A viewpoint that is his privilege to hold. But if it guides his pedagogy and that pedagogy is coming to a classroom or assessment near you under the Common Core mandate, then it has ceased to be JUST his personal viewpoint. He was on the Gordon Commission for a reason. And it seems to be these views and his desire, citing James Paul Gee from the last post, of making:

“Learning and knowledge not so much understood as inside the head of the learner as embodied in the relational actions and practices taking place in the learning environment.. . [These alternative ways of thinking and practicing evaluation then] create pushes for “more egualitarian (new word I suppose), reflective, dialogic, collaborative, and context sensitive practices of enhancing human performance.”

Again those views are his and Professor Ezekial J Dixon-Roman’s right to hold. But we get to understand those practices and beliefs for what they are. Designed to gain political, social, and economic transformation through the classroom by changing what students believe, value, and feel and drastically restricting what they actually know. Without our permission as a country or community or as parents. Without a vote. Under an invisibility cloak as I have called it.

In his book Gergen said these educational practices that his Taos Institute calls Appreciative Inquiry are to “reflect, sustain, and advance productive forms of relational being.” We have talked about how the actual Common Core implementation teaching standards require a “student-centered classroom.” That shift from a “curriculum-centered education (drawing from the teacher’s knowledge base)” is necessary for a relational classroom. Where the focus is to be on “student capabilities,” not the transmission of knowledge to an individual.

What Gergen described as the relational classroom is precisely what we are seeing as required by standards for “teaching and learning” or “relevance” or “engagement”.  The “focus” is “directed to relations between teachers and students, and among students.” Then:

“Relations between the classroom and its environment should also be extended from the local to the global context. The classroom would ideally be a meeting ground for the concerns of the world. [making good use of the AI 4D Cycle I am sure to pretend all problems can be solved with good faith and collective will. Tell that to North Korea] And finally, there are the relationships of the future. With what skills are students prepared to enter the relationships on which global life will depend?”

And who decides what the future will be like? We have already encountered another systems thinker and Organizational Learning specialist, Peter Senge, lay out his Regenerative Society and the related Capitalism 3.0. Professor Shoshana Zuboff has laid out her Distributed Capitalism within a Support Economy. We have profiled Harry Boyte’s vision of the cooperative commonwealth in a different post.

All of these visions seem to fit with Professor Gergen’s views and preferences for our collective social future. But no one is asking us. They simply want us to provide our tax money and our children. Those without children will be getting employees in the future who expect the workplace to be reformed to fit their interests and capabilities. They have been told they will be consulted and collaboration is the key. At a living wage too.

What if all this is  wrong? Where will we be then with the expectations being baked in (or embedded as the ed profs love to say knowing it will be hard to detect what is going on) to education reform? To business school degrees? To public policy and urban study and psychology degrees? Under the new Lumina Diploma Qualifications Profile to all college degrees?

I may not be able to stop the journey at this point. But I will describe the pathway and the real destinations. Since thankfully I somehow have managed to get my hands on the maps and blueprints while we have just begun.

 

Misportraying the Conspiracy Covers Up the Broader Plans of Political and Economic Transformation

Most of the reporting I saw of last summer’s celebration of 20 years of Sustainability and Agenda 21 (so not an urban legend) at Rio de Janeiro  viewed it as a failure because “no definitive agreement was reached.” Well while the world paying attention was breathing a sigh of relief at another bullet dodged, the ICLEI component of this UN-led Reorganize the World program at your expense launched a new initiative to clarify what Sustainable Development would mean in the future–the Green Urban Economy. Generally in Initial Caps just like that for emphasis.

Now this is not the story I planned on doing today. That can stay in the holding pen until the weekend. This story was prompted by the very strange reaction locally to the criminal indictment using RICO of former Atlanta School Super, Beverly Hall. Something along the lines of “she’s not a mobster. It can’t merit RICO.” When lots of non-Mafia types have been pulled in through RICO over the years. http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2013/04/02/criminal-indictment-of-beverly-hall-is-it-illegal-to-be-a-demanding-leader/ is an example of the kind of nonsense being peddled that it can’t be a RICO conspiracy. Now the idea that what Bev was up to was about being a demanding leader or having too high an expectation for minority students given the educational and psychological policies and practices APS was piloting for national (and international as you are about to see) implementation is preposterous.

My experience is that that kind of preemptive “I am a lawyer and I read the indictment and this was no conspiracy meriting RICO” treatment gets pulled in when big bucks are at stake. And Atlanta’s business image. The good news Atlanta movers and shakers is I am about to make what is going on an Urban juggernaut and boondoggle connected to that reimagining of federal revenue sharing we talked about in the last post. Because while I was still fuming over that exculpatory blog post, I learned that the week before the indictment Bruce, the last post’s Race to the Shop, Katz had been back in Atlanta. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/protected-producers-vs-paying-consumerstaxpayerswho-will-prevail-on-education-and-the-economy/ is the post explaining the Low Carbon and punt consumer choice regional vision from last fall’s visit.

Except this time he brought former Chicago mayor Richard Daley to pitch the Global Cities Initiative. A Joint Project of Brookings and JP Morgan Chase. Chase said its role was about its “longstanding commitment to investing in cities.” As a former corporate securities lawyer who has written her share of bond prospectuses, I am sure the prospect of underwriting fees from municipal bonds to finance infrastructure expansions plays no role. Purely altruistic. Which is why GCI began in 2012 with events in San Diego, Columbus, Tampa Bay, and Los Angeles. If you are in Texas, maybe you can make it to the GCI forum on May 15. Other 2013 opportunities are in Dallas, Denver, and Mexico City.

Something else began in May 2012 that does seem related to this rebuild urban areas and insist everyone globally push the sociocultural model  just like the urban schools. It’s called the Global Cities Education Network and its participating cities are Chicago, Denver, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Seattle, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Toronto. None of which are cities with any interest in an export economy of the type GCI is hyping. Seriously, the JP Morgan, Gates, Hewlett and Pearson Foundations are among the sponsors. So the profit parts bring in revenue from underwriting or selling technology and digital literacy or writing and grading those all important assessments and remaking urban America to be Green. While the “charitable” arms push the policies that control the next generation’s values and belief systems and their ability to think at all.

So I am not trying to rain on revenue dreams from a Corporatist redesigned 21st century economy so much as trying to prevent the kind of insider boondoggle and user and taxpayer expensive nightmare now being used to describe the Chicago Parking Meter Lease Deal (look it up. I need to move on).  You see, I don’t know just a sliver of this story. And one of the things I understand is precisely how these urban school systems have been operating and why and how it has related for years to the hoped for political, economic, and social transformation. I literally have the blueprints as I was reminded again yesterday as I read this driving assumption. It is why outcomes based education always comes back. In function if not name and why the economic vision must have the schools:

“Without appropriate beliefs, many elementary acts of internal forethought, external colloquy [apparently discussion was not a sufficient term] and operational realignment would be unlikely. In so far as these acts depend on conscience, the beliefs of those involved is crucial.”

That was from 1990 and the UK but it actually laid out the global blueprint that mirrors what we are seeing now. Behind on its 21st century implementation schedule but definitely shifting into 3rd gear while we pay and pay and pay. That’s why all Transformation plans in any area rely on using education to alter the prevailing values, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings through education. It’s why the herd-defying, propaganda busting, abstract mind must not be nurtured anymore. So making equity in education and closing the achievement gap for urban youth the global focus prevents an academic/transmission of knowledge focus. That is inherently unequal so emotions and physical activity become the default classroom focus. Which is really convenient since that is the area of research from all those Soviet psychologists as we have talked about. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/imitating-the-ussr-in-striving-to-discover-how-the-child-can-become-what-he-not-yet-is/

And to invoke all this as being a matter of fairness to all and needed in light of the 50th anniversary of the Brown US Supreme Court decision on school desegregation (it is aboriginal rights being pushed in Oz by the way. Whatever pitch is needed) you get law review articles like “Toward Everyday Justice: On Demanding Equal Educational Opportunity in the New Civil Rights Era” by Mica Pollock. Now Mica is now an ed prof at UC San Diego and Harvard but she wrote that Ohio State Law Journal article that is ready to be cited in support of many a legally dubious practice to get it into place. Get it embedded into daily practice is how she describes it while our civil rights laws remain too focused on intent to discriminate. Instead of focusing on ANY harmful effects to a particular racial or ethnic group.

Mica is an anthropologist, not a lawyer, by training with a PhD from Stanford. She is thus in a position to credential away future professors, teachers, and District School Supers and administrators committed to her vision of using schools to “transcend current legal tools” and really get to wholesale structural transformation. You just focus on changing the aggregate of ordinary daily practices and policies that might give some children benefits not available to others.

All out of sight. All admittedly in violation of the actual statutory or case law. It’s not like anyone will ever know or those District Supers really have to answer to anyone in what they choose to push. And that’s how Equity and Equal Opportunity are bringing in sociocultural practices for all schools that the creators admit they based on USSR research. I don’t think it is coincidental Mica is now where Michael Cole and his Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) set up shop after the Rockefeller Foundation stopped funding that type of psychological research.

The Spencer Foundation has also been funding research designed to equalize opportunity to learn. They italicized it just like that. And equalizing OTL requires, they say, using those sociocultural practices like CHAT and alternative assessments like what the Gordon Commission is pushing. That would again be the influential commission led by Edmund Gordon with his life long interest in urban youth and equal justice for minorities. One of the Commission members, our friend James Paul Gee , explained OTL in his work for Spencer:

“New Knowledge that cannot be tied to any prior knowledge is not learned well or at all.” That means that what we would call book knowledge is off limits with an OTL focus because people have varying degrees of ability to take it in based on their prior life experiences. a/k/a homelife and parental education and financial resources.

Gee then goes on to say:

“For true and equal OTL, learners must all have the capacity to form the required representations [concepts, mental models] at the required degree of ‘power.’” Now since people differ in their ability to think abstractly, genuine abstractions like real Algebra or geometric proofs or even grammatical logic are all now off limits as a violation of OTL. If concepts or mental representations are needed, the kindly proprietors of an equity focus will supply them. Helps create consistency in beliefs too. No need to be skeptical and think there might be a political agenda that would make influential false beliefs or metaphors a temptation. Oh wait. We already did that post on Professor Donald Schon.

In the end our urban focus and OTL equity priority leaves classrooms largely devoted to “people’s participation in shared talk and social practice.”

A perfect opportunity to both level and change those beliefs that form the conscience that drives action. That can create a broader fundamental Transformation. Of everything.

 

Students Must See Themselves as Active Participants in Social Change and Designers of Social Futures

Before I tell you where that quote came from and what the connection is to the Gordon Commission, I want to go back in time first. I did what I frequently do when presented with troubling declarations of plans that I know will come to a poor end. I went back to someone who dealt with comparable aspirations and ideologies for insights into what is really going on and how this might end. History is much more reliable than a crystal ball. And, unlike the Marxist historians active in Europe before World War I and the 1920s, I do not use historical research as a “means of political agitation.” I will confess though it can be more useful than espresso as a jolting wakeup call.

No, I am not that ancient except to my kids but I did go back to someone who lived through what happened in Europe in the early 20th century and presciently recognized the gravity of what he was looking at. Economist Ludwig Von Mises saw that history and political theories were being used all around him “to provide weapons against the hated bourgeois order of society.” Remember that quote when we get to the end of this post. Von Mises was infatuated with socialism when he was younger, like most German and Austrian intellectuals of that time. But he wrote the book Socialism to explain why he believed it would not work. Long before Communism had crashed and burned in the USSR or the Germans tried out a more Corporatist and Nationalist version of socialism that launched 2 world wars. I wanted his insights into why planning societies does not work from what he saw in real time. The book was originally published in German in 1932 so Von Mises is speaking from quite a unique vantage point.

What I hit upon instead was so on point with using education to shut down the abstract mind and push action instead. Plus the desire we keep encountering to supply the interpretive concepts and metaphors, instead of accurate facts, to filter student’s daily reality. I decided we could use Von Mises’s observations from so long ago.

“Abstract thought is independent of the wishes which move the thinker and of the aims for which he strives. Only this independence qualifies it as thought. Wishes and purposes regulate action (his italics).”

Von Mises goes on in a footnote to clarify that “the wish is the father of faith.“  Faith is thus what all these education reforms are really trying to create. Do you remember this post http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/excellence-means-education-putting-what-we-feel-wish-for-and-think-in-harmony/  where influential Harvard psychology prof Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi  laid out his vision of the Flow experience? As Von Mises ably observed in dealing with earlier “Let’s Remake the World Schemers,” there is no abstract thought when wish for and feeling are joined to thought. It is the sort of cultivated personality ready to attend and celebrate at rallies without a second thought. Csik’s Flow and the idea of physical activity in a digital environment instead of mental is mentioned throughout this new view of curriculum and assessment we started to look at in the last post. A primary solution for engaging students at school and keeping them in school is Gaming. As in video games.

That really caught my interest for several reasons. I know the Gates Foundation has been funding it for the Common Core implementation. I know that Professor James Paul Gee, who we discovered in this post http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/we-are-at-the-historical-stage-for-the-emergence-of-one-particular-new-kind-of-person/ does not believe in the concept of discrete individuals, has pivoted in the last 10 years in his education research to focusing on gaming. And I know that Amplify has been hyping Zombie-Based Apocalypse simulations as learning on its website. To get to what Joel Klein has called “new kinds of minds” I suppose.

So Pearson and the Gordon Commission and everyone else is pushing Gaming. And Gee who wants education to help create people to be “better modules in a distributed non-authoritarian system” is both a member of the Commission and pushing Gaming instead of linguistic mischief making. His previous research mission. Although if you look up his report “Good Video Games and Good Learning” you will see he is quite excited that Gaming helps move education beyond its fetish with print and words. Important to the schemers as we now know.

What do they mean by Gaming? As we saw with the Zombie Apocalypse simulation story that cited sources acknowledging that this type of digital learning is known to weaken the mind http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/creating-new-minds-different-values-equity-in-credentials-can-this-really-lead-us-to-prosperity/ , the point of the simulations described is to practice planning and redesigning societies. You can see why I went back to Von Mises. So the same report that starts off maligning knowledge of facts as “banking education” wants students to practice reimagining other ways for societies to exist and to come to believe that societies can be planned. And the games cited are multi-user to get both social interaction and collaboration practice. Cited are the game River City where the students learn to solve a simulated 19th century city’s problems. At least in the virtual world with the provided, controlled variables. A difference from the real world that is not likely to be pointed out to the students or the teachers.

Then there is the “epistemic game called Urban Science that mimics the professional practicum experiences of urban planners.” Yes, because they are noted for doing a bang-up job with planning in the real world. Let’s ignore that and go with Professor Don Schon’s aspirations for cities and people to be systems that can be treated as problems to be solved. The virtual world awaits and the students immersed in such Gaming are likely to soon accept social and economic planning and fiats as a norm.

Perhaps the most graphic example of where all this is going in the Pearson/ Gordon Commission report is the game Quest Atlantis. There the aim is explicitly described like this:

“the focus of critical design work is to develop sociotechnical structures that facilitate individuals in critiquing and improving themselves and the societies in which they function.”

In fact the creators of the game noted that:

“although they could have focused the Quest Atlantis virtual environment solely on particular science standards about erosion, they became concerned with highlighting attitudes toward environmental awareness and social responsibility.”

And just in case you are wondering where are values, feelings, and beliefs that usually go along with these outcome-based maneuvers to change future behavior, the authors did not forget. They go on to describe how they:

“decided to make a structure connected to social commitments, creating a story [because all political schemers seem to know children learn better with a narrative!] about collecting pieces of crystal, with each representing a social commitment the designers wanted to enforce, like political awareness. They instilled in the community around the game a value of these commitments through the design of the ecosystem.”

The title of this post is quoted from the Introduction to Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures and it was too consistent with the aspirations of the Gaming emphasis not to use. Plus Gee and Courtney Cazden of the Discourse Classroom that we met in the Community of Learners post were both contributors. In fact Gee acknowledged that all these education reforms are to “change the game, that is, to change our society” to what he called a distributed economic system.

You may have noticed all the focus on cities and urban education above and in Edmund Gordon’s mission as a professor. Likewise there are increasingly stories about students being told to learn about White Privilege or their “economic class.” This week’s version involved Americorps workers in Wisconsin but the reports are increasing around the US. So I want to close this post and set up the next one with another quote from Gee’s “New People in New Worlds” essay from the book.

“We, then, really have two school problems. [to get to the sought new economic order]. The first concerns how to ensure that poor and minority children, really for the first time, get well educated enough to participate in building and transforming our societies. The second concerns how to ensure that advantaged children can get out of school able to think ‘critiquely’ about issues of power and social justice in the new global capitalist order.”

How succinct was that admission of the essence of what we are dealing with?

Does Community of Learners Sound Warm, Fuzzy and Harmless? It’s Not

Community of Learners (CoL) is a phrase that first came on my radar when a new high school principal who prided himself on being a Change Agent kept mentioning it. Sandwiched in between troubling references to the teachers “may no longer teach or lecture” and “students should construct their own learning.” So the term was on my radar screen as probable trouble in a way that most parents or community leaders or politicians are unlikely to pick up on. My guess is the first time any of you or the political decision makers hear of  a CoL or its earlier name, Collaborative Classroom, will be something along the lines of the way Lee S Shulman, the President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and another Stanford prof, described it. He called it a “pedagogic reform”–”Fostering a Community of Learners.” My comments are in brackets.

“The essence of FCL is the creation of learning experiences in which students who are working on big ideas [now frequently called essential questions as in McTighe/Wiggins Understanding by Design] become interdependent in their investigations and their collaborations around new tasks. [remember CCSSI is student-centered and all the mentions are to activities, tasks, and projects. Virtually all group]… FCL rests heavily on the deep understanding [emotional; affective; grounded in feelings and beliefs based on experiences]. [FCL] is primarily concerned with achieving changes in the social relations among students [paging John Dewey to the 21st Century classroom!!]. Moreover, we argue that this form of task division and distribution is not merely a pedagogical tactic; it mirrors the ways in which complex problems are addressed in both academic and entrepreneurial contexts in the modern world.”

Now, minus my snarkiness or inserted explanations prompting a recall of earlier points in previous posts, this explanation of a reform might sound pretty convincing. Especially if sold as a means to decrease the drop-out rate by increasing student engagement. You can bet this would come with all the university presidents and business people who think it is a wonderful idea. Left out of course would be the fact that the higher ed accreditation agencies required the change in the classroom and probably pushed the “independent” endorsement of FCL to boot. Or that virtually all the businesses being cited for support have some undisclosed conflict or are looking forward to being a designated vendor of a NEED in a hoped-for new kind of Capitalism as we have talked about.

So I see things differently because I understand more pertinent facts than what is typically supplied by the sales campaign for these education or economic reforms. And those of you who are hearing horror stories (finally!!) about the new Common Core Science Standards and its emphasis on consensus science, remember Carnegie financed those standards. So the real point of FCL is pertinent to the real point of those Science Standards. Which is to replace objective, experimental Science as a body of disprovable  knowledge. Instead we are to get experience knowledge grounded in personal perspectives. As you can appreciate Experience Science is much more susceptible to influence from political power. Very convenient in a hoped for government-led economy of the future.

Now what Shulman and others advocating CoLs as a key component now of Effective Teaching and Classrooms and Positive School Climates and Cultures are likely to leave out is that this is yet another export from the Soviet Union from the time of the Cold War. Professor Bronfenbrenner was not the only American prof dropping in on Soviet psychologist Leon’tiev for some advice on how to teach American students in the future. Then Harvard Ed Prof Courtney Cazden just happens to mention in her book Classroom Discourse: The Language of Art and Teaching that FCL came from observations of a mid-70s trip to the USSR she and Professor Ann Brown and Professor Michael Cole took.

The late Ann Brown is considered to be the creator of the US version of FCL along with her husband Joe Campione. She grounded it explicitly in the theories of Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky who we have talked about before. He was trying to come up with a way to create the perfect Soviet personality for the future. The FCL Project is described as a “system of interactive activities designed to create a self-consciously active and reflective learning environment.”  Which sounds ever so much like the actual intentions for the Common Core classroom all over the globe now when you read the documents the insiders send to each other on what they wish to achieve.

If you are wondering why now after the USSR went poof, let’s remember all the cited political theorists and business professors and systems thinkers I have described as seeking economic democracy globally in the 21st century. Scharmer, Zuboff, Harry Boyte, Benjamin Barber, and John Dewey himself. Cazden herself said that these types of social interactions in the classroom are “essential for students’ development toward active citizenship in a pluralistic democratic society.”  Professor Michael Cole cited John Dewey for this reason:

“the social environment … is truly educative in the degree to which an individual shares or participates in some conjoint activity. [a nerdy way to say group learning]. By doing his share in the associated activity, the individual appropriates the purpose that actuates it [don't be surprised if it's about global warming or overpopulation], becomes familiar with its methods and subject matters, acquires needed skill, and is saturated with emotional spirit.”

That last part really got my attention as another one of the books being cited to push for a different kind of economic system to go with these ed reforms is called The Spirit Society imported from the UK. Plus Zuboff described her distributed capitalism in terms of using education to infuse the desired spirit. We seem to have a consistent theme and desire going here.

Cazden described the importance of FCL and its emphasis on social relationships like this: “Now each student becomes a significant part of the official learning environment for all the others, and teachers depend on students’ contributions to other students’ learning, both in discussions and for the diffusion of individual expertise through the class.”

Yes that is the real reason Gifted programs and tracking are being discontinued. Those fine minds and excellent vocabularies and outside school experiences become common property of the classroom. To be accessible to everyone instead of the talented students moving on in the subject-based, abstract world they are capable of and may prefer. That would be selfish in our hoped for economic democracy where everyone’s needs come first and individualism is no longer a concept to be cherished or even accepted. See Cazden’s colleague James Paul Gee’s rejection of even the concept in an earlier post.

Professor Cole likewise said the Community of Learners concept is grounded in Vygotskyian “cultural-historical activity theory” or CHAT for short. His acronym, not mine.  Like Dewey, Professor Cole sees these learning theories where “humans are [supposedly I add] created in joint mediated activity” as about changing the prevailing society and its customs, feelings, values, attitudes, and beliefs. In fact, Cole said the “acid test of CHAT” would be its “success in guiding the construction of new, more humane forms of activity.”

Like Boyte’s Cooperative Commonwealth or Zuboff’s distributed capitalism or Otto Scharmer’s Capitalism 3.0? Every time we peel away the cover of the rhetoric intended to be the sales campaign about the US Common Core and its related education reforms globally, we find these radical Transformative intentions. Cole says “Culture is exteriorized mind; mind is interiorized culture.” So if you make the classroom about social interaction and the use of a visually-oriented external thinking devices like Smartphone or tablets like an IPad, the hoped-for change is the student’s mind from the inside out. Hopefully largely empty of accurate facts. Do that to enough students, especially making the activities about emotionally provocative or insoluble complex world problems, and you can change the prevailing culture.

Implementing these ed theories may also though destroy everything that works without gaining viable substitutes in its place. Except the strong arm of government coercion. I have not made too heavy of an emphasis on how the Communitarian aspects of all these reforms harkens back to what was going on in 19th century German education reforms. I will simply add that the Germanic term Gemeinschaft keeps being cited in these related reports for internal consumption. One such report from December 2000 went on with the definition of a desired school community “where the value of individuals working together for the common good is upheld and respected.” It also referred reverentially to Amitai Etzioni by name as well as his anti-individualism “social movement.”

Can you see why I see the reality of the Common Core so much differently? It is all there once you treat education reform like an onion and peel away the rhetoric. And track back to the actual creators of these implementation practices.

 

Will Your Schools Be Used as an Information Age Experiment for Economic Democracy?

That title comes out of a 2004 essay published in Columbia’s Teachers College Record laying out the desired “Pedagogical Praxis” to use computers and other ICT technology in the classroom to reinvigorate John Dewey’s 1915 idea of linking school with society. The idea is that we are living in a technological Postindustrial society that calls for different habits of mind and understandings than in the past.  And let there be no doubt, the author, an AI prof by the name of David W Shaffer, said explicitly that “the approach is psychological” and involves the social and moral development of students. Which really does sound like what the Canadians have acknowledged is the real common core being imposed on global education–new values, attitudes, and beliefs. Another prof we will get to today added changed “mores” to that list as well.

Apparently we all need changed beliefs for the 21st century as Goodwin Liu alluded to when he called for something like CCSSI-the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/morphing-the-common-core-into-a-new-rewritten-us-constitution-by-mandating-false-beliefs/ Which is certainly convenient as yesterday a US federal government commission released a report called “For Each and Every Child” that talked about using CCSSI to get the US K-12 “system” to “distribute opportunity equitably” so there would cease to be “disparities in student outcomes.” http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/eec/equity-excellence-commission-report.pdf Now people are different and long-time readers know I have talked a good bit about what Excellence in education really means. See Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi in tags. No you do not have to pronounce his name. Everyone just calls the prof Csik as it is easier. All joking aside Csik’s view of Excellence aligns perfectly with Shaffer’s view of a psychological moral and social development focus in the classroom to change students from the inside out.

Now conveniently this highly intrusive report that reenvisions the Government-Citizen and federal/state/local roles in so many areas that the ground at Montpelier, Va may have shaken yesterday sees technology and its use in the classroom as the key to gaining Equity and Excellence. You probably should check which tech stocks were up yesterday as vendors rejoiced at such an access to taxpayer coffers. OK. Less sarcasm as we hear the call for “technology systems that support learning.” There will be absolutely no references to BF Skinner and his call for using computers to be Teaching Machines delivering Operant Conditioning to the students to benefit the politically connected’s vision for the future. Ooops. Sorry. I guess it was an unconscious response to seeing that word Learning in that federal report since we know it means changes in values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. It’s almost like there is a theme going here.

Now many of the reports and books pushing ICT in the classroom as the primary emphasis cite back to a 1988 book by a Harvard business prof called In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power. Such cited support is intended to pave the way for a no questions school ICT implementation mere mortals without a Cambridge pedigree may not question. Unfortunately the systems thinkers at MIT had already, through footnotes, pointed me in Zuboff’s direction. I had her book and knew it aspired to use the new ICT technology and its ability to “informate” as she calls it and not just automate to change the nature of employee-employer work relations. She wants it to move away from hierarchical, managerial relationships in the workplace to collaboration as a “learning community.” So to her ICT is the hoped for avenue to the Democratic Vision in the Workplace and Industrial Democracy and she cites her own work as well as openly socialist labor leaders like Robert Schrank among others.

Which is her privilege but that aspiration for a new society and a new economy rather goes along with her vision for the role of ICT. It goes with the visions of the Equity Commission too given the number of times that report mentioned “levelling the playing field.” It fits with Goodwin Liu’s vision for a social citizenship obligation he wants to see accepted in a new interpretation of the 14th Amendment. So once again the cite to Zuboff merely reenforces our developing sense that the ICT push is not about getting everyone ready for the 21st century. Maybe it’s to get enough people primed to envision a nonhierarchical workplace but that may also not function very well in practice. But how would the typical student know that?

Zuboff tells the stories of numerous plants and companies transitioning away from the world of physical activity to produce products to a computerized production. Now the workers watch a computer screen and many, over time, especially those without a background in the physical production processes, lose touch with the reality those screen images represent. She writes about the disorientation. When I read that passage I immediately reverse engineered the effect on students of the schools pushing virtual reality and gaming and so much use of a computer. Wouldn’t those students likewise come to believe that reality acted much like the simulations they were creating? That the world could be made to behave like the designed models and programs they had been immersed in? Some almost from birth given the ubiquity of screens among the toddler set in the grocery store now.

Isn’t the insistence on using devices and tablets and reflecting popular culture at school just going to prime these students further? Won’t many student have trouble separating real social systems that consist of independent individuals and millions of consumer transactions that are not programs and were never designed from the online models about Society and the Economy and the Ecosystem? Especially since the reformers now want students to spend so much of their school day in virtual worlds too?

That was my concern and then the next step in my pursuit of what is really going on led to a 2009 book–Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. Now that book is being pushed by some of the biggest names in American education over the last 20 years. It makes no bones about pushing for the fulfillment of Dewey’s dream to use school to change the nature of American society toward economic democracy. It’s as if the entire 20th century nightmare of governments trying to remake human nature and shift the emphasis to the collective that occurred after Dewey wrote his theories never happened. Let’s try again. This time with the magic ICT technology and already industrialized societies instead of agricultural ones.

Do you think that will really make all the difference in likely outcomes? Even if I am alone out on this limb frantically trying to call attention to where the Common Core in the US and education globally is really going? Now Professor James Paul Gee who we met before with his insistence that there really is no such thing as discrete individuals, http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/we-are-at-the-historical-stage-for-the-emergence-of-one-particular-new-kind-of-person/ , is cited in Rethinking Education. The writers are explaining the envisioned push in the classroom for computer gaming that has now become such an unappreciated part of the actual planned Common Core implementation. The idea is that computer “simulation is the key to letting learners explore new situations.” So the computer gets used to let students explore various possibilities for the world of the future. Unfortunately reenforcing beliefs that reality can likewise be redesigned to reflect desired assumptions.

Mentioned among the useful possibilities for video gaming in the classroom is “draw players into roles that may conflict with everyday values and encourage players to notice the gap with their own beliefs.” There are listed war games that will allow the player to “switch sides to take on the perspective of the enemy.” I would assert the enemy is probably not created to reflect reality by people who also push PATHS to PAX SEL programs from our previous post or the Peaceable Classroom. Especially since the purpose of switching sides is to see the “conflict from multiple perspectives.”

Other programs are to involve “local environmental and social issues” where students will be urged to “co-create the world they inhabit.” Market economies and self-policing communities are also mentioned for the virtual world. I will let you guess how realistic the assumptions written into the programs are likely to be. And how many students will really recognize the assumptions factored into what is truly a Designed and Created Social System. That is likely a far cry from the real world the students do have to live in.

Now all this designing and reimagining is about to take us to an MIT prof who seems to function much like the Rosetta Stone for figuring out where all this is going. And we are going back to both Cambridge Cousins and more than one of the graduate programs at both places. And the continued dominance of Systems Thinking. In business and education and apparently, the planners hope, in society itself.

I hate to stop here but our Planning Prof who actually wrote his PhD dissertation in the 50s on John Dewey and his inquiry method is just too important. He came up in too many places we talked about today and deserves his own post.

I feel like humming that tune about being able to see clearly now after rain has come.

 

We are at the Historical Stage for the Emergence of One Particular New Kind of Person

The ‘portfolio person.’ Before I enrage most of you by quoting that definition in a stomach-churning way, I want to continue on the theme from the title of the last post. It is what caused me to pick out a phrase from one of Uncle Karl’s most famous quotes to illustrate the point. But I think we then turn around and forget it too easily. We are not dealing with Science or Politics or Education here that sees itself as defined by the traditional rules of play. CAGW is not grounded in the natural science of the Enlightenment. Education under the Common Core is actually not about the transmission of knowledge. Even the federal government in July acknowledged that Common Core was not a Product as in knowledge American students should know but a Process of interacting in “culturally relevant contexts.” Monday President Obama turned what had started as his campaign organization with a huge supply of emails into a permanent apparatus to be called Organizing for Action. Legislative, regulatory, whatever is achievable.

What we are dealing with in each of these cases is Rule-redefining Science. Rule and Role-altering Politics. Rule and Institution-altering Education. And if we ignore the underlying political and social and economic theories they are grounded in after going to so much time and trouble to track them down, we are in deep peril. Fundamental Transformation is not just an exciting phrase to stir up supporters and get money. When the lights are off these terms revert to ambiguous language or worse, Orwellian duplicitous language. And we must still remember. Because no one is just playing rhetorical games here.

Today’s title comes from yet another one of those books we were not supposed to see. Much less read in full. It is called Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. That’s why I quoted the title in full.  Designed Social Futures and not by each of us. Media learning, Cyberlearning, and Digital Learning are all means to an end most of us likely do not want to go to. We have to quit divorcing these methods from the stated intent of the creators of the theories.

Professor James Paul Gee, then of Wisconsin now at Arizona State, actually uses the mobot, designed in the lab at MIT, to be his metaphor of the type of people he would like to see emerging for a new economic system he has in mind. There would be no effective central brain and that would supposedly be a good thing since it would make people more adaptive and flexible in a fast-changing world. And if you found the pursuit of a Non-Axemaker Mind or the destruction of the sense of a Unitary Self disturbing in previous posts, hold on to your coffee cup. If you are reading this at night perhaps an adult beverage break right now would be bolstering. Here goes (page 47):

“There is no centre. There are no discrete individuals. Only ensembles of skills stored in a person, assembled for a specific project, to be reassembled for other projects, and shared with others within ‘communities of practice.’ Individuals are not defined by fixed ‘essential qualities’, such as ‘intelligence’, ‘a culture’, or ‘a skill’. Rather they are [note he is talking about you and me and our children here], and must come to see themselves as, an ever-changing ‘portfolio’ of rearrangeable skills acquired in their trajectory through ‘project space’–that is, all the projects they have been in. You are, in this way, your projects.”

And he trains teachers. You know the only people who can be licensed to teach? And trains professors of teachers and administrators. And perhaps more importantly, he has spent the last 10 years since that book was published analysing video games. He views them  as embodying a “more cogent and powerful understanding of the nature of learning than is in evidence in most classrooms.” So remember that desired goal and the ‘portfolio person’ image of the individual when you hear about the video gaming push that is part of the actual Common Core implementation (with funding from the Gates Foundation!). And also the Digital Learning mandate and the push to for the all-ICT classroom. It is influenced by the same goals for altered consciousness that Gee laid out above or Roy Pea put into that powerpoint from a previous post. You can bet your District administrators will be leaving this part out of their presentations. But it is still there and the social and economic rule redesign actual purposes remain intact. Even when left unsaid.

Likewise, in 1994 English sociology prof Anthony Giddens wrote that “even should the thesis of global warming prove mistaken,” the “overall consequence” would still be “the creation of new types of feedback effects and system influences.” CAGW is a political theory that accretes economic and social power to government officials and their designated cronies. It offers a reason to exert control over private transactions and property and human activities and those system effects and influences are just too useful to pass up. Giddens went on to mention the UN’s IPCC and pointed out it will be setting up four possible emissions (carbon dioxide) scenarios. He was then brutally honest in what is clearly not designed to be read by us that these scenarios “could reflexively influence what it is they are about.” Just positing the theory and scenario, especially if it gains voluntary or formal adoption, changes behaviors in desired (if you are a statist schemer) ways.

So if you are a scientist or just an interested citizen reading Paul Ehrlich’s latest hype of catastrophe or that US National Climate Assessment draft, please don’t forget Giddens’ quote above when the science quoted or the models used make no objective sense. Just the theorizing coupled with government power and financial resources changes human behavior. Gives an excuse for economic reorganization. A reason for more regulation. Think of it as a full-employment at taxpayer expense for political favorites theory. Because that is what it really is.

But it is also more. German sociology prof Ulrich Beck wrote in the same book Reflexive Modernization that global warming and climate change give a reason for a switching of the rule system governments have lived by.  He apparently thought in a post-Berlin Wall world governments in the West needed an excuse for a Metamorphosis of the State, which is precisely how he described it. A full reconstruction using what he called the sub-politics of the government system and you and I today would recognize as an early description of the potential of community organizing. I do believe ACORN’s creators knew their Beck. In fact Beck called it the sub-politicization of society. We would call it every dimension within the reach of the state. To plan a different future and then impose it and reconceptualize the role of the state in what “tasks” it should be managing.

Ecology and presuming some type of pending environmental global catastrophe (warming or cooling) were apparently needed by the early 90s after the Cold War precisely because it gives a reason for totalizing political action:

“the microcosm of political life conduct is interconnected with the macocosm of terribly insoluble global problems. In order to take a breath without second thoughts, one ultimately has to–or ought to–turn the ordering of the world upside down.”

Hence the CAGW hype and the urgency in education and the need for an action politics that Beck also outlines. It is powerful and lucrative for the politically connected to be able to turn the world upside down.

But it certainly does not follow that the world needs to be turned upside down or it will be good for any of the rest of us. In fact, in the end, this Political, scientific, economic, and educational vision could be ruinous if not tragic for virtually everyone.

So let’s talk about the sought Transformations. And quit allowing the schemers in any of these areas to simply pretend we are not dealing with rule-altering intentions.

It is not just politics as usual or a different way to teach or a difference over the relevant scientific facts.

Let’s hold everyone to the declared intentions of the Creators of all these theories and scenarios.