Drawing Back the Standards Curtain to Discover the Global Coordination to Redesign the Very Nature of Curriculum

We have discussed the fact that the phrases “Common Core” or “Competency” or “21st century skills” make wonderful excuses that obscure virtually all of what is really changing. Especially since we also have new ways of measuring the results and effects and turning it into data. When those of us who read the small print of reports, or attend PTA meetings, or actually look at what students are being asked to do, notice a complete paradigm shift away from factual knowledge as a primary purpose of schools and then try to raise our concerns these days, we usually get nowhere. We get to hear the typical supportive talking points about how “Standards are not curriculum,” and how the country “needs these standards to be internationally competitive,” and finally, how “Business wants these standards to create a skilled workforce.”

If we happen to be armed with some factual knowledge and point out that endorsements from tech companies who will benefit financially is not what will bring tomorrow’s jobs, parents quickly discover that disputing the talking points on the Common Core is like trying to have a discussion with a robocall or a parrot. Now I am going to say do svidanija!, the Russian phrase for goodbye, to any discussion today of Soviet psychology and the fact that the education model the Common Core reflects when we look at what is being asked of teachers, measured in students, and theories imposed on the classroom all comes from the old USSR. Decades of experimental research and now imported to the US and other countries as cultural-historical activity theory. I suspected it before but recently reading the 2002 book Learning for Life in the 21st Century removed all doubt.

But curriculum is our focus today. The developmental perspective that CHAT and learning theories grounded in Vygotsky represent needs a redesign of the very paradigm of the curriculum. And it turns out they have it because in 2011 Harvard set up a Center for Curriculum Redesign that has UNESCO, Pearson, the Gates and Hewlett Foundations, the Nellie Mae Foundation behind the Competency Works report from the last post, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Google, the OECD and World Bank, and the governments of Massachusetts; Finland; Alberta and Toronto, Canada; Korea; Singapore, and the Australian curriculum authority (acara) all involved. Global coordination indeed of precisely what students everywhere will be interacting with and experiencing on a daily basis.

CCR came to my attention a few days ago when the OECD began touting it http://oecdeducationtoday.blogspot.com/2014/02/mathematics-for-21st-century.html . Since my book has an entire chapter on what was really being sought in the so-called math and science wars, announcing that the “Center for Curriculum Redesign’s Stockholm Declaration has stated: We call for a far deeper and reconceptualized understanding of mathematics by the entire population as a critical right, requiring:

* a new vision of mathematics education that anticipates needs and reinforces the role of mathematics in society, economies, and individuals, and strengthens gender equity,

* changes to existing Mathematics standards as presently conceived, through a significant rethinking of what branches, topics, concepts and subjects should be taught in Mathematics for human, economic, social and career development…”

Well, THAT got my attention. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered Charles Fadel was a Visiting Practitioner at Harvard. Ooops, I see I have forgotten to mention the University of Pennsylvania and MIT are also involved. And not just Stanford but the very prof, Roy Pea, we met in this post http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/the-need-to-know-as-we-understand-it-today-may-be-a-lethal-cultural-sport/ on the NSF funding of cyberlearning and informal learning.

Prof Pea is psyched to be an advisor to CCR since “In my studies of learning and development enhanced by technologies over the years, I’ve often emphasized the importance of meta-cognition, planning, leveraging distributed intelligence, and other aspects of human competencies (my bolding) that are often tacit or left out of curriculum studies and standards. Like many of my colleagues, I’m keen to see more integral support from educators for developing learner’s adaptive expertise–a framework I find preferable to 21st century skills. Once we separate ‘skills’ from expertise, which incorporates skills, knowledge, dispositions, interests, and identities–all essential aspects of competencies–we run the risk of having separate curriculum units on skills, divorced from content and other aspects of expertise.”

Now that is someone thoroughly immersed in the Vygotskyian education as humanizing the entire personality paradigm from that defunct country we are not discussing today. Pea clearly sees CCR as furthering that tradition of how curriculum is to be used. Another fascinating description from someone involved with the Common Core Next Generation Science Standards read like this:

“The vision you are building toward–to deeply redesign curricula so that we focus young people on experiencing content as purposeful, interdisciplinary and personalized–is key to the process of transforming education globally.”

That was Margaret Honey of New York Hall of Science. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is also on board and “applauds the vision of CCR to redesign curricula for the 21st Century that is both relevant and engaging, and goes beyond core content.” These letters are available on the CCR website under partners. I will give one more quote from ERB since it is speaking on behalf of its member schools and that includes many of the most prestigious private schools in the US. It says “We relish the opportunity to help redefine what it takes to be a knowledgeable, ethical, and wise citizen of an interconnected and interdependent global community of learners.” A very interesting end goal that is probably not what a parent has in mind when they ship off their high schooler to an expensive boarding school.

Now obviously the various UN entities pursuing their Sustainability and post-2015 vision and the OECD with its Green Growth and Great Transition visions of the future could hardly find a surer vehicle for reaching the most people during the period of their lives when they remain the most impressionable than being involved in such a planned curriculum redesign. One that, in the words of the Finns, “necessitates a corresponding, bold  reconsideration of the nature of knowledge and learning, contents and the pedagogical practices of the school. It is time to rethink what it is that we want students to know and be able to do in future societies and in a globalizing world.”

The curricula redesign then is an essential component of creating a means of enacting a fundamental transformation of systems (Making History is what the theorizers call it) plus a bridge to then transition to that supposedly more just, communitarian-oriented future. Fadel has a 33 page White paper on the curriculum redesign site that makes it quite clear that the idea is to Rethink what is Taught in order to transition to a better world. Page 18 shows a drawing straight out of Hard Times with the heading “So it is a grand time to act unless we want a Dickensian society.” Page 19 quotes the winner of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Medicine that “We have evolved traits [such as group selfishness] that will lead to humanity’s extinction–so we must learn how to overcome them.”

Eliminating human selfishness as the point of the curricula and education and then making the public sector the dominant planning force in society. That’s much more likely to create a Dickensian future than be a means for avoiding it, but then I am still a fact-based person, not a theorist looking to implement infamous or untried ideas on a global scale. It is also interesting Fadel envisions “Leveraging our entire selves–head, heart, and hand” in this effort of social, economic, and political transformation. He also sees curricula redesign as a means of fostering personal fulfillment. Right.

So Standards are not curriculum, but the Common Core Standards, whatever their new names in the various states, serve as a vehicle to obscure this intended global shift in what is to be going on in the classroom. Big Business wants this because they hope to benefit from the associated public-private partnerships planned. The international competitiveness is grounded in a vision of global transformation to public sector planned economies and pushing for social justice for disadvantaged groups in each country. So much for those talking points.

Now we better focus on where this new concept of curricula is taking us. Because it is to be conveniently hidden for the most part on inaccessible computer databases and networks. How convenient that so many interested in the ‘cloud’ and Big Data generally have signed up to help reconceive the curricula paradigm. Some entities are about to have quite a useful control over a great deal of pertinent information. While at the same time they are trying to minimize the actual knowledge any citizen is likely to have.

Does this curricula redesign feel like an effort to uninvent the printing press and its liberation of the individual’s access to information to anyone else? A future vision that combines economic and political power and seeks to limit unapproved knowledge.

Anyone else recognizing what time periods we seem to want to ape here?

Viewing a CORE Decree, Cognitive Reorganization for All Students, As Modern Day Spoliation

In October 1997 the lead professors in what became the Understandings of Consequence (UoC) Project and RECAST work on restructuring students’ assumptions on causation wrote a very interesting piece called “Teaching Intelligence.” Published in the American Psychologist, it laid out the CORE vision of what precisely needs to be reorganized. I am going to show how the reorganization goals dovetail with aspects of the Common Core implementation I have already mentioned. And the CORE Cognitive Reorganization is Transdisciplinary. It is not the content of the disciplines to be learned anymore but the opportunities disciplines like history or science provide to create dissonance and mediation. CORE recognizes that “reorganization is most likely when learners become aware of the strengths and problems of their current beliefs, understandings, and thinking patterns.” Just what we all send children to school to have go on.

And then barely six months later the first of the listed UoC NSF funded projects began. Called “The Challenge of Developing Systems Thinkers: How Misconceptions About Complex Causality Contribute to Fundamental Problems in Scientific Learning,” it was headed up by Perkins and Grotzer. It leads to the current UoC work described in the previous post. Now for all of you who are finding this damning so far but wondering what this has to do with leaving food out of the refrigerator, I did not mean that kind of spoliation. I am using the term as what the Italians called spogliazione. But then European countries that remember feudalism and absolutist rulers like Napoleon have understood state directed plundering of the productive classes for centuries. And they call it Spoliation. And talking about it for a minute using quotes from across the Atlantic and across the centuries should go a long way towards answering that Number 1 most asked question when reading my posts: “But why? What a waste.” Indeed. Spoliation and with lots of precedent.

All these economic philosophers understood well the tendency of “the immortal state, the state that does not fulfill its primordial duties [the protection of personal liberty and property] but makes itself the center of intrigues, of favors, of transfers of wealth.” And what do Digital Literacy and all those Green Growth schemes have in common with what concerned the 19th century so much? They all understood the need for some type of bulwark or governments will be ever-expanding since:

“the beneficial effect of State intervention, especially in the form of legislation, is direct, immediate, and, so to speak, visible, whilst its evil effects are gradual and indirect, and lie out of sight.”

For that reason, there has always been a battle throughout history between “privilege, secret interest, political advantage, everything that is capable of coveting”–what we today call rent-seekers and the great mass of consumers and taxpayers who pay the bills and have no lobbyists in DC or the state capitol. That’s not an anti-government rant but a historical observation. And quite relevant to what is being sought now in the 21st century in the name of education. Thinking is being reorganized and false beliefs are being fostered precisely to gain people who either will not notice manipulation or who will regard it as necessary in pursuit of a greater goal or averting a supposed catastrophe.

It is in that light I want to give you a heads up that RECAST and CORE are very much a part of an organized effort to supposedly shift humanity away from a selfish philosophy of knowledge to a so-called altruistic philosophy of wisdom. No of course nobody told us since we might have objected. Laid out by UK professor, Nicholas Maxwell, in his 1984 book From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution in the Aims & Methods of Science the philosophy of wisdom stance can be clearly seen in Common Core’s push that curricula and assessments be about solving real world problems. It is very much in line with what we saw in the Appreciative Inquiry posts.

Under the philosophy of wisdom, education must “give absolute intellectual priority to our life and its problems, to the mystery of what is of value, actually and potentially, in existence, and to the problems of how what is of value is to be realized.” Which of course, individuals cannot accomplish alone. They will need public policy to aid them in “cooperatively solving” the “common problems of living.” It’s no accident that in the back of the book Maxwell cites groups interested in the social responsibility of science as supporting the philosophy of wisdom. And the environmentalists. And something called Science in a Social Context. And UNESCO. This is a rent-seekers dream and very much consistent with one of Uncle Karl’s best known quotes which Maxwell cites approvingly: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” The philosophy of wisdom does that even when it is going by other names.

Which gets us back to CORE and RECAST. I don’t think it is coincidental that Maxwell cites John Dewey as a major devotee of pushing the synthesis he called the philosophy of wisdom. Nor do I think it is coincidental that what CORE and RECAST are getting at is  what the 1971 book Inquiring Man called a radical new idea. Where “educational growth is not the accumulation of more and more pieces of information, but the development of an increasingly complex structure for organizing and inter-relating ideas.” Doesn’t that sound familiar? Like being a Systems Thinker? Or seeing race and class oppression as causes of any dissimilarity in life circumstances?

What Thinking Intelligence described as “helping learners reorganize their thinking around a more powerful pattern.” Pre-supplied by the ever helpful teacher seeking “transfer” through “thorough practice with deliberately diverse cases.” In other words, nothing really in common except being told there is a causal relationship. Find one. Make it up. Negotiate with the rest of the class for possibilities. Learn to think through abstractions NOT grounded in facts. Ascend from the Abstract to the Concrete of everyday life.

Learning to think ideologically until it becomes a habit of mind and hiding that desired widespread practice as “higher-order thinking.” Teaching Intelligence explicitly mentioned five areas of “cognitive reorganization (CORE categories): strategies, metacognition, dispositions, distributed intelligence, and transfer. We have already talked about transfer today and in that Yrjo Engestrom post. For metacognition it is intimately bound up in the real definition of college and career ready. It also explains why CCR architect, David Conley, sought to rename noncognitive skills as Metacognition. Laid out here  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/now-more-than-five-years-into-an-attempt-to-help-organize-a-near-total-revision-of-human-behavior/

Strategies “reorganize thinking by providing patterns to follow that work against the defaults.” Like complex causation and systems thinking in general. Dispositions “emanate in part from underlying beliefs.” Well luckily there has been no organized attempts to foster any false beliefs. The paper then cites Vygotskyian scholar Carol Dweck without pointing out whose work she is so fond of. Today she is better known for her work on Growth Mindsets and Fixed Mindsets. Her books and passages are not only being assigned to teachers but I know for a fact they have been assigned in Honors English classes this school year. Of course the Chair of that English Department had a newly minted Masters from a Vygotskyian-oriented program so that may explain the determination to move fast.

Thinking dispositions “consist of both sensitivity and inclination.” They are what John Dewey called “habits of thought” and they reorganize thinking “through the sensitivity to detect occasions that call for a particular pattern of thinking and the inclination to follow through.” Again all this in an environment where teachers are not to teach factual content. And being told you have a fixed mindset at a tender age seems like such an insult. Must change.

Distributed cognition gets at “team thinking” and the use of cultural tools like computers. It also stresses “teleconferencing [to] allow the pooling of expertise and collaborative brainstorming.” Have you heard about mental mapping? This is where it comes in– “extensive use of graphic organizers-diagrammatic ways of representing evidential and other relationships that provide both physical and symbolic support.”

All of this is designed to force students to see the world not as it is. But as people with a political agenda for education, who actively seek to transform society to cause a shift to a centrally planned economy premised in a welfare state/ social citizenship structure, wish the students and future voters to see the world. All going on at the same time Europe is coming to grips with the perverse incentives and financial Unsustainability of so many of the programs this type of education was intended to promote. None of which is part of the sales pitch for the Common Core or its continuing propaganda campaign.

I guess everyone is hoping that the Cognitive Reorganization in enough voters will be a  done deal before enough people grasp what has happened. And by then it will be too late.

I can just hear it now. “What do you mean the Common Core assessments were not actually tests and were not monitoring knowledge of facts?”

A West that couples low information voters to voters who live at the expense of the State and then adds voters who have undergone years of this ideological reorganizing of thought patterns will be dysfunctional at virtually every level.

And every bit as toxic as the spoliation that occurs without refrigeration.

What Happens When the Hidden Goal of Education Is Interrupting Pre-existing Social Stratifications?

What if you were a hungry pioneer in a new town in the middle of nowhere in the 19th century and it was a long, cruel winter? Inexperienced you did not appreciate the danger of eating the seed corn that would be needed if there were to be plants for the following years. So you and your family and maybe other starving townspeople consumed it all to get through the winter. Unaware just how precious it might turn out to be in hindsight. But by then it is gone.

That failure to appreciate the precariousness of how we stay where we are culturally and economically, and the preciousness of what it actually took to get to this point in history, is exactly what I worry about when I read statements about “suspending the contributions of inborn capacities” or the “extent to which people expend great effort.” Jettisoning those important things is supposedly necessary to “adequately interrupt the reproduction of pre-existing social stratification.” And I am once again NOT playing Fish Around for Horrific Quotes to Get People Riled Up About the Common Core. Or C-Scope. Or even those preparing for a new type of capitalism 21st Century Skills.

Initially the quotes I am using are from another one of those Gordon Commission reports I have been writing about in recent posts. This one called “Democracy, Meritocracy and the Uses of Education” is by Aundra Saa Meroe. It helps frame the very dangerous mindsets being created in graduate higher ed programs to credential adults to impose what are actually political or sociology theories on students in K-12 institutions. And soon to be preschool.

I am going to detour for a second to reiterate a point Nobel Economist Friedrich Hayek made in his classic 1944 bestseller The Road to Serfdom. It is something to keep in mind as we explore today and generally in this blog the determination to use educational institutions to transform the prevailing worldviews. In the US and all over the world especially anywhere that ever cherished individual liberty and freedom to create and trade and set rules by private contract. Schools and colleges and universities really are being used to alter individual feelings, values, attitudes, and beliefs to embrace, or at least tolerate or not notice, a radically different political, economic, and social structure than what has ever brought mass prosperity. Hayek with his background in prewar Europe and then among the Fabian social planners in London knew what was, and still is being sought.

“The important point is that the political ideals of a people and its attitude toward authority are as much an effect as the cause of the political institutions under which it lives. This means, among other things, that even a strong tradition of political liberty is no safeguard if the danger is precisely that the new institutions and policies will gradually undermine and destroy that spirit.”   (HT to Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek for that timely Quote)

That destruction is absolutely the hidden intent of the Common Core’s actual planned implementation and its new assessments and the Lumina Diploma Qualifications Profile in higher ed and all the social and emotional emphasis coming to the classrooms. To understand why anyone would contemplate such a wholesale attack I want to quote from a part of this report that sets up the anger and actual hatred for what currently exists:

“The history of nascent democracy and nation-building in the United States among voluntary immigrant populations obscures how the broadening horizons for some were in part realized through the brutal eclipses of basic human freedoms, for many others through land seizure, warfare, the persecution and containment of indigenous populations, the enslavement of African people and the subordination of women. These forms of oppression and subjugated labor underlie the advances made in the nation’s formative forays into farming, commerce and industry.”

In this view everything that exists in our 21st Century America is seen as irrevocably tainted by the past and illegitimate. The remedy? “Absent the larger society’s commitment to an equal distribution of resources, academic institutions are held to be central sites for the distribution of resources.” Hence the Equity in Credentials even if they no longer designate meaningful knowledge or skills. Those unfulfillable expectations merely become more fuel for the desired radical transformation. That’s why all these education reforms are always coupled to a Social Citizenship vision in a Welfare State vision. We first saw it here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/morphing-the-common-core-into-a-new-rewritten-us-constitution-by-mandating-false-beliefs/.

Meroe then follows up her vision of tainted America with a description of Robert Dahl’s vision for democracy to become “an evolving, progressive social enterprise.” This time “all people must have equal opportunities to realize” their “mutual interests and valued goods.” Of course history has shown that that kind of equality can only exist with an overarching government constantly administering “fairness and justice.” And government involved to that extent will ALWAYS be captured by politically connected rent-seekers wanting favors at our expense. And thus be even less fair or just in the long run. But, hey, let’s not let reality intrude quite yet on all these pie-in-the-sky decrees.

One more pivot to the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard that philanthropist Eli Broad set up in 2008 with a $6 million contribution. Best known in education for his creation of the Broad Prize for Urban School Districts and training administrators in a Superintendents Academy, I am going to use the description of the purpose of the Ed Labs found on the website of the WEB Du Bois Institute at Harvard. It says the project is “devoted to understanding the causes and consequences of inequality in American society. .. The broader objective of the lab is to employ scientific methods–rather than anecdotal or ideological reasoning–to improve public decision making and policy around issues related to inequality in the US.”

Fair enough although with all the behaviorist economists, psychologists, and sociologists involved in the effort you do have to wonder if the “scientific methods” are not BF Skinner’s vision for a science of education using operant conditioning. It sure would fit our known facts and is something to keep an eye on.

Meroe’s report goes on to announce that the “ubiquity of substandard public education among students of lower-SES ethnic minority groups . . . also reveals the malevolence of meritocratic rationalization.” She is on her way to lay the ground work for “mass-scale capacity for cooperative productivity in the workplace” that we have seen before. She advocates for what she calls “these collectivist goals of ‘democratic equality’ and ‘social efficiency’ [that] can conflict with a view of education as a private good for the purposes of education.”

Meroe is not unique in her angst about the urban areas and seeing the solution as Social Citizenship. We saw it with the Building One America conference and the Regional Equity and Metropolitanism movement I have written about. I read Professor Michael Katz’s The Price of Citizenship: Redefining the American Welfare State this week and got treated to yet more of the Social Citizenship as necessary to give our inner cities a remedy for their devastation argument. Likewise, the involvement of a number of the listed Ed Lab contributors with the Russell Sage Foundation led me to the future vision laid out in 1995 in their Poverty, Inequality and the Future of Social Policy: Western States in the New World Order.

So I actually do see where all this is going and it is an unworkable remedy. But I want to go back to the rationales. In particular that the low achievement in the urban districts is a result of “malevolence.” Whose? After all it is the urban districts that readily embraced the Vygotskyian “sociocultural” approaches first. Why? Because as we saw in the goals of the last post and as Leontiev and Bronfenbrenner apparently discussed in the 60s in talking about the Western countries and economies, many decision-makers do not want education theories or practices that preserve or reenforce the prevailing capitalist/individualist systems. They want urban students primed for transformation. This was also why Saul Alinsky’s IAF saw urban schools as great places for community organizing. The Alliance Network in Texas and other states now show it still is viewed that way.

I have written about Professor Michael Cole before. In a chapter to a 1985 book called Culture, communication, and cognition: Vygotskyian perspectives, Cole writes “In circumstances where we do not want to take the cultural context as given. . . [sociocultural theory] offers a very fruitful framework because of its militant insistence on linking individual and social activity.” So what was a militant linkage in 1985 is now to be the required classroom practices under the definitions of Effective Teaching under the Common Core. Moreover, that physical and social activity approach had toxic effects in urban areas. Especially when normed or even criterion tests are used against suburban schools which still had an academic focus and parents who could remediate at the proverbial kitchen table or hire a tutor.

That’s not malevolence and the resulting gaps in performance are certainly no reason to wreck everything as we are doing. And it’s not like the sociocultural/Soviet emphasis in the Urban schools was a secret. Professor Cole goes on to thank the Carnegie Corporation for the funding to import the psychology theories from “our Soviet colleagues.”

This went longer than I wanted so I will stop. The dysfunction of the inner cities and the achievement gaps have causes that are not being discussed. They have become excuses for wholesale transformation of all our institutions and even us. From the inside-out.

And when we trace backwards we find either false beliefs or political theories with a tragic past. All being pushed by tax free foundations intent on social change and without any willingness to do the cleanup work from the effects of previous theories.

Equality-the chimera that threatens to ruin the futures of anyone without political connections.

 

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.

 

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

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

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

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

No actually federal civil rights laws do no such thing. Congress can rewrite them or the courts can change their interpretation of them. But Arne and his employees, even the ones with law degrees, may not. Especially on a Friday afternoon in the first week of a Second Term in office. If you read  http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/01/we-must-provide-equal-opportunity-in-sports-to-students-with-disabilities/ the OCR letter you will see that sports is just an illustration of a much broader right Arne and his Department want to create. And they explicitly want to include learning disabilities, not just physical ones.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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