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.


Being Grateful for What We Know and Appreciating Why It Matters

I had actually outlined another barnburner story but the day before Thanksgiving is no time to serve up indigestion. So I thought I would write a tale of appreciating why individual liberty has mattered in the past and why Freed Markets resulted in mass prosperity would be a nice tribute. And I do not mean that in a Pollyanish sense. One of the books I am tackling this holiday week is Robert P Moses’ radical equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project. I want every child to learn to the best of their ability. I want to really appreciate the desperation that is driving this Equality for All even if it guts the economy philosophy. It is why I read what attracted Van Jones to the Green Growth Economy as a manifestation of his self-confessed preference for Communism.

I think the history lessons of the Predator State declaring its Goals for People and then using its powers to coerce are too easy to forget. It’s not an ideological preference. It’s a factual story. A repeated pattern once government reaches a certain size of the economy. I think history consistently bears out the truth of what Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek said in his 1945 lecture “Individualism: True and False.” I give extra credit for people who have first hand experience in what led to most of the great tragedies of the 20th Century. It’s called Walking the Walk and there is great validity to the hard-earned wisdom it imparts.

“There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal. While the first is a condition of a free society, the second means, as De Tocqueville described it, ‘a new form of servitude.”

There is just no getting around the fact that government officials and their Business Allies deciding they get to fine tune personalities and reset Values, Attitudes, and Beliefs to guide an Individual’s Future Behavior is a 21st Century form of servitude. Especially when the inappropriately named Positive School Climate is now a tool to retrain each student’s filtering Mindset. The worldview they will use from now on as they encounter daily reality. With their preferred non-Axemaker Mind and habits grounded in emotion. All quite consciously cultivated and monitored.

But we now know all this up front and that really is something to be Thankful for. As an active pursuer of these plans and blueprints this is decidedly unauthorized knowledge that was not supposed to become available. A 2012 Deerstalker Gold Star Award for Me. The most common question I get from frustrated parents especially is Why? What I am saying simply rings too true with their daily reality to discount it. But why the Deliberate Operant Conditioning towards a Future that’s not really about prosperity?

Like I have said, I take great comfort in putting all this in its Historical Context and its real Self-Dealing Context. Because honestly that is where it belongs. So I am going to quote you a passage from Hayek’s 1944 book The Road to Serfdom (page 176 in my 2007 copy). He really nails the drivers behind making education miseducation. Notice he also nails down the frequent unholy alliance between government and the media. Simply refusing to report or cover accurately anything that might caste a poor light on desired government policies. My bolding and snark is in the brackets.

“Facts and theories [Sustainability, Man-made Catastrophic Global Warming, Diversity, Social Justice] must thus become no less the object of an official doctrine than views about values. And the whole apparatus for spreading knowledge–the schools and the press, radio and motion picture–will be used exclusively to spread those views which, whether true or false, will strengthen the belief in the rightness of the decisions taken by the authority; and all information that might cast doubt or hesitation will be withheld. The probable effect on the people’s loyalty to the system [Peter Senge just swooned that we so understand the essence of Systems Thinking and Why It Must Be Pushed] becomes the only criterion for deciding whether a particular piece of information is to be published or suppressed. [Benghazi; Actual Employment Numbers] The situation in a totalitarian state is permanently and in all fields the same that it is elsewhere in some fields in wartime. Everything which might cause doubt about the wisdom of the government or create discontent will be kept from the people. [Hard not to think of Candy Crowley and that 2nd Debate]. The basis of unfavorable comparisons with conditions elsewhere, the knowledge of possible alternatives to the course actually taken, information which might suggest failure on the part of the government to live up to its promises or to take advantage of opportunities to improve conditions–all will be suppressed. There is consequently no field where the systematic control of information will not be practiced and uniformity of views not enforced.”

There you have the incentive of Government officials for using education for merely Competent, Mentally Hobbled Citizens. Especially ones who are being bred to see a Duty to the State. And the Business Angle. They are politically connected and want special privileges and protections from their Cronies. That’s not Capitalism though. It’s Mercantilism where there is no mass prosperity. It is what Adam Smith rejected as he accounted for Britain’s phenomenal 18th century economic growth.

So enjoy your friends and loved ones on this cherished American holiday. Whatever happens in education in 2013, we WILL understand what is really going on and what the likely consequences are actually going to be.

And that really is something to be Thankful for.