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.