Who Needs Pitchforks to Get Political and Economic Revolution? Education and Time Will Do Fine

Back during a previous coordinated stealth assault on our economy and political structures, Professor Benjamin Barber published a Clarion Call book called A Place For Us: How to Make Society Civil and Democracy Strong. It is the perfect illustration of why I see the actual Common Core implementation and the real End Game intentions so much differently than anyone else. Not only am I reading documents and regs that will control what is to happen, I read the support for the vision as well. Which includes Professor Barber. And simply withdrawing the book from library shelves will not stop the analysis. That merely emphasizes how important the vision and the explanation in the book actually is.

That nerdy expression from the previous post “Generative Metaphor” from Donald Schon’s tool chest to get us to a new society or my new favorite “anticipatory schemata” from a different well-known prof will certainly come in handy if the Goal is the “transformation of the role of work in our economic system will hence have to await the transvaluation of our civic and moral systems.” No need to make an issue of what Political Ideology you want people to embrace thoroughly. You just make it a supplied concept or metaphor or schemata that their school uses from an early age in the classroom to help the young tykes frame their takeaway perceptions from their daily experiences. Now you didn’t really think that all the talk about activities and tasks and actions was really about a better way to learn, did you? It’s a better way to unknowingly imbibe deeply of ideology and never even be aware of it. Students learn to perceive experiences through the supplied framing concepts.

Next thing you know students believe deeply what all these professors want us all to be shifting towards (from Barber’s conclusion).

“Democracy can be our most magnanimous employer. Citizenship can again be the most human of all occupations. .. [history] appears now to be conspiring with [civility]. In a provocative realization of Marx’s prophecy anticipating a new world of abundance no longer rooted in endless labor, our society is moving toward conditions that could nourish the resuscitation of civil society–not just public work but public play, cultural leisure as well as civic labor, fun no less than ferment, the joys of living in place of the burdens of earning a living.”

Barber is not the only one who sees all this Systems Thinking and reimagining of education as moving us towards a new future vision grounded in what Uncle Karl wrote so long ago. Others though leave out the explicit mention that is probably what got Barber’s book pulled off the shelves. When I read Shoshana Zuboff’s 2002 The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism I went back and reread Maurice Berman’s passage on Marx and Modernization in his book to doublecheck that meeting everyone’s needs did in fact form the essence of Uncle Karl’s ultimate economic and social vision.

Yep, so her new enterprise logic of a “distributed capitalism” based on everyone’s “need and support” as its organizing principle basically gets us to a 21st century version of the M word. She wants “Buyer-beware”  to give way to “United We Stand” and a reinvention of the employment relationship and the idea that “all enterprises should work for them.” Honestly this vision, which also fits with Senge’s Fieldbook from the previous post, will have the least capable employees the most assertive about their right to be consulted. Capable people tend to be too busy. I am not picking on Shoshana. She has a right to her beliefs just like we have a right to recognize the political and economic theory she is describing as well as the significance of citing Erik Erikson’s theory of human development in her creation of the “psychologized individuals” who will be demanding that society be changed. Won’t the real Common Core come in handy for that if the goal is to create “powerful drives toward interdependence, affiliation and community-building, but in ways that no longer depend upon a priori criteria such as kinship or geography?” Not to mention the real definitions of College and Career Ready we have tracked down.

So K-12 schooling is where those individuals get “psychologized” so they are “educated, opinionated, rights-claiming, and keen to act. They have concepts, ideals, and information.” Shoshana left out schemata as what organizes their view of the world and I’d be willing to bet most of the information supplied will not be accurate. Shoshana’s new individuals will be primed by school and then university to “demand a high quality of direct participation and influence.” Probably in inverse proportion to the genuine value of their contributions to the workplace apart from showing up. But if you believe in the “evolution of the human-spirit” education is your tool of choice.

And Shoshana is not the least bit alone in her aspirations. http://www.managementexchange.com/hack/develop-support-dna-new-capitalism was a McKinsey award winner last fall at Harvard B School to reimagine a fourth sector of the economy tailored to needs. These ‘for-benefit’ firms will integrate social, environmental and financial value creation. All at the same time. And if that sounds pie in the sky. http://www.fourthsector.net/attachments/39/original/The_Emerging_Fourth_Sector_-_Exec_Summary.pdf?1253667714 shows North Carolina on board to foster this new sector that blurs the distinction between public and private. It has Aspen Institute support which means virtually all the big foundations involved with Common Core are also involved with promoting this Fourth Sector idea. Won’t this go well with Aspen’s Effective Teacher eval push? Evals will likely go a long way towards forcing the classroom teacher to cooperate with “psychologizing” individual students as envisioned above. Plus I found this same paper being pushed in Australia. That means this is a global reimagining.

In the last post I talked about Otto Scharmer’s Seven Accupuncture Points paper but not what he called Capitalism 3.0. What his and Senge’s Systems Thinking work in the schools and businesses and on higher ed campuses is intended to achieve as the End Game. And remember we have the UN-affiliated IHDP describing Senge and Scharmer as pursuing the vision of the future that they and Paul Ehrlich’s MAHB are also pursuing globally. I am thus not alleging anything.  Scharmer’s economic vision functions much like Zuboff’s distributed capitalism. He envisions value-chain relationships of the politically chosen enterprises in “distributed situations” that “link all players along the value chain, from sourcing raw materials to the end consumer.”

Scharmer wants a “new coordination mechanism” other than private choices driving this value chain of goods and services “that revolves around creating collective action that arises from shared attention and common will.” That does sound decidedly like central planning and coercion but I am sure the generative metaphors and schemata and social and emotional learning in K-12 will prime the personality not to mind this time. Then Scharmer moves on to what is really the essence of what everyone really seems to be wanting from Systems Thinking. And I say that after tackling Donald Schon’s very graphic 1971 book Beyond the Stable State yesterday. Just trust me or we will be here all day. If these profs do not actually use the M word as Barber did they keep describing its fundamental tenets as their aspirational vision.

I am going to cite a long passage from Scharmer (p 12 if you pull report) but he is speaking for a large number of others and this is the End Game that goes with both global education reforms AND all the hyping about whether manmade carbon dioxide is leading to imminent catastrophic global warming. Think Vehicle for Change. Excuse for Change. Desired Vision of the Future.

“are we willing to accept that we are not separate from each other, but are economically and socially a highly interdependent field of interrelationships and communities?

And if we agree that the multi-level connection exists, are we willing to lend a hand to each other? If the answer to that is yes, then the highest-leverage economic intervention would be to simply create a basic human right to a basic income for every human being that, if combined with free or inexpensive access to healthcare and education, would create a level playing field that gave everyone a chance to pursue their aspirations and dreams–to put their real creativity into the service of the larger community.”

That’s what all these profs envision. It’s what Uncle Karl and his good friend Friedrich wanted too so long ago. It’s what the Fourth Sector is getting at and Capitalism 3.0 and distributed capitalism. And it utterly ignores human nature and the results of comparable aspirations in the past. And I tackled the futility of this before with some help from Friedrich Hayek here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/being-grateful-for-what-we-know-and-appreciating-why-it-matters/

But we all deserve a public debate on what is really being sought and whether it can work. I am ready. But right now this vision is coming in the backdoor uninvited while we are in another part of the house or at work ourselves.

We have every right to insist if it wants another chance in the 21st century, this radical vision must knock on our front door and make its case. To all of us.


When Deep Learning and Systems Thinking Radicalizes the Student, Factual Reality Ceases to Matter

To the student, that is. The problem for society is that factual realities like incentives and consequences and what makes an economy grow and what will make it contract or even implode are still out there. Like gravity, reality and economics and the likely result of giving government officials unrestrained power to make decisions for others will have their way regardless of intentions. Or whether anyone understands them or even believes in them. I wish more educators and politicians and charitable foundation employees involved in all these machinations would remember the wise words with which the eminent economist Ludwig Von Mises closed his epic book Human Action in the wake of the carnage of the Second World War.

Von Mises was writing about the regularity of “phenomena with regard to the interconnectedness of means and ends” in human activities. That’s what he regarded as economic knowledge. You and I would call it the wisdom that helps one successfully navigate daily life.

“The body of economic knowledge is an essential element in the structure of human civilization; it is the foundation upon which modern industrialism and all the moral, intellectual, technological, and therapeutical achievements of the last centuries have been built. It rests with men whether they will make the proper use of the rich treasure with which this knowledge provides them or whether they will leave it unused. But if they fail to take the best advantage of it and disregard its teachings and warnings, they will not annul economics; they will stamp out society and the human race.

I am not quoting Von Mises to scare anyone. Well, I guess that is not really true. Think of it as an Impetus Bout of Deliberate Fright. It is time for those of us who are knowledgable about history and economics to speak up and tell those who are not, notably many Principals, Supers, accreditors, professors of sociology or education, and way too many politicians and public and private bureaucrats, that there are unacceptable costs for everyone associated with their planned education policies. Pushing Transformational Outcomes Based Education and its close cousin Systems Thinking and SEL through the schools and classrooms will not be a victimless, lucrative for insiders, Success For All scheme. It will make victims of all of us and the Educrats seem to be the least knowledgable on the likely consequences of their actions and inactions. That means-end correspondence Von Mises was referring to.

Virtually all of the actual curriculum for Common Core I have seen makes Sustainability the focus of classroom activities. And not in the sense of conservation of natural resources and please do not litter. As a connected Swede, Carl Lindberg, put it, the whole point of the UN inspired international Education for Sustainable Development is to “create a feeling of global responsibility” in each individual. Needless to say, teaching young children and adolescents that they are merely parts of a broader community that ultimately encompasses the whole planet via systems thinking is a useful tool to create just such a useful feeling. To cultivate that Senge-Scharmer Blind Spot we discussed here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/second-order-change-why-reform-is-a-misnomer-for-the-real-common-core/ so that each student’s perceptions and future behaviors can be manipulated.

To that manipulation toolbox the educators intend to use to gain Transformative political and social change without our consent, we need to add what the Hewlett Foundation calls Deep Learning Strategies.  Deeper Learning is part of the Foundation’s 2010 plan to “equalize education for all students.” This will of course involve a levelling process for the intellectually gifted and involves a high level of ignorance for all but at least it is equitable. And the politicians and bureaucrats will not have to worry about Axemaker Minds pointing out the likely consequences thereby impeding the implementation of theories and planning. And those established businesses need not be as concerned about an Axemaker Mind creating market-disrupting new technology. Of course we will be in the situation of tragic concern Von Mises worried about when too many will remain too ignorant to even have the opportunity to disregard needed knowledge from the past.

This is what Hewlett defines as deeper learning (they really love to bold it too. I suppose to show their enthusiastic embrace).  Remember this is all anyone is to get to know and this dovetails perfectly with the well-connected 21st Century Skills push. Almost verbatim. And before you get too excited about the mention of Core Academic Content, let me give you the examples they use:

“Learn about water, oxygen and nitrogen cycles, food webs, and similar topics.”

So the academic content relates to thinking of the world around you as full of systems. The academic content then either relates to Sustainability issues or other “real world challenges” the students will be asked to try to solve. Using their nonexistent base of conceptual knowledge and search engine skills. Hence the push for Relevance as part of the new 3 R’s of the Common Core implementation.

I have already given you the example of core academic content as one of the five key elements and Hewlett’s example. They mention “mastering core academic content” too. Since this comes up all the time with Common Core, I need to point out that “mastering” does not mean knowing. It means applying. No need to stock that conceptual mental hotel with facts. Mastering thus frequently contemplates classwork with the relevant facts presupplied. No need to worry though about bias or propaganda being part of the given facts. It’s not like there is a political purpose associated with the Common Core.

I will tell you the remaining four keys along with Hewlett’s specific examples. I also want to point out that the Hewlett Foundation believes that the purpose of academic content under Common Core is to “understand ecosystems.” Except the deep, emotional understanding being sought for each student is more Paul Ehrlich Newmindedness than Von Mises based in reality. Apparently though that emotional, connected to a New Vision for Future Society element makes for “better retention of content knowledge.” What’s better–Deeply remembered nonsense or slightly forgotten accuracies? I am afraid we are about to find out if we do not act soon.

Here goes:

Think critically and solve complex problems. Examples: Re-create a natural ecosystem in a terrarium. Collect data to understand the interdependence of physical and biological elements.

Work collaboratively. Example: Work in a team to design, build, and monitor the terrarium.

Communicate effectively. Example: Present data and conclusions in writing and to an audience.

Lastly, Learn how to learn independently. Example: Use teacher feedback, test results, and reflection to guide future learning and improve study habits.

Sounds perfectly dismal to me but I can see how this would add up to preventing more Axemaker Minds from developing. And Hewlett matters. They were one of the petitioners behind the socio-cultural learning theory push the Obama Administration officially adopted that we talked about here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/so-now-common-core-rejects-individual-thinking-to-embrace-soviet-psychology-ecology/

And Hewlett’s vision for how to educate low income and minority students so they are essentially primed for the hoped-for Insurrection is embodied in how they and other educators define “Excellence and Equity.” That will be the next post.

You are not going to like it but it is what is showing up in the suburbs as the New 3 R’s. It also explains the community organizing push we chronicled here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/keep-urban-schools-weak-to-force-economic-and-social-justice-then-make-the-suburbs-close-the-gap/

It all fits so well it makes you wonder if there is not an active coordination around a common purpose.




Blending Sustainability and Education to Gain Arational, Nonlinear Minds and New Behaviors

For me, the US discussion over the Common Core national standards and content feels like a “Look Squirrel!” cry to redirect our attention from what is really going on. That’s partly because I track these education shifts globally and over time so I can see the actual template. More importantly, I think, is all the different subjects I track every day to catch how education fits into a much broader planned transformation. When you are also reading the planned economic and social changes that treat the economy and the environment as a co-dependent Ecosystem in need of governmental redesign around the declaration that “Spaceship Earth faces an ‘all hands on deck’ emergency”, you see the preferred redesign tool of education differently. Plus there are always multiple pages just on how to use education to create the desired values, attitudes, minds, and behaviors.

Likewise it is hard to pretend Common Core is about content when I read yet another report on creating this new Ecosystem. This time it refers to people, that’s you and me and all those captive students, and our behaviors, which ought to be free and based on personal decisions, as “sociotechnical systems.” That’s from this summer’s fun report on using the computer and IT industries to promote “greening through IT.”  It turns out that a different kind of future mind is key to the “massive cultural, social, political, and economic changes” self-interested politicians and bureaucrats and their Big Business allies are relying on for this lucrative for them planned redirection. I guess that gives new meaning to education for future citizenship. Really not about the Bill of Rights or why the Founding Fathers set up a republic and a federal system.

Following Paul Ehrlich’s co-author from the previous post on new mindedness,  I located a 1995 book, The Axemaker’s Gift, laying out the desire to move back to the “primitive” intuitive mind lost when certain humans began creating tools like axes or the phonetic alphabet. Or mathematical symbols and explanations for real-world phenomena. These inventions and innovations can create artificial private mental worlds or a means of artificially changing the environment. They also foster specialist knowledge that is not accessible to everyone. According to the book it is that rational, logical axemaker’s mind that created the modern world. And they do not like it one bit. The sequential, analytical mind that can create innovations like the ax or the printing press or the combustion engine is precisely what has been and is under attack. It certainly puts the so-called Reading Wars and Math Wars in a new light, doesn’t it?

Here’s the kind of thinking that the authors, James Burke and Robert Ornstein, defined as “arational” from our title and want to get us back to. They believe “axemaker gifts” unnaturally alter the environment and would like the developed West to shift back to a more natural relationship with the environment and self-sufficient economies that reject fossil fuels. Since we might not be willing to go along, the decision gets made for us by pushing initiatives like digital literacy and Competency and 21st Century Skills and Learner Outcomes in education, K-12 and higher ed, that have planned aspects the typical person is unlikely to appreciate. At least in time. In this vision “Knowledge would then be the experience of having traveled on the web.”  In case that dramatic statement is not enough, the computer will allow everyone access to information and data and “users’ would not need to ‘know’ anything.” It turns out that interacting with a computer if you have not yet developed an axemaker mind is conducive to never developing one.

I am not going to belabor the point now except to mention that some of the digital literacy advocates are simultaneously doing blurbs touting a successor to capitalism or that this new kind of thinking is for a more pastoral, desired mid-21st century future. Delivery of Common Core is being premised on all this IT technology being a primary platform for the student and their daily interactions at school. Advocates do not get to revel in the revenue potential of education and an economy centered on sustainability principles and then pretend this is just about individualizing education around the student’s interests. A suspect goal from the beginning if you ask me. So we are now aware of the real focus of these education reforms and we know what the consequences of previous attempts to plan economies and alter human minds has been. It’s not good.

The report “Computing Research for Sustainability” seems to assume that the problem with centrally planned and directed economies in the past has been an inability to grapple with all the relevant data for decision making. That computers can fix that problem and then model desired plans and acceptable behaviors. If it sounds Orwellian and delusional, it is. Or at least it is if you are in the Payor/manipulated class and not the Beneficiary or Manipulator class. I am going to quote from these plans for our future. I want you to recognize you are reading this post with an axemaker mind. You are imagining this scenario I am describing and plugging in your own life experiences to understand how disastrous it will be. You have more factual knowledge than virtually any teenager is getting from their education anymore. So imagine this planned approach for an intuitive mind trained to respond from emotion to visuals (that’s my snark in parentheses):

“suppose there was a network supporting online deliberation among scientists concerned with sustainability (So our future planners will be the grantmaking class that brought us ClimateGate) for developing key points, areas of strong consensus, areas of disagreement, and supporting evidence (does anyone recall a degree program that would equip anyone to do a good job at this? These arrogant grantees would not know what they do not know). Those deliberations would produce a sustainability action agenda that could be introduced to the public by means of interesting interactive environments designed to appeal to those of all ages. . . One highlight of this system would be a series of consensus news stories, perhaps on a weekly basis. These stories could be based on agenda items created by scientists and rated by public interest.”

We will only know what we are supposed to know to create a consensus for the already planned social and economic policies. And first and foremost to get to this imagined new future is to create new motivating values and a different mindset to filter experiences. So we get a new curriculum and new ways of measuring learning and different classroom activities in order to try to shift students away from logical, analytical, fact-filled minds that create their own conceptual understandings. That creates independence and really helps define each person’s individuality. If you wonder why these initiatives are going on all over the world now, apart from the UN and OECD and the green economy push, I think yet another report this week has more answers.

It declared that both advanced as well as emerging nations “are developing and pursuing policies and programs that are in many cases less constrained by ideological limitations on the role of government and and the concept of free market economics.

That’s the real reason new minds are needed. It’s the same reason slaves were not to be taught how to read. Our political class and their cronies think we need minds of servitude. There are to be no more axemakers gifts without official permission.


How Disabilities Law is Already Being Used To Gain Ehrlich’s New Mind and the Future Earth Economy

Winston Churchill presciently observed that “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” That’s the irony to the argument that the world is now changing so fast that students no longer need actual personal knowledge of what has gone before. What worked well and what led consistently to catastrophe. In fact if the world is in flux to a significant degree, that calls for more factual knowledge, not less. Instead, of the absurd argument now that relevance involves real world problems or concrete situations from a student’s everyday life,  relevant knowledge is best obtained from what has endured over time. Guideposts of personal living that have consistently led to prosperity to be emulated or disaster to be avoided. In either case, familiarity and appreciation for what works, and does not, and why should be the essence of education, K-12 or higher ed, academic or vocational.

When I wrote “Learning to Learn” on July 18 I was relying on the Small Planet book for the discussion of New Minds.  The actual copy of New World New Mind:Moving Toward Conscious Evolution (1989) was in transit though. When it arrived I discovered a book that was far more graphic than I would ever have imagined that tied together so much of the changes in education, the economy, society, culture itself, and US and Western political systems we have been discussing in numerous posts. All in one place. It explained ed reforms in the 90s and the entire Sustainability push over the past 20 years and current efforts in all these areas. For now there are two hugely important aspects of the book we must appreciate immediately.

The first is the repeated assertion (with co-author Robert Ornstein) that the “past is no longer prologue.”  To be more explicit:

“Learning about the past–the knowledge, the ideas, the concerns–is useful only insofar as the past perseveres into the present.” (284)

I guess no child ever again needs to learn about castles, armor or what led to the Fall of the Roman Empire. In fact, the book goes on, with plans for designing and creating “an unprecedented new world,”

“Getting ‘the basics’ is important, but getting a new curriculum is even more so.” (195)

Like the Common Core? 21st Century Skills? Outcomes Based Education? OECD’s Competency? That’s the curriculum to create “new mindedness” which will take “a major worldwide cultural effort.” If only the authors had access to vehicles like UNESCO or the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) or the International Council for Science (ICSU) or the International Social Science Council (ISSC). Why wait. That’s the other key aspect of the book that we really need to talk about now. Listing John P Holdren of the Energy and Resources Group at UC-Berkeley as a person to thank on the Acknowledgments page. Citing the Ehrlich-Holdren book from 1988 on The Cassandra Conference to provide “early warning of humanity’s building population-resource-environment problems.”

If only someone was in a position to implement the alarming aims of New World New Mind we might need to worry. Well John Holdren is the Science Czar for the Obama Administration and the National Science Foundation reports to him. Which would put him in charge of creating the Belmont Forum in 2009 and the Belmont Challenge in 2010 and the Belmont Forum’s activities in launching the Future Earth Alliance (FEA) in 2011.  And when the Future Earth Alliance created its final framework document in February 2012. Holdren remains as FEA prepares to become operational in 2013 with the aim of “achieving a sustainable global society.” Is anyone surprised that the social, economic, human development goals and behavioral changes EFA is seeking mirror the New World New Mind vision?

We need to pivot though because our worldwide cultural effort has latched onto a new vehicle to try to get the US Senate to ratify the UN Disability Treaty this week. Completely unaware of how that will pull in UNESCO’s Learning to Learn, Learning to Be nonacademic education vision for all students in the US. And not through the temporary regulations being stealthily used now but through a ratified treaty that sounds considerate and kind-hearted. Let me explain.

There was a global education conference last week in Cairns, Australia that American educators attended to get ready for Common Core here. They blogged in excitement about the Competency Wheel created by educators from Alberta, Canada. Basically the wheel is a visual of the affective attitudes and values and skills desired for students anywhere in the West. What the already in power want and no more is a valid description of what seems to be in store for our students. Getting them ready and willing to go along with that New World and Future Earth I suppose. Following the wheel back to Alberta by internet brought me the ubiquitous 21st century skills. No surprise. More importantly though it brought me to a 2011 report “Supporting Positive Behaviour in Alberta Schools: A school-wide approach” and a 2005 document “The Heart of the Matter: Character and Citizenship Education in Alberta Schools.” Appendix A to Heart of the Matter even has Nel Noddings’ work that we so recently tracked to student wellbeing in Oz.

These 2 documents not only combine virtually every stealth ed initiative we have mentioned as a key component of the actual implementation of the US Common Core, but they do not pretend it is still about content. That anyone is trying to transmit knowledge anymore beyond the basics of literacy and numeracy and political issues that can be manipulated to create a sense of urgency for social change. No. Thank goodness the Canadians are honest enough to say explicitly the Common Core is desired values. And not the ones that make you grateful for the Maple Leaf or Stars and Stripes.

Positive behavior measures are now being pushed globally (I have the book) as a unobtrusive way to use education to gain desired social change. In the US http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/how-social-and-emotional-learning-as-the-primary-focus-is-coming-in-all-the-windows/ it is now coming in through anti-bullying campaigns and PBIS/RTI for all students. The PBIS continuous improvement troubling curriculum is being required for all students through the disabilities laws and rules. UNESCO has been pushing social and emotional leaning as a primary emphasis all over the world as an equitable focus for schools since not all students are equally able in an academic orientation.

That was my first thought when I heard about the UN Disability Treaty yesterday and anger that Senator Jim DeMint had put a hold on considering it. Then I remembered the work I had done on Universal Design for Learning. Originally designed to give disabled students equal access, UDL was quietly incorporated into how Common Core must be implemented in classrooms. Instead of alternative methods for some, UDL mandates that only universally accessible methods and practices be allowed for any students. It explicitly mentions lectures and textbooks as discriminatory.

I knew that but had forgotten the implications until my brain woke me up early this morning. Reminding me that the metacognitive, learning to know yourself, alternative classroom activities UDL pushes as accessible for all students fit the methods to obtain New Mindedness outlined back in 1989.

I don’t think any of this is coincidental. Do you?

Learning to Learn or How to Replace Old Minds with Sustainable New Ones

I know you are thinking no one would really say that but they did. In fact the book we talked about in our last post Management for A Small Planet even has a chapter called “We Are How We Think” that quotes a 1989 book by Population and Environmental alarmist Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich wrote “there is now a mismatch between the human mind and the world people inhabit”. To properly deal with the environmental threats he saw everywhere, people “need to replace our old minds with new ones.” How? By changing the learning process itself. Now before I explain how in ways that will build on things like the SEL, values, communitarian ethos, and higher order thinking we have been talking about, I want to talk about Ehrlich’s dispute and bet with economist Julian Simon over the future. And whether to be optimistic or pessimistic.

Now I am not going to explain the wager itself. It is too easy to search the phrase “simon ehrlich wager” and get the details. It is Simon’s vision of humanity and education and the economy I first want to talk about. His vision reflects what most of us think we are getting when we pay property taxes to fund schools or write that tuition check or take out a student loan. If our education spending is based on obtaining Simon’s vision for the future but we are unwittingly buying Ehrlich’s desire for reframed new minds instead, I think it is past time we recognize that difference. Especially if Common Core and the related reforms of higher ed are about to really impose the Ehrlich/Small Planet mental vision.

In 1981 Julian Simon wrote a book The Ultimate Resource that rebutted all the doom and gloom about the scarcity of energy and natural resources and the “perils of overpopulation” that people like Ehrlich or groups like the Club of Rome had been pushing throughout the 1970s. Simon argued that it is the human mind that has made natural resources of value in the first place. He believed and argued persuasively that the ultimate resource on Planet Earth is the human imagination of creative, knowledgeable people when combined with a determined human spirit. That combination is what literally creates civilizations. At least it can when it is combined with a political-social-economic system that provides personal freedom from government coercion.

What Simon points out (pages 11 -13) in the 1996 reissue called The Ultimate Resource 2 is that if you look everywhere in the world where widespread prosperity and human progress has ever appeared you find important commonalities in the story:

“Skilled persons require a framework that provides incentives for working hard and taking risks, enabling their talents to flower and come to fruition. The key elements of such a framework are economic liberty, respect for property, and fair and sensible rules of the market that are enforced equally for all.”

Now Simon’s definition of “skilled” is not the generic 21st century skills designed to be accessible to anyone drawing a breath. He meant education that actually increases the “stock of useful knowledge,” not paper credentalling for all in the name of social justice. As Simon says (I couldn’t help myself but this really is not a child’s game): “minds matter economically as much as, or more than, hands or mouths.” Now here is the critical point where Julian Simon is precisely right but it is diametrically opposed to the Sustainability vision of the future economy:

The essence of wealth is the capacity to control the forces of nature, and the extent of wealth depends upon the level of technology and the ability to create new knowledge.”

That is the opposite of the Small Planet/Sustainability/UNESCO vision of the future. That new knowledge is created from a solid foundation of the transmitted knowledge of the Ages that the Common Core and OBE and the UN’s Education For All generally refuse to allow. With the regional accreditors on board to act as enforcers for this Ehrlich/Small Planet quest for new minds.

So Simon won the wager and Ehrlich paid him. But Ehrlich’s economic and environmental vision is what has been and is being unwittingly adopted globally through Outcomes Based Education grounded in authentic learning and emotionally engaging pedagogies and ecological/cultural approaches to curriculum. A classic example of winning the battle and losing the war. And mostly out of sight as taxpayers believe they are getting consistent content requirements state to state in case they ever need to move. Other countries got similar Bait and Switch programs. The solution to the created problem in education ends up being a more extreme version of what created the problem initially.

Authentic learning (ATLAS) came to Australia officially about 2001. In the US it is a part of the Common Core implementation. The idea is to “investigate real-world topics and solve real-world problems.” Students are to “demonstrate their understanding by applying what they have learned to new and challenging situations.” Ehrlich’s new minds (he has plenty of company from our previous posts) then are supposed to come about through double-loop learning processes. Yes that really is italicized just like that on page 95 of Small Planet just after the new minds quote. I have a feeling all that data and feedback we keep hearing about will be very helpful to this aim of altering mental frameworks.

So basically you take those authentic, challenging real-world topics and complex, largely insoluble, social problems and have the students reflect and inquire.  Teachers and other students examine the underlying assumptions, values, experiences, and social norms that frame each student’s expressed beliefs. The double-loop aspect focuses on the systems structures that supposedly “address the underlying causes of behavior.”

And that fundamental personal reexamination process and inquiry into a real world that the student is unlikely  to have much factual knowledge about (content no longer being the main point of school) is officially called “learning to learn.” And it is regarded as a terrific foundation for modifying how people think. To get them to see the world in terms of dynamic interrelationships.

And only in terms of their own physical interactions and experiences and emotions. How politically useful but so mentally confining. Makes you want to rebel and go read a book just for spite.