That title might describe the natural implications of the language in the Every Child Achieves Act or the Common Core sponsor CCSSO announcing in February 2014 that the purpose of the Common Core was to create desired ‘Dispositions’ in ‘Citizens,’ but unfortunately that quote comes from the purpose of the dialectical thinking we met in the last post. It’s also the purpose of what the Common Core calls Deeper Learning, ECCA calls ‘higher order thinking,’ and what 21st Century Skills calls Critical Thinking. Can we all say “thoroughly permeates the actual implementation” together in unison? Let’s go back to what Richard Paul wrote back in 1993 in the Introduction to his Critical Thinking book:
“Harnessing social and economic forces to serve the public good and the good of the biosphere…requires mass publics around the world skilled in cooperative, fairminded, critical discourse…it is essential that we foster a new conception of self-identity, both individually and collectively…[we must reconceptualize the nature of teaching and learning so that people learn] something quite new to us: to identify not with the content of our beliefs, but with the integrity of the process by which we arrived at them.”
All those references we keep encountering on having a Growth Mindset instead of a Fixed One make far more sense if education now insists that “we must come to define ourselves, and actually respond in everyday contexts, as people who reason their way into, and can be reasoned out of, beliefs.” Must be a malleable citizen in other words and not like those Bakers in Oregon who think they can decide who to bake a wedding cake for. Governments now get to decide what are unacceptable beliefs and practices. At least they are adults being told what they can and cannot do and believe and are being told openly. How much worse is it when the unacceptable beliefs involve our children and what they brought from our homes? How much more hidden is it when the unacceptable beliefs and values get taken out via formative assessment that a parent never sees or has anyone explain accurately?
Paul was quite honest (and fond of emphasizing with italics) that the required Critical Thinking involves an obligation for students to “have to empathize with and reason within points of view toward which we are hostile. To achieve this end, we must persevere [with Grit?] over an extended period of time, for it takes time and significant effort to learn how to empathically enter a point of view against which we are biased…We must recognize an intellectual responsibility to be fair to views we oppose. We must feel obliged to hear them in their strongest form to ensure that we do not condemn them out of ignorance or bias.”
In case anyone fails to appreciate why it is so revolutionary for the federal government to require all schools in every state to assess all students at least annually for (page 36 of ECAA) “higher-order thinking skills and understanding,” they are looking for whether the student has learned to think as Paul laid out. Is the student fixed in how they view or interpret the world or open to change? What concepts, strategies or ideas do they use in untaught situations where there is no single correct answer? Every group pushing for radical social change wants student assessments to be tied to HOTS because they, and with this post we do too, know that “the character of our mind is one with our moral character. How we think determines how we behave and how we behave determines who we are and who we will become.” [Paul again]
Who we are becoming is the whole point now of K-12 education as reenvisioned because as Paul explained (quoting in turn economist Robert Heilbroner): “…the problems of capitalist disorder–too many to recite, too complex in their origins to take up one at a time…arise from the workings of the system….The problems must be addressed by the assertion of political will…the undesired dynamics of the economic sphere must be contained, redressed, or redirected by the only agency capable of asserting a counter-force to that of the economic sphere. It is the government.” Paul went on to describe “How are we to cultivate the new kind of electorate?” That cultivation became the focus of the Critical Thinking book.
Now the very same groups like The Leadership Conference head quoted here in describing the actual new purpose of a new kind of accountability in education http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/not-going-to-let-the-us-constitution-stop-us-from-using-schools-to-enshrine-global-social-justice-and-human-rights/ are enthusiastic about the language of ECAA because it forces annual testing of HOTS. Wade Henderson also participated this week in the rollout of this plan http://www.goodjobsforall.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/PFA-GJFA-Launch-Report.pdf calling for Government to massively intervene in the economy to ensure a reduction in inequality and Good, living wage jobs for all. Basically Heilbroner’s vision and Uncle Karl’s updated to 2015. The report also blames current wage stagnation and the weak economy on too little government intervention in the economy.
That kind of economy run by political will calls for a new kind of mind, values, and behaviors, which is precisely what the real implementation is designed to deliver. In my book I cover the first attempt to deliver this desired new mindset via K-12 education in the 60s. One of the things I have learned since the book came out is the widespread anger, especially among intellectuals, that existed in the 1950s and 60s over the American economy and society many of us grew up cherishing. Paul’s vision of Critical Thinking and a new philosophy of education that would deliver the new kind of needed citizen frequently cited a Professor Israel Scheffler. His essay on the New Activism presented in 1970 revealed that a didactic, traditional subject matter, transmission of knowledge approach to education was and still is viewed as immoral and amounted to “Fiddling while Rome burns.”
Transmission of subject-knowledge via lecture or textbook, for example, is held to reenforce the world as it currently exists. Perhaps the student feels no need to explore alternative viewpoints he knows he abhors because he is aware with facts of precisely why. No, K-12 education and ‘Critical’ or ‘Philosophical’ Thinking is designed to create mindsets ready to accept and adopt the “imperative task of altering an utterly evil status quo.” Education as traditionally envisioned and then practiced was “compliant with evil–an obstacle to the revolutionary transformation of society.” School “must transform itself into an agency of radical social change.” Moreover, education must develop people who are aware and feel responsibility for “the suffering of other human beings whose pain he might, through his efforts, alleviate.”
In a follow-up 1971 essay called “Philosophy and the Curriculum” Scheffler insisted that traditional subjects treat education as if it were about “fixed points.” Well, that obviously would be in the way of radical social change. In a passage that sure does presage all the transdisciplinary, Whole Child, conceptual lenses, and Charles Fadel’s Redesign of Curriculum work for the OECD and UNESCO, Scheffler noted:
“The educator needs to consider the possibility of new classifications and interrelations among the subjects not only for educational but also for general intellectual purposes. He must, further, devote his attention to aspects of human development that are too elusive or too central to be encompassed within the framework of subjects; for example, the growth of character [Fadel] and the refinement of the emotions [no wonder ECAA included PBIS, mental health and well-being and "non-academic skills essential for school readiness and academic success".] He ought, moreover, to reflect on schooling as an institution, its organization within society, and its consequences for the career of values.”
ECAA in the form being considered by Congress certainly fits in every respect the functions of K-12 education and Critical Thinking called for by both Richard Paul and Israel Scheffler. That means their expressed goals for these shifts away from didactic transmission of knowledge come with the mandated changes in practice and assessments.
Does Congress understand the nature of what it is actually about to mandate? Do politicians from the federal level to the state and local care?
Or is cultivation of a new kind of electorate the whole point with few willing to openly admit they know this is the entire purpose of these reforms?
Is 21st Century Learning really all about creating that electorate that will tolerate an economy and society premised on political will?
Is the onset of the wage stagnation and economic weakness bemoaned in that report above as the result of too little government intervention actually a result of this announced shift by 1970 to make education an instrument of radical social change?
If so, what will happen now that we are essentially doubling down on that strategy?