Framing, then Refining Lasting Webs of Mutual Social Understanding to Fulfill Aspirations Grounded in Infamy

Since I do not want to be accused of a Godwin’s Law violation, I will not tell precisely who uttered this sentiment that still lurks behind all of the current rhetoric of priming students to act for the Common Good. True idealism is nothing but subjecting the individual’s interests and life to the community. I will note though that when Governors and Mayors are now being instructed by multiple federal agencies to make workforce preparation the goal of K-12 and teachers and principals plan to target the Whole Child for monitoring and manipulation, everyone is thinking like a collectivist even if no one involved is really familiar with the crucial distinctions anymore. Luckily for us though, I have a copy of E. Merrill Root’s 1955 book Collectivism on the Campus so we can revisit these vital concepts during a previous heyday when people still recognized what was at risk.

Root goes back to people like the famous 19th century poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and reminds us that this struggle with the coercive potential of the State has a long history:

“collectivism would reduce unique persons to efficient functions of a dominant mass; and individualism, that would exalt the status of the persons who freely constitute it… By nature, individualism sees society as the means and the individual as the end. Man does not exist to serve society, as among the bees and the ants; society exists to serve unique, individual persons…collectivism by its very nature and by its efficient practice regulates, prohibits, and compels.”

As we keep encountering the principle that democracy is suddenly to mean an ability by the majority in number to bind the minority to its wishes and perceived needs, which, I believe, is why this statistic has been getting so much recent hype, let’s look at all the swirling intentions of fundamental transformations in so many areas by remembering: “all collectivisms, no matter how they differ in mood or means, are united in the socialist principle of control by the people collectively, or the state.”

Now let’s come forward a bit, but not yet all the way to the present. One of the contributors to The Great Adventure book from the last several posts was a creator of the 1970 document The Predicament of Mankind that sought to lay the seeds for using the theories of the social sciences and the research from the behavioral sciences to begin designing social systems in the West. It was to be the foundation of the Club of Rome. Now the CoR chose then instead, as the UN does now, to mask that actual intention in physical science models that understandably never work very well. They are an excuse to alter reality and existing human behaviors, not a means of reliably modelling what exists and predict what probably will be.

So Alexander N. Christakis, who we will now shorthand as Christo, resigned from the CoR and took his Structured Dialogue Design Process with him. It never went away though and it came to my attention in Chapter 6 of the book: “Technology to Liberate Rather Than Imprison Consciousness.” Now if that catches your attention as more and more ‘coursework’ to get ‘degrees’ or ‘workplace credentials’ shifts to online methods, it should. First though let’s see what Christo actually said were his intentions. He opens with this quote from fellow systems thinker and GERG social engineer Bela Banathy [see his tag on blog. We have met him before]. Remember what Dialogue means from the last post:

“Dialogue facilitates the development of a common language and collective mental models. Thus, the ability to engage in dialogue becomes one of the most fundamental and most needed human capabilities. Dialogue becomes a central component of any model of evolutionary transformation.”

Communication For Social Change as the Rockefeller Foundation called it. As the FrameWorks Institute seeks to prepare common mental maps to reliably guide the perceptions of the masses, so too SDD “brings the lack of a commonly shared metanarrative into focus and encourages creative adaptations among participants.” Change within the person in other words just like the shift to student-centered learning. If this all seems a bit Egg-Heady to you and not a real threat to the way of life we all take for granted, makes it clear the Obama campaign in 2008 used SDD by name to gather input into the vision that fundamental transformation must be alluding to: “Obama’s vision for engaging stakeholders from all walks of life in a bottom-up democracy employing Internet technology.”

The National Center for Dialogue and Deliberation that we just keep encountering announced the giveaway of the SDD software to help encourage the dissemination of the participatory democracy model. Remember the one that lies at the heart of how urban metro areas are to operate politically in the future? The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and sector strategies and Career Pathways with Big Business are such drivers towards a reality of collectivism precisely because they intersect with these declared goals of Metropolitanism and the determination of so many mayors that they are the place for achieving Economic Justice.

Now added to that we get Christo declaring in a 2012 Training Workshop on Why and How We Ought to Reinvent Democracy that SDD is the means “for building capacity internationally for addressing highly complex problems using the science of dialogue.” We also see in this 2012 published paper the intentions to use online coursework delivered internationally to allow broad interaction to reach common understandings of what are called Continuous Critical Problems. Dialogue via the Internet and the virtual realities it can deliver to create common experiences become a means for “Striving for Sustainable Global Democracy Through A Group Decision-Making Process: A Critical Review of an Online Course to Model Transformative Praxis.”

From now on every time we hear the word Sustainable, we need to remember that article’s lead-in quote that “Sustainability is not simply about changing practices but more centrally about agreeing to change practices together.” Think of it as creating a mass perception of consensual collectivism via dialogue and deliberation. SDD trains participants, including K-12 students where it is much more likely to be called Guided Dialogue or the Discourse Classroom (unless we are in Finland where as we saw the required practice over years is a component now of what Global Citizenship is to come to mean). Think of how handy the rejection of facts, logic, lectures, and textbooks will be, as  SDD uses ‘triggering questions’ (or what the related Understanding By Design or Backward Mapping call Essential Questions)  to supposedly examine the roots and ‘deep drivers’ of messy, real world situations.

This allows the question to “frame the context of the dialogue” where “participants articulate their ideas in their own words to the full attention of the other participants.” Now one can see why a new affirmative Student Code of Conduct would be necessary as the clarifying and dialogue is to “authenticate each person irrespective of his or her education level or position of power.” No more ability to engage in that former educational pasttime at all levels of rolling eyes or otherwise indicating when something is clearly ignorant or absurd. It’s a perspective and disrespect, even if deserved to puncture the continued survival of patently BAD Ideas, would interfere with the desire to “build a sense of shared competence within the group.”

The better to build a sense of entitlement to collective decision-making and the use of something like that POWER Model Anthony Carnevale considered a New Workplace Basic 2 posts ago. Whether dealing with captive students in the classroom or adults on retreat or showing up for community input meetings, the idea consistently is to get “participants to rank the clusters of gathered observations according to their relative importance. This step brings into sharp relief the different priorities and values within the group. In the ensuing discussion, parties come to understand where their coparticipants are coming from, which leads to a respectful working relationship, based on defined mutual interest.”

Now common sense and a knowledge of history would reveal this method for “greatly enhanced decision-making and action-planning” is a global prescription for disaster. That would be why this reality of the ultimate goals is so shrouded in deceit and the need to make common sense and actual knowledge of history uncommon indeed. Since I am nothing if not a Deceit Shroud Buster and just drowning in what used to be called Horse Sense, lets end with what Christo said was intended. As you know, the purposes of the creators run with their techniques, theories, and practices, even when all those things are unknown to whomever is actually using or requiring their use.

SDD under its variety of names is a “method for gaining shared meaning, unified goals, and the systemic wisdom needed for effective conscious evolution…We mimic the webs of interdependence that exist in lively, livable communities and the buoyant activity these webs foster. We catalyze and nurture the qualities of Mutualism (or egalitarian give and take), Integration, Distributed Intelligence, Emotional Ties that Bind, Values and Wisdom (or the knowledge web).”

It seems silly, doesn’t it when the actual intentions are spelled out that way? That would be why such declarations are in books and reports we masses are not supposed to see. Discussed in conferences we may fund, but are not invited to.

Instead we get explanations for changes that may be plausible on their face, but never fit the facts. We get euphemisms like Quality Learning that are factually true but never accurately understood.

It is past time to remedy that. Maybe a shared understanding is a good thing when it is about the reality and methods for transformational cultural change.


Throwing an Invisibility Cloak Over the Classroom to Get to Dewey’s Participatory Social Inquiry

The IHDP report from 2011 laying out the use of education “reforms” all over the world to shift all of us towards Societal Change talks about the need of a “positive vision for the future” to mobilize global society toward a perceived “common good.” And yes it is more along the lines of what Paul Ehrlich will pick than anything you or I would freely choose. Listed motivating possibilities for visions include:

“sustainability technologies (non-fossil fuel automobiles, LED light bulbs, geothermal power), policies (the wide scale introduction of policies to promote renewables, recycling and reuse), new strategies and methods for education that foster understanding and practice for sustainability and equity, or innovative approaches to creating synergy between environmental and economic concerns.”

Boy those do sound familiar, don’t they? Interestingly enough in order to deal with these contemplated “environmental and global change challenges,” schools get called in again– “more inclusive ways of knowing are required to bring together the partial and incomplete perspectives of different actors faced with uncertainty, diversity and change.” The more diverse the group of people who can be brought together to problem solve these “new, emerging and complex issues” the more knowledge, experiences, and values that can go into the consensus developed to impose on everyone.

That would Change the World based on theories first despite uncertain and potentially risky and speculative global or local problems. IHDP seems to grasp that tentativeness and recommends using “emotionally connective forms” of media to get ideas across. I guess that’s because spectacular graphics can trump any uncertainty. Now I have a good idea what is planned for getting to Equity because I have read Jeannie Oakes among others (and getting that diverse group into a classroom may be why most of the no tracking “scholarship” tracks back to her). Oakes laid out precisely how Participatory Social Inquiry in Urban Schools is to work. She points out that “equal terms” education conflicts “deeply with a long history of White supremacy and the fundamental norms and power distribution of democratic capitalism.”

I just want you to appreciate now how Open-Ended Performance Assessments calling for real-life scenarios will come in handy for this Equity agenda. The one that aims to move all of us toward a “democracy in which people of all races and social classes engage “on equal terms” to learn from one another as they make decisions about how to live and work together.”

So if you are in a high poverty school everything wrong gets blamed on capitalism and racism and nothing involves any poor personal behavior. Not a contributing factor at all. More upscale schools should be made to feel guilty about any privilege and there’s always Sustainability and lots of other scenarios to push the need for fundamental changes to everyday behaviors. And with online curricula and online assessments, it will be quite hard to see any of this going on. Perfect way to bring in IB’s Critical Thinking and Barber’s Global Citizenship too. You as parents and taxpayers will not be able to see these changes. Just ask anyone in Texas about the controversies over the C Scope curriculum where school kids were told to draw a flag for an imagined socialist country as a classroom activity. Concerned parents were told the curriculum was private and they had no right to learn what their children were being asked to do or believe in the classroom.

Now I have mentioned that Pearson is involved with the Texas and both Common Core assessments. So the fact  that in 2012 Pearson assessment said all of these assessments were actually assessing 21st Century Skills should interest all of us. They say that the US National Research Council says that’s what college and career readiness means. Which would explain why David Conley’s 2007 report reminded me of the 21st century skills push. It also means that our assessments are really just looking for those listed Life Skills from the last post. That’s a low bar and gives all sorts of flexibility for what can go on in the classroom. But wait, it gets even better. One of the skills that will need to be assessed is collaboration. Which implicates Albert Bandura’s Self-efficacy from the last post. I would snark what are the odds but it was checking for a link among Bandura, Pearson, and the Common Core explicitly that turned up this fascinating report.

Here’s what I found so fascinating especially in light of those IHDP aspirations. Pearson wants open-ended tasks to assess 21st century skills in authentic real-world problem contexts. And these tasks are to be done as a group in order to assess collaboration. And if the tasks were “obvious” or “unambiguous” there would be “few opportunities to observe student negotiation because there is nothing about which to disagree.” Tasks “relying on:

“stimulus materials designed to evoke cognitive conflict (ie, that reflected uncertainty, ambiguity, disorganization, and contradiction) better elicited critical thinking skills than tasks that used stimulus materials that were orderly, well-organized, and coherent.”

You know these quotes really are going to take the fun and comfort out of being told your child is doing well at school and has excellent “higher-order skills.” Instead, she may be stewing in frustration with “ill-structured” problems deliberately created because they:

“have no clearly defined parameters, no clear solution strategies, and either more than one correct solution, or multiple ways of arriving at an acceptable solution.”

Are you like me wondering why no one is being honest that these so-called tests are actually just a means of getting to a Social Interaction classroom centered around Social Justice without saying so? The tasks are deliberately laid out to require “knowledge, information, skills, and strategies that no single individual is likely to possess.” Then Norman Webb of the Depth of Knowledge template Florida and Texas and PARCC and SBAC all admit to using is cited as saying “when ill-structured tasks are used, all group members are more likely to participate actively, even in groups featuring a range of student ability.”

And that’s the whole point beyond using the assessment to drive classroom activities to create a perceived need for Global Transformation–politically, economically, and socially starting at the level of the individual student. “Groups featuring a range of student ability” will limit the top-performers from soaring as they were able to do in the transmission of knowledge classroom. They do not get to keep getting mentally stronger. And the able student’s strengths will mask a great deal of weaknesses. Leaving those students free to focus on the injustice and unfairness of it all.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s when these performance assessments were first proposed they were called alternative measures to boost graduation rates and show student “growth” even though there was very little knowledge and most of the changes were values, attitudes, and beliefs. And the university research center that has always pushed for some alternative to normed-standardized testing in the schools going back decades is CRESST at UCLA. The same UCLA where Jeannie Oakes was an education prof when she wrote the book I quoted from above. CRESST has been getting Gates Foundation funding to help prepare Common Core curricula and assessments. How convenient is that?

In January 2013 CRESST released a report “On the Road to Assessing Deeper Learning” on the status of both SBAC and PARCC. This report though was funded by the Hewlett Foundation. That would be the same Hewlett Foundation that has a Deeper Learning initiative to guide the classroom implementation of the Common Core. The one that says Common Core is not about content but new assessments and curricula and classroom interactions. The same Deeper Learning that is part of that Self-efficacy Equity Framework I mentioned in the last post.

Yet more proof that what is coming to our classrooms everywhere is not what we have been told. Toward the end of the book, Jeannie Oakes mentions:

“we step into utopian realms gingerly, knowing that social movements have the power for good and ill associated with all utopian projects. We are also well aware that some social movement scholars caution that such efforts rarely achieve the virtuous ends they seek. Nevertheless, we believe that, given the current threats to our democracy, these risks are all worth taking.”

Now, that’s mighty presumptuous of her and the other professors and foundations involved in all this. Nobody told us the Common Core was about a Journey to a possible Utopia.