Redesigning Education Globally to Humanize Personalities and Make Each of Us More Susceptible To Peer Pressure

I have kept a constant drumbeat going now that what we are dealing with in education, Preschool–higher ed, and the hoped for changes elsewhere in all social institutions and practices are related to hoped-for transformations toward government-led collectivism. That seems so shocking and painful that it is easy to dismiss. It is perfectly understandable to feel that way, but the incessant drumbeat now has cymbals joining in and we are building toward a crescendo. Time spent ignoring these planned transformations simply increases the damage they are doing and the extent of the future clean-up. We really are dealing with educators, politicians, professors, and social planners who are determined to enact “forward-looking transformative practices that are needed to enact history in the present.”

That’s what Quality Education and Redesigning Curricula are all about. It is thus hugely alarming that a video surfaced this week of the director of the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program giddily bragging about the extent of the planned transformation.¬† I don’t share his optimism that the acknowledged potential for evil to be the engineered result is unlikely because there is no central place for a dictator to get at individuals. Of course there is. That’s the new purpose of all these transformational practices in education that MIT is deeply immersed in. It is also the purpose of all the interest coming out of the UN in media cooperating on how it portrays, or ignores, daily events. UNESCO now uses the term Media Education as a means of advancing to what it euphemistically calls Scientific Humanism for a reason.

Alex Pentland, the talkative star of that troubling video where he says George Orwell was simply not imaginative enough of the possibilities, is also involved with the United Nations Global Pulse Initiative. GP began in 2009 and “serves as a laboratory through which the UN System and its partners are discovering how to harness the power of Big Data to meet the challenges of global development in a Post-2015 world.” So again I am not theorizing about what is going on here. I just have more sources and an intensive understanding of what is involved and how it is interconnected. I have already written about that post-2015 troubling agenda and how much it looks like what Uncle Karl envisioned as the human development society.

If the phrase little c communism still strikes us as off-putting, imagine my horror at reading Pentland’s new visionary book Social Physics which openly proclaims the intention to “reinvent our current economic, government and work systems” and having “Reflections on Primitive Communism” being a cited article supporting his vision. Say What? indeed. Likewise, the Sakhalin Declaration we looked at in the last post is just an update conference to the vision of the global common future laid out at the World Summit in Geneva in 2003 for “Building the Information Society: a global challenge in the new Millenium.”

It is to be “people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented” and the place to start for realizing this “common vision” is to “focus especially on young people” and the “opportunities provided by ICTs.” Yes, that is acknowledged as mind arson in the last post, but then Pentland is pushing social learning precisely because it makes people more susceptible to peer pressure that will change future behaviors. Brave New World should perhaps be retitled as Education to Promote Bullying by Governments, Cronies & Communities: the 21st Century Great Transition, Like It or Not.

Those are some of the background facts and declared intentions undergirding all this talk of changed instructional practices and curricula and measuring assessments to look for a poorly-understood Student Growth or Achievement. Orwell may not have been imaginative enough, but he was spot on about the use of unappreciated definitions of words to obscure intentions from the general public. This quote is taken from a 2006 article in Theory & Psychology called “Embracing History Through Transforming It.” It provides the rationale for Quality Education and Deep Learning and Social Learning and all these other transformative practices we have uncovered. It is the essence of the DiaMat process being pushed in education and the article says so.

“what is placed at the center is not the child alone and not even the classroom practice existing here and now, but rather the dialectical co-authoring of development and history by each and every individual child (and teacher) with the rest of humanity (including its past and present generations), through collaborative activities that continue and simultaneously transform history. [Now we can appreciate all the group projects or the emphasis on real world, authentic problems]

In this case, the students and teachers, instead of being de-individualized by seeing them as part of humanity, are in fact empowered to a larger degree than in any other, more individualistically based visions of education because taking the dialectical view of history means the ineluctable agency and responsibility of people, including each and very individual, as actors who together create society and history itself and are created by them.”

Boy, that’s a long sentence, but the sentiment could not be more clear. It also fits perfectly with the visions described above, in recent posts, and where I am going. That’s why there is a global need for a new vision of education and why its nature is obscured with Orwellian terms like Quality Education or Excellence. Remember I said I would talk about why subject-matter and content remain important to radicals who have no use for the transmission of knowledge? Because real knowledge empowers the individual mind (explained in detail in my book) and reenforces the existing social institutions and practices? Instead, according to Professor Seth Chaiklin, “subject-matter instruction should contribute to humanization, through personality development” and teachers and curricula designers should “consider how it could be used to work for those ends.”

“Teaching should aim to develop understandings of the central topics in a problem area” according to these CHAT and Marxist theory of development theories of education being imposed on us. Those understandings then act as conceptual lenses to interpret daily experiences in ways likely to fuel a personal belief in the need to take action to transform present reality. A/k/a act on history to change its course. It’s why facts are not important, but relationships among topics are. So the emphasis in a 1st Grade Math Lesson is on “More and Less” and “Some and Few.” Words that can come to correspond to a physical reality that should be changed in a world where economic justice is to be sought. The calculator can add or multiply, but it cannot become a Change Agent of History. Hence the need to change.

One of the most common terms now used to illustrate the need for classroom changes is the oft-proclaimed need for students to be ‘engaged.’ Now I always interpreted that term as social and emotional learning through experiential activities, but Pentland’s book helpfully tells us it is more alarming as a goal. Here is his quick definition of ‘engagement’ from the book’s Glossary. “Engagement is social learning, usually within a peer group, that typically leads to the development of behavioral norms and social pressure to enforce those norms.”

See where the title comes from now? Now “social learning consists of either: (1) learning new strategies (e.g. context, action, outcome) by observation of other people’s behavior, including learning from memorable stories [which of course need not be true, only emotionally impacting]; or (2) learning new beliefs through experience or observation.”

Well, no wonder lectures, sequential worked-out illustrations of math or science problems, and textbooks generally are now deplored. No wonder the great works of literature are treated merely as a means for making a transformative point. Making beliefs the focus and wanting them to be malleable to change, plus peer pressure to follow the always excitable herd, are so much more transformative in their potential as instruments for change.

Next time we will zero in on how Soviet psychology developed the use of instruction and curricula to create a Systematic Development of Orientation Towards Future Action. From the last psychologist (died in 1988) to have regularly worked with Lev Vygotsky.

No I am not going to sign off with Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel. That phrase would really date me wouldn’t it?

Igniting an Entire Generation of Dedicated Social Change Agents via Education Compelled to Act Now

The great Political Theorist Kenneth Minogue’s tragic death yesterday gave me a good reason to go back and reread the highlights of his fine 2010 book The Servile Mind. Turns out to be just the kind of insights we need to grasp precisely what is being attempted globally in education. And why. I had been fuming since Friday that we have basically three tracks going on right now in education. Track 1, the vast majority, really have no idea that there are to be dramatic changes in the nature of K-12 and higher education. Track 2 is aware of the Common Core and is concerned that it is a usurpation by the feds of local control over the curriculum.

I observe and write about Track 3–the real implementation¬† intended to fundamentally change attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors in order to gain a desired political, social, and moral transformation. Track 3 is so anti-content that it calls for substituting emotional engagement instead (this past week’s Partnership for Global Learning annual conference in NYC). Or as this influential group advocates¬† “deriving the curriculum from the lived experience of the student” rather than “a collection of fixed texts.”

Minogue recognized in The Servile Mind that something fundamental was shifting all over the world “as governments take over the tasks individuals used to do for themselves.” That our very conception of society is changing and much of the attitudes driving those changes are being first nurtured, and then required, by education “reforms.” He rightfully worried about what happens in countries where a majority of voters come to see themselves as “an association of vulnerable people whose needs and sufferings must be remedied by the power of the state.”

Minogue recognized that the power and unprecedented prosperity achieved by countries in the West grew from a foundational vision of “self-conscious individuals guiding their destinies according to whatever moral sentiments they entertain.” Now, all over the world, a competing vision seeks stealth enactment and education is the preferred means of avoiding detection as the rulers sculpt the citizens to be malleable. And behaviorally predictable if only the right buttons are pushed. Yes, that would be another job for the compliant media if Minogue had only had a copy of all those UNESCO reports. Minogue does nail the new vision though. A future society “in which individuals find their identifying essence in supporting public policies that are both morally obligatory and politically imperative.”

That future vision now can quietly come in the front door of the school to coerce compliance from an early age. Via lots of psychological student data and a very poorly understood definition of Student Growth. Which will make it much more difficult for us to protect the next generation from being manipulated into a “gullible acquiescence to the projects of government.” Minogue wrote about the Romans and how they “had learned the moral practices needed for a sycophantic submission” during the long reign of Augustus. And when the atrocious Tiberius came along they had been mentally and emotionally disarmed from coping with overt tyranny. The usefulness of deliberately targeting “hearts and minds” has been clear from time immemorial and we should honor Professor Minogue’s admonition that “we should never forget that moral change takes place below, and often deeply below, the surface of a culture.”

Back to track 3 to discuss what is off most radars. It has explicit intentions to create those very moral changes we were just warned about. In an entire generation of learners. Hoping to, in the words of one speaker, create “habits of head, heart, and hand that together will hopefully cause students to take meaningful action. And engage in volunteerism and service. Standing up against injustices and improving conditions and making changes in the world around them.” I have warned about media education and the primacy of the 21st Century Skills push and also the Global Competence portion of the Common Core that guides the classroom vision even though it is usually unmentioned in the PR push. On June 4, 2013, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (which had deceitfully claimed to be shutting down a few years ago) put on a Congressionally Sponsored Global Awareness Event at the Capitol Hill Visitors Center. To push Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy. We had the Pearson Foundation as a sponsor and a Disney executive (as in Mickey Mouse and lots of Media pull) as the moderator.

If you have 40 minutes to spare, here’s the link . I am going to assume you are busy though and give you the highlights. Or what I consider the troubling implications of a vision of education that regards the whole point now as getting students to “become passionate about global issues.” Issues selected and fostered because they will be useful to growing the tendency of the government to intervene, or at least guide, in all matters in the future. I was quoting Scott Hirschfield of the US Fund for UNICEF earlier so let’s continue with what knowledge and values and skills he wants to see K-12 schools cultivate. He said UNICEF defines global citizen as someone who “understands interconnectedness and appreciates global diversity. Someone who challenges inequities and takes meaningful action in their communities at the global level.”

Hirschfield went on the say that “head–heart–hand is how we shorthand this.” I am going to interrupt my quoting to point out that genuinely free market economies provide people with what they want to buy but they are drivers of economic inequality. It’s just that the least successful still are better off financially than has ever been the case in a state-directed economy. With Statism what gets equalized has generally been misery unless you are politically connected. Everyone else gets misery without much recourse apart from physical escape. On rafts. Over Berlin Walls. Tunneling. A human drive to be free.

So when content is pooh-poohed and emotions are pushed and equity becomes the driver we need to beware of knowledge as officially described as “economic and political literacy and an understanding of human rights.” Hand is the “skills we want” like “conflict resolution and a willingness to negotiate and compromise.” Then we get heart as “the values and dispositions we want young people to internalize” like “compassion and toleration of others.”

I will interrupt this troubling confession of the new purpose of education to once again borrow Professor Minogue’s insight that “the ideological frenzies of the twentieth century” like Nazism and Communism “have largely disappeared, except in universities, but the basic impulse in our civilization toward collective salvation has not.” And the way an elite go about obtaining that collective salvation and servitude is through a “change in the hearts and minds of human beings.” So we recognize the impulse but what happens to a society where the next generation knows little but feels the need to jettison what exists and try to design anew?

I will shift and end with Kathleen Welling’s vision since she too sees the new purpose of education as “changing lives.” She hyped the first Global Student Leaders Summit in March in Costa Rica with Al Gore as the keynoter. Next April the Summit is going to China and the emphasis is on “how do we change this world?”

I think the term “playing with fire” is too mild to describe the dangers of this new, to be mandated, view of education. Welling also mentioned that she believed that the Asia Society was doing fine work in promoting this new view of Global Education which is why I led off this post with a mention of its PGL13 conference last week. She also mentioned the work of Fernando Reimers at Harvard as guiding this new vision of global education for all in the future.

He’s probably not on your radar yet but he’s been on mine for a while. At the beginning of this week that celebrates genuine freedom, what type of meaning would freedom have in a country where K-12 education becomes devoted to “all children” must “develop their own understanding about how we all share responsibility for the well being of humanity?”

Not just that understanding mind you, but also “develop that compassion” so that students will learn to act as desired. And on the political issues desired.


Imitating the USSR in Striving to Discover How the Child can Become What He Not Yet Is

Well of course that lurid title is based on an actual quote. And one that goes to the heart not only of the actual Common Core implementation but also the broader social, economic, and political transformations being sought. And it is from the 70s so this has been the driver of what has gone on in the decades ever since. All over the world but especially in the US as education and cultural and social transformation were always poorly understood components of the Cold War era struggles. It is time to do some fundamental explanations of those misunderstandings and woeful ignorance of where the battlegrounds really have been.

Now I have talked about American psychology prof Urie Bronfenbrenner numerous times because his Ecological Systems Theory has been so influential in what future teachers are now taught in ed schools all over the world. And the BEST metaphor of systems thinking is a key component of global ed reform. Except the fact that it is an interpretive theory and non-factual metaphor to influence future thought and action tends to get left out of both the teachers and the students’ classroom exposure to systems thinking. For them, especially when you add in lots of graphically visual computer modelling of the supposed “interdependencies” and possible impacts, this Systems Thinking metaphor quickly becomes reality. Which is of course the goal. is where I first address BEST and cite the US embrace of it and the sociocultural understanding of the mind last summer.

And that aspiration of false beliefs to influence future behavior calls to mind what Urie (that name is too long to keep typing. Anyone with aspirations of changing the future to a world that has never been should be on a first-name basis with us–his funders and victims) described as “perhaps the only proposition in social science that approaches the status of an immutable law–WI Thomas’s inexorable dictum: ‘If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.’”

False beliefs and supplied manipulative mental concepts can be, and in fact are being designed to be, hugely influential on future behavior. Real in their consequences. And we may all think of education as being about the transmission of knowledge from the past, but the social scientists think education is all about changing future behaviors. Changing moral and spiritual values and feelings and all the components of the personality that will turn into the adult’s character. And the behavioral scientists, especially in the US at the premier ed schools, have controlled the agenda for decades.

The US, especially Columbia, Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford, is where the world came for their Graduate Training in the behavioral sciences. Before going back to Sweden or Germany or the Netherlands or Australia to then drive ed reforms there. Ed reforms that were always designed to go hand in hand with an inexorable drive towards a Government-Directed Welfare State. Here’s the order according to an influential Swede (who cites to Urie and Margaret Mead) speaking in 1980 who was heavily involved with UNESCO, OECD, and those poorly understood but influential international “assessments.”

“legislation and implementation of the Welfare State to a large extent has to precede commitments to educational change: first full employment and decent standards of living, and then education.”

And what does the last stage of ed reform that is an integral component of that Welfare State look like? Described in a book on Quality Education from the 60s based on everyone globally adopting the Swedish ed reforms, see if this vision does not sound familiar. Think of the “student-centered,” activity and task and project oriented, and social and emotional learning focus we have been chronicling as the real Common Core implementation.

“The fourth [stage], finally, is characterized by emphasis on meaning [as in a meaning-making approach to literacy?] and understanding [as in deep and grounded in emotion?], problem-solving [real world and thus authentic?] and pupil activity. Discipline is more relaxed and positive [introduce PATHS or PBIS as in Cleveland instead of expulsions]. More stress is put on the emotional life of the children.”

So when Urie developed BEST he was looking to, in his own words, restructure established institutions and their values and what he called their ideologies. To Urie capitalism and individualism were just as much an ideology as Communism. We apparently get no bonus points for success or mass prosperity or the absence of gulags. Even mass murders but maybe Urie just did not want to believe bad consequences of his preferred systems. And we are not talking about his personal political beliefs here. Beyond his influence over teacher ed and the Systems Thinking permeating the classroom and psychology in general, not a single day goes by that I do not get multiple searches looking into Bronfenbrenner or BEST. It is clearly dominant in the teacher professional training for Common Core and many teachers are alarmed at what they are hearing. And seeing.

Well these next revelations will be like throwing kerosene on a fire then. But unlike the false beliefs dominating the Common Core and the sought transformations in all the rest of our systems, including us since we are designated as socio-technical systems, this is all factual. Socio-technical may sound nerdy but it was in a federal Ecosystem rebuilt around Sustainability report from this summer that the major tech companies helped on. Thanks so much.

Apparently Urie was an exchange scientist at the Soviet Institute of Psychology in the mid-60s. He wrote that Soviet psychologist A N Leontiev personally pointed out to him the fact that American research on human development was limited to social and economic systems that presently exist or occurred in the past. He quotes Leontiev as saying:

“It seems to me that American researchers are constantly seeking to explain how the child came to be what he is; we in the USSR are striving to discover not how the child came to be what he is, but how he can become what he not yet is.”

So when I write about changing American education to the Soviet model or using Vygotsky’s research or sociocultural theory or the troubling implications of BEST or even Marx’s human development theory, I am not trying to be provocative. Well, maybe just a little to get attention as this is gravely important. This is education to try to gain a different type of mind and motivating personality. That’s not just my opinion. I am like a court reporter here with all these quotes that date back to mid-70s speeches before publication in the July 1977 issue of American Psychologist. Urie developed BEST to move educational research outside of the lab to try to no longer “perpetuate the status quo.” He wanted to see if what he called “evolving social systems” in the West were “susceptible to significant and novel transformation.”

And to give you some idea just how serious and all-encompassing Urie’s aspirations for BEST were he complained that:

“We are loath to experiment with new social forms as contexts for realizing human potential. ‘After all,’ we say, ‘you can’t change human nature.’ This precept underlies our national stance on social policy and much of our science in human development as well.”

Urie also described what the Soviets called the “transforming experiment.” According to him:

“By this term they mean an experiment that radically restructures the environment, producing a new configuration that activates previously unrealized behavioral potentials of the subject.”

But the Soviets had a problem. When they left the lab, the ‘transforming experiment’ “degenerates into dutiful demonstration of ideologically prescribed processes and outcomes.” Ahh, poor things. By the 60s and 70s the indoctrination had been too penetrating for too long and the Soviet Union has ceased to be a reliable place to employ a useful “transforming experiment.” Where to go? What to do? Go West young man was apparently the answer and that is what has happened.

It is hard not to see the ed lab pushes of the 80s and all the curriculum and instructional transformation centers on campuses as not being Leontiev-Urie transforming experiments on the unsuspecting West. Especially the US. Or the 90s Outcomes Based Education or Achieving Excellence push that swept the globe, especially anywhere with a tie to English-speaking people.

Or the actual Common Core implementation today. Transform every aspect fundamentally all at once. Include the economic system to gain a radically new form of capitalism as we discussed in the last post.

Urie complained that in the 60s USSR “systematic data yield to anecdotal accounts.” No worry. Now we have a national Data Quality Campaign and the Harvard Strategic Data Project and the longitudinal ability to track each student’s Growth.

Too bad Leontiev and Urie passed away before all their dreams came to fruition.

What will the “significant and novel transformations” be? All the way down the unconscious level of each student.

I guess we are now revisiting the always tragic issue of can you change human nature.