If Education Transforms Values and Feelings and Beliefs to Control Behaviors, Are We Free?

Let’s pretend for a moment that someone, maybe they have just retired or won the lottery, was willing to be honest with us about how transformative the Common Core was really going to be. They suggest an undisclosed location. Looking downwards in a trenchcoat, fake moustache, and very large sunglasses, they whisper to you that Common Core was intended to actually “reexamine and redefine what we mean by education.”

Now who should be making such a decision? Who really has the knowledge and experience to impose Cultural Transformation Theory at our expense to see if we can create a better world in the future? I think some knowledge of history and economics would be nice. Life experience being responsible for others and making a payroll. Even more ideal would be to leave such changes up to individuals. Because after all the government is composed of individuals too. Government employees just have less information. They are further from the problems and the solutions. And they are not spending their own money. Or living with the consequences of poor decisions.

Our volunteer whistleblower then hands us a memo with the following statement from someone intimately involved with what Common Core would look like in the classroom:

“All children must learn to care for other human beings, and all must find an ultimate concern in some center of care: care for self, for intimate others, for associates and acquaintances, for distant others, for animals, and the physical environment, for objects and instruments, and for ideas.”

And this care mandate would be cultivated in each child and used to create a new caring economics that would be more equitable and meet everyone’s needs. So education would be about new ways of thinking, talking, and interacting to reimagine and explore different ways of looking at the world.

Now Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek did an excellent job of explaining why such a caring approach that mandates treating strangers as if you know them cannot work and destroys what drives economic freedom and the resulting prosperity. That can be a different post if you like at some point. You know where to find me.

So radically different actual purpose. Can’t work. Tragic history behind earlier attempts. What do we do? We need to be thinking of that reality because that’s where we are going to be once Common Core is fully in place. We have a little time though because that quote is from an influential American professor and it is a true explanation of our reality. But she came to my attention as a consultant to Australia’s National Student Wellbeing Framework. Another consultant was the the President of CASEL from the June 28 post. Finally we have a sociology professor tied into the Positive Psychology Movement. Positive Psychology is involved with PBIS, recently mandated for all US students under Response to Intervention mandates, and the Positive School Climate initiatives. They also get cited as the solution for the possibility of bullying. All that is discussed in the June 11 SEL post.

In fact it was an Aussie anti-bullying campaign that led me to those Wellbeing Pathways. It was called Friendly Schools and Families. Like the US programs we are seeing it decided to change those values and feelings and attitudes in advance for all students to preempt any problem from ever developing. Now I am quite sure it is merely coincidental that changing values, attitudes, and emotions to control future behaviors is the express desire of everyone wanting to fundamentally transform a society or economy or culture. Bullying must really be the dominant global problem of our time. Necessitating a fundamental restructuring of the human psyche. It’s not like anyone has ever tried that before or there were any problems. Well maybe a few.

So obtaining student wellbeing is officially deemed to be necessary for student learning. Of course it must come first. Of course to be equitable everyone gets targeted. So the new focus of Australian schools beyond its Core Skills Framework that looks so much like the US 21st Century Learning initiative and that Global Competence we talked about on June 30 would look like this:

1. A supportive, caring and inclusive school community

2. Pro-social values (ie values such as respect, honesty, compassion, acceptance of difference, fairness are directly taught and indirectly encouraged)

3. Physical & emotional safety (via anti-bullying and anti-violence strategies, policies, procedures and programs

4. Social & emotional learning (eg coping skills, self-awareness, emotional regulation skills, empathy, goal achievement skills, relationship skills)

5. A strengths-based approach (ie schools focusing on identifying and developing students’ intellectual strengths (eg using a multiple intelligences model) and character strengths)

6. A sense of meaning & purpose ( eg through one or more of spirituality, community service, participation in school clubs and teams, peer support, collaborative and authentic group projects etc)

7. A healthy lifestyle (eg good nutrition, exercise, avoidance of illegal drugs and alcohol)

So are the Wellbeing pathways coming to the US? Well every one of these is a part of some aspect of Common Core’s planned implementation. Like the Happy Planet Index, it would probably get a more palatable name. The new Quality Standards the accreditors are using also requires that info on each student’s physical, emotional, and social needs be obtained and kept.

But this is what Common Core’s mandate of equity looks like.  Only generic skills like an ability to communicate or collaborate are accessible to all. Genuine algebra never will be which means it’s not fair for anyone. All people though have values and emotions. So making those the focus is Equitable. Only someone looking for sinister possibilities would notice this also creates a new filtering mindset that skews each person’s perceptions from then on. How useful if you have transformative intentions you would prefer not to discuss with voters and taxpayers. And especially parents.

Is the Global Happiness and Wellbeing Push a Means for Mental and Emotional Burglary?

A burglar chooses his method of theft not just to avoid getting caught. He would also like to prevent your even knowing anything was taken for as long as possible. Keeps those lovely pieces of jewelry in the easy to access bedroom and not locked away in a safe. A goal of influencing, changing, and controlling human behavior through education is not much different. Euphemisms obscuring the affective emphasis are a good idea. Pretending that this time you are going to teach reading phonetically instead of memorizing whole words is a good PR move. Coming up with a cover story about how integrated math is just combining algebra and geometry like they do it in other countries sounds like a legitimate reform to foster international competition. Being honest and saying you are stripping out the abstract elements to emphasize concrete real world applications that everyone can grasp would not be so popular. With anyone. Even the math challenged.

So most of what we are being told about Common Core and global education reforms is not true. The question is why? Where is this all going? If we know that we can start the necessary pushback we are entitled to. We are not serfs yet. And American Independence Day is a very good time to discuss where this is going to keep our own personal independence and help preserve it for this next generation currently under assault through their schools and too many colleges and universities. If we talk today about the desired goals, we will be in a position to start the rollback. To go on offense ourselves before something that cannot work trashes more lives while spending so much of our tax money.

People do not usually make decisions to act, or not, as a result of a conscious weighing of rational choices. That’s not how most people work and that’s OK as long as incentives exist for bad decisions. Most people’s behavior is based on their beliefs, their values, and their habits. Anyone noticing yet that those are precisely the areas under attack via social and emotional learning, bullying programs, soft skills, PBIS, and other positive psychology/proper citizenship programs? How convenient if you would like to use the powers of the state for your own benefit without having angry citizens fighting back.

The research behind the Positive School Climate portion of Common Core mentioned a book called Happiness: Lessons From A New Science by Richard Layard. That sounded alarming. I don’t particularly trust administrators and profs unwilling to let children become independent fluent readers with actually seeking my personal fulfillment. It seemed more likely to be a cover for more emotional intrusions into molding children’s psyches. Sure enough. It was a push for “positive psychology”–a “means by which all of us, depressed or otherwise, can find meaning and increase our enjoyment of life.” Do tell. That’s some bullying campaign. In fact the attempts to obtain a Positive School Climate will offer:

techniques . . . for liberating the positive force in each of us, which religious people call divine. These techniques could well become the psychological basis of twenty-first-century culture.

Not the wisdom of the Ages but spiritual techniques of interacting with each other and training our feelings. There’s even a cite to our CASEL speaker from the June 28 post who aspired to physically altering adolescent students’ PreFrontal Cortex.

It gets better though. The author was one of the co-publishers of the UN’s first ever World Happiness Report 2012. It seeks to move developed countries away from economic growth as the measure of their success and wellbeing. Just in time for a UN led Green Economy with massive transfers to still developing countries. I will let you guess who is administering those transfers. The Global Transition 2012 documents even envision a Line of Plenty for non-politically connected citizens in developed countries like the UK, the US, and Australia. The idea is that income above that amount does not add much additional happiness to the people who earn it. But disparities in income greatly diminish the happiness of “those least well off.”

That’s the envisioned future the Common Core and Education for All and 21st Century Skills are leading us to. Which is why the actual implementation never made any sense to someone like me trained to track through to the likely financial results of any planned action and to imagine the unintended consequences. The economic, social, and political goals of these global education reforms known as Common Core in the US are wildly different from what we have been told. I don’t think it’s the 21st Century any of us want to live in.

And since I was able to locate an explicit Wellbeing framework document for all this in Australia, in the next post I will tell you the how of limiting our independence as free individuals.

Happy 4th Everyone. Let’s celebrate starting our way back from these grasping plans.


Does Common Core Target Hearts and Minds to Sway Future Voters?

A famous economist, Kenneth Boulding, basically invented systems theory to analyze people and their behaviors and the resulting societies about 60 years ago. It came from his concern over issues like preventing war, overpopulation, use of nuclear weapons, and other global issues. I have long known that the people who wanted to use education as a social, political, and economic weapon had a real interest in systems theory. What I didn’t know until recently is how Boulding believed in using what he called Preachments and not just prices to influence the behavior of individuals and groups. One way then to look at all this emphasis on Social and Emotional learning and Purple America and Global Competence and Dewey’s Quality Learning and Wellbeing and Happiness as desired goals for education is to create influencing Preachments. Especially while the mind is still physically developing as CASEL noted. Even better if the affected level is reflexive. Not a matter of conscious thought.

“Hearts and minds” is a phrase that just keeps recurring when you talk with politicians or professors or bureaucrats involved with implementing Common Core. It’s clearly the emphasis at meetings you and I were not invited to. It seems designed to generate excitement over what will make Common Core a superior method for the schools and classrooms. The students will be engaged with video games and interactive visuals instead of bored with lectures. Of course good lectures are not boring and videos and visuals are probably doing nothing to add to know-how or know-what.

But hey I clearly am not in the spirit of 21st century learning. And it is very rude of me to keep asking whether anyone would voluntarily pay for the skills, knowledge, values, and habits to be cultivated for the 21st century workplace. It clearly is designed to increase the comfort level with Common Core’s dominant emphasis on emotion and attitudes and cultivating useful political beliefs and social values. Nothing like a captivating slogan to make anything seem acceptable.

Remember though when we recognized that a primary goal of Career Ready Practices was to require each student to recognize their responsibility and obligations to others? And that the schools would be monitoring for daily examples of that desired attitude? I am not being Scrooge or a modern-day misanthrope when I worry about the consequences of such an explicit Common Good first emphasis. I can know what I think is for the best for me and anyone I actually know.

Calculating a Common Good for strangers though is impossible. Trying is dangerous and likely to create Common Bads. Trying to cultivate a belief in individuals that they exist to do for others and not their own needs or wishes is essentially trying to create a tolerance for modern-day serfdom. It is useful to anyone who seeks power over others which is why it has been attempted throughout history. Calling it a 21st Century Skill or Global Competence or Workplace Readiness does not change its essential function. Nor the fact that it is lethal to economic prosperity. It has people chasing after the unknowable instead of the real needs and actual preferences of people in the here and now.

Recognizing the Communitarian economic emphasis in those Career Ready Practices and other Common Core initiatives sent me scurrying toward Amitai Etzioni’s work. And guess what I found? Well, the Communitarian prof who wants to cultivate We-ness instead of individuality and reorganize the market economy around the new values to be cultivated via education mentions the necessity of “changing the hearts and minds of individuals.” Now where have we heard that phrase before? And this was in his 1988 book The Moral Dimension: Toward a New Economics.

He has had to be very patient. He must be very excited about all the emotions and values embedded into Common Core’s actual implementation. After all he saw them as necessary to the kind of altered decision-making he had in mind. A way of curbing each individual’s future choices without any need for their even being aware they had been so influenced.

Maybe by that 3rd Grade Teacher or maybe the Middle School Principal who pushes feeling over knowing. See how this all works?