One of the ways I deal with all the Schemes and Blueprint reading it has taken to pull together this story of the Common Core’s real aims or the CAGW hyping to cover all the meddling to gain a Crony economy based on Low Carbon or Green Growth or Sustainability–whatever this week’s buzz word is, is to retreat into history. Usually I try to read scholars who have been cited in those ever revealing footnotes in order to get to a “these are our intentions, this is who is involved” level of discussion. This blog is actually not Robin’s opinion for the most part. It is a searching out the actual facts in the relevant places where most people would never think to look.
It’s impossible to read through the last several posts or the entirety of the blog and not recognize all these education reforms and the insistence on redesigning the economy under government direction and not think–“that’s Statism and aren’t we past the L’etat, c’est moi mentality of Louis XIV or a Stalin?” Well no, state control over people and natural resources for the benefit of the political class is actually the historical norm and we forget that at our peril. All the references to the Knowledge Society while actually trying to restrain any unapproved accurate knowledge and then calling it College Ready is par for the course. A common aspiration when the drive is towards organizing people and an economy around Statism.
As an image of the palace at Versailles may remind you, Statism is oriented toward power-maximizing for politicians, public employees, and their Cronies. These can be Big Business wanting to protect their current revenue with no need to innovate. Or media seeking influence and access. Or foundations and colleges and universities all wanting to participate in the redirection of the future. For Statism to work, at least short term, it needs an ideology to march under–like Equity or Social Justice or Sustainability in a World at Grave Risk without Intervention. Check. Statism needs to keep going after an ever increasing number of subjects and issues to control and regulate. And it needs to go after its citizens at ever deeper levels of consciousness. Hence all the social and emotional emphasis with no lecturing unless it’s about a politically useful topic.
Professor Manuel Castells commented on how the Soviet authorities were able to move away from submission due to outright terror to a passive routine based on “a lack of information and views of the world.” That appears to be the intended model for people all over the West in the 21st century. Use education “reform” to cultivate false beliefs, new values, different attitudes. The dominance of feelings and intuitions and impulse. The exact kind of initiative that enraged people in Hong Kong http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/using-education-to-shut-down-free-choices-and-then-redefining-as-personal-autonomy-orwell-lives/ going on in the US or elsewhere but off our radar screen. The invisible aspect of the drive for power and control.
We have talked on numerous occasions about Michael Barber. From foisting Cambridge Education on the US in 2007 to tell classroom teachers they may no longer teach the material to his leadership in that 2011 UNESCO meeting in London. You know the one where they wrote:
“Responding to climate change also starts in the classroom. Education is the way to shape new ways of thinking and forge new sustainable behaviour. . .
Fundamentally, education is about values.”
Well, back in 2000 when the UK was in the midst of its controversial reforms in education that mirror what is going on in the US now, guess what? Teachers in the classroom were seen as the main impediment to creating “radical change.” That phrase “radical change” and the desire to control and alter the classroom interactions of teachers and students (sound familiar?) caused several papers and presentations by Barber and Vicki Phillips from our last post. Back then she was the School Superintendent in Lancaster, Pennsylvania but somehow she and Barber knew each other and were seeking to Unleash Irreversible Change-Lessons for the Future of System-Wide School Reform. Apparently their presentation style on how to win consent for Labour’s education programme was memorable because a description of it made it into a 2003 book.
A graphic description. As the authors of the book, Chitty and Simon, describe Barber & Phillips analogizing to prayer saying “You learn to pray by first going down on your knees. Only then will you create the conditions for belief, and be able to address God accordingly.” The analogy for education, they said, was “you don’t try to change minds through argument, consultation, debate, dialogue. You change them first of all through changing people’s behavior, through the element of compulsion.”
Having had children at a high school in the throes of an ideological Super and Principal, using Cambridge classroom reviews and Spence Rogers for professional development of teachers, compulsion is the right word. Psychological terror is also apt. But this was actually already envisioned and long before Vicki had the money and leverage of the Gates Foundation to back up her intentions to coerce. Students and teachers. First do, then believe. Here in Barber and Phillips own words from the book:
“There is a popular misconception about the process of change. It is often assumed that the key to successful change is ‘to win hearts and minds.’ If this is the starting point then the first steps in the process of change are likely to be consultation and public relations campaigns…The popular conception is wrong. Winning hearts and minds is not the best first step in any process of urgent change. Beliefs do not necessarily change behavior. More usually it is the other way around–behaviours shape beliefs. Only when people have experienced a change do they revise their beliefs accordingly…Sometimes it is necessary to mandate the change, implement it well, consciously challenge the prevailing culture [to make it Positive, perhaps?], and then have the courage to sustain it until beliefs shift…The driving force at this critical juncture is leadership.”
That is a mindset that appeals to political fanatics and greedy bureaucrats with a chip on their shoulders about their own childhoods. Or intimidates frightened teachers trying to keep their jobs. It makes promotion these days in education not about what teachers or administrators know or can do with students but what they are willing to impose on teachers and students.
Professor Castells writing in 1998 about the lessons from the collapse of the Soviet Union said this:
“As for intellectuals, the most important political lesson to be learnt from the Communist experiment is the fundamental distance that should be kept between theoretical blueprints and the historical development of political projects. To put it bluntly, all Utopias lead to Terror if there is a serious attempt at implementing them.”
Well the Common Core implementation is overflowing with theories and blueprints in pursuit of political, social, and economic Transformation. At the level of the student. From the inside-out. The local results of the piloting districts have been miserable when not outright tragic. Yet still we proceed. By compulsion. Nationally and internationally.
Political lesson not learned in the least. And no distance between theory and sought action at all.