Desiring a Radical Dialectic Change in Social Reality Necessitates Enduring Misunderstandings

Why is there nothing as practical as a good theory? Why do I mention annoyingly named theories like “Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete” or Engestrom’s Learning by Expansion? Am I playing, look what I know? No, two reasons require such specificity. The first is the gravity of what I have been explaining on this blog. As an avid reader, I get that these truths sound a bit like the plot to a B-Grade thriller. But sometimes the truth really does trump the acceptable storylines of even an imaginative fiction writer. Trust me, you are not the only one with an “Are you kidding me?” response to all these revelations. Especially how all these links to Soviet pedagogy and psychology and philosophy just keep appearing. Since that is not what I am looking for, the constant appearances must have something to do with creating a consciousness in the West useful to those who want to keep and expand political power.

More importantly though is the second reason. A theory can get included in the coursework of a college or university where it affects the beliefs of people who in turn mold the minds of the next generation. You may have guessed I had one of those old-fashioned, first-rate, liberal arts educations. And I loved it. Well, maybe not Aristotle so much or Spinoza but all in all it was broad and deep and gave me a solid base in adult life for recognizing when I am reading a false explanation. A faulty argument. A pre-arranged set of facts to bolster a case that actually was not supported in the least. But the typical college student now or teacher or principal in graduate programs or professional development are much less likely to recognize they are dealing with a theory that just isn’t so.

Theories allow widespread collaboration in pursuing radical social, political, and economic change without most of the participants recognizing the actual intent behind the theory. You thus can get a widespread organized implementation without much of an actual conspiracy. Darn useful especially when all this is essentially going on an taxpayer expense. So no teacher or principal or even the mendacious supers being inflicted on too many school districts is likely to have studied Soviet Philosopher, Evald Ilyenkov, or why the Soviets created Developmental Instruction after Stalin’s death.

Ilyenkov’s reimagining of Dialectical Materialism through his Ascending Theory and his idea of “theoretically guided education” that would “teach children to think” comes in through activity theory and making Understandings the focus of the classroom and assessment. No further need to know where the theory came from. Or even that it is a theory designed not to reflect reality but to change it.

But the purpose for the creation of the theory still matters even if it remains widely unknown. Well until this and earlier posts. But it matters that the Professor most identified with Cultural-Historical Activity Theory in the US, Michael Cole, who worked with Engestrom at UC-San Diego, wrote the Preface for Ilyenkov’s classic activity theory book when it was republished in English in February 2009. Interesting timing. Getting ready for what implementation in the US?

Not to be too nerdy but Vygotsky and his followers want to emphasize human experience. Being interested in radical social change, they recognized that there are two planes involved. What actually happened and the perception of it. So if what goes on in the classroom can alter or, even better, create an “internal cognitive schematization” in the student’s belief system, you can permanently (that’s the hope) affect how the student filters their daily life. And thus their future behavior.

So the Abstract becomes that guiding theory. As a 1998 book Psychological Tools published by the Harvard Press helpfully put both the point and the rationale:

“Traditional education was essentially retrospective. The universal model and the cultural tradition were givens, and the task of a student was to absorb this tradition and the intellectual tools associated with it. Thus a student was taught to deal with problems that reproduced past cultural patterns. Under the dynamic conditions of modernity [another theory by the way] the necessity for prospective, rather than retrospective, education became obvious [but conveniently omitted from any PR campaign for reforms].

Prospective education implies that students should be capable of approaching problems that do not yet exist …To achieve this capability, the student should be oriented toward productive, rather than reproductive knowledge. Knowledge should thus appear not in the form of results and solutions but rather as a process of authoring.”

Quite a different view of knowledge and likely to be very controversial if widely known. So that fundamental shift in the nature of education and the Soviet inspired developmental focus gets hidden under euphemisms like “higher order skills” and “21st Century Skills.” Or just “Critical Thinking” with the typical parent or taxpayer thinking analytical within the realm of existing and still highly useful relevant facts.

But that would be reproductive of the existing social and economic order and thus not allowed. But being honest that “critical thinking” in the Enlightenment sense “stops right at the point where it touches all those problems of a capitalist society” that need to be reexamined in a new light and with new theories, could very well derail the hopes of developing “alternative prospects for humankind.” Through education.

That quote from the Journal of Critical Education Policy Studies tells us that “the notion of critical thinking takes on different dimensions when associated with the “ideals and practices geared towards a radical change in social reality. From such a perspective, critical thinking emerges as a critical consciousness of the changing world conditions, trends, and mechanisms.”

That kind of definition of critical thinking fits with the curriculum for the common core I am seeing all over the world. A classic example is one the Smithsonian’s Global Competence Initiative references. An interdisciplinary textbook called Exploring Global Issues: Economic, Social and Environmental Interconnections put out by Facing the Future. Education becomes about creating what JCEPS called an “active attitude vis-a-vis social reality, to the conscious pursuit of changing it.” Some of you may have wondered why commenters keep mentioning Hegel and I keep bringing up Uncle Karl. Both men pushed what they called dialectics because they refused to accept the “historic cultural constructs as given.” So the idea is to “perceive possibilities and prospects for alternative social development.”

And to do that is to be “creative” and “innovative” and “imaginative” and engaging in “higher-order thinking.” It helps then not to be too bogged down in facts and knowledge of what existed in the past and why it did or did not endure. Left out of all this talk of CORE, Cognitive Reorganization, and other “thinking” programs we have examined in the last several posts is what JCEPS acknowledges explicitly in the 2003 published essay:

“fostering critical ability with the aim of radical social change is equivalent to fostering dialectical thinking.” I am not going to weave you in and out of this Periklis Pavlidis essay further except to say it tells its tale through Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete. By name. Making it much easier to spot whatever it is calling itself. Which brings us back to all the presentations Lynn Erickson has been doing all over the world explaining her “Enduring Understandings” to IB audiences. She is now being quoted in Texas for CScope training and in many other state DOEs as they prepare to implement the Common Core.

The quote from her I took from a 2009 Georgia Social Studies Presentation is pretty representative: “Trying to teach in the 21st century without conceptual schema for knowledge is like trying to build a house without a blueprint.” Except what made me a good student was my ability to come up with my own conceptual understandings from the facts. Here the Enduring Understandings get assigned and put up on a Concept Wall in the classroom. The purpose of facts is now merely to illustrate that Enduring Understanding.  And the purpose of that Concept Wall is to help students to see the relationships among concepts. And to get there the teachers are to ask Essential Questions. And the students are to copy down those Essential Questions and Enduring Understandings. “A smaller version for their notebooks” is what the powerpoint said.

All of this does look much like Understanding By Design as well which also relies heavily on those Essential Questions. And UbD, Understandings of Consequence, and Enduring Understandings all function as the guiding theories in the sense Ilyenkov intended as a means of changing consciousness when he first developed Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete. And as nerdy as all these names sound they all have a common purpose, wherever they are being pushed and whether the speaker is aware of the actual intent or not.

“successful guidance of transformative social action.”

That’s why the theories created are transferable “through time and across cultures” as Erickson describes it. They are theories for social change or imagining a radically different social reality. They are productive education as Psychological Tools described above.

And quite hidden until you know the authors and the terms and then they are everywhere. Very much a part of the planned implementations. If not already in use.

But I for one beg to differ on whether this will be productive. Unless you are being paid to push it.

Mystical Marxism, Shapers of Our Current World System, or Building New Mental Software

Please. Oh, please, can I opt for a Door Number 4 as I continue to track down the actual planned social, political, and economic transformative vision for the future? Global and using so-called education reforms as the vehicle. Without our consent and apparently without our knowledge. Modelled on of all things, Soviet psychology and philosophy, but now renamed and spun in terms of Confucius or transpersonal, Integral, philosophy and the ever present systems thinking. Because of course the mindsets that the Chinese leaders find appropriate for their “under our thumb” (to the music of the Rolling Stones please) citizens is precisely appropriate for a US or Australian or Korean classroom. Anywhere I suppose where anyone with political power dreams of looking at the masses of taxpayers and voters and assigning a role of permanent subordination.

Mystical Marxism. That’s what Ken Wilber called his Integral Worldview that explores, honors, and acknowledges “all the dimensions of men and women’s experiences–sensory, emotional, mental, social, spiritual.” Now Ken has actually been on my radar for a while because Harvard ed prof Robert Kegan seems to like partnering with the Integral Life philosophy when he is not pushing “Lessons of Systemic Change for Success in Implementing the New Common Core Standards” with Peter Senge and Hewlett Foundation funding. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/viewing-education-as-the-prime-lever-for-international-social-change-community-organizing-everywhere/ . But I do not talk about people on the periphery no matter how troubling the implications of their views. No I was following up on the definition of Global Competence and the Smithsonian’s involvement with both Understandings of Consequence and Big History.

Which caused me to take a look at the SHOUT education conferences Smithsonian has been sponsoring with Microsoft and another entity I was not familiar with. TakingITGlobal–Inspire, Inform, Involve. It turns out to be a student social media site promoting Global Citizenship. Disturbingly to me, their Theory of Change http://www.tigweb.org/about/why/change.html is “inspired by the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber, which posits that there are 4 areas (quadrants) where progressive development can occur: Interior Individual, Exterior Individual, Interior Collective, and Exterior Collective. Through our programs and project, young people move along a linear path through each quadrant …(A) Youth Development; (B) Youth Action & Participation; (C) Social Movements; and (D) Societal Values.” There’s more specifics on that site to help inculcate that individual and collective common core that prompts transformative action. Parents happily thinking their children have become involved in service learning may want to search out Wilber’s aspirations for Achieving Binding Democratic Global Governance.

Part 2 of our title comes from more detectiving around this issue of Global Competence and its integral (couldn’t resist because it’s true) part in CCSSO’s vision of the Common Core’s actual implementation. Turns out in 2009 the Gates Foundation funded a  CCSSO project called EdSteps to essentially obscure the key implementation components that might be controversial. Mustn’t allow any disruption of the political narrative being used to con the public on what was coming. It’s the EdSteps frameworks then that announce that the Common Core is about “a nation transforming its business and education systems in response to the evolving global economy.” That would be the Capitalism 3.0 or  what Shoshana Zuboff called distributed capitalism and the Aspen Institute the fourth sector/for benefit economy.

http://edsteps.org/CCSSO/SampleWorks/EdSteps%20Framework-08_29_12.pdf is the framework. Virginians and Texans may want to note their involvement with EdSteps as more proof you can get the common core implementation without the actual math or ELA standards. The Five EdSteps skill areas are the key implementation components that no one had been previously and systematically assessing: Creativity, Problem Solving for Learning, Analyzing Information, Global Competence, and Writing. Now honestly as EdSteps describes all these areas they will go a long way towards training students to Ascend from the Abstract to the Concrete or what Paul Ehrlich called organizing around Big Ideas and Concepts that will instill a compulsion to act. But you now have those Frameworks and my earlier posts. I need to move on to the even more troubling ideas behind the EdSteps screen.

EdSteps is a partner in yet another entity, world savvy, framing transformative curricula and practices for the 21st century student. And without the above link you would never see the ties to CCSSO. http://worldsavvy.org/assets/documents/uploads/WorldSavvy_ComponentsofGlobalCompetency.pdf lays out the Knowledge, Skills, Values & Attitudes, and Behaviors to be instilled in students. It’s all troubling but it’s the Knowledge component we need to focus on now. Especially as it primes for Big History or something comparably false and influential.

In particular the phrase “Historical forces that have shaped the current world system.” We don’t have a current singular world system. If we did it would by definition be totalitarian. The aspiration for one was a huge part of what drove one side in the Cold War. As long time readers know, I have been describing what appears to be an effort by UNESCO and other UN agencies to use initiatives like the Belmont Challenge and the Future Earth Alliance (still have not seen anyone involved in tights with lettering on their chest) to get to a singular world system.

That phraseology in the Components of Global Competency tells us a lot about the assumptions inherent in meetings none of us have been invited to. It also indicates all these transformational reforms are being driven either by some woefully ignorant people or idealogues enthralled by Utopia. Not to mention the Champagne Tastes and Caviar Dreams of being a connected Business in this vision no longer worried about consumers or competitors.

But a key component of this social vision starts at the city or regional level. Where it is much easier to get all the relevant politicians on board and bought off with grants and revenue sharing to finance a transformation. At least in the short term. It’s called the Learning City or Region and shifting the US towards it to dovetail with its Asian push is the purpose of both the Metropolitanism initiatives we have covered several times and the planned shift in federal revenue sharing we covered here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/well-no-wonder-no-one-listens-to-common-core-complaints-if-it-is-tied-to-federal-revenue-sharing/ .

But inexplicably the mayors and city councils always leave out the key component of the vision about “building mental software conditions for human wellbeing.” Or that learning cities and regions are the vital first step in “building the structural concept of a ‘learning society’…based upon an emphasis that ‘a society should be rewired and re-constructed in a way that human learning is put at the very front and maximized to fulfill the idea of a whole person.”

Well that sounds outlandish and remember learning means changes in values, attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. I seriously doubt UNESCO’s or the Chinese vision of a whole person would be ours. And again aiming at those personal traits is essential to anyone with an aspiration of an integral human system. Local, national, or global. Bad track record people. And the above links have the Common Core in the US linked to at least two strategies for such a totalizing vision of personal and collective transcendence. The one Hewlett paid for in that previous post and Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory of Change.

It will be no fun to be an individual in a “complex adaptive system” being reorganized and centrally directed. Which is probably why the 2010 UNESCO document I am pulling this global Learning City vision from is quoting from Korea, Shanghai, and Changzhou, China versions. Where “education is an instrument to rebuild the community” around the planned vision. A community where “all” is so “co-related and connected to make a whole complex ecosystem of human learning. It is like a human body which cannot be detached from other parts. If so detached, the human simply dies.”

There’s no place for the genuinely autonomous person in that UNESCO-inspired vision of the Lifelong Learning Community (LLC). And if you think nothing like this can happen in the US or other countries like Australia I suggest you read this Leading Learning Communities report to be an effective elementary school principal. http://www.naesp.org/sites/default/files/LLC2-ES-1.pdf . That LLC vision is supposedly necessary “as we face squarely the challenges inherent in the transformation of our global society.” A learning society. One where, to once again quote UNESCO and a Korean prof of Lifelong Education in Seoul:

‘learning functions as a key attribute and defines what a society should be [functioning like what the Chinese Communists used to call ‘thought reform’ and others had a darker term for]…a key apparatus of social production and reproduction [which sounds better than the reality of social engineering]…In sum, a learning society is a self-organising emergence [in a centrally planned and dictated sort of way] where new patterns of social fabric and learning systems are merged and deployed. Here my point is this: a learning city is not just an old-timer’s economic project, but a whole new idea where a whole new learning system emerges, revolves, and grows to lead economic, social, and political development as a whole.”

How totalising. No room for the unitary self there. No wonder john a powell said that the Regional Equity Movement in the US and its accompanying education vision was not just looking for distributive justice. Not when you can join a vision where “learning is considered an authentic and generic DNA for cultivating the post-industrial society as a complex adaptive system. In this vein, systems thinking is the key mode of planning and implementing the whole situation in action.”

Which would explain why systems thinking just keeps popping up. All the function and little of the notoriety of the M word.

Explicitly treating all of us as if “cultivating a forest of learning systems, which needs patience, systems thinking and collective minds.”

No I am not done yet. But that is quite enough to chew on for today.

 

 

Viewing a CORE Decree, Cognitive Reorganization for All Students, As Modern Day Spoliation

In October 1997 the lead professors in what became the Understandings of Consequence (UoC) Project and RECAST work on restructuring students’ assumptions on causation wrote a very interesting piece called “Teaching Intelligence.” Published in the American Psychologist, it laid out the CORE vision of what precisely needs to be reorganized. I am going to show how the reorganization goals dovetail with aspects of the Common Core implementation I have already mentioned. And the CORE Cognitive Reorganization is Transdisciplinary. It is not the content of the disciplines to be learned anymore but the opportunities disciplines like history or science provide to create dissonance and mediation. CORE recognizes that “reorganization is most likely when learners become aware of the strengths and problems of their current beliefs, understandings, and thinking patterns.” Just what we all send children to school to have go on.

And then barely six months later the first of the listed UoC NSF funded projects began. Called “The Challenge of Developing Systems Thinkers: How Misconceptions About Complex Causality Contribute to Fundamental Problems in Scientific Learning,” it was headed up by Perkins and Grotzer. It leads to the current UoC work described in the previous post. Now for all of you who are finding this damning so far but wondering what this has to do with leaving food out of the refrigerator, I did not mean that kind of spoliation. I am using the term as what the Italians called spogliazione. But then European countries that remember feudalism and absolutist rulers like Napoleon have understood state directed plundering of the productive classes for centuries. And they call it Spoliation. And talking about it for a minute using quotes from across the Atlantic and across the centuries should go a long way towards answering that Number 1 most asked question when reading my posts: “But why? What a waste.” Indeed. Spoliation and with lots of precedent.

All these economic philosophers understood well the tendency of “the immortal state, the state that does not fulfill its primordial duties [the protection of personal liberty and property] but makes itself the center of intrigues, of favors, of transfers of wealth.” And what do Digital Literacy and all those Green Growth schemes have in common with what concerned the 19th century so much? They all understood the need for some type of bulwark or governments will be ever-expanding since:

“the beneficial effect of State intervention, especially in the form of legislation, is direct, immediate, and, so to speak, visible, whilst its evil effects are gradual and indirect, and lie out of sight.”

For that reason, there has always been a battle throughout history between “privilege, secret interest, political advantage, everything that is capable of coveting”–what we today call rent-seekers and the great mass of consumers and taxpayers who pay the bills and have no lobbyists in DC or the state capitol. That’s not an anti-government rant but a historical observation. And quite relevant to what is being sought now in the 21st century in the name of education. Thinking is being reorganized and false beliefs are being fostered precisely to gain people who either will not notice manipulation or who will regard it as necessary in pursuit of a greater goal or averting a supposed catastrophe.

It is in that light I want to give you a heads up that RECAST and CORE are very much a part of an organized effort to supposedly shift humanity away from a selfish philosophy of knowledge to a so-called altruistic philosophy of wisdom. No of course nobody told us since we might have objected. Laid out by UK professor, Nicholas Maxwell, in his 1984 book From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution in the Aims & Methods of Science the philosophy of wisdom stance can be clearly seen in Common Core’s push that curricula and assessments be about solving real world problems. It is very much in line with what we saw in the Appreciative Inquiry posts.

Under the philosophy of wisdom, education must “give absolute intellectual priority to our life and its problems, to the mystery of what is of value, actually and potentially, in existence, and to the problems of how what is of value is to be realized.” Which of course, individuals cannot accomplish alone. They will need public policy to aid them in “cooperatively solving” the “common problems of living.” It’s no accident that in the back of the book Maxwell cites groups interested in the social responsibility of science as supporting the philosophy of wisdom. And the environmentalists. And something called Science in a Social Context. And UNESCO. This is a rent-seekers dream and very much consistent with one of Uncle Karl’s best known quotes which Maxwell cites approvingly: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” The philosophy of wisdom does that even when it is going by other names.

Which gets us back to CORE and RECAST. I don’t think it is coincidental that Maxwell cites John Dewey as a major devotee of pushing the synthesis he called the philosophy of wisdom. Nor do I think it is coincidental that what CORE and RECAST are getting at is  what the 1971 book Inquiring Man called a radical new idea. Where “educational growth is not the accumulation of more and more pieces of information, but the development of an increasingly complex structure for organizing and inter-relating ideas.” Doesn’t that sound familiar? Like being a Systems Thinker? Or seeing race and class oppression as causes of any dissimilarity in life circumstances?

What Thinking Intelligence described as “helping learners reorganize their thinking around a more powerful pattern.” Pre-supplied by the ever helpful teacher seeking “transfer” through “thorough practice with deliberately diverse cases.” In other words, nothing really in common except being told there is a causal relationship. Find one. Make it up. Negotiate with the rest of the class for possibilities. Learn to think through abstractions NOT grounded in facts. Ascend from the Abstract to the Concrete of everyday life.

Learning to think ideologically until it becomes a habit of mind and hiding that desired widespread practice as “higher-order thinking.” Teaching Intelligence explicitly mentioned five areas of “cognitive reorganization (CORE categories): strategies, metacognition, dispositions, distributed intelligence, and transfer. We have already talked about transfer today and in that Yrjo Engestrom post. For metacognition it is intimately bound up in the real definition of college and career ready. It also explains why CCR architect, David Conley, sought to rename noncognitive skills as Metacognition. Laid out here  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/now-more-than-five-years-into-an-attempt-to-help-organize-a-near-total-revision-of-human-behavior/

Strategies “reorganize thinking by providing patterns to follow that work against the defaults.” Like complex causation and systems thinking in general. Dispositions “emanate in part from underlying beliefs.” Well luckily there has been no organized attempts to foster any false beliefs. The paper then cites Vygotskyian scholar Carol Dweck without pointing out whose work she is so fond of. Today she is better known for her work on Growth Mindsets and Fixed Mindsets. Her books and passages are not only being assigned to teachers but I know for a fact they have been assigned in Honors English classes this school year. Of course the Chair of that English Department had a newly minted Masters from a Vygotskyian-oriented program so that may explain the determination to move fast.

Thinking dispositions “consist of both sensitivity and inclination.” They are what John Dewey called “habits of thought” and they reorganize thinking “through the sensitivity to detect occasions that call for a particular pattern of thinking and the inclination to follow through.” Again all this in an environment where teachers are not to teach factual content. And being told you have a fixed mindset at a tender age seems like such an insult. Must change.

Distributed cognition gets at “team thinking” and the use of cultural tools like computers. It also stresses “teleconferencing [to] allow the pooling of expertise and collaborative brainstorming.” Have you heard about mental mapping? This is where it comes in– “extensive use of graphic organizers-diagrammatic ways of representing evidential and other relationships that provide both physical and symbolic support.”

All of this is designed to force students to see the world not as it is. But as people with a political agenda for education, who actively seek to transform society to cause a shift to a centrally planned economy premised in a welfare state/ social citizenship structure, wish the students and future voters to see the world. All going on at the same time Europe is coming to grips with the perverse incentives and financial Unsustainability of so many of the programs this type of education was intended to promote. None of which is part of the sales pitch for the Common Core or its continuing propaganda campaign.

I guess everyone is hoping that the Cognitive Reorganization in enough voters will be a  done deal before enough people grasp what has happened. And by then it will be too late.

I can just hear it now. “What do you mean the Common Core assessments were not actually tests and were not monitoring knowledge of facts?”

A West that couples low information voters to voters who live at the expense of the State and then adds voters who have undergone years of this ideological reorganizing of thought patterns will be dysfunctional at virtually every level.

And every bit as toxic as the spoliation that occurs without refrigeration.

Cultivating Understandings of Consequence to Guide Daily Life and Prompt Desired Behaviors

Dialectic is such an off-putting word that it is easy to ignore what it is trying to say about a desired vision for how the world ought to work in the future. Especially if you are a political radical hoping for a reason to push transformation. Before the Enlightenment and especially before Darwin published his views of a spontaneous, non-directed biological evolution, both philosophy and religion had developed ways to see the world as a whole. All aspects of it–human, natural, and divine–as related together in an orderly way. The common term used for that all-encompassing vision is a cosmology. When I read Engestrom’s desire to get back to seeing the world in terms of systemic causal relationships–Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete– where none actually exist, I saw that desire to reorder the nature of the world back into a cosmology view. Without saying so. I saw the same intent in that Rand report mentioned in the last post encouraging students to come up with broad principles from isolated facts. We are really in the realm of belief here, not knowledge.

The difference between me and another commentator on that clearly designed to be globally influential Rand  report is that when I read the grey box blurb on “Correcting Misconceptions about Complex Causality” I immediately recognized I was reading BS. I had read too much disdain for seeing the world in terms of factual and linear, cause and effect relationships to not be suspicious that somehow it was perfectly permissible to think in terms of causality with the so-called ecosystem. Moreover, I recognized that drive for a holistic view of the world because a few weeks ago I read a 1982 book called The Return to Cosmology: Postmodern Science and the Theology of Nature. Written by Stephen Toulmin, it was the source of the Koestler example in the last post.

Toulmin wanted very much for our now 21st century humanity to rethink its place as independent of nature. In fact, by the early 80s he viewed a first “movement toward a revival of ‘natural religion,’ and a reunion of science with ‘natural theology,’ is already underway, though not necessarily under explicitly theological colors. The traditional issues of natural religion are forcing themselves on public attention, though under other names.” The commentators who have remarked over the years that the theory of Catastrophic Manmade Climate Change behaves more like a religion than science might well want to consider Toulmin’s insider observation of what was going on. It’s on page 261.

The problem though is it now comes in as Engestrom’s Theory of Expansion basically whitewashing these old Soviet and Eastern European systemic political theories. Or via the current NSF funded Understandings of Consequence Project being run by Project Zero at Harvard. Which is where searching the names in the footnoted Misconceptions of Complex Causality support took me. Tina A Grotzer and Belinda Bell Basca to be more precise than what the Rand report provided. I think they thought a footnote should suffice to take their word that the assertion was true. No, I actually located their “How does grasping the underlying causal structures of ecosystems impact students’ understanding?” that dated back to a conference from 2000. Hmm, that would be the last go around at US comprehensive radical ed reform. Back when the rest of the world moved ahead of us in gutting the transmission of knowledge as too individualistic. And not apt to a world in flux.

I got to read about RECAST–REvealing CAusal STructure. Structure of course being another name for seeing the world systemically and looking for relationships among things instead of individual characteristics. And I thought of how useful RECAST would be to an education reformer wishing to create widespread and influential misconceptions about how the world works. Just how useful it would be to get at and impact “how we frame experience or information.” To be able to provide “a flexible repertoire of models that [students] understand how to map to relevant occasions.” Tracy Benson of the Waters Foundation did say in print that Systems Thinking was about controlling personal behavior. That would do it and it would be quite invisible.

Then I followed up on the related idea of EcoMUVE–Advancing Ecosystems Science Education via Situated Collaborative Learning in Multi-User Virtual Environments” which of course is the gaming like River City we have already encountered in posts like this one http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/students-must-see-themselves-as-active-participants-in-social-change-and-designers-of-social-futures/ . And I saw that NSF sponsorship of Understandings of Consequence and language asking me–“What inherent default assumptions do humans make that influence how we reason about complexity in the world?” Well, quite honestly, most people cannot very well because they are actually not too good with abstractions. So they will simply have to take the concepts as provided and use them as instructed.

Now, how useful is that for a Project Zero Group also representing IB in creating Global Consciousness and the CCSSO (supposed state creators of the Common Core) in their related Global Competence push? Secondly I remember that the NSF has changed its policy and is now explicitly using K-12 education to squelch climate skepticism. And I have all those documents and have written about it.  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/if-reality-is-ignored-or-disregarded-when-do-we-become-a-state-against-its-people/

Plus I remember our cosmology aspiring professor writing in a 1974 essay included in his book how so many scientists with aspirations of how society should be organized sought to apply the laws of physical systems to living systems. But that when you do that, you are applying physical laws to philosophical matters. Trying to get human affairs to organize themselves systemically even though as Toulmin said regretfully in a footnote:

“After many years of loose talk about ‘ecosystems,’ many leading ecologists are now shying away from the term…The phenomena so referred to (food chains etc.) also lack the stable, self-restoring character of physiological systems, i.e., are not fully ‘systemic.’ If only they were!”

Toulmin even described how French biologist, Francois Jacob, and his attempt at Biological Structuralism, was dealing with “cultural and social integrons” that are unfortunately not sufficiently systemic in the way he desires. So, Toulmin noted wistfully, talking of systems in “politics, culture, and society” does not change the non-causal, non-systemic nature. It’s just a case of bad analogizing to develop a theory to get desired results in human behavior. Something Paul Ehrlich has said he is still doing with IHDP. In fact he says we are more than five years into the global transformation affiliated with the UN.

How to get there? Well, let’s face it, what is the likelihood of a non-footnote detective reading Toulmin? Slim so the analogy to physical systems should stand for most teachers and students and the general population. Just mention “the Second Law of Thermodynamics says” and they will listen. Totally unaware it is NOT a Law of the Universe but a universal law that ONLY applies to a ‘thermally isolated’ system, which is one that “is shielded against all interchanges of heat with bodies outside itself.” Used elsewhere Toulmin said you are trying to use science to argue philosophy. Without admitting that is what is happening.

The year after Toulmin’s book the theories to repair the damage to the wonderful usefulness of inapt analogies and false beliefs to generate Social Transformation began anew with the publication of “Structure-Mapping: A Theoretical Framework for Analogy” by Psych Prof Dedre Gentner. Those of you who have always wondered precisely what higher-order thinking in these assessments such as STAAR in Texas or the OECD’s PISA should realize that “structural analysis=higher order relations.” The idea in all this developing analogizing work is for a student to take what that have been taught about complex causal relations and apply it to a previously untaught area without a clear solution.

Then hopefully as Professors John E Hummel and Keith Holyoak have discovered in their LISA, Learning Inferences through Schemas and Analogies, research:

“People are able to induce schemas by comparing just two analogs to one another. Indeed, people will form schemas simply as a side effect of applying one solved problem to one unsolved target problem.”

Whether it fits or not. Driven not by similarities but by being told there is a causal relationship among the two domains. Even if there is no visible correspondence of characteristics. In fact NSF has also funded research into “Causal Models as Inference Engines” within the last few years. All of which reminded me of the passage in the Rand report where “teachers ask students to engage in high-road transfer by making conceptual connections between scientific laws [like mass and motion] and situations they may encounter in their lives.”

Where again it would be inapt but would any student be in a position to know that? Reading through all the Understandings of Consequences classroom projects and what is sought by NSF and what is in that Rand report and Engestrom’s Learning by Expansion, it is very difficult NOT to see all these so-called education reforms as designed to get students to believe and then feel compelled to act on things that very well may not be true.

Back to cosmology without saying so. Back to people needing direction without pointing out that is the intent of the reforms.

What happens in a world when so much of what is believed is not so?

And so much of what is important is no longer widely known?

 


Treating Western Society and its Economy as a Train in Need of Rebuilding and Central Direction

When you get down deep into the aspirations on using education to shift the West away from its historic focus on individuals and economic freedom to considering new, untried forms of organizing societies and economies, you quickly come upon the desire that “learning” NOT reenforce currently existing “systems.” The fact that what is being called systems are actually people, like me and you, who are supposed to have legally protected rights to autonomy and private decision-making gets conveniently left out. That the countries to be reorganized have a history of success in the unprecedented opportunities available to their people gets left out. That free markets where they exist have delivered unprecedented prosperity to even the poorest among us also gets left out as inconvenient facts. Systems. Just systems that can be rebuilt with enough Big Data and supercomputers into a smarter planet. No one stops to ask whose vision of “smart” is being imposed.

Our friend, psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner of Ecological Systems Theory and transforming the West as an experiment fame  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/imitating-the-ussr-in-striving-to-discover-how-the-child-can-become-what-he-not-yet-is/ understood well that the theories he and others were creating were not based on some type of hypothesis about factual reality. They were and are aspirational. If implemented, these psychological and political theories become a means to “transcend the contexts given to you to produce societal change and personal developmental change.” That would be personal change in Uncle Karl’s sense of the word.  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/who-knew-karl-marx-had-a-human-development-model-or-that-it-fit-our-facts-so-well/ . Or now hiding so well under the real definition of Student Growth. With lots of personal affective data being collected and shared to see how the developmental Learning is progressing.

We have a new global Change Agent to talk about. A professor who split his time between Finland and the University of California at San Diego, Yrjo Engestrom. His writing is important to our global story because of his Theory of Expansion and the influence of his book Learning by Expanding. Exciting for him and concerning to us, his Activity Theory is clearly the influence behind what are now being called euphemistically the Learning Sciences. As in the April 2012 Rand Corporation report for that Global Cities Education Network discussed here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/misportraying-the-conspiracy-covers-up-the-broader-plans-of-political-and-economic-transformation/ . The report is called Teaching and Learning 21st Century Skills: Lessons from the Learning Sciences and it again shows why making poorly understood and defined goals like 21st Century Skills the new purpose of education has so much potential for anyone with aspirations for stealth cultural transformation.

Hidden at least in the West except at conferences of the like-minded. We know Urie was downright confessional on his aspirations in print. So quite frankly is Engestrom in his books and articles if you take the time to read them. What a fun weekend I had! The train metaphor in our title comes from Engestrom but he is quoting a frustration that Urie had with education in the US and the West generally. That human development in the West “takes place like in a moving train. One can walk forward and backward through the cars, but what really matters is where the train is going.”

I personally am hoping if I am being likened to a train car that I get to be a sleek luxury bullet train car and not something Amtrak has operating. But I digress. Engestrom then went on to say that Urie’s train metaphor “exemplifies the central problem embedded in most of the available societally and ecologically oriented analysis of development” [those originally Marxian or Soviet theories get to hide now by just being referred to authoritatively as the Learning Sciences. See above].

Here is the money quote that could have come from a myriad of social and behavioral scientists and education professors. Think of Engestrom as their voice too.

“The environments or societal contexts are seen as historically changing, but not as being constructed and reconstructed by the people living in these contexts. Contexts are imposed upon, not produced by humans. Nobody seems to be driving the train.”

Luckily as my regular readers now know the videogaming vision attached to the actual Common Core implementation will give students plenty of practice in constructing and reconstructing worlds. Even embedding them in strategies of what to do after a Zombie Apocalypse. How exciting and engaging! Engestrom’s sentiments on wanting a driver of a collective train are not the least bit unusual for someone who grew up with Uncle Karl’s theories of historical progression. In fact author Arthur Koestler who was so disillusioned by the turn Stalinism took that he wrote one of the great novels of the 20th Century, Darkness at Noon, could never quite shake his dislike of spontaneous, undirected processes where ever they occur naturally. Like in biology or chemistry. He still wanted direction. Central direction.

The kind that comes from cultural evolution if you can make education about transforming personal and prevailing values, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. What became notorious as Outcomes Based Education but now hides quietly as unappreciated definitions of Student Growth and Learning. Still there but unlikely to be detected except maybe by hyperactive due diligence attorneys who read too much. Now Engestrom’s globally influential work made no attempt to hide just how much it was grounded in Soviet theories of dialectical materialism and how to try to push “a historically new form of activity into emergence.”

He certainly did not write in 1987 or again in 1999, when his book was translated into German and Japanese and he wrote a new Introduction, like someone who saw Uncle Karl’s or Soviet theories generally as assigned to the ash heap of history. For supposedly comatose or dead theories they appear in his pen to be full of vim and vigor and still existing hopes for transformation. I suppose it helps that our guard was down because “We won!”

In 1991 Engestrom wrote an article, published in Great Britain, that is clearly the blueprint for the reimagining of high school we are seeing globally and in the US as a component of Common Core. The article was called “Non Scolae Sed Vitae Discimus: Toward Overcoming the Encapsulation of School Learning.”  Now if that title was not pompous enough sounding, the actual article goes on to lay out “The Formation of Theoretical Concepts by Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete in Instruction.” Developed by V V Davydov based on Uncle Karl’s theory of finding defining relationships that can then filter everyone’s everyday analysis of reality, that theory was the subject of a great deal of research for decades in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. And it does not seem to have gone gently into that dark night either.

And neither ‘abstract’ or ‘concrete’ in Davydov’s theory have the meaning we commonly associate with them. ‘Concrete’ is NOT seen as “something sensually palpable.” Abstract does NOT mean “something conceptual or mentally constructed.” No, in this Davydov/Engestrom theory ‘concrete’ means the “holistic quality of systemic interconnectedness.” Which means that all of our encounters with Systems Thinking and Peter Senge and Appreciative Inquiry that push to teach students to see the world as interconnected and interdependent and full of relationships are back to Davydov’s theories.

Which in turn are explicitly supposed to be an updated, supercharged version of Dialectics. That’s not me alleging that. It’s me quoting those statements and then recognizing where else they are now being used. It also means that dialectical view of ‘concrete’ absolutely saturates that C3 CCSSO Social Studies framework I wrote alarmingly about here. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/tearing-up-the-fabric-of-a-free-society-the-new-college-career-and-civic-life-c3-framework/

It is behind the 21st Century definition of ‘transferable learning’ in that Rand Global Cities Education Network report mentioned above. It is why we should be alarmed by that report asking “students to make analogies between a topic and something different, such as between ecosystems and financial markets.” Which are actually not analogous but neither the teacher nor the students are likely to recognize that. And if they all believe there is a connection and they act on those beliefs, we are back to our consequential false beliefs problem. Donald Schon’s Generative Metaphor who is absolutely cited by Engestrom by name.

The same guiding but false belief problem comes in when that Rand report “asks students to generalize broad principles from a specific piece of information.” Oh yes, that’s a good thing to practice. Practice creating and relying on dogma without anyone pointing out that is what is being practiced. No wonder students are being asked to computer model the discredited Limits to Growth scenarios from the 70s as part of Common Core science. It may not be factually true but it can now still be influential on future behavior. Plus bolstering that perceived need for transformation.

Some of you may have noticed that Common Core makes lots of references to student conceptual understanding for an approach that is so hostile to factual information. That is entirely possible if we are back to dialectical view of what concrete means as the real operating definition of conceptual understanding. Davydov’s ‘kernel’ becomes Common Core’s ‘lens’.

Which means that all of Davydov’s or Engestom’s or Uncle Karl’s aspirations for these theories come in too. Unannounced and so unopposed. No wonder the Chinese government thinks the Learning Sciences views in that Rand report are suitable in Shanghai and Hong Kong as well as the West.

They were subjugation theories against individuals and economies when they were written and they remain so now. Even if only a few of us appreciate those facts now.

Or should I say yet? And be more optimistic?

Placing a Global Bet that Psychology Infused Via Education Can Change Human Beings and their Institutions

Supposedly for the better which is why the initiative is called Positive Psychology to sound inspirational. But citing back to Abraham Maslow and Carl Rodgers’ work as foundational makes this push about more than instilling good work habits and hope. This Organizational Development (OD) push, that Appreciative Inquiry from the last post and systems thinking a la the higher profile Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer are an intrinsic part of, plans to act on the theory that human beings can be changed for the better. Globally but especially the US.

And it fully intends to try using the Global Quest for Educational Excellence and all those poorly understood international tests like PISA and TIMSS as the drivers of change. While you are thinking it’s about finally getting more knowledgeable students who are better at reading or math, these taxpayer funded visionaries have figured out how to also use Positive Behavior Interventions and Positive School Climate Executive Orders and data collection around Student Growth to drive continuous improvement toward “inspiring and shared moral purposes.” How very communitarian.

Apparently all the hyping about closing the Achievement Gap is just a ruse. Instead, the US CCSSI is part of a global attempt at “establishing the new and eclipsing the old in human systems.” So exciting that it really was italicized just like that in the 2010 Framework document I am describing today.  Coupled to a 2012 book by two Boston College professors called The Global Fourth Way laying out what really makes for a high performing school system. Hint: it’s not what you know but what you feel and are willing to do about it. Supposedly equitable outcomes for ALL students and Deweyan Quality Learning that changes the Whole Personality are just the thing that will “produce the economic and social outcomes that are essential for economic dynamism, social cohesion, and democratic ways of life.”

And before you get excited about the economic dynamism aspect during this Great Recession you should know it is premised on the idea that “going green might well become the biggest business opportunity of the twenty-first century.” Or not as all those bankruptcies from ventures like Fisker and Solyndra that got tax dollars in the 2009 Stimulus Act should show.

So once again the education component that is the real Common Core implementation is tied into a political and social upheaval that is not being advertised and an economic vision that shows no likelihood of working. No matter how many AI Summits like “Green City on a Blue Lake” cities like Cleveland hold envisioning a new green future and an extension of relatedness that will somehow save the Inner Cities and economic blight. The vision, that has Positive Psychology architect, Marty Seligman of UPenn (save Philly somehow please!) and David Cooperrider (a Taos Institute founder and Case Western, in Cleveland, prof), reportedly giving speeches to lots of famous companies, the US Army and Navy and the US Environmental Agency (no wonder it now plans with systems thinking), and the UN Global Compact among others around 2010, is called Innovation-inspired Positive Organization Development. Or IPOD as they call it to create an “economy and ecology of strengths.”

I wonder if they put their IPOD speeches on an IPad? Sorry. That IPOD Framework even mentioned that there was a “recent business leaders meeting at the UN to collaboratively design the future.” I guess it’s not collusion when it is for a good cause like Sustainability and preserving current markets. Which we should all keep in mind every time you hear “Business needs the Common Core or 21st Century Skills or Career Pathways.” This is SO not about what is best for our individual futures. In fact that’s why you keep hearing all these references to organizations. According to IPOD’s vision, organizations like schools and businesses are to become:

“institutions that serve to bring our highest human strengths into the world in a magnified way…They exist to serve a life-enriching purpose, and accomplish things no individual set of strengths can accomplish alone.”

Oh, I don’t know about that. An individual mind can be quite intrepid which is truthfully the whole problem with the old transmission of knowledge curriculum. It’s the real reason it must be jettisoned in the 21st century. None of these people want herd-defying individuals figuring things out without authorization or creating world-altering technology breakthroughs without permission. So they take Uncle Karl’s human development theory and give it a new disguise that sounds inspiring. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/who-knew-karl-marx-had-a-human-development-model-or-that-it-fit-our-facts-so-well/ .

The IPOD approach to change then is to be “collaborative [like group projects and Communities of Learners], educational based on experiential learning [hands on projects! service learning for credit!], dialogical [Courtney Cazden’s discourse classroom community], and contextually conditioned upon inquiry [just like a good IB Learner!] into the relevant content and process of a human system.”

No wonder we keep hearing a requirement for relevance and a link to real world problems. You get the IPOD, Fourth Way, vision implemented without having to mention it or get approval. Thus the IPOD framework says the “DNA pulsating through” it can be described by three essential features:

1. That special spirit of inquiry [they do love italics for emphasis] that seeks “to learn, experiment, seek feedback and build shared understanding through dialogue and open exploration of things that may never have been collectively explored.” How expensive and unproductive if simply based on the feelings of deliberately created Know-Nothings. Next.

2. The collaborative design of the future. Now this impossibility is based on the very accurate observation that “people build their commitment to change in direct proportion to the degree that they are actively engaged in designing the change.” Which is why you are unlikely to get the PTA President or members of your local School Council to listen to you when you point out, for example, that Spence Rogers’ own books cite Mao as a good example of leadership and that makes him a poor choice for teacher professional development.

The collaboration also primes all participants for the “assumed centrality of interdependence in organizational life” to force recognition that it is “the quality of the relationships, the processes–how the relationships give or deplete life” that make a human system work. No wonder relationships are one of the new 3 R’s along with Relevance and the imaginative Rigor [think of that Spirit of Inquiry above as what Rigor is really about].

3. A positive view of the human being. Now this is the age old question that has kept philosophers speculating for centuries. You will be glad to know that IPOD comes down on the side not supported by history. IPOD has not only “proclaimed a belief in people” from its “infancy.” It goes on to [this is a little long but it is a vision worth quoting in full. Maslow to Marx with the behavioral sciences thrown in to boot]

“Insofar as we might discover the conditions that help bring out the best in life–for example, Abraham Maslow’s studies into peak experiences–then we might well be able to apply this knowledge in our institutions. Drawing from the entire mosaic of the social sciences–from anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, and biology and more–OD would be unique in not only propagating a collaborative, inquiry-driven approach to change but would be centered on advancing the developmental potentials of the human being. [And you thought I was being sarcastic about Uncle Karl or his 20th century leading advocate Erik Erikson and why they matter to CCSSI] Instead of being woven at random, like an afterthought design into our economic and organizational fabric, human development would be at the center. Lines would radiate out from the human dimension to all the others–the economic, technological, strategic, structural, political, etc.”

That would be truly all-encompassing and people focusing on who owns the means of production are not keying in on what parts of Marx’s vision are back for a 21st Century run.  The framework also mentions the good prof Csik as a key component of this positive psychology vision http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/excellence-means-education-putting-what-we-feel-wish-for-and-think-in-harmony/ . Why look, excellence just like the Fourth Way. What a coincidence. Not.  But it also notes that for a new OD as described here to “truly emerge, it would need a new human science knowledge base.”

Well, guess what? All that data being thrown off –measuring Student Growth or soft skills or attitudes, values, and beliefs and continuous improvement in PBIS or PATHS and other “mental health first aid” or social and emotional learning curricula as we see from CASEL– is just what OD needs to be its “human science knowledge base.” No wonder ICT vendors are so excited. No wonder the accreditors now require its collection. And the US federal government by requiring teacher evals based on “multiple measures of Student Growth.”

Should it trouble us that the World Economic Forum just put out a report on creating the 21st century economy around ICT and Big Data? Coincidences surely abound these days.

Dispensing with the Presumption that Education is About Improving Individual Minds

Say what? Did that title make you want to clean your glasses or bop yourself gently to make sure you are reading correctly? Yup, welcome to the world of communications among powerful decision makers that you don’t see but that are designed to both affect  what is coming to classrooms. And to redesign the future. All of ours. Without consent. All based on the disputable idea that is not being shared with you–the idea that “human beings and their institutions could be changed for the better.” Can they?

History tells us that a wholesale restructuring of a social system that evolved over time is a terrible idea and that incremental change is the way to go because effects of changes can then be seen and evaluated. But then those systems never had the opportunity to hire as a consultant someone who is a thought leader in Appreciative Inquiry or a research associate for the Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. Much less the Co-chair of the 2009 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference held in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Did they do any climbing do you think or just embrace the joys of human potential while traveling at someone else’s expense? Do Not Know but I pulled that description off a presentation the Taos Institute did for the Houston Schools in 2009 called “Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools: Leveraging the Power of Our Community.” It was to be a national model and brought together a broad range of city stakeholders to chart a new course. I am thinking this AI Whole System approach that puts “future scenarios” into HISTORICAL and GLOBAL perspective (their bolding and caps) so students and adults have “shared understanding and great commitment to act” is going to come in so handy with the Green Urban Economy and Regionalism commitment of a redesigned future from our last two posts.

So good to know GCI will be coming to Houston in May where leaders, employees, and students have had AI training to engage in a “collaborative search to identify and understand the organization’s strengths, the greatest opportunities, and people’s aspirations and hopes for the future.” All reimagining paid for with contributions and Stimulus dollars and lots of public debt and now new visions for federal revenue sharing. Free to use the AI 4D Model of Dream, Design, Deployment, and Discover which is not a model anyone would use on their own dime or intentionally with their own kids.

As I have said before, with 40% of all federal spending currently being borrowed, what happens to all these Pie in the Sky Schemes to reimagine a Future by targeting kids consciousness when they become adults who firmly believe just as cultivated and monitored? But no one actually knows much or can do much but collaborate and want someone to provide for them what they have been led to expect is their due?

Can you really Create “Promising Futures through Social Construction” as associates of the Taos Institute are leading educators (and UN officials apparently) to believe? Let’s back up to how I got here because I do not go perusing school districts’ websites unless I have a reason. No, in yet another one of those troubling reports produced recently by the influential Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in American Education called “Social Epistemology and the Pragmatics of Assessment” I read many things I knew were factually untrue.

Note to future schemers: Using Legal Theory to Create a Barrier to Criticism just comes across to me as proof of playing games. I also have a real problem with the idea that a professor whose psychological views of knowledge and social constructivist perspectives might be over the heads of those bright Swarthmore students (according to a debate in a newsletter online from about 10 years ago) are now being taught as fact to K-12 teachers for implementation on students as part of the Common Core reforms.

As Kenneth Gergen said himself in his 2009 book Relational Being: Beyond Self and Community (that the title of this post came from), his views come from “an enormously important line of scholarship stemming from sociological and political theory” and that it is “especially important in its critique of liberal individualism.” Now elsewhere in his book Gergen mentioned advancing Marxian thought and the Frankfurt School (by name. Look up Lukacs, Adorno, Herbert Marcuse if you are not familiar. Need to move on). Which again raises the question. Why on earth would any free society with any aspirations for remaining free in the future be grounding their future educational practices and philosophies in what I would honestly describe as Individual Subjugation Theories?

Gergen wrote that communitarian works like Habits of the Heart that we have already discussed reveal “in touching detail the insidious implications of individualist ideology for human relationships.” A viewpoint that is his privilege to hold. But if it guides his pedagogy and that pedagogy is coming to a classroom or assessment near you under the Common Core mandate, then it has ceased to be JUST his personal viewpoint. He was on the Gordon Commission for a reason. And it seems to be these views and his desire, citing James Paul Gee from the last post, of making:

“Learning and knowledge not so much understood as inside the head of the learner as embodied in the relational actions and practices taking place in the learning environment.. . [These alternative ways of thinking and practicing evaluation then] create pushes for “more egualitarian (new word I suppose), reflective, dialogic, collaborative, and context sensitive practices of enhancing human performance.”

Again those views are his and Professor Ezekial J Dixon-Roman’s right to hold. But we get to understand those practices and beliefs for what they are. Designed to gain political, social, and economic transformation through the classroom by changing what students believe, value, and feel and drastically restricting what they actually know. Without our permission as a country or community or as parents. Without a vote. Under an invisibility cloak as I have called it.

In his book Gergen said these educational practices that his Taos Institute calls Appreciative Inquiry are to “reflect, sustain, and advance productive forms of relational being.” We have talked about how the actual Common Core implementation teaching standards require a “student-centered classroom.” That shift from a “curriculum-centered education (drawing from the teacher’s knowledge base)” is necessary for a relational classroom. Where the focus is to be on “student capabilities,” not the transmission of knowledge to an individual.

What Gergen described as the relational classroom is precisely what we are seeing as required by standards for “teaching and learning” or “relevance” or “engagement”.  The “focus” is “directed to relations between teachers and students, and among students.” Then:

“Relations between the classroom and its environment should also be extended from the local to the global context. The classroom would ideally be a meeting ground for the concerns of the world. [making good use of the AI 4D Cycle I am sure to pretend all problems can be solved with good faith and collective will. Tell that to North Korea] And finally, there are the relationships of the future. With what skills are students prepared to enter the relationships on which global life will depend?”

And who decides what the future will be like? We have already encountered another systems thinker and Organizational Learning specialist, Peter Senge, lay out his Regenerative Society and the related Capitalism 3.0. Professor Shoshana Zuboff has laid out her Distributed Capitalism within a Support Economy. We have profiled Harry Boyte’s vision of the cooperative commonwealth in a different post.

All of these visions seem to fit with Professor Gergen’s views and preferences for our collective social future. But no one is asking us. They simply want us to provide our tax money and our children. Those without children will be getting employees in the future who expect the workplace to be reformed to fit their interests and capabilities. They have been told they will be consulted and collaboration is the key. At a living wage too.

What if all this is  wrong? Where will we be then with the expectations being baked in (or embedded as the ed profs love to say knowing it will be hard to detect what is going on) to education reform? To business school degrees? To public policy and urban study and psychology degrees? Under the new Lumina Diploma Qualifications Profile to all college degrees?

I may not be able to stop the journey at this point. But I will describe the pathway and the real destinations. Since thankfully I somehow have managed to get my hands on the maps and blueprints while we have just begun.

 

Misportraying the Conspiracy Covers Up the Broader Plans of Political and Economic Transformation

Most of the reporting I saw of last summer’s celebration of 20 years of Sustainability and Agenda 21 (so not an urban legend) at Rio de Janeiro  viewed it as a failure because “no definitive agreement was reached.” Well while the world paying attention was breathing a sigh of relief at another bullet dodged, the ICLEI component of this UN-led Reorganize the World program at your expense launched a new initiative to clarify what Sustainable Development would mean in the future–the Green Urban Economy. Generally in Initial Caps just like that for emphasis.

Now this is not the story I planned on doing today. That can stay in the holding pen until the weekend. This story was prompted by the very strange reaction locally to the criminal indictment using RICO of former Atlanta School Super, Beverly Hall. Something along the lines of “she’s not a mobster. It can’t merit RICO.” When lots of non-Mafia types have been pulled in through RICO over the years. http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2013/04/02/criminal-indictment-of-beverly-hall-is-it-illegal-to-be-a-demanding-leader/ is an example of the kind of nonsense being peddled that it can’t be a RICO conspiracy. Now the idea that what Bev was up to was about being a demanding leader or having too high an expectation for minority students given the educational and psychological policies and practices APS was piloting for national (and international as you are about to see) implementation is preposterous.

My experience is that that kind of preemptive “I am a lawyer and I read the indictment and this was no conspiracy meriting RICO” treatment gets pulled in when big bucks are at stake. And Atlanta’s business image. The good news Atlanta movers and shakers is I am about to make what is going on an Urban juggernaut and boondoggle connected to that reimagining of federal revenue sharing we talked about in the last post. Because while I was still fuming over that exculpatory blog post, I learned that the week before the indictment Bruce, the last post’s Race to the Shop, Katz had been back in Atlanta. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/protected-producers-vs-paying-consumerstaxpayerswho-will-prevail-on-education-and-the-economy/ is the post explaining the Low Carbon and punt consumer choice regional vision from last fall’s visit.

Except this time he brought former Chicago mayor Richard Daley to pitch the Global Cities Initiative. A Joint Project of Brookings and JP Morgan Chase. Chase said its role was about its “longstanding commitment to investing in cities.” As a former corporate securities lawyer who has written her share of bond prospectuses, I am sure the prospect of underwriting fees from municipal bonds to finance infrastructure expansions plays no role. Purely altruistic. Which is why GCI began in 2012 with events in San Diego, Columbus, Tampa Bay, and Los Angeles. If you are in Texas, maybe you can make it to the GCI forum on May 15. Other 2013 opportunities are in Dallas, Denver, and Mexico City.

Something else began in May 2012 that does seem related to this rebuild urban areas and insist everyone globally push the sociocultural model  just like the urban schools. It’s called the Global Cities Education Network and its participating cities are Chicago, Denver, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Seattle, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Toronto. None of which are cities with any interest in an export economy of the type GCI is hyping. Seriously, the JP Morgan, Gates, Hewlett and Pearson Foundations are among the sponsors. So the profit parts bring in revenue from underwriting or selling technology and digital literacy or writing and grading those all important assessments and remaking urban America to be Green. While the “charitable” arms push the policies that control the next generation’s values and belief systems and their ability to think at all.

So I am not trying to rain on revenue dreams from a Corporatist redesigned 21st century economy so much as trying to prevent the kind of insider boondoggle and user and taxpayer expensive nightmare now being used to describe the Chicago Parking Meter Lease Deal (look it up. I need to move on).  You see, I don’t know just a sliver of this story. And one of the things I understand is precisely how these urban school systems have been operating and why and how it has related for years to the hoped for political, economic, and social transformation. I literally have the blueprints as I was reminded again yesterday as I read this driving assumption. It is why outcomes based education always comes back. In function if not name and why the economic vision must have the schools:

“Without appropriate beliefs, many elementary acts of internal forethought, external colloquy [apparently discussion was not a sufficient term] and operational realignment would be unlikely. In so far as these acts depend on conscience, the beliefs of those involved is crucial.”

That was from 1990 and the UK but it actually laid out the global blueprint that mirrors what we are seeing now. Behind on its 21st century implementation schedule but definitely shifting into 3rd gear while we pay and pay and pay. That’s why all Transformation plans in any area rely on using education to alter the prevailing values, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings through education. It’s why the herd-defying, propaganda busting, abstract mind must not be nurtured anymore. So making equity in education and closing the achievement gap for urban youth the global focus prevents an academic/transmission of knowledge focus. That is inherently unequal so emotions and physical activity become the default classroom focus. Which is really convenient since that is the area of research from all those Soviet psychologists as we have talked about. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/imitating-the-ussr-in-striving-to-discover-how-the-child-can-become-what-he-not-yet-is/

And to invoke all this as being a matter of fairness to all and needed in light of the 50th anniversary of the Brown US Supreme Court decision on school desegregation (it is aboriginal rights being pushed in Oz by the way. Whatever pitch is needed) you get law review articles like “Toward Everyday Justice: On Demanding Equal Educational Opportunity in the New Civil Rights Era” by Mica Pollock. Now Mica is now an ed prof at UC San Diego and Harvard but she wrote that Ohio State Law Journal article that is ready to be cited in support of many a legally dubious practice to get it into place. Get it embedded into daily practice is how she describes it while our civil rights laws remain too focused on intent to discriminate. Instead of focusing on ANY harmful effects to a particular racial or ethnic group.

Mica is an anthropologist, not a lawyer, by training with a PhD from Stanford. She is thus in a position to credential away future professors, teachers, and District School Supers and administrators committed to her vision of using schools to “transcend current legal tools” and really get to wholesale structural transformation. You just focus on changing the aggregate of ordinary daily practices and policies that might give some children benefits not available to others.

All out of sight. All admittedly in violation of the actual statutory or case law. It’s not like anyone will ever know or those District Supers really have to answer to anyone in what they choose to push. And that’s how Equity and Equal Opportunity are bringing in sociocultural practices for all schools that the creators admit they based on USSR research. I don’t think it is coincidental Mica is now where Michael Cole and his Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) set up shop after the Rockefeller Foundation stopped funding that type of psychological research.

The Spencer Foundation has also been funding research designed to equalize opportunity to learn. They italicized it just like that. And equalizing OTL requires, they say, using those sociocultural practices like CHAT and alternative assessments like what the Gordon Commission is pushing. That would again be the influential commission led by Edmund Gordon with his life long interest in urban youth and equal justice for minorities. One of the Commission members, our friend James Paul Gee , explained OTL in his work for Spencer:

“New Knowledge that cannot be tied to any prior knowledge is not learned well or at all.” That means that what we would call book knowledge is off limits with an OTL focus because people have varying degrees of ability to take it in based on their prior life experiences. a/k/a homelife and parental education and financial resources.

Gee then goes on to say:

“For true and equal OTL, learners must all have the capacity to form the required representations [concepts, mental models] at the required degree of ‘power.'” Now since people differ in their ability to think abstractly, genuine abstractions like real Algebra or geometric proofs or even grammatical logic are all now off limits as a violation of OTL. If concepts or mental representations are needed, the kindly proprietors of an equity focus will supply them. Helps create consistency in beliefs too. No need to be skeptical and think there might be a political agenda that would make influential false beliefs or metaphors a temptation. Oh wait. We already did that post on Professor Donald Schon.

In the end our urban focus and OTL equity priority leaves classrooms largely devoted to “people’s participation in shared talk and social practice.”

A perfect opportunity to both level and change those beliefs that form the conscience that drives action. That can create a broader fundamental Transformation. Of everything.

 

Well No Wonder No One Listens to Common Core Complaints if It is Tied to Federal Revenue Sharing

A New Vision for Federal Revenue Sharing with state and local governments to drive future economic and workforce development being cleverly marketed as “Race to the Shop.” That’s a play on the accompanying education vision that bribed or threatened the states to adopt the Common Core in the first place under the education Race to the Top set up in the 2009  Stimulus Act. Turns out that’s not all it set up, apparently it also set up a new Regional Race to the Top for all America’s regions (bold and Italics in original to show the excitement for this vision of shared prosperity based on a clean energy economy). In fact it’s to “be a truly ‘New’ New Deal, [but] government cannot go it alone, it can only serve as a key partner and catalyst.” With your redistributed tax dollars or public debt I would add.

Now before I get further into this political and cronyism dream at all levels of American government that is explicitly tied into the 21st Century Skills agenda (it’s actually on the cover of the September 2010 working paper from the Tides Foundation project–the New Policy Institute), I want to quote a particularly juicy passage that highlights how these initiatives stifle complaints and encourage cooperation about any related aspect like the Common Core:

“Deeply engage the private sector as a critical solutions partner in addressing these systemic changes, or risk a continuing and negative narrative that these efforts are simply wasteful public sector programs.”

That’s your money going to make sure no one aware of these tie-ins has any incentive to complain. Because this Acceleration Agenda “does not simply call for more federal revenue-sharing with the states. The changes we need to accelerate private-led innovation in regions and communities do not begin, or end, there.”

Truer words were never spoken as the Acceleration Agenda lays out Multi-State regions (10 in all), Clean Economic Development Visions, and Economic Acceleration Zones. Like High Speed Rail and making the SW the Saudi Arabia of Solar. What a boondoggle. Those of you with a background in economics may recognize all this for what it is–the explicit adoption of an Industrial Policy vision by the US with its known Cronyism and benefits to political favorites or necessary adversaries. And the report acknowledges just that with the following chilling quote:

“So is the Acceleration Agenda a new “industrial policy”? Do such labels really matter? We hope not–there is too much on the line for our economy to be bogged down in over-simplified debates from the past.”

Now the historian in me would point out that’s not the subject of debates so much as lessons from the past about the sheer waste of public money that comes with an Industrial Policy. But I actually correctly pegged the education vision last May as related to Industrial Policy and a Dirigiste vision for the economy. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/didnt-adam-smith-write-a-book-explaining-why-this-is-a-bad-idea-back-in-1776/ and http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/why-the-world-makes-far-more-sense-if-you-add-dirigisiste-to-the-things-you-understand/ . What I never in a million years suspected was that I would come across a report openly declaring it while stating “Obamism at its core is largely about bottom-up change rather than top-down change.” Wow, Harry Boyte must be pleased.

Now I know this vision has been around since the 60s. It’s not an invention of this Administration but wanting to name it after the President tells us just how much potential for successful political coalitions using your money is seen here. In fact, looking at the full vision and the Go-Fast Model, it’s hard not to remember the high urban turnout in the last Presidential election. No wonder. A vision of federal money, private sector, and community foundations together using, and again I quote, the “transformational, low carbon project…serves a key project screen.”

Doesn’t that word “screen” sound like “excuse?” The reason for remaking the nature of the American economy and political structure all while engaging in Mind Arson in preschool, K-12, and higher ed? Whatever is necessary to make sure the designated providers in this 21st Century system get the workers they want while never again having to worry about a better product or invention upsetting their revenue dreams?

You know how for sports contests we see the label “Designated Provider of X. Event? You know what I mean. This utterly reeks of being the designated cellphone provider or operating system provider or Smart Grid provider. Protecting and preserving current business. But it actually gets worse believe it or not because all of this is also tied to the renewal of our urban areas as part of creating start-ups to be the component “middleware” to “connect government and business in the 21st Century economy.” Which brings me to what pulled up this Revenue Sharing 2.0 to get to the Next Economy vision. It is called “Inclusive Competitiveness” and it was announced a few weeks ago at the SXSWedu Summit in Austin.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-green/sxswedu-launches-next-big_b_2765038.html?view=print&comm_ref=false is the story laying out the vision of how all this will Save America’s Black Boys, be part of a permanent “Black Innovation Group,” and create a Pipeline2Productivity and Urban Innovation.”

And I genuinely wish urban areas and America’s Black Boys the best possible future they can have but tying it to economic redistribution while simultaneously trying to spread the bad education policies and practices that have destroyed urban systems to the suburbs just means OPM, Other Peoples Money, will run out sooner than this plan accounts for. It would be so much better to teach those Black Boys and everyone else’s children how to read properly and provide a solid curriculum like the Core Knowledge. You just cannot get me excited about what this Project 21 vision is going to do for Cleveland which is where the affiliated Nortech is based when I know the Cleveland Schools are pushing social and emotional learning in their classrooms as the vision of how all children can learn. You cannot push PATHS–Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies–for all kids in all classrooms and then pretend that these urban kids are being left behind despite an academic focus.

But that’s the poignant cry for what is wrong with our urban areas. And Project 21, which used to be known as the Black Innovation and Competitiveness Initiative, is the supposed answer to linking Urban America to the 21st Century Economy. Does this look like reparations to anyone else? Using the “low carbon project as the screen” as the Acceleration Agenda report put it. Whatever the rationale this gushing of federal dollars to launch public-private partnerships resulted in “Five Private-Sector Initiatives Launched at First White House Tech Inclusion Summit” held on January 31, 2013.  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/02/04/five-private-sector-initiatives-launched-first-white-house-tech-inclusion-summit .

One of those, the Activate Local Communities Across America Initiative, picked Portland, Oregon to be its pilot city. That would be the same Portland that has been committed to cutting edge education pushes for decades. Discussed here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/now-more-than-five-years-into-an-attempt-to-help-organize-a-near-total-revision-of-human-behavior/ But Portland is also considered to be the shining star of the Urban Planning, Agenda 21, Regional Equity, and what is now called Metropolitanism movements. All based on a Low-Carbon Economy of the Future centered on Producers, not Consumers, the Brookings Institute’s Bruce Katz said at a breakfast I attended and also wrote about. Curiously Katz is also the coiner of that catchy expression Race to the Shop above to fit the manufacturing and workforce development component of all this planning and redistributing.

Now ALC is also known as Accelerate Local Communities ( I guess it depends on how stagnant a region is right now as this is all ramping up). ALC is also listed as being a collaboration with Microsoft. Which is concerning since they are among the primary partners in the students only need generic 21st Century Skills like Collaboration and Creativity international movement (ATC21S). And that Tech Inclusion Summit is being sold in the inner cities as bringing STEM jobs to urban communities. http://atlantadailyworld.com/201302083703/Business/white-house-tech-inclusion-summit-unveils-private-sector-initiatives-to-bridge-gap-in-stem

Now I did not write this story because I wanted to rain on the race to the Green Gold Rush as a report called it. Although that does seem like a worthy venture. But this vision of new revenue sharing and dictates of where jobs must be, and everyone assuming that with credentials jobs will come, are all simultaneously destroying the actual knowledge and skills and freedoms and certainties that ignite real widespread prosperity. Given the percentage of the federal budget that represents borrowing, this redistributed money to build and pay off political coalitions does not really exist except as an obligation for future taxpayers. But in the meantime it really is going in someone’s pocket. Many of them campaign contributors at every level of government. Just like Solyndra.

The money WILL run out and sooner than expected. And then where will we be? After all, mind arson is not just a provocative expression I came up with to stir up antipathy for the Common Core. It really does describe what has been deliberately going on in urban schools for decades. But with the actual Common Core I keep describing, and those new, poorly understood, assessments (also financed by that 2009 Stimulus Act), mind arson is coming to the suburbs to take down every school where minds are still being nourished regularly with solid content.

Then where will we be? I keep mentioning consuming seed corn for a reason. What happens to a country when the cultivated famine is mental and widespread? Especially when the most able students were the particular targets for levelling.

We appear to be about to find out.