Last week EdX announced that 15 more colleges and universities had joined its vision to offer online degrees. What caught my eye about the announcement was that one of the colleges, Davidson, a perennial Top Ten US News institution, had announced last fall that the Duke Endowment was paying it $45 million to “boldly” remake the nature of liberal arts education. So when Davidson’s part of the EdX announcement focused on the “transdisciplinary” nature of its new focus I decided I was looking at what we lawyers call a “defined term that is dangerously missing its actual definition.”
What I found is relevant to everybody everywhere. Whatever your interests. Because the search for that Transdisciplinary definition led me to the manifesto for implementing Agenda 21 and economic, political, and social visions first laid out at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. In 1994 the first world congress on transdisciplinarity was held in Portugal. Its purpose was to lay out how to get the desired mentalities to evolve via education. This is all part of what UNESCO calls its Culture of Peace Project.
In 1996 UNESCO issued its vision for elementary and secondary education globally–the DeLors Report “The Treasure Within.” It laid out the four pillars of a new kind of education: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be. It is based on UNESCO’s idea that education in the future should rely on what it viewed as in “the case of human beings, the decisive ‘ingredient’ is their mental and personal disposition to trust, share, negotiate and collaborate.” And that education in the future should cultivate that quality to “produce unified outlooks.”
Yes that is the origination of all that Group Project push but K-12 is not today’s focus. Remember I am using international documents that were created before the K-12 implementation in the US stalled and became partial in light of the outcry over outcomes based education and School to Work and nonacademic standards from the various disciplines like history and English and math. So we have the DeLors vision that I believe moved into the IB curriculum when those rocky shoals developed and Al Gore lost the election in 2000. The K-12 Transdisciplinary vision hid there waiting for another US President to come along and reignite what was called radical education reform in the 90s when all these documents were created. But the DeLors vision of K-12 rolled forward in other parts of the world.
But UNESCO in the 90s did not have a crystal ball and it knew what kind of complete cultural shift it sought. Basically the same one the World Orders Model Project also sought starting in the early 70s that I explained here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/reorienting-world-order-values-via-the-intervention-of-activist-education-and-progressive-politics/ . I am not throwing out the term Marxist Humanism to be provocative and I have made the case in every post between that one and this one. Other entities have pushed and are pushing similar visions.
But the history of the latter part of the 20th century and education especially only makes sense when you realize that the bounteous wealth created by prosperity in the West was and is coveted for redistribution. ICT-Internet Communications Technology–has been assumed by plenty of MH theorists all over the world to be the long sought technology that could make widespread leisure a possibility if only people could be made to share. And the best way to force people to share is to use education to create new values and mindsets and beliefs. A widespread belief in an impending crisis would also help.
So in 1997 there was a conference in what must have been, as usual, a lovely setting, in Lucarno, Switzerland on the next step after the DeLors Report. The Transdisciplinary Evolution of the University was the topic. But the report issued was far more encompassing than just the higher ed component. It’s basically the blueprint for all the UN pushes that have become so controversial in so many areas. It is THE manifesto for what has come and is coming through related (if you track from the UN backward) initiatives like the US Common Core or Living Cities or Green Growth or the Regional Equity Movement. You name it and it is probably there. As usual I am giving the precise name to allow for searching but not a link since that would take it down before many of you can read this post. At the moment it is on multiple servers in multiple languages.
Called “Educating for a Sustainable Future: A Transdisciplinary Vision for Concerted Action,” it was created as part of UNESCO’s call to action from the Rio Summit to implement Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 to gain the desired global social, economic, and political changes in structures and institutions and especially people’s mindsets, personalities, and values. As usual it was a call to action for the levers of the sought revolution and biosocial evolution–“the multiple partners and broad community of stakeholders in the educational enterprise.” No, they apparently don’t mean parents or taxpayers.
The really nice thing is the report tells us the truth about Sustainability and acknowledges that “sustainable development is an amorphous concept, intended to be:
“an emerging vision…In truth, it is as much an ethical precept as a scientific concept, as concerned with notions of equity as with theories of global warming. Sustainable development is widely understood to involve the natural sciences and economics, but it is even more fundamentally concerned with culture: with the values people hold and how they perceive their relations with others. It responds to an imperative need to imagine a new basis for relationships among peoples and with the habitat that sustains human life.”
And education, K-12 and higher ed, is how you get those new values. Especially holistic education that targets the Whole Child, emotions as well as knowledge. Particularly if you get to make education about real world problems to be engaging and relevant. And you get to supply the Big Ideas and Conceptual Lenses that students will then use to guide their daily perceptions. It’s an essential part of How to Change and Guide Beliefs 101. And grounded in feelings instead of much actual facts makes those beliefs integrated. Hard to change later. Whatever the reality.
So not only is education globally the recognized vehicle for social and economic change, the idea expressed is that “not only can it inform people, it can change them.” Yes, that does make all that behavioral data being scooped up via computers in the Digital and Blended Learning K-12 emphasis all the more important. That is part of what EdX and the MOOCs are also doing in higher ed as we will discuss in the next post.
In the mean time all these visions are attached to a recognition that education is essential to “a vision of society organized in a new way.” Which all my recent posts have laid out in detail as the vision attached to education reform. UNESCO and politicians globally know that “societies need to be convinced of the need for sustainable development, in order to show their capacity to devise solutions to the problems confronting them.” A recognition that of course always comes down to a belief that direction from governments at the federal, state, and local levels and international agencies are an essential component of every future economy. Despite the reality that government-centric economies in the past have gutted mass prosperity. Cronyism inevitably abounds. See IRS Scandal.
So here is education’s UNESCO-assigned mission in the 21st century globally:
–“bring about the changes in values, behavior and lifestyle that are needed to achieve sustainable development, and ultimately democracy, human security and peace;
–disseminate knowledge, know-how and skills that are needed to bring about sustainable production and consumption patterns and to improve the management of natural resources, agriculture, energy and industrial production;
–ensure an informed populace that is prepared to support changes toward sustainability emerging from other sectors.”
That would translate roughly into students who no longer have Axemaker Minds or unapproved knowledge. Who have what UNESCO calls a Common Ethic or a “new global ethic that transcends all other systems of allegiance and belief, which is rooted in a consciousness of the interrelatedness and sanctity of life.”
It is also the cultivation of attitudes of servitude and what I would call sheepdom. Willing to move with the herd and not stand apart.
I find this to be an appalling vision for the future. Especially one being delivered largely out of sight by college professors and administrators in higher ed and education professors and School District administrators and Principals in K-12.
With an attitude of “there are promotions and lucrative contracts and grants available if you push this.”
The Education for a Sustainable Future vision actually seems civilization crashing to me. Which UNESCO turns out to agree with. They believe the next resulting civilization will be the peaceable one.
If they are tragically wrong, who will give the tuition or tax refund?