Years ago the Frankfurt School researchers stumbled upon a useful fact. Once people have heard the same pitch or story from someone they view as authoritative about five times or so, most people simply come to accept the pitch as true whether it is or not. Now as you can imagine, given the stated Frankfurter aim of altering the nature of Western culture towards a more collectivist orientation, this key point (from the Radio Project work if you want to look it up) became a Masterful Manipulation 101 strategy to be used for transformative political and social change. I think whoever was creating the broad outline of points to be pushed at last week’s (co)lab in Atlanta knew all about the Radio Project research.
As Harvard’s new Innovation Fellow Tony Wagner put it, perhaps not realizing someone was taking notes so determinedly, “we need to prime the adults for the change needed” and we need to “create the consensus necessary to preserve this change once it is introduced.” So what was the vision being pushed at (co)lab in addition to King’s ‘beloved community’ we talked about in the last post? Since the head of the US Council of Competitiveness, Deborah Wince-Smith, said the inaugural (co)lab is “going to be transformative for our country,” we really ought to know what is in store for us. It’s this new social and economic vision that requires a new ‘revolutionary’ vision of education as Ken Robinson called it. A vision of the future that requires us to be able to “think differently in the future” in order to meet that revolution and “do things in a different way.” Minds that are “responsive and flexible” so they can “adapt to a world of change” is how Sir Ken described it. Of course he also really liked the vision of change laid out in that Fulton district conversion charter and said so, which may well mean it will be coming to a community near you soon. Yikes!
So if Ms Wince-Smith is right and (co)lab was about Atlanta getting ready to “pioneer new policies and models for our nation,” what might we all expect? Well, the retired head of Ernst Young said it was part of what is the “most profound geoeconomic shift in history.” Of course, he also said that this push started at the World Economic Forum in Davos about 3 or 4 years ago and was being pushed by CEOs globally. The dramatic changes sought were not just in “education but also infrastructure, transportation, and logistics.” In other words, a boondoggle for globally-operating, politically-connected, established businesses which is probably why it looks so much like Corporatism and authority capitalism.
In case you are getting worried that State capitalism is not a place where mass prosperity has ever reigned no matter how many times Statist professors utter the word ‘innovation’, one of the urban planning speakers informed us that “it was not the government deciding this is the future,” but rather “government plus nonprofits and business all together.” Feel better? Me neither but apparently a solid knowledge of history that recognized what comparable visions were called back in the 30s was in short supply. Or people who would have gasped in horror at the comment that “every half century we reinvent the paradigm for how communities should exist.” No, when planners and politicians make that call historically it never works out well. Someone is unfamiliar with the tragedies of Urban Renewal in the 60s in an earlier version of this state planning vision or the Chinese Ghost Cities of the present.
Other descriptions were the Post Post-World War 2 Model and the collaborative consumption new economy where human needs could be met by ‘currently underutilized assets’. That vision sponsored by April Rinne with her ties to WEF and its Dalian/Davos confabs we keep not getting invited to seems to be priming for the needs/support economy Shoshana Zuboff laid out in her 2002 book we have talked about. The sharing economy dovetails quite nicely April said (with her Harvard law degree she may have taken classes from Shoshana) with what would be its “largest beneficiary-the city.” April made it clear that her vision of the sharing economy was a “reintroduction of the social contract” and about “building communities, not the marketplace.” In fact she said it was a new “way of seeing the world” where “I need” gets matched to “you have.”
Of course in this vision pretty soon any concept of private property goes away in function if not name since private property has always ultimately been about having a “Do Not Enter” personal zone that even a king could not infringe upon without consent. In this new vision, as we will see with ed in a minute, there is no more sphere that the political sovereign cannot try to direct or remake. Personal ‘sensibilities’ and ‘dispositions’ become the stated subject of needed change and more than one speaker also said that. You can only have private property in a society that has established the primacy of the rule of law and respect for the rights of individuals. As we have seen repeatedly, both of those are areas under coordinated attack by this new ‘revolutionary’ vision of education. Probably because they are impediments to the beloved community society with its new economy.
And Ground Zero for this shift are our urban areas. Washington, DC was said repeatedly to be gridlocked and broken so Atlanta’s mayor, fresh back from speaking at the TED conference in NYC on Reenvisioning The City: 2.0, said that “many of the powers now in DC should be shifted to the 50 largest metros.” Which will of course be an enormous boondoggle for the urban political machines. Taxpayers send money to DC. DC takes its cut to keep that area booming and then the money gets transferred to urban areas all over the country. How could prosperity not ensue? Well beyond political waste there is this pesky little detail that Tony Wagner actually defined the “innovation economy” as both “radically different” and “about solving the pressing problems we face on this planet as a species.”
With federal dollars targeted directly to so many urban areas apparently all things are now possible. I don’t think so but this is in fact the vision attached to all these ed reforms this blog has painstakingly laid out. Getting new kinds of minds and new ‘sensibilities’ and ‘dispositions’ is precisely why we keep encountering such a psychological emphasis as the real theory of how to close the achievement gap in a way that allows all children to ‘learn’ in a definition tied to behavioral change. Now I happen to think both the social and economic vision as well as the education reforms laid out will be toxic. But I do recognize the vision for ed being laid out by the speakers. Beyond Uncle Karl and John Dewey, it is the vision we have described from 1962 that Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers laid out as the new focus. It’s both where Psychosynthesis and the OECD’s Competency/Robert Kegan focus go when you peel away the misleading references to the PISA ‘test’. Now let me explain why all roads and pathways always lead back to a Curriculum of Affect.
In 1970 the Ford Foundation (which also was and is a huge funder of Urban Renewal and Regional Equity visions) published a book called Toward Humanistic Education: A Curriculum of Affect. It complained bitterly that when the focus of education and teaching was on subject matter–what you and I would call content knowledge–it did not “necessarily affect behavior“. And therefore people’s attitudes and actions “with regard to social injustice” needed to be changed in ways that would provoke desired actions. So school should become about discovering “the feelings, fears, and wishes that move pupils emotionally, that can more effectively engage pupils from any background.” By the way, that page kindly cites to Maslow and Rogers for doing research in this area. What are the odds?
That’s how All students can learn and why the methods used must be accessible to the least capable students or those who do not speak English. Which sounds much better as a rationale than being honest and saying:
“the broad objectives of American education must include the preparation of students to engage in constructive personal and social behavior. We believe existing practice is not affecting behavior adequately. We also believe that in today’s complex, precarious world a society has little choice but to pursue the path toward humanitarian behavior…The ultimate purpose of this report, therefore, is to search for paths to greater consonance between education and the way in which people might or should behave.”
What a coincidence. More than 40 years later that seems to be the real purpose of (co)lab, that TED-x City 2.0 conference, AND the actual education reforms being hidden as connected to the Common Core implementation.