Do you believe in coincidences? Of course they happen, but not about some things, especially when little known professors are suddenly brought back to be the quote of the day in a daily education newsletter. The day after the last post where I mentioned the 1948 push for a World Constitution at meetings held at the University of Chicago, the EdTech SmartBrief cited ‘Italian Writer Giuseppe Antonio Borgese’ for an inspiring vision about Change not only being possible, but necessary. How apropos when fundamental change is the daily meme. Borgese of course is more than an Italian writer. He was one of the prime participants in those meetings, a prof there, and the draftsman. He also wrote the 1953 book Foundations of the World Republic laying out the vision.
You don’t really think I grasp how all this fits just from Abstracts or the Cliff Notes versions, do you? No, I had read that book and get the connection to ed. So does someone apparently at Smart Brief and they are fully aware of the pertinence of today’s K-12 juggernaut of changes too. Few terms though come up more often these days or are used so consistently to mislead parents and taxpayers on the true nature of the intended changes as ‘rigor.’ There’s a reason education consultant, Willard Daggett, with a ridiculously lucrative national professional development business (for someone who used to be in Vo-Tech. I have a few of those mediocre textbooks) says that “relevance makes rigor possible.” Rigor is always grounded in emotion and personal experiences.
When a District Super tells concerned parents that Rigor is about higher standards and provides the metaphor that you cannot turn up the temperature suddenly on an oven from 350 to 550 without burning the turkey and leaving it frozen on the inside, I think that explanation deserves a Pinocchio award. That example of rigor may make parents feel better about upcoming higher than average failure rates on the new state Common Core math assessments, but it does not accurately reflect the nature of the problem. Rigor is about what a student feels, perceives, and does when there is no single correct answer or there are insufficient facts stated to reach a definitive conclusion or the asked about material has never been taught. It provides superb behavioral science data on likely future actions and it primes students to be willing to act in the face of uncertainty. Just what people with visions of transforming and then redesigning societies and societies around Big Data need from a compliant, malleable citizenry.
Facing History and Ourselves, which we met again in the last post, keeps being cited as the perfect example of a curriculum offering ‘rigorous engagement’ and ‘deeper learning.’ Deeper Learning is being trumpeted, formally assessed, and funded generously as the cornerstone of the Common Core and the OECD’s global vision for education by the Hewlett Foundation. Building on the previous post’s revelations and the return of Life Adjustment before that, why is FHAO so crucial for an international bureaucracy pushing for fundamental transformations in the economy, society, and political structures and institutions? Let’s look.
http://trustnet.learningtrust.co.uk/partners/Community%20Cohesion/Case%20Study_Facing_History_and_Ourselves_at_Skinners.pdf advocates that teaching materials force students (their bolding) through the process of Text to Self (this reminds me of a time when… so that personal experiences become involved), Text to Text (building those links to previous school activities or discussions and the concepts involved so that a predictable mental web is being woven by schoolwork), and Text to World (students connect the ideas to things happening in the world today). Did you realize that’s what ‘personalizing learning’ meant? Constantly reenforcing schoolwork to a student’s life experiences and then creating life experiences in school and elsewhere to reenforce the desired concepts and attitudes? As the link says, FHAO allows students to have Mindsets that allow “better questioning of the world and what goes on it. But most importantly, students become more engaged in their own communities and apply the knowledge they learn to their own lives.” (my bolding this time).
Knowledge grounded again more in emotions and instincts than facts, but all the more likely to compel future action for that very reason. Remember Harlan Cleveland from my book? Well, about 10 years before his 80s vision I explain there he did a report in 1976 for UN Leaders meeting in Philadelphia. It laid out his vision on what the significance of the US Bicentennial was for the future. He saw it as igniting the Next Great World Movement: the Global Fairness Revolution. Like the odd sudden citing this week of Borgese, these visions do not go away. They simply keep looking for new sales jobs to have education finally bring them to fruition. That’s precisely what FHAO and PBS intended to do when they created Choosing to Participate to be used as part of what it would mean to be Literate under the Common Core. http://web.uri.edu/nonviolence/files/ChoosingToParticipate.pdf
When the “challenge for educators” now is announced to be creating “settings that can help young people develop as thoughtful, caring, compassionate, and responsible citizens,” the vision of citizenry is to be Change Agents for Transformation. That is also blatantly a view of education that is primarily focused on Psychosocial Development, not knowledge as academic content. Students are to be deliberately primed, at a deep level, to be unwilling to accept the world as it now exists. They are also to be intentionally manipulated to misperceive the current nature of that world. Ignorance and grievance may be one of the most volatile combinations in the universe. Unlike nitroglycerin though, these Students with carefully cultivated and shaped Mindsets and emotional Push Buttons will not have warning labels. Not yet anyway. I am working on that one.
FHAO does not mince words when it states its intention to have Choosing to Participate:
“be a catalyst for conversation about how we treat each other, how we should live together, and what our choices mean. The key challenge is to think deeply [emotions again!] about what democracy really means, and what it asks of each of us. Democracy is a fragile enterprise and can only remain vital through the active, thoughtful, and responsible participation of its people. Education for citizenship means encouraging each of us to recognize that our participation matters.”
Jumping to the punch line, FHAO intentionally uses the horrors of the Holocaust and Legal Segregation by race in the US to justify a belief that economic, redistributive, justice, if desired by a majority of current voters, is a perfectly legitimate demand binding everyone. Resistance then becomes akin to the racism that surrounded the Little Rock 9 trying to integrate Arkansas schools in the 50s. FHAO is the perfect accompaniment to the communitarian focus we have already located in the required Positive School Climate for all K-12 schools and lurking oddly in the definition of what it means to be Career Ready under the Common Core. FHAO early on specifically instructs students:
“communities are not built of friends, or groups of friends, or of people with similar styles and tastes, or even of people who like and understand each other. They are built of people who feel they are part of something that is bigger than themselves: a shared goal or enterprise [hence all the hype on collaboration now]…To build a community requires only the ability to see value in others; to look at them and see a potential partner in one’s enterprise…community can also be defined in terms of a ‘universe of obligation’–a group of individuals or groups ‘toward whom obligations are owed, to whom rules apply, and whose injuries call for amends.”
Amends are owed. I am going to end with that quote because clearly this intention is where we should put all these sudden mentions of allegations of White Privilege and conferences centered around preparing teachers to make that and race generally a focus of the K-12 curriculum. Everybody seems to like trilogies so this post is the Human Rights Trilogy’s second part.
I want to come back with considering the implications of targeting values, attitudes, and beliefs about how societies and economies should be structured as just another antiquated area that can, and should be, legitimately targeted by K-12 for change. Comparable in the minds of many educators and certainly the FHAO curriculum to the shifts rightfully needed previously to move beyond legal segregation.
We are going to continue to confront history all right. Especially the implications of requiring that students “prove their humanity” in ways to be mandated by political authority.
Should students be taught that “Built into each individual’s experience must be an occasion for giving, a task of humanity, an act of sharing and sacrifice”?
Is that really Student Achievement? Growth? Should taxpayer-funded education administrators and profs really be making these decisions in a free society?
Or is the disputed nature of freedom itself in the 21st Century the real question?