For anyone counting, that would be two different metaphors in a single title, but since they each illustrate our unfortunate facts so well I have pulled them together to make a point. In the last post, before Mother Nature threw me for a loop, we had stumbled across proof that what is now called economic theory was merging with psychology and learning theories. If you were like me, that came as a rather rude, but revealing, surprise. Anyway, while the body was weak, this mind just kept on delving into the implications of the last post as well as articles and reports coming out where I immediately recognize a false narrative at play. We talked about Professor Daniel Kahnemann’s work in the last post, but he did not win that ‘Economics’ Nobel alone.
The other recipient, Professor Vernon Smith, usually has his theories touted as ‘market-based solutions’ when some think tank is hyping them as a less than disinterested remedy. A little research though uncovered the fact that Dr Smith refers to his theories as ‘experimental economics’ and has confirmed, in a 2012 conference in Arizona, that the School Choice theories in general and the current darling being hyped as the be-all remedy, Education Savings Accounts, are products of experimental economic theories. Have any of the think tanks testifying these past several weeks to either house of the Texas legislature been forthcoming about that?
Back in 1985, at an Econometric World Congress we probably would have been bored at even if we had got an invite, experimental economics (EE) was discussed. These EE theories can be classified by what motivates the need to create them and to whom they are intended to be persuasive. Now that struck me as terribly useful as I sorted through all the false narratives flying around in education about the Common Core’s actual purpose, how School Choice really works, the actual purpose of SEL Standards, or the most recent false narrative around Evidence-Based Policymaking. That list is not exhaustive and it is always important to contemplate Cui Bono? Who benefits from the deceit and do they have financial ties to the pushers of the False Narrative?
The three categories of uses for these theories are “Are they Speaking to Fellow Theorists?” like academics where handing out an Education Doctorate or Sociology degree on the basis of someone’s willingness to act on a theory is grounds alone for creating it. Remember our Guiding Fiction discussion? If it changes how we behave and act in everyday life or what we force on others, that’s an effective theory even if it’s not true. A learning theory, for example, can be factually not true, but have the promise of neurologically restructuring students’ brains if implemented in the classroom. A theory that works, if implemented, is an example of the category two use of experimental behavioral science theories: “Does the theory allow us to Search for Facts?” Social or biological change is darn factual when it occurs.
Category Number 3 of the use of these theories is “Whispering in the Ears of Princes.” Having chased the false information in Donald Trump Jr’s heartfelt convention speech on school choice to FH Buckley’s book The Way Back, this category seemed an apt description why a false narrative can be needed. The personal intentions of any Prince with Power do not control the effect of a theory in EE once implemented. That’s a well-known fact of Implementation Science no one is likely to pass on to either the princes or the parents. Let’s face it, all the current hype about a database of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on Students is another false narrative. It’s useful because it enrages parents and they look for solutions, like charters, privates, or ESAs. Omitted is the relevant fact that these institutions must themselves still assess the student’s internal states and values, attitudes, and beliefs for change. Otherwise, no more funding!!
That’s one of the dirty little secrets I suppose no one is supposed to recognize in time. What gets a charter renewed for a subsequent term or entitles a Charter Management Company to get federal money under ESSA to expand into other states is effectiveness at learning. If you can change values, attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors, you are an effective school. Learning occurred in the student changed. Parents though are unlikely to be too excited this is the actual purpose now of a charter or private school. So they need to be lied to about what all these terms mean. That seems to have been the reason for the sudden pivot in the May 2012 Pioneer Institute/ American Principles Project paper “Controlling Education from the Top” where a quote of what characteristics of a student the Common Core would be “assessing for” became PII in the next paragraph without warning or support.
It’s also a good reason for the same paper to consistently follow all references to “assessment” with the same parenthetical “(standardized tests)”. I finished my book Credentialed to Destroy (the same book the pushers of the false narratives feel the need to suppress) and it chronicles what the term ‘assessment’ was known to mean by spring 2012 and how it was to work under both Common Core and its successor, competency-based education. Both of these appear to be false narratives so that parents will never know that the supposed remedies in education they are being led to advocate for are actually also target their child’s internal states for change. Honestly, given the extent of my documentation now from this blog and researching two different books as well, I could turn this blog going forward into Nail Down that Deceit.
Instead, I am just giving Princes and parents both a warning and illustrating with just some of what I have documented. Speaking of Whispering to Princes, I noted in a previous post that FH Buckley’s explanation of the need for School Choice was both quite obnoxious to my mind and grounded in what seemed to be Marxian rhetoric. So Buckley is at George Mason (GMU) as was Professor EE, Nobel-Prize winner Vernon Smith. Supposedly the Mercatus Center there is Ground Zero for all the Atlas Network think tanks. Sounded like a convergence worth investigating to me. Imagine my Absolute Shock at discovering that in May 2007 the Krasnow Institute at GMU launched the Decade of the Mind global initiative. Did you gulp just now?
Just wait, before that in 2004, the Center for the Study of Neuroeconomics started, as a joint venture of GMU’s School of Law (naming it for the late Antonin Scalia makes a good shrouding cover), the Department of Economics, the Krasnow Institute, and the Mercatus Center. Ding. Ding. The Center is a place that studies “how our brains interact through our institutions to produce social, political, and economic order.” The Center also works closely with IFREE–the International Foundation for Research in EE founded by Vernon Smith in 1997 and based in Tucson. Tucson is where the now yearly conferences known as “Towards a Science of Consciousness” began in 1994 and it is now tied to a Center at the University of Arizona there. For those who are unaware, Arizona is also the state that has most fully embraced School Choice and ESAs.
So many facts, so little time is how I feel about what could come next in this post just to illustrate this problem. Let me pivot first though to the second metaphor. A false flag operation comes from the days of wooden ships. One ship would hang the flag of an enemy ship before attacking an ally in its own navy. Because the attack gets attributed to the country behind the flag instead of the country engaged in the attack, this actual practice became known as a False Flag Operation. I am borrowing the metaphor because it explains much of the deceit surrounding education reform over the decades and especially now. The same donors and think tanks who wish to financially benefit from an ability to use education practices to create a reliable, steerable keel within student’s brains and personalities do not want that reality recognized.
Who can blame them? But what is really being targeted and why and all the ties among the targeting entities is not really in dispute. Like so much of what I laid out in Credentialed to Destroy, it is simply not well known. So we seem to have a race between all these entities and me. They are tied to people wanting to profit from the deceit. I, personally, cannot bear knowing what I can prove without at least trying to alert as many parents and taxpayers as possible. Again, this is not personal, but factual. It looks like I only have time for one more example so it needs to hit as many points as possible. In November 2016 GMU and others are hosting a Congress in honor of the 20th Anniversary of an EE classic- Growing Artificial Societies.
I located a copy and it told me that it is knowing and manipulating the “agent’s internal state” that is the focus of experimental economics. That’s a good reason then for how Charters, ESAs, SEL Standards, and Competency-Based Education really work. Lots of reason for deceit then and there has been for a very long time. But I found the actual cited paper and discovered it was from the Santa Fe Institute (co-sponsor of November Congress) and was funded by the MacArthur Foundation (before they moved on to the Real Utopias project and Connected Learning). It explained the need to alter the nature of education so that the coursework all focused on altering the student’s internalized ‘classifier system’ that guides perception and how daily experiences get interpreted.
If that’s not startling enough (not to me but this is very useful language for illustrating the rationale for the PII deceit especially), we learn what fits with all of the proposed education reforms out there. Also remember the local level has always been the focus for education change. In the old “rationalistic view, the world is composed of definite objects, properties and relations, and ‘learning’ is the process whereby an agent forms a mental model of the world that correctly describes these features.”
My guess is that the typical parent being sold on Classical Education or what private schools offer still believes that quote describes the nature of education still available there. The reality though is we have shifted to the EE form of education where the student is being trained in “learning how to act in the world, rather than how to describe it.”
My goodness, just the realities we have discussed today give a myriad of reasons for all these false narratives that surround education. Best from now on to judge all education narratives not by the flag being flown or the rhetoric being used, but by the nature of the vessel and the financial interests that stand to benefit from the deceit.