Sometimes trains that appear to be running on parallel tracks or away from each other actually may be planning to meet up somewhere if we only had a more elaborate and long term map of the real train routes. That appears to me to be the case in two recent initiatives that on their faces could not be more opposite. The first is the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development–NCSEAD–issuing a so-called “Evidence-Base for How We Learn” https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/evidence-base-learn/ and stressing that integrated social, emotional and academic development is not a database of personal attributes as the False Narrative keeps wanting to emphasize. It treats the student, their mind, and personality as a system that can be consciously manipulated via education to “appeal to our higher angels. The goal really is to lead all of us on the pathway to a better life, a good life.”
No one mentioned that “you will simply love it Comrade,” but that is a bit how the papers and discussions read. Like the Portrait of a Graduate visions, the personal traits of the student/system are front and center as a desire to “graduate young adults who are self-directed, intellectually engaged, and possess a commitment to personal and civic responsibility.” The vision is supposedly “consistent with how brains take in and process information.” Now I would add a caveat to that since I have been tracking CHAT-Cultural Historical Activity Theory–across the decades and from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, to New York City with Rockefeller Foundation financing, to San Diego when Carnegie seems to have taken over, to Rome, Italy and the 2013 ISCAR Summit. In the middle we have the original Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) mandates in the 80s (now in ESSA as an annual mandate for all students) and what was called the New Standards Project in the 90s that would morph into the Common Core we know now.
That was long-winded but the point is these ideas are trackable with a clear lineage and related tangents that have been covered at ISC through the years. I hereby declare myself a sufficient authority from all this tracking that statements about how this is how the brain DOES work are not true. The truth is that this is how the brain CAN be made to work if certain educational practices become required. The pithy expression is that “nerves that fire together, wire together”. If curricula highlights interpreting through supplied concepts, principles, and themes; forces an inquiry approach and ‘productive struggle’; or as with HOTS assessments, requires questions with no single answer but which deal with ‘ambiguity, empathy, and problem-solving,’ a certain part of the brain tied to emotion in the Prefrontal Cortex is what is being used.
My second train is the newly launched Child Abuse in the Classroom site which issued what is either an intentionally manipulative narrative on the the role of social and emotional learning and its ubiquity over the decades, or it is just ignorant of the entire push to make the student into a system. Perhaps it is a mixture depending on the person involved.Targeting certain parts of the brain has always been crucial to this manipulation, which you would never know from articles like this one. http://www.capitolhilloutsider.com/congress-passes-psychological-manipulation-in-an-education-bill/ The logic is not emotional manipulation on top of academics. The purpose of academics in this ‘Make a System via Neural Wiring’ scenario is to create the activities that allow the desired neural rewiring. Reading the CAC press release caused me to get my hands on Phyllis Schlafly’s original Child Abuse in the Classroom book from 1984.
Whatever Mrs Schlafly’s intentions in publishing that testimony from hearings around the country, the book’s mere existence seems to provide an evidence-base for using social and emotional techniques in the classroom without any real statutory protection. Here’s why: the so-called Protection of Pupils does not let us use our dictionary meaning of “research or experimentation program or project”. Instead it defined it as “any applicable program designed to explore or develop new or unproven teaching methods or techniques.” We have a book with testimony on how many years these techniques had been in use in certain school systems and just how effective the curricula and practices were in changing who the student was at an internalized level–what they valued and believed.
See the problem? The book created a paper trail that disqualified the described techniques from its definition of “research or experimentation program or project.” No wonder an SEL emphasis keeps recurring. It’s impossible to read the book and not recognize that the described techniques are still in use today with no effective remedy because their true role has not been accurately appreciated. They all go to the same part of the brain’s Prefrontal Cortex as the new ESSA HOTS mandate. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Plenty of testimony on the Facing History and Ourselves curriculum in those 1984 hearings. Lo and behold, FHAO is also what the Aspen Institute recommends in NCSEAD’s August 2017 report “Putting It All Together.”
When I was following up on a recent National Academy of Sciences publication touting a synonym for SEL called Character, it led me to a Notre Dame professor, Darcia Narvaez, who also turned out to be a fellow at that Jubilee Centre that has issued the Framework for Moral Development and the Knightly Virtues curriculum. She has a book that explained precisely how learning standards like the Common Core or Competencies really are to work so let me quote her. Remember standards and curricula now are all about experiences and activity-oriented practices like Project-Based Learning. Members of the Aspen Task Force are also tied to the Jubilee Centre.
“Experience shapes which neuronal systems become more habitually deployed. Because it is dynamic, the theory is helpful for understanding how early experience can shape personality, including moral personality…Neuronal circuitry is formed by what is activated most frequently based on experience…resulting in the favoring of some neural circuits (value systems) over others.”
Narvaez also laid out how “intention and affection generate ‘narratives of vitality,’ regulating internally generated motives and the awareness of self and other in relationship. Such narratives not only structure the psyche but may contribute to the development of language.” A very powerful tool in other words and if the admitted Progressive Left is not the only one wishing to restructure culture and control the psyche, that’s a great deal of incentive for False Narratives about the Common Core, competency-based learning, and the actual purpose of SEL. No wonder we keep encountering the Personally Identifiable Information database explanation. It gets parents outraged and looking for a remedy. Meanwhile the neural rewiring tool remains a part of the supposed educational options we keep having offered up as our supposed choice to escape “government schools.”
Who needs a database of personal characteristics when the desired bullseye is neural rewiring invisibly installed in the brain and nervous system? Meanwhile, every group with transformational intentions in the here and now world, whether open Marxists, naive do-gooders, or religiously driven adherents wanting to impose a Heaven on Earth somehow knows this fact about this new view of education:
“Enduring states become traits…In a dynamic system, once the system is stabilized around a particular interpretation, expectancies are formed for future pattern recognition and action…A behavior at any given point in time is a function of the interaction of person with context, with its history and trajectory. Prior experiences and habits constrain present configurations and options. Prior experience constrains real-time interpretation and activations of connectivity across systems.
Learning in developmental time constrains learning in real time.That is, affective-cognitive structures that developed from emotionally laden situations form units of personality that limit future cognitive appraisals.”
Those ’emotionally laden situations’ were precisely what drove so many parents to testify back in 1984 and seek a federal remedy against these type of educational practices. We never will get an effective remedy against these intentional neural intrusions against ANY LEVEL of government until we grasp the aims of the student as a manipulable system. It’s no secret that many who seem to be active in weaving a deceptive interpretation of these education initiatives also like to wear their religious convictions on their sleeves. Nothing wrong with that except when the reason for the deceit is to allow religious groups to invisibly impose their vision using these powerful tools of behavioral science. The work of one of the more high-profile writers, Gary DeMar who created the Biblical Worldview Library, was cited in a footnote so I located Volume 3 of God and Government: The Restoration of the Republic.
DeMar was very hostile to what he called ‘autonomous reason’ and wanted to “bring into captivity all our thinking.” My noncompliant Axemaker Mind recognizes how he and those who agree with his vision for developing “an education program for dominion purposes that would cover the world. This means applying what we learn from the Bible to every area of thought” would just love the behavioral science/neural rewiring/systems science template that everyone but the parents seems to now know about. The purposes for manipulation now differ, but the planned techniques really do not. Again that’s a huge incentive to mislead parents about the nature of education reforms or to declare curricula “Common Core-free” even though it clearly aims at such neural manipulation when accurately evaluated. I want to close with DeMar’s definition of ‘self-government’ since that euphemism comes up so much, as well as the rationale for Classical Education since it sounds like such an alluring remedy.
“Notice the ethical dimension to education. It was not enough to teach the technical skills. For godly dominion to be extended, self-government had to prevail. Self-government is nothing more than keeping the commandments of God with a willing heart.”
Does ever parent and taxpayer appreciate that or do they still think classical education is about the transmission of knowledge? Hyping the Good, True, and Beautiful sounds so much better than matter-of-factly having the school vision state: “All teaching is goal-oriented. The Christian’s goal is not merely to fill students’ minds with facts that have no meaning, purpose or relationship to all the other facts in the universe; Christian education develops its goals from Scripture. While tests and degrees might be a part of all education, learning with a definite purpose is certainly the main element.”
That ‘definite purpose,’ to be internalized at a neural level to guide perception and motivate behavior, is what makes even religious education now about turning the student into a system. Maybe it is for his or her own good, but it’s not out in the open. Parents cannot have the much vaunted ‘say’ in their children’s education until they appreciate this neural aim and its consequences.
Hopefully it can be out in the open now because that is truly the only way to stop Child Abuse in the Classroom or, in front of a computer delivering virtual reality.
Best way to control those all important learning experiences and assess their impact in real time.