This post was outlined before the outcry over Facebook’s gathering of data, but the outside in power of all that data on so much of the population should be kept in mind as we look at the Chan Zuckerburg interest in transformative charter schools. It also fits with the interest we have seen since my March 8 post on Parkland and the meaning of that motto of the PROMISE Program in Broward County. I have repeatedly read since then numerous articles from supposedly conservative sources misportraying the clear developmental focus of the required practices. It gets pitched as simply a matter of federal overreach and coercion via funding. Yesterday, the charter-supporting Heritage Foundation https://www.heritage.org/firearms/report/focusing-school-safety-after-parkland joined what looks like a well-coordinated campaign to make Paul Sperry’s derivative and whitewashed description of the Program the official narrative. Mustn’t accurately explain what one intends to use so let’s just mine ISC for information and skip over Robin’s inconvenient interpretations that shine an accurate light on these practices.
After all, we know charters have a likely chance to be deemed effective and gain a right to more federal funding if they have a Whole Child focus that Infuses Developmental Neuroscience into the curriculum and required practices as this link lays out. http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(12)00192-9/pdf Likewise, notice how often a private or charter school has language in its mission statement about its purpose “to educate students to be knowledgeable, responsible, socially skilled, healthy, caring, and contributing citizens” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12971193 or hyping their “strengths-based approaches to child and adolescent development…and emphasis on students’ resilience in the school and community” (quoting the National Association of School Psychologists), or Promoting Youth Development (PYD). http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/rulesforengagement/Taylor%20et%20al%20-%20FINAL%20document%206%2017%202017.pdf
All of the linked SEL research matters because they are tied to the PROMISE Program when accurately interpreted using its cited foundational research and not whitewashed for political purposes. The whtewashing is no surprise though as the charter schools use the same developmental template as Broward’s PROMISE program when the latter is properly understood. Let’s switch to something else charters use to ensure their efficacy and are not upfront about. I am quoting from a 2011 book by Duke prof Cathy N Davidson called Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century where Davidson profiled the innovative new forms of learning being implemented by a number of cited charter schools. When we talk about the use of categories, concepts, or guiding principles, recall how useful it will be to have the News Literacy Project we encountered in the last post working hand in hand with the categories of thought pushed as Reading and Thinking Like A Historian or Higher Order Thinking Skills.
This post begins a trilogy and that will be the in-depth topic of the next post. In the mean time let’s appreciate what charter operators all know. “How we use our brain (what we pay attention to) changes our brain. Those things that capture our attention–our learning and our work, our passions and our activities–change our actual brain biology.” That’s a direct confession, isn’t it? Plenty of reason for deceit there. The emphasis on Disciplinary Core Ideas to use just one of the euphemisms or Enduring Understandings makes sense when we all become aware that “once everything is located in a proper category, the category itself (for better or worse) answers a host of unaskable questions. A category is a shorthand.” And whoever controls those required categories of thought can insist all day long that “they are teaching students how to think, not telling them what to think” but that repeated assertion doesn’t make it true. Whoever controls the prescribed categories of thought, controls thought. Period. Especially once it becomes a Habit of Mind.
Quoting Davidson again: “distinctions are normative, sensory, behavioral, social, cognitive, and affective all at once. Learning happens in categories, with values clumped together in our words, concepts, and actions. And this is where attention and its concomitant attention blindness come from.” All the emphasis now on Engagement, activity, and relevance really make sense when we appreciate that a classroom emphasis on these has become required because they “transform not merely our behavior but the underlying neural networks that make attention possible. Every manifestation of attention in the real world begins in the brain” and every successful charter school operator knows that as well as so should we. Davidson went on to call out Canadian Donald O. Hebb by name as the “father of neuropsychology” because:
“he was the first person to observe that learning occurs when neurons streamline into pathways and then streamline into other pathways, into efficient clusters that act in concert with one another. This is now called the Hebbian principle: Neurons that fire together, wire together. This means the more we repeat certain patterns of behavior (that’s the firing together), the more those behaviors become rapid, then reflexive, then automatic (that’s the wiring). They become patterns, habits, groupings, categories, or concepts, all efficiencies that ‘wire together’ sets of individual reflexes or responses.”
Now if your child’s school of any type or online curriculum is grounded in creating such a Hebbian neural web that will ultimately guide their future behavior at an unconscious, but predictable, level, don’t you want to know that? Isn’t all the organized deceit making more sense now? I feel though like those old Ronco holiday commercials when many of us were kids advertising for some useful gadget that we supposedly cannot live without in every house. “But wait! There’s more!” As part of the case after the Parkland shooting for why more social and emotional learning and an antibullying emphasis were needed came this story https://www.educationdive.com/news/creating-schools-that-fit-our-kids/518917/ hyping a report from the Aspen Institute and its panel of educators.
Now I first wrote about that panel back in September here http://invisibleserfscollar.com/capturing-every-thought-captive-and-sculpting-students-as-systems-driver-of-perfidy/ and in several of the following posts. That report and Consensus Statement were always going to come out, but the Parkland mass murder gives gave a chance to pitch the change in emphasis as urgent so that “social, emotional, and academic development” can be integrated. That also fits with the links above that are the basis for how charters really work and what the PROMISE Program was actually designed to change. Now I have written about one panel member before, Linda Lantieri, and how she trains classroom teachers in techniques that are billed as New Age on some days depending on her audience and on others as Positive Psychology. I recognized other names too, but the Council of Distinguished Educators member that really caught my eye was from a chain of charter schools called Valor Collegiate Academies.
That’s where our conjoining reference comes from as we have funding coming from the Left Pincer in the form of the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative and from the Right Pincer that seemingly does not want the PROMISE program accurately understood in the form of the Charter Schools Growth Fund. Now Valor openly trumpets in its materials that it uses required regular group Valor Circle practices that are “grounded in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology which posits that relationships ‘inspire us to rewire our brains toward integration.'” Well, that’s certainly one way to create change in the student effectively and thus ensure additional funding and opportunities for expansion. Valor has graphics about targeting the students’ “drives for agency and communion, or self-determination and connection… and helping scholars (and adults) create their own ‘inner compass'”.
Now, I am not disagreeing that people need an inner compass, but if a school is deliberately rewiring childrens’ brain in a Hebbian manner, parents should be told that forthrightly before they act like programmed automatons. How many parents appreciate that neural rewiring emphasis when they read language (bolding in original) about “All Members of the Valor Community aspire to balance their Sharp Mind and Big Heart and to live their Noble Purpose through Aligned Actions, all the while accessing their True North” to make meaningful choices in their everyday life. ” That True North: Habits of Center is grounded in Mindfulness research, which is certainly an interesting remedy for preventing another Parkland type shooting.
It’s not just that I recognize what is cited as Mindfulness, but here’s a quote from a draft I downloaded of what was to be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year per “True North ‘standards’ or intended learnings.
“True North practices range in duration and focus. Many of the True North practices at Valor are informed by curricula such as Mindful Schools and Applied Mindfulness: Inner Life Skills for Youth and are attention training activities [remember the Cathy Davidson quotes above on the effect on the brain] to help scholars increase concentration and well-being while reducing stress levels. Practices range in focus from one’s basic goodness to posting attention and from compassion meditations to mindful movement.”
Is that what anyone was expecting to be touted “at a time when the nation is looking for solutions to violent tragedies like the Feb. 14 shooting” at Parkland? Is this why we cannot get accurate reporting except at ISC or in my book Credentialed to Destroy of what competency-based education and frameworks actually aim to change or what the Broward PROMISE Program and Restorative Justice programs really hope to alter? Are charter schools, online providers, and private and parochial schools all afraid they will not get access to public funds if parents recognize that they too are aimed at neural rewiring “to produce knowledgeable and competent adults able to participate as informed citizens in the democratic process”?
We will discuss the source of that last quote and its ties to the School Choice funding campaign in the next post–Part 2 of this Trilogy of Lucrative Deceit.