Let’s continue to pierce through the veils of deceit surrounding education globally, especially K-12, and not be distracted by the ‘Look, Squirrel!’ claims that would have us voluntarily drinking poison while we are being told it will invigorate us. UNESCO does have a means of controlling what goes on in education systems all over the world. They have created standards and ‘learning objectives’ and detailed summaries of how everything is to work to change students at the levels of their minds. Their motto is that’s where wars begin and thus it is the target for creating a different kind of future. Those standards were created in the 1970s, revised again in 1997, and redone finally in 2011. Those 2011 revisions went into effect in 2014 and the OECD, with its PISA assessment and others, is an explicit partner. So when someone tells us that the Common Core is not in fact ‘internationally benchmarked’ they are either mistaken or lying.
When UNESCO states that it will use education to make sure students learn to think collectively, not individually; instill a New Humanism as the goal of all political processes; implant new Media Literacy Standards globally to tell us what sources to trust and which to disregard or even censor; and finally, to “Transform the Future” by targeting “people’s fictions about the later-than-now and the frames they use to invent these imaginary futures,” we need to listen. The tools are in place to use education and prescribed learning experiences and mandated activities “that confronts the prisons of our minds, helping us to overturn the old frames and invent new ones.” If that seems graphic and rather totalitarian in the original meaning of the term, a few lines later UNESCO writes about the need for our “beginning to think in a new way” after education is used to alter old ways of thinking that will be “pulled out by the roots.”
In the last post I pointed out that the purpose of academic content had shifted even though lots of education writers are trying desperately to obfuscate that reality. This quote on the ‘Objective of Learning’ in a paper by Ilkka Tuomi that was cited in the recent UNESCO e-book Transforming the Future: Anticipation in the 21st Century. It tells us explicitly what is meant by that now ubiquitous phrase about “Teaching Students How to Think, Not What to Think”:
“the fundamental question was not about acquiring knowledge; instead, the question was how we learn to think. In the Vygotskyian tradition [detailed in my book Credentialed to Destroy], for example, conceptual systems were understood to be important–not because they would accurately reflect the facts of the world–but because theoretically advanced conceptual systems make advanced forms of thinking possible. In this tradition, the ultimate goal of learning mathematics, therefore, would not be viewed as learning to know mathematics. Instead, the capability of using mathematical concepts enables us to think abstract and complex thoughts. The goal of theoretical learning, therefore, is not to make the learner able to provide the answer to a given theoretical problem; instead, it is to develop the learner’s capacity to think.”
People should probably reread that paragraph several times. That definition of learning also means that plans for the future need not be bound by what exists in the present or what worked well or poorly in the past. Existing knowledge is inherently conservative and tradition bound. Theoretical conceptual knowledge, especially if prescribed in the first place to accelerate a revolutionary transformation or just innovation to the here and now, is not. In the last post we quoted Warren Ziegler who frequently worked with a peace educator named Elise Boulding. Her husband of many years, Kenneth Boulding, who we have encountered before as a father of ‘systems thinking’ in education, covered this same aim in 1985. Let’s listen in:
“valuational patterns that move us toward what is perceived as good [today he would probably add True and Beautiful and Capitalize All Three]…have a profound effect on their images of the world, especially, of course, the relation between their behavior and their images of the future and hence affect their decisions.”
Since UNESCO stated pointblank back in May it intended to target “human decision-making” by tracking and altering images of the future and the AA–anticipatory assumptions–people are using to create those images, let’s see what else Professor Boulding laid out: “the greatest human task is to realize the potential of the human species for bringing the unconscious processes of human life and history into consciousness and so be able to direct these processes with increasing skill toward human betterment.” There is indeed direction going on and all the references now to True Norths and moral compasses should be a clue, but learning standards like the Common Core take that direction away from the individuals involved.
“We have to ask ourselves, therefore, what kind of learning process will increase the probability of futures that are favorable to human betterment and diminish the probability of futures evaluated as involving human worsening, particularly those that are catastrophic?…the human mind has an extraordinary capacity for fantasy–that is, for the development of images that nobody has experienced. This starts with myth and fairy stories, science fiction, and so on. But it is the power of fantasy coupled with an ability to test our images of the world that has created the extraordinary capacity of the human race for learning. Science, indeed, has been defined as testable fantasy, Even untestable fantasies have a profound impact on human life and behavior.”
That’s the realm education is being used to enter now. As UNESCO Director-General put it in her Foreword dated November 24, 2017 :
“This is why being ‘future literate’ is so important. This is about understanding the nature of the future and the role it plays in what we see and do. Evidence shows people can change how and why they think about the future. Developing this capacity can be a powerful tool for catalysing change today. Becoming more skilled at designing the systems and processes used to imagine tomorrow is an essential part of empowering women and men with the ‘capacity to be free’, [sounds like soulcraft] as developed by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen, to craft new approaches to more inclusive and sustainable development.”
When we assess what students will do in a ‘wicked problem situation’ where there is no correct answer or the problem provided is untaught material, we are looking for the conceptual systems and categories of thought the students decide to use to examine the context. That’s another way of saying ‘what are their anticipatory assumptions?’, which is exactly what UNESCO wants to control. It’s also what the federal education law in the US–ESSA–now requires all states to examine at least annually in at least 95% of their students. No exceptions whatever the states wish. This Higher Order Thinking Skills mandate makes more sense when we are aware it is not factual knowledge being tested.
As UNESCO noted in italics “The future does not exist in the present but anticipation does. The form the future takes in the present is anticipation.” By limiting parents’ ability to opt out of HOTS assessments, the federal government is simply enforcing UNESCO’s desire that each student’s minds be manipulated and their anticipatory assumptions be poked, prodded, and then redesigned.” Because governments in a free society in the 21st century intend to control each citizen’s “ways of thinking” or at least 95% of them anyway. But apparently it’s for our own good since the “new paradigm for understanding why and how to ‘use-the-future’–[has] significant implications for reconceptualising the nature and exercise of human agency.”
Somehow this reconceptualization makes this agent feel more like a puppet on a string, but perhaps that’s why we are not supposed to accurately grasp these plans for us or even know they exist. We are unlikely to get an invite to the luxury hotels in international settings where meetings can take place to “develop new sources for the invention of hope, an essential ingredient for peace.” The history major in me shudders at bureaucrats with tax-free salaries and taxpayer funded pensions who plan to use education to force “an even more speculative scenario or imaginary future in which humanity adopts a different frame for understanding its role in the emergence of the collective conditions that provide part of the context for the resilience of our species.”
I boldfaced resilience there as it has become such a ubiquitous buzzword. Lest anyone think this is just flowery language with no ability to get to the classroom we have direct links to that MyWays Success Framework from two posts ago, CASEL of social and emotional learning fame, and the History Matters Frameworks. Buried in the collateral documents before the e-book is the fact that the Rockefeller Foundation sponsored this initiative starting in 2012 to push Futures Literacy and in 2014 held a Convening at their fabulous Bellagio retreat on Lake Como. About a year apart from when the UNESCO-Brookings Learning Metrics Task Force met at the same place to lay out desired competencies. It’s also where what would become the Club of Rome with its plans for media and education (covered in CtD) began in 1968.
Tony MacKay was there and he heads GELP–Global Education Leaders Programme that the Next Generation Learning Challenges here in the US is a part of. He also works for the International Benchmarking program of the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) that created the New Standards Project that began the era of learning standards in the US. In other words, this UNESCO program has its way in when learner data and learning analytics are properly understood. Probably why there’s been another veil of deceit around that. Let’s close this missive with another paper cited in that e-book–“Facing the Fold or From the Eclipse of Utopia to the Restoration of Hope” by Jay Olgilvy.
It wants students and people generally to return to utopian thinking at the levels of their minds, if not brick and mortar yet. I guess that can wait for Evidence Based Policymaking. Facing the Fold becomes about practicing “the way to face our unpredictable future responsibly. This is the way to grapple with uncertainty and act nonetheless.”
I guess a logical, well-stocked mind that retains individual ways of thinking is less likely to adopt the desired new ways of thinking and begin behaving as this political process desires. No wonder we have so much deceit about what was and is going on in the name of learning standards and competencies.
Where ever you are this next week when we in the US celebrate our historic freedom from tyranny, enjoy yourself as we continue our piercing through these veils of deceit before the required implementation this fall.
Accurate information is always a necessary component of genuine human freedom.