Embracing a Troika of Collectivist Social Engineers as Defining Student Learning

21st Century Learning really should not be about ‘neural tuning,’ “leverage points” for “brain reorganization”, or about how “habits of mind directly shape the anatomy and connectivity of the brain.” All of those terms came from the new How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures that EdWeek‘s “Inside School Research” touted with this celebratory lead-in on October 8, 2018:

“Learning is a conversation with the world, from a newborn’s brain lighting up as his mother sings to him, to a teenager choking on a test for fear of fulfilling a stereotype to elderly people heading off cognitive decline by learning a new language. In an update to its landmark reports on education research, the National Academies new HPL II digs into what science can tell schools about how to build on students’ culture and experience to improve learning.”

Most people, even educators with doctorates who loved to be addressed with the Dr. salutation, do not read the actual reports. They will never know then that the learning standards, science of learning, and brain-based research are grounded in how the brain can be redesigned and rewired given the “right kind” of learning experiences. They will not read the paragraph under “Learning as a Social Activity” and recognize the implications of who is being cited. Let me quote:

“Another body of work in psychology that explores the role of culture in shaping psychological processes has focused on learning as a dynamic system of social activity. Many of these researchers draw from a set of ideas about development advanced by Lev Vygotsky, Alexander Luria, and Aleksei Leontiev: the ‘troika’ of pioneers in what is variously known as the sociocultural, social historical, or cultural-historical theory of development: the idea that social, cultural, and historical contexts define and shape a particular child and his experience…Researchers who adopt the sociocultural-historical perspective in examining learning do so within the cultural context of everyday life.”

I covered Lev Vygotsky in Credentialed to Destroy and Leontiev’s quote that American research on human development was erroneously focused on social and economic systems that presently exist or had occurred in the past in a previous post. This set of ideas about development HPL II is mandating then fit with the purpose of these Soviet theories: how a child “can become what he not yet is.” http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/imitating-the-ussr-in-striving-to-discover-how-the-child-can-become-what-he-not-yet-is/ HPL II also specifically cites to Urie Bronfenbrenner and his Bioecological Systems Theory, which was also covered in that post and which has its own ISC tag, like Leontiev. Finally, I have read Luria’s Autobiography, which Professor Michael Cole (also has a tag) translated into English to help promulgate this ‘set of ideas about development.”

When the creators of a set of ideas tell us the purpose of the theories is to create a new kind of person with a new kind of consciousness that they proudly called homus sovieticus, we should be a bit reluctant to make those practices the required source of 21st Century K-12 Learning in societies that regard themselves as free. Especially when governments are creating learning standards and required assessments that seek to regulate “the processes [that] are the activities and interactions in which individuals engage that help them make sense of their world and their place in it.”

All the mandates about the Whole Child and required social and emotional learning make sense when we recognize the targeting of “emotions, goals, social relationships, prior experiences, and cognitive and biological predispositions [that] all influence how individuals interpret situations and hence what they learn” for transformational change. Remember the Learner Exit Profile vision UNESCO is pushing to target future decision-making from the last post? That goes to the need to manipulate the activities and learning experiences through “the changing demands, features, and supports of the learning situation [to] further influence people’s interpretations and emotions, what they will decide to do, and consequently what they learn.” All controlled by the desired outcomes of changing who the student is and what they desire from the inside-out.

Last week also saw the release of https://education-reimagined.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Schools-Out-Brochure_FINAL.pdf advocating a “meaningful new system of learning” because education now “must produce thoughtful, contributing members of society who can survive and thrive in rapidly changing environments.” That sounds so much better than what Leontiev described as a goal of creating people for a world that does not yet exist, but it is actually the same goal. That’s probably why ‘community leaders’ interviews after that report came out framed it as pursuing John Dewey’s vision of education as “the pursuit of self-actualization and a contribution to the broader collective.” Another leader said “education is what remains after we forget everything we’ve been taught” which certainly sounded like internalized neural Habits of Mind to me. He then went on to say education is “really about creating a harmony between the ideas that we have in our minds and the values we hold in our hearts.”

Making sure those Ideas and Values are what is desired then becomes the whole point of 21st Century Learning. After all, as HPL II put it: “learning at the individual level involves lasting adaptations of multiple systems to the changing external and internal environment, including changes in the biology of the brain.” If you wanted to know why targeting emotions now is so crucial, HPL II tells us that “emotions help learners set goals during learning. They tell the individual experiencing them when to keep working and when to stop, when she is on the right path to solve a problem and when she needs to change course, what she should remember and what is not important.”

That’s what is being targeted for transformation to allow the world to supposedly shift beyond political and economic systems that exist now or have in the past to a new vision of how the world might be. When HPL II states that “the committee has taken a sociocultural view of learning,” this is an aspirational statement of what can be made to be, at a biological, neural level, if only the the ‘right’ theories of learning are imposed to create the new desired psychological processes. That’s also the reason for the definition of LearnĀ HPL II adopts:

‘Learn’ is an active verb: it is something people do, not something that happens to them. People are not passive recipients of learning, even if they are not always aware that the learning process is happening. Instead, through acting in the world, people encounter situations, problems, and ideas, they have social, emotional, cognitive, and physical experiences, and they adapt. These experiences and adaptations shape a person’s abilities, skills, and inclinations going forward, thereby influencing and organizing that individual’s thoughts and actions going forward.”

By creating desired adaptations at a biological level and making learning formative to “shape a person’s abilities, skills, and inclinations” at the level of thought and likely future action, the Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Exit Profile, like Tranzi OBE in the 90s (covered in CtD), means that people have a steerable rudder ready to be exploited without their knowledge or consent. A politically organized society using education as its primary tool and data to see if desired goals are coming to fruition. Two more reports released last week made it clear to me that Equity as a civil rights legal mandate will be the banner used to make sure these learning theories created by the Soviet ‘troika’ make it into every classroom. https://www.crpe.org/sites/default/files/crpe-mind-gap-will-all-students-benefit-21st-century-learning.pdf is one and the other is here https://www.inacol.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Quality-Principles-Book.pdf .

Somehow the High-Quality Competency-Based Education with Equity at the Center to correct the Ten Flaws of the Traditional System requires practices that fit with HPL II and all were released in the same week. Let’s close with yet another quote from a ‘community leader’ advocating for the School’s Out vision. Ravi believes that the question “How do we educate for an unpredictable future?” is “putting the cart before the horse because we create the future based on how we educate. I think this opens up the opportunity to consider education not as a way to prepare kids for society but as a means of empowering them to lead us into the future and make changes along the way.” Based on desired goals apparently because this is the same leader who thought education was what remained after we forget everything we’ve been taught.

One of the educators for that same report said that “with our younger learners the science of human development needs to be front and center for everything we design.” The problem is this so-called science of human development is simply a tool of collectivists intent on transformational social, political, and economic social engineering if we read their books and papers as I have and do. See what I mean about how evidence-based learning and education standards essentially trying to program the mind and emotions?

Since the only way I know to make this metaphorical serf’s collar visible is to write about it, I guess I will keep trying to buck this script aimed at thoughts and future actions.

Social engineering nightmare seems like more of an apt description.

Power Belongs to Those Who Act With Reflection to Create Ontological Innovations

To avoid a quick trip to the closest dictionary as I was forced to do the first time I encountered that mouthful word, think of it as shorthand for seeking actual changes in the real world. It reflects a desire, as we saw with the actual definition of “evidence-based policymaking,” where “the value of a theory lies in its ability to produce changes in the world.” Since this is a blog primarily about education, those real world changes can be at the level of a student’s physiology, changing them neurally. To quote a 2016 UNESCO paper called “A Conceptual Framework for Competencies Assessment,” those biological changes at an internalized, noetic level would be what anyone interested in transformational political, economic, and social change deems to be “essential to give each learner the cognitive, gestural and emotional capability, enabling him or her to act concretely in complex situations as a responsible citizen.”

No, each student does NOT get to come up with their own definition of what makes a responsible citizen. That’s the purpose of these learning standards and competency frameworks, properly understood, which is why there is so much deceit about the Common Core, competencies, and social and emotional learning generally. Student-centered, or personalized learning, should thus be viewed as grounded in “understanding the value of a theory through its consequences on naturalistic systems [that would be your child–a student, your school, or maybe your city] also borrows from Messick’s notion of evidence of consequential validity for testing. His argument is that the validity of a claim is based on the changes it produces in a given system. These changes or consequences can then be considered evidence in support of validity.”

Messick may not be a familiar name to you, but he was with Educators Testing Service at about the same time as the creation of Outcomes Based Education (OBE). Sure puts a more appropriate spin on what the actual outcomes were to be, doesn’t it? Remember how I keep warning that Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Profiles in state ESSA plans are merely a 21st century way to rebrand what was called Transformational OBE? That UNESCO paper is full of references to Learner “Exit Profiles” in case anyone has any doubt on how UN entities intend to accomplish their transformational SDG goals. Now lets stop the influence of the False Narratives and quote directly from a vision of Exit Profiles in a world where “the school is no longer regarded as the prime vector for the spreading of knowledge.” Yes, you might want to reread that and take a deep breath before we continue quoting:

“It then presupposes the acquisition of a system of values based on human rights in addition to the international rules of communication and behaviour in the educational world. These rules are essentially represented by life skills (notably encouraged by UNESCO, UNICEF and others), reflections of certain values inherent in the Western democratic countries and in their own way of thinking as societies: access to citizenship and practices linked to sustainable development in the domains of food, environmental friendliness, health, and so on.

The school is therefore induced to go beyond the disciplinary structure of education, which used to respond essentially to problem areas of content and knowledge. Today power no longer belongs to those who know, as it previously did, or even to those who seek, but to those who act–those who embark, who organize, who manage, and so on. Pure action no longer suffices today; a reflexive and critical analysis of actions and situations is also essential for meeting current challenges. The point is that the division into disciplines is no longer adapted to this logic of action.”

That would be why it is such a Red Herring for anyone to be writing or speaking about whether a state’s math standards prepare them to take Algebra as an 8th grader or ultimately Calculus. That was never the actual purpose of learning standards. It’s also why ESSA requires states to have performance standards, which require action, as the measure of student achievement or success. The quote involving Dr Messick above came from a paper from an Indiana University ed prof published in 2004 in The Journal of the Learning Sciences. Its co-author, Sasha Barab, was a keynoter at the https://www.imbes.org/2018-imbes-conference held in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.

I have written about the International Mind Brain Education Society before and there are references in the presentations made there to making sure the desired practices and theories become incorporated into UNESCO mandates and global standards. Barab has left the cold winters of Indiana now and joined the faculty of Arizona State, putting him at a place where transformationalist James Paul Gee (see tag) is also located as well as a Center of Sustainability with global tentacles. Barab’s IMBES presentation, in turn, emphasized his September 2009 article in Educational Leadership called “Why Educators Should Care About Games”. It gives us a first-rate insight into the new purpose of curriculum that fits closely with what is described in that UNESCO document, but it is not a shift parents are likely to recognize. Let’s take a look at the purpose of the sought transformational play that can be designed into virtual reality curricula.

“We focus on building game-based learning environments in which students play an important role using academic knowledge to make decisions that influence, for better or worse, the designed storyline. Thus, these virtual spaces transform learners in three ways: (1) they transform a person from a passive recipient to an empowered actor, (2) they transform content from information that the learner has to remember to a tool that the learner can use to accomplish desired ends, and (3) they transform context from an assurance that ‘this knowledge will be relevant in the future’ to a present reality that responds to the learner’s actions.”

If you print out this post or Barab’s article, you can do what I did and write the word “dialectical” in the margin by that 3rd way of “transforming the learner” at a noetic, physiological level. Later, the article reiterates that the new purpose of academic content, i.e., “knowledge connected to disciplines–such as investigative research and writing–serves as one of the most fundamental tools for making sense of the world and acting effectively in it.” If, like me, you know someone well who programs or creates computer software, it will be hard to get over the feeling that the new purpose of academic content and prescribed learning experiences, such as virtual reality games, is programming human minds and personalities, without that individual or their parents’ knowing consent.

It is the action that forces the desired neurological change in ways that can then become embedded Habits of Mind. After all, these educational games were created because:

“we want students to see the value of the content they learn for other situations. If a learner never realizes how this virtual experience relates to real-life experiences, then the game playing will have been engaging but not productive. Becoming a hero within a virtual world should enable students to see themselves as people capable of using what they learn to successfully transform their world and to continue growing as scientists, historians, or writers.”

In other words, science, history, and writing are no longer about disciplinary knowledge. They are the source of activities that can be used to change the student from the inside to alter their future behavior in the outside, real world. I am going to close with the ending of the paper, but readers may want to go back to Chapter 1 of my book Credentialed to Destroy to appreciate the transformational purposes of John Dewey’s Ideal of Learning. I was not going to bring in Uncle Karl, but this is unquestionably closely tied to his vision of the Human Development Society to be created once Man became a Maker of History. This quote follows the paragraph just above.

“By helping students connect virtual accomplishments to real-life scenarios, we lead learners closer to John Dewey’s ideal of learning. Dewey (1938/1963) argued that education should be about giving learners the motivation and expertise to act in problem-filled contexts where applying that expertise makes a difference. Dewey’s vision of schooling is quite different from the education experience most students have today, which involves amassing knowledge with the promise of someday bringing it to bear on the world. In contrast, when students solve problems in virtual scenarios, they get a taste of the real-world power of academic content.”

Just like UNESCO envisions.

With no sense of just how thoroughly they are now being manipulated by school, prescribed educational experiences, and the true nature of student assessments.