Building on what we found in the actual language of HPL II from the last post, I want to talk about precisely how what is being referred to authoritatively as the Science of Learning & Development https://www.turnaroundusa.org/landmark-papers-science-learning-development-published-applied-developmental-science/ makes it all the way to the local classroom, fidelity to the purpose of the theory intact. First though, let’s detour to the always forthcoming Harlan Cleveland (HC) and what he wrote in 1998 about how to guarantee the desired “guarantee mind shifting” necessary to create a means of “organizing human beings to work together toward common goals.” It was laid out in an article called “Religion and Governance” available here http://www.wnrf.org/cms/govern.shtml , which makes it crystal clear that the Integral Mindset we keep encountering and its sought Arational, non-Axemaker Mind, was called the “Transmodern Way of Thinking” by HC [who has an ISC tag].
Cleveland wanted to make “human beings the dominant actors in their own future evolution,” which may sound pie-in-the-sky until we recognize just how seminal ‘learner agency’ is to what is being called The Brain Basis for Integrated Social, Emotional, and Academic Development: How emotions and social relationships drive learning in a little publicized paper released last month by the Aspen Institute. HC once headed the Aspen Institute, which makes this concern about how “citizens have been slow to change” all the more alarming. HC also wrote (remember his pursuits in the 80s are covered in CtD) that:
“many countries citizens have been slow to change their minds because their leaders fear the consequences of ‘many flowers blooming’–as Mao Tse-Tung did, even though he popularized the phrase–in gardens they wish to control. But it’s dangerous not to take full advantage of new learning technologies; the breakdown of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union bears witness.”
Sounds like regret, doesn’t it? Sadness over lost transformation opportunities of leaders not using the powers of innovation to create “more satisfying belief systems” that are “open to adaptation” and instill a desired “inner sense of what is appropriate.” On that note, one of the backers of those papers above, EducationCounsel, the policy arm of Richard Riley’s law firm that also represents school districts, has worked with the same CCSSO that created the Common Core to create Principles of Effective School Implementation Systems https://ccsso.org/resource-library/school-improvement-principles-1-10-questions-ask-yourself and Deep Dive Principle 1 insists that “schools will provide effective and engaging instruction within a supportive school culture.”
All terms with a definite meaning under HPL II, its troika, and those Turnaround papers. What is effective though is not just about listed Outcomes where “students will be academically prepared.” Students will also be “socially responsible,” which sounds remarkably like a Garden to be Controlled in the 21st century by ‘public policy’ and legal mandates. Principle #2 fleshes out that garden by referencing the “full range of knowledge, skills, and mindsets necessary for students to succeed in college, career, and civic life.” Mindsets is a synonym in these documents which is sometimes replaced by Dispositions, Attitudes, or Attributes. By any of these names, it gets at the needed:
“epigenetic adaptation [grounded in experience]–the biological process through which these reciprocal individual-context relations create qualitative changes to our genetic makeup over time, both within and across generations…Genes are chemical ‘followers’, not the prime movers, in developmental processes; their expression at the biological level is determined by contextual influences.”
‘Contextual influences’ is more commonly known now as prescribed ‘learning experiences’ aimed at getting at the internalized realm of a student’s KBVAF–knowledge, beliefs, values, attitudes, and faith–to gain the desired new values and patterns of thinking. https://www.turnaroundusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Key-Findings-and-Implications-of-the-Science-of-Learning-Development.pdf was the source of that quote and one of its primary authors is one of the keynoters at this week’s iNACOL conference in Nashville. Here’s another quote since the “human relationship is a primary process through which biological and contextual factors mutually reinforce each other” and the “human relationship is an integrated network of enduring emotional ties, mental representations, and behaviors that connect people across time and space.”
Is it any wonder that Positive School Climates and social and emotional learning then are being legally mandated for intervention as Student Success and School Improvement using every legal vehicle available? We now are to consider both children and adults as ‘developmental systems’ where governments and other institutions seek to intervene to control the:
“continuous interaction between the individual and the context of each individual’s relationships and experiences. [Human] development is shaped by a convergence of individual, biological, contextual, cultural, and historical factors…An understanding of neural malleability and plasticity, the dynamics of resilience, and the interconnectedness of individuals with their social and physical contexts offers a transformational opportunity to influence the trajectories of children’s lives.”
While making them ‘socially responsible” to boot, huh? Remember how HC loved that garden metaphor for the potential of controlling the mind? Well, the unpublicized Aspen paper above opens with telling us that “the developmental sculpting of the brain’s networks through learning is akin to the process of growing a botanical garden.” Maybe, but none of us get to pick out either the landscape architect or gardener doing the planning, mowing, or pruning. Politicians, public policy think tanks, academics, and other TOGAS–translocal organizations of government actors, like CCSSO–are the one’s planning to utilize “the brain’s plasticity, the very adaptability that allows us to adjust to the demands of our environments…as a critical opportunity and responsibility for education.”
No wonder these aims were called Tranformational Outcomes-Based Education in the 90s with a true aim to target the “situations, problems, ideas, and social relationships… that a person engages with [so that] these experiences [will] influence patterns of brain structure and function that undergird a person’s changing skills and inclinations over time.” Then comes the garden metaphor language followed by:
“Just as a garden grows differently in different climates and with different climates and with different plants, styles of gardening, and use, a person’s brain develops differently depending on age, predispositions, priorities, experiences, and environment. When given adequate opportunity, support, and encouragement, children naturally think, feel emotions, and engage with their social and physical worlds. And these patterns [KBVAF] of thoughts, feelings, and engagement organize brain function over time and in age-specific ways, influencing growth, intelligence, and health into the future.”
If that only sounds a bit creepy as a mandate for intervention as School Improvement or Student Achievement https://www.air.org/sites/default/files/EdCounsel-AIR-ESSA-State-Plans-School-Improvement-Event-May-2018.pdf , how about an image of firing within the brain while discussing the depicted area as (2) the right and left insulae, which sense the viscera and can be thought of as feeling emotion-related ‘gut’ responses and integrating those feelings with cognitive processes; and (3) regions of the Default Mode Network that are involved with processing the psychological self, building coherent narratives, calling up personal memories, and thinking about beliefs and moral values.”
How intrusive. No wonder we get euphemisms about School Improvement, Higher Order Thinking Skills, and Student Success instead of the open statement that brain structure and functional change for transformative political purposes requires students:
“be willing and able to tackle challenging tasks…to also learn to perceive themselves as capable of succeeding, which illustrates the connection between cognitive and emotional capacities. Learning environments that are structured to be consistent with how the brain develops generally include these features: They place the learner’s emotional and social experience at the forefront. Productive learning environments attend to learners’ subjective perceptions and help students build scholarly and social identities that incorporate their new skills and knowledge. They help people to feel safe and purposeful, and to believe that their work is important, relevant, and valuable.”
Now does all the role playing and references to learning to Think like a Scientist, Historian, or Mathematician make more sense? It’s all about a means to gain the desired neural change that fuses circuitry uniting emotion with thought. The remaining needed features for neural change, also bold-faced are age-appropriate exploration and discovery that allows “learning important concepts and skills” and exploring “essential questions.” No, we do not get to decide what is ‘important’ or ‘essential’, anymore than we get to pick out the border shrubs for this metaphorical neural garden. “They support flexible and efficient thinking. [where] productive learning environments attend to the trade-off between plasticity and efficiency in brain development, strategically offering activities that encourage flexible thinking along with those that encourage mastery of necessary building-block skills and knowledge.”
Next we get “help students acquire habits of mind and character. Productive learning environments help students acquire habits of mind that facilitate acquisition of age-appropriate knowledge and skills, reasoning, and ethical reflectiveness. These habits of mind become tools for navigating the world as a learner, bringing curiosity, interest, persistence, and a deep thirst for understanding.” They left out that habits of mind are largely unconscious so these learners are being guided by the same instilled internal rudder I call the Invisible Serfs Collar. How right I was with my own metaphors.
Now we know why we keep encountering required practices for the classroom that “attend to the development of the whole child in context, and the need for aligned partnerships throughout the community that can support children’s and their families’ health and well-being.” No wonder this vision of education and the omnipresent communitarian emphasis “is a necessity for all children” and every type of school.
For these political and social plans to gain effect without effective opposition in time, education needs to be about forcing planned interdependence in the neural circuitry of each citizen’s “cognitive, emotional, and social processing.”
I can see why euphemisms, undisclosed alliances, and legal mandates are so necessary to such a vision to gain Implementation with Fidelity.