Welcome to 2019 as we continue to watch where all the education reforms converge under a variety of names and rationales. We get to watch where various narratives that appear coordinated misinform and whether we can draw a useful picture of omission that we are supposed to be unaware of, while we lobby in outrage for remedies that simply make the neural enslavement worse. Time for some specifics then that I kept track of amidst the wrapping, cooking, and decorating that dominated last month’s activities. A 2003 book by Georgetown law professor Robin West called Re-imagining Justice: Progressive Interpretations of Formal Equality, Rights, and the Rule of Law is being brought back into print later this month so let’s look at what it sought to make operational and how it pertains to education. West explained in her conclusion that:
the idea that subjecting human behavior to governance by rule is, all things, considered, a morally good thing to do–is gaining adherents, worldwide, as the force of positive, international law extends its reach around the globe, and domestic law, both here and elsewhere, deepens and broadens its penetration into social life…law is gaining momentum as the preferred vehicle for control of social relations between nations, entities, or individuals.
Professor West then cited the ubiquitous Positive School Climate mandates as an example of how “the schoolyard playground, once a sphere of insulated political sovereignty dominated, Lord of the Flies style, by bullies, has been tamed by the intrusion of positive law.” Now, I am not as optimistic as Professor West on the ability of new rules, learning standards, and Graduate Profiles to remake human nature, but there is no question whatsoever that the schools intend to try and do just that. Nor is there any question that this admitted Progressive desire to remake human nature, with frank admissions like “the goodness of law lies in its paternalistic capacity” or “subjection of human behavior to the governance of rules, at times, better promotes human wellbeing than does the sovereignty of choice” also hides behind banners about School Choice, Classical Education, Conservatism, Founding Principles, holistic education, and learner agency.
It can even be found, most alarmingly, as Chapter 1–“Character Development and a Culture of Connectedness” of the Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety released December 18, 2018. It’s no secret I believe that there is a correlation in both timing and locations between the push to use schools to neurally install a new code of ethics and morality to drive a cultural evolution, and school shootings, where the shooter clearly sought mass murder on the school grounds. It is horrific therefore to follow the cited materials in the Chapter 1 bibliography to people who make no pretense of wanting to turn the human mind and emotions into a system that can be manipulated for purposes of political transformation. I guess that’s what we get for a federal Ed Department staffed with Jeb Bush lackeys.
If the federal Commission cited this paper called “Towards a Science of Character Education” https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/e9b8fc57/files/uploaded/berkowitz_bier_mccauley_jce_2017.pdf , which they did, then all the aims of what is in its bibliography come in as well. I have read many of those books and articles over the years. I know where all this is going. I know precisely what Professor West means by using the law as a positive force to remake social relations and that is exactly what that Federal Commission intends to have done, at a local level, to be binding on people and places and easier to monitor. Insisting that the answer to school shootings is to use the PRIMED character education program so that schools can “help youth internalize ethical and performance values. Effective programs focus on integrating activities that promote self-growth, such as personal goal setting” is to make schools the vehicles for the Marxian moral revolution at a subjective level that both Uncle Karl, and his acolyte John Dewey, said would be necessary for the desired transformation.
See what I mean about how the remedies touted actually bring in more of the poisons that created these problems in the first place? Professor West and other admitted progressives would like nothing more than to make school about character development as “key to a successful society.” They are all on board with the transformative potential at an individual and collective level of “intentional efforts to foster both the academic advancement and the moral, ethical, and social-emotional development of students.” Communitarians of every creed and political party love the idea of school being centered around “the promotion of core ethical values such as fairness, respect, and personal responsibility can create a caring community that fosters students’ self-motivation and positive interactions.”
The idea that the Commission pitched “practices to help students develop a growth mindset” as a solution to school shootings when its creator, Carol Dweck, was originally a Vygotsky scholar seeking to implement his theories on using new classroom practices to create the transformed mindset needed for a new kind of Soviet Man, would be funny in an ironic way if it was not so ridiculously ignorant of these practices. Tragedies like Parkland and the rule of law get used to force poisonous collectivist ideas down this nation’s throats and into our children’s minds and hearts. https://www.learningandthebrain.com/blog/we-can-no-longer-ignore-evidence-about-human-development/ from November 29, 2018 from Professor Immordino-Yang involved in both the US and UNESCO’s neural redevelopment efforts via education is at least honest about the intentions to use new practices to”support the development of our full humanity.”
Do you believe the purpose of education is for students “to question and rethink their ideals, to build their deep desire for inventing themselves“? If not, wouldn’t you want to know if the remedy of a new kind of education to supposedly avoid mere workforce training actually used the techniques of transformative learning? Wouldn’t you want to know the documentable transformative aims of the practices being recommended as the remedy?
I covered Harvard education professor Howard Gardner’s books and goals for a reimagined vision of education and its ties to Lev Vygotsky in my book Credentialed to Destroy so I was quite taken aback to learn that he had a new book come out in 2011 called Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed since it essentially tied the motto of the remedy–Classical Education–as a solution to the hyped concerns over the Common Core to Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory. It turns out to be Integral Theory’s motto too. How’s that for a convergence? In the book Gardner talked about his work on Ethics with Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi without noting that it was Csik and the General Evolution Research Group’s Achieving Excellence transformative template being piloted in certain Colorado districts (introduced in the 80s) that had been used in the Columbine district for years before that 1998 tragedy.
Let’s see what Gardner wanted, since it reminds me so much of what Professor West and that Federal Commission report also seek:
we reserve the term moral for these interactions that exist between or among human beings by virtue of their common humanity, their mutual recognition of this fact…socialization by the community–whether carried out in a harsh or benign fashion–entails broadening and leavening the sense of the good so that it becomes less self-centered, less egocentric, more cognizant of the welfare of other members of the group, and more alert to the ‘common good’. I contrast morality, a neighborly concept, with ethics, a concept appropriate to complex societies…[where] one thinks of oneself in terms of roles. The ethics of roles entails a crucial additional component…that feature is the concept of responsibility.
That quote is long enough for us to catch the drift that the moral transformative revolution Marx said was necessary for his Human Development Society once a certain level of wealth and technological development was achieved, and what John Dewey sought in the name of Democracy, is what Gardner seeks in the name of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. It’s the Character Development the Federal Commission on School Safety seeks even if it’s unaware of what its admitted bibliography really ties to. What Gardner wants, just like where I have documented the phrase School Choice consistently leads us to, is for Young Americans to have “an ethical compass that governs their own behavior.” It is for curricula and classroom practices that create “a new, truly universal belief system, which could be religious or spiritual in tone, to emerge and to help individuals carry out various roles in a more ethical manner.”
When Gardner mentioned responsibility in italics he wanted students to assess “what is ‘good’ (or ‘not good’)” by applying these abstract notions to “human relations: the relations that govern how we human beings act toward one another, locally and globally.” That would be the same as Professor West’s belief that human behavior can now be governed by positive law. I guess Professor Gardner would add “and student-centered learning via prescribed standards and goals of what is to be learned as the basis for future behaviors and motivations to act.” I want to end with this recent essay https://www.lawliberty.org/2018/12/11/civility-and-the-challenge-of-ordered-liberty/ because it illustrates well how the same Progressive concepts and ends can be pitched with different terms by someone with ties to supposedly Conservative publications and think tanks.
The author, Alexandra Hudson, came on my radar yesterday after Politico reported she was leaving her job as an advisor to Betsy DeVos to work on a book with the working title of Redeeming Civility: How the death of true civility threatens America’s future.” Civility struck me as another euphemism for what Gardner called Goodness and Professor West called positive law. I had to wonder if she was leaving because the Federal Commission report was now out, especially with its emphasis on Character Development as its first remedy, so I looked up the author and found that essay. I eventually also found out she has a Masters in “comparative social policy” from the London School of Economics. Perhaps she stood there below the Fabian window thinking that if only she could be an advisor to a US Education Secretary she would in fact be in a position to advocate global policy to in fact fit the motto at the window’s top to “Remould it nearer to the heart’s desire.”
Hudson is reviewing a 20-year old book by a Yale law prof called Civility because she thinks it “could just as aptly describe today. Civility adds a moral dimension to the way we interact with our fellow citizens–our ‘fellow travelers’ as Carter calls them. He makes two distinct but related moral arguments for civility. First, our shared humanity gives us all a duty to respect one another. Second, life of our republic requires us to show regard for one another through our actions, great and small.”
See what I mean about the banners varying, but how the remedies, destinations, and aims do not? If you read the whole essay, notice her citing of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation as an exemplar and remember we covered the Rockefeller Foundation-funded NCDD when we covered their advocacy of Communication for Social Change.
Small world, isn’t it? Also, notice how Ms Hudson uses the terms democracy and republic interchangeably. Let’s finish with a piece of history I learned from Professor West’s book on Re-imagining Justice because it fits so well with what Professor Gardner wants–people working together to achieve desirable goals.
Whether or not a government is republican, [Thomas] Paine urged, is entirely independent of the form it takes: a democracy, monarchy, or aristocracy all might be, or attempt to be, a republican government. Rather, a republican government is defined by its purpose, which is to serve the well-being of its citizens.
Just like Professor West said was the purpose of Positive Law and where Professor Gardner wanted new notions of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness to lead. Do you know another word for something that is guided by purpose, whether italicized or not?
A human system. All it needs apart from instilled purpose is shared sense and meaning-making. Precisely what all these visions of standards-based, student-centered education hope to instill.