Another Gear Change: Perceiving the Patterns Underlying the Human Learning Process

Over the weekend, I was reviewing my notes and trying to figure out how to explain the common transformative aims of what has arrived in my inbox  since the beginning of 2019. A quote Kenneth Boulding made in the mid-70s in his book Ecodynamics: A New Theory of Societal Evolution jumped out at me. He wanted to target the “evaluative processes of human judgment, which are the foundations of decision-making,” just like UNESCO announced in May 2018 was to be their goal for K-12 education. http://invisibleserfscollar.com/facing-the-fold-to-overcome-the-prisons-of-our-minds-and-thus-transform-the-future/ laid out how to change images of the future and anticipatory assumptions and fits with what Boulding hoped for decades before.

“reasoning about the self and about society is likely to accelerate the patterns of evolutionary development, but we can be sure that reason as we know it today is not final…In the future we may be able to perceive patterns and handle models of complexity far beyond our present capability. Should this enable us to perceive the patterns underlying the human learning process itself, this might indeed constitute another gear change in the long process of evolution with a further acceleration of the evolutionary pattern through time…all decisions are about the future and all our experience and records are of the past. It is only as we see patterns in this past record that we have any hope of making projections of the future and of making decisions that will change the future in ways we desire. To change the future, after all, is the object of any decision.”

Now what if a planner with desires for fundamental transformations could control what “patterns are seen in this past record” by making learning conceptual, instead of factual? Couldn’t that planner and any learning standards created to internalize the desired pattern perception actually control people’s desired images of the future? That’s the plan anyway as an October 1991 article called “Ten Ways to Integrate Curriculum” made clear. It talked about using Concepts, Topics, and Categories so that eventually “The disciplines become part of the learner’s lens of expertise; the learner filters all content through this lens and becomes immersed in his or her experiences.” Some autonomy, huh? See why it mattered in the last post if the explicit instruction is to impart conceptual lenses, instead of imparting facts? Who will then recognize if the concepts are inapt and the provided example is false?

Before we talk about the social and emotional learning emphasis of this contrived web of perception and interpretation as laid out in http://nationathope.org/report-from-the-nation/ that came out in January from the Aspen NCSEAD we have covered repeatedly, I want to pull up a January 1998 speech Martin Seligman (of IPEN and Positive Neuroscience among others) gave upon assuming the Presidency of the APA. Several of the people mentioned in the speech titled “Building human strength: psychology’s forgotten mission” are also involved with that Nation of Hope report and its supporting documents. https://nonopp.com/ar/Psicologia/00/pres.htm wants to “create a science of human strength…focused on systematically promoting the competence of individuals.” That science’s goal and the new role of education will be to “foster these virtues in young people” as likely buffers against mental illness: courage, optimism, interpersonal skill, work ethic, hope, honesty and perseverance.

One of the supporting papers from that Nation at Hope vision can be found here https://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/issue_briefs/2018/rwjf450542 from December 2018 and it is also tied to both that 1998 APA speech as well as the Nation at Hope NCSEAD vision. Its cover gives a nice concise definition of social and emotional learning (SEL) that fits with Boulding’s, Seligman’s, and now the NCSEAD plans for evolutionary education to a new kind of mind and decision-making processes.

SEL is defined as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

To change the future, after all, is the object of any decision is what Boulding wrote decades ago and suddenly that hoped for gear is the focus of so much interest and plans. A Nation at Hope states that “children require a broad array of skills, attitudes, and values.They require skills such as paying attention, setting goals, collaboration, and planning for the future. They require attitudes such as internal motivation, perseverance, and a sense of purpose. They require values such as responsibility, honesty, and integrity. They require the abilities to think critically, consider different views, and problem solve.” It goes on to talk about “helping children learn these traits and skills” using the usual contrived arguments so lets go back to Boulding’s far more forthcoming explanation:

“It may well be that biological evolution is approaching its end and that it will be succeeded by an evolutionary process wholly dominated by noogenetic processes directed by human values.”

Noogenetic may sound like a mouthful, but the prescribed concepts, categories, and topics, learning standards, competency-emphasis, SEL hype, are all examples of how experiences alter in foreseeable ways the genetic, biological material we were all born with. Think of all these books, plans, reports, and speeches as simply declarations of “Boy, do we have plans for you using the Holy Grail of education” to mask the hoped-for transformation. Remember how I called attention to the focus on values, attitudes, and beliefs in my book Credentialed to Destroy and then the False Narrative hijacked that insight to mean a database of PII on each student? A Nation at Hope explains that targeting like this: “No one involved in education can view the values and beliefs held by students as trivial or secondary. They are the very things that can grip the imagination and determine the direction of a life.”

Values, attitudes, and beliefs, in other words, act as the rudder of personal decision-making and being able to prescribe them and manipulate them is a crucial aspect of steering a society as a collective without effective opposition. Internalized at the level of ideas, images, and emotions is quite hard to see unless, like me, you keep stumbling across those very plans for internalized subordination and unknowing submission. The False Narratives themselves make far more sense when we read of the NCSEAD plans of Convergence using the SEL focus because “it brings together a traditionally conservative emphasis on local control and on the character of all students, and a historically progressive emphasis on the creative and challenging art of teaching and the social and emotional needs of all students, especially those who have experienced the greatest challenges.”

Right on cue, we had an essay by a Maryland State Education Board member and ed consultant Andy Smarick, with ties to a number of supposedly conservative or libertarian think tanks https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2019/01/48003/ pushing for a vision he called Capacitating Conservatism which would see “policy as a tool for re-empowering individuals and their mediating institutions so that they can re-instill beliefs and practices that have atrophied.” If what is to be instilled has to live behind deceit about the true ed reform agenda and how learning standards really work, it’s not actually Conservative. That’s simply a label to gain implementation and support without opposition.

Human Flourishing as a goal does not come from deceitful, False Narratives of the kind we keep encountering. Yet if the Civil Society emphasis of that article’s author fits with A Nation at Hope‘s rhetoric about “effective education involves values, healthy attitudes, social skills, and a commitment to the betterment of the community,” we have a Convergence by think tanks around a common vision for education that is not being shared as they fundraise. If a Classical School’s Pillars of Excellence or a charter school network’s Due North Moral Compass also illustrate what A Nation at Hope envisions as  “working to transform schools into places that foster empathy, respect, self-mastery, character, creativity, collaboration, civic engagement and–on the strength of these values-academic excellence. They are encouraging communities to embrace the ambition, compassion, and rigor of social, emotional, and academic education,” assertions begin to make more sense.

Every one involved with these visions and the supposed alternatives appears to actually be going to the same place. They are on the same page to use a different metaphor. We are not supposed to grasp that though. Think about what Boulding said would be possible once Human Learning knowledge reached a certain point and then read this quote with the Header: “Think About the Skills that Help You Learn and Grow as an Adult Every Day.”

The ones that help you think, relate, and act responsibly. What if we could help our children develop that same set of skills in school? We know more than ever about what it takes for optimal learning; now is the time to put that knowledge into practice for all children everywhere.

Is the focus on Equity then, really about Fairness and Justice for All? Or is it a slogan that lets How We Think become a basis for prescription, monitoring, and adjustment for purposes of political change? The latter can be called ‘public policy’ as a euphemism and pitched instead as the “lessons, beliefs, and norms that make a free society succeed.” After all, how many students and adults grounded in supplied concepts, categories, and topics, coupled to contrived learning experiences to instill the desired Attributes, will recognize factually what free societies really had in common historically?

If we do, in fact, have an unacknowledged Convergence now globally around education the following quote makes more sense as it talks about the shared vision.

In Every Collective Human Endeavor There Comes a Moment–a moment when we know so much more about what we ought to do. A moment when multiple voices and perspectives coalesce around a shared vision. A moment when, together, we can make the possible real. In education, that moment is now.

I think the moment is now too, which is why it is so important to decipher the actual shared vision that is intended to transform us and our children. Professors Boulding and Seligman were honest about their intentions of transformation using education. The purposes of an Integrated Curriculum and an SEL focus are also crystal clear.

If a Clarion Call is sounding, we darn well better understand accurately what we are being called to do, be, and become.

 

 

 

Jumping from the Skillet into the Fire by Misunderstanding the True Common Core

Last week there was a great deal of coverage by many of the same sites that have no interest in truthfully describing competency-based education, the purpose of student data collection, what Outcomes  Based Education is really about, or how learning standards really work hyping Governor DeSantis’ decision to take Florida from the Common Core. I read the articles in between my real life appointments these days and continue to see an alarming pattern of deceit. Let’s talk a bit about what the seemingly well-intentioned governor should know apart from his need to quickly read Credentialed to Destroy cover to cover. First, if the new goals for what the students in Florida are to Know and be Able to Do are still aligned to CEDS–the Common Education Data Standards, then Florida remains tied to the Common Core. It simply misunderstands its true nature.

Since Florida, like Texas, was one of the early states that transitioned to outcomes-based education several decades ago it is hard to see it going backwards into a true traditional content emphasis. My second word to the wise in any state or other countries is that if the teacher is using direct instruction to teach DCIs–Disciplinary Core Ideas– that then serve as ‘lenses’ for how to perceive the world, interpret experiences, and evaluate contexts, that explicit instruction is NOT, in fact, traditional subject-matter instruction. Don’t be fooled by some Type 1 vs Type 2 metaphor that also insists that Constructivism is about Discovery Learning. Let me quote an absolute authority on the subject, UNESCO, which stated that the Lev Vygotsky Learning and Development approach to create a new internalized basis for viewing the world is:

“the revolutionary approach to these issues pioneered by Vygotsky has linked these two processes together in a way that was never before considered. According to Vygotsky, some of the developmental outcomes and processes that were typically thought of as occurring ‘naturally’ or ‘spontaneously’ were, in fact, substantially influenced by children’s own learning or ‘constructed’. Learning, in turn, was shaped by the social-historical context in which it took place. This dual emphasis–on children’s active engagement in their own mental development and on the role of the social context–determined the name used to describe the Vygotskyian approach in the West–‘social constructivism.'”

So so-called Type 1 direct instruction can be used to instill what John Hattie called ‘visible learning’ that is designed to implement this Vygotskyian approach to get at the desired Constructs, Principles, and Concepts that guide a student’s thinking going forward. I bolded a few terms in that quote so we could specifically address them so we can each avoid this desired individual, ‘personalized’, fire that is to promote collective transformation at an internal, neurological level. Did you know that back in April 2018 the Council of Europe formally adopted “Competences for Democratic Culture: living together as equals in culturally diverse democratic societies.” It created a CDC framework on “how we nurture a set of common values around which to organise,’ which could usefully be nicknamed a ‘common core’. The framework creates 3 sets of values, 6 attitudes, 8 skills, and 3 bodies of knowledge and critical understanding that all students must now be able to demonstrate.

So if what Florida implements instead fits with what that CDC Framework lays out as its concept of ‘competence’, then Florida still has a common core and it’s a global, transformative template.

“Democratic and intercultural competence is defined as the ability to mobilise and deploy relevant values, attitudes, skills, knowledge and/or understanding in order to respond appropriately and effectively to the demands, challenges and opportunities that are presented by democratic and intercultural situations [aka social contexts]. Competence is treated as a dynamic process in which a competent individual mobilises and deploys clusters of psychological resources in an active and adaptive manner in order to respond to new circumstances as these arise.”

Pretty sure that active and adaptive manner for a given social context in that last sentence is what we in the West now call a Growth Mindset, which makes sense since Carol Dweck was a Vygotsky scholar before she came up with that particular euphonious euphemism for his Soviet theories. Anyway, we need Governor DeSantis and his advisors to appreciate something else I picked up from a 2017 presentation on the CDC Framework in Moscow, Russia where the slide laid out what it called Descriptors that ties in with what I know about how the referenced CEDS mentioned above or UNESCO’s standards actually work globally. There are Sets of Descriptors for each competence specified by the model. “A descriptor is a statement or description of what a person is able to do if they have mastered a particular competence, These descriptors have been formulated using the language of learning outcomes, and they were validated through a survey that involved over 1,200 teachers who were drawn from across Europe.”  The slide goes on to note that there are Descriptors for the various levels of education (e.g.- preschool, primary, secondary, higher) and to proficiency levels (e.g.- basic, intermediate, advanced).

So if Florida is going to use some type of Descriptors for the Desired Outcomes of the type we see in Learner Profiles and Portrait of a Graduate that we see public and private schools using all over this nation now, then we still have a common core being instilled. It still has the purpose mentioned in a different slide where the answer to “What Kind of Education do we need?” is answered by another question–“What kind of society do we want to live in?” That DeSantis is guided by the latter suggestion is indicated by his stated desire for civics instruction to be emphasized. Want to know who else wants to emphasize civics instruction? Thorbjorn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe that published that CDC Framework. In a 2015 speech to the UN that is quoted in another one of those Moscow slides, he said: “While most states have some form of civic education, we don’t–as standard practice–teach our children what it means–explicitly–to be a democratic citizen.”

If you remember, I quoted a Howard Gardner book Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, Reframed in the last post. His vision of an instilled set of virtues that would guide each of us as we “navigate the shoals of work and citizenship in a highly complex and interconnected world” is all about the “need to evolve models of citizenship that can be embraced by the diverse populations of the world.” Just like that CDC Framework. Just like a Yuval Levin quote from the promotion for a February 12, 2019 Hoover/ Fordham Speaker Series where “he will make the case for reasserting the role of education in character formation…conservatives should reassert education’s vital role in molding the souls of rising citizens, not just future workers. While many institutions–family, religion and civic life–are under stress, schools remain an essential pillar of American life. Civic and character education deserve a place of honor alongside more utilitarian considerations.”

Is Yuval Levin’s vision one of those Governor DeSantis is listening to in promoting his civic instruction for Florida schools? If so, we still have a common core being instilled of the same kind Vygotsky had in mind years ago and what the CDC framework promotes now. The Governor also made a statement about moving away from ‘standardized assessments,’ which suggested to me someone is shifting him towards the Learner-centered, Transformative-based, Context-oriented vision laid out last week here https://education-reimagined.org/how-to-shift-from-education-as-content-to-education-as-context/ that fits with all the quotes I have used in this post so far. That author from Iowa BIG uses the term Universal Constructs to mean what is laid out in the CDC Framework. If someone is providing and reenforcing something akin to these Universal Constructs tied to something like CEDS and its Descriptors, then we still have a common core, instilled character and citizenship, vision.

Reading, math, and science are no longer valued as a body of knowledge useful for its own sake and an individual’s own purposes. Let me close with a quote to illustrate the difference and hope that February will not throw up as many personal roadblocks to my writing as January did.

“inside contextually-rich environments and experiences, we are able to help students ‘see’ the knowledge and skills required for diverse contexts and to learn and practice them in unique contexts. Being competent at the Universal Constructs enables a person to effectively navigate and succeed across a myriad of ever-changing contexts. My staff and I cannot know what any of our learners will ‘need to know’ in terms of content or standards in the future. What we can do is ensure our learners are effective at reading context and having the skill set to know how to access and use the content and concepts necessary for their success in that environment.”

I boldfaced all the euphemisms used to obscure the intentional creation of a common core that will purposely guide future decision-making and motivations to act. If there is still any doubt how deliberate, transformative, and global this all is let me close with a link a 2018 Update to IB’s Primary Years Programme called Action. https://drive.google.com/file/d/166FvIsUHIBKEYASa6MWd9Hn1MdLmEFC2/view Notice all the references in it to Learner Profile Attributes. That would be another name for Descriptors. Connecting action and the learner profile tells us that “Through developing attributes of the learner profile, students grow in their ability to make informed, reasoned, ethical judgments and to exercise the flexibility, perseverance and confidence they need to bring about positive change in the community and beyond.”

Those students have an instilled common core at the level of their mind and personality designed so that they act and are motivated to act in a certain way that is designed to ultimately transform how both American society and the world function in the future. It could not be more centrally planned, but because the planned implementation is local and neurological, it can be hard to see. All the deceit surrounding the Common Core simply made that harder.

But as my writing continues to demonstrate, difficult does not mean impossible once we discern the true actual template and need for a common core. It’s essential to all these plans for transformative change without effective opposition.

And there is nothing Conservative about deceit to effect intentional social, political, and economic transformations using education. It reminds me of something one of the Integral Theorists wrote where he said the admitted Progressives could focus on transforming the external, material world, while declared ‘Conservatives’ could maneuver to transform the internal rudders guiding personal behavior.

That really does describe what is going on and why I see such a Convergence behind the scenes. Let’s talk about that next.