Collective Cognition: Stipulating Right Thinking and Prescribing Prevailing Ideas to Defeat Polarization

Never heard the phrase ‘collective cognition’ before? Wouldn’t creating required learning standards and then assessing for their presence in guiding a student’s thoughts and actions amount to learning How to Think as a Community? After I wrote last week’s post, but knowing we were about to pivot next to something called the Hidden Tribes Project, I was fascinated to read the bio of the co-author of this recent article https://behavioralscientist.org/the-cognitive-science-of-political-thought-practical-takeaways-for-political-discourse/ where Professor Sloman admits that the cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences can be used to create Collective Cognition. If only some ultra-rich person would bequeath mega-millions to his employer, Brown University, to set up a Center to create models for K-12 education reforms.

Think of the Hidden Tribes Project as what to do about the adults whose minds and values got away when earlier versions of K-12 education reforms, like outcomes-based education, failed to shift as desired away from subject-content to changing:

the ideas that give your life direction. And the answers fit together into a larger picture–what we call a ‘worldview,’ a way of understanding and making sense of our world. Your worldview determines (consciously or unconsciously) how you interpret and respond to everything in life. This is why it is so important to begin thinking about your worldview and the ideas you believe to be true…develop a worldview that influences everything you do.

That is a really useful definition of worldview and why, I believe, we have found it as the aim of what my book laid out as Tranzi OBE from the 90s, and what we are seeing as Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Profiles now. It’s why learning standards globally carefully lay out the desired elements and seek to prescribe the ‘learning experiences’ that will create the characteristics at an internalized, physiological level. The Hidden Tribes Project, clearly related to the same aim but geared to adults and located at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, stated that its “focus is to better understand the forces that drive political polarization and tribalism in the United States today, and to galvanize efforts to address them.” I found the Project after it was hyped here in July https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_are_the_solutions_to_political_polarization and I recognized the links to both Seedbed of Virtues and the 1997 “A Call to Civil Society”.

George Will, in his Soulcraft book, kept using the same term “Better Angels of Our Nature” so let’s look and see how ‘our nature’ can be reengineered with education reforms and other social science projects. After all, one of the co-authors of the June 2019 More in Common report “The Perception Gap: How False Impressions are Pulling Americans Apart” is tied to the Templeton-funded Positive Neuroscience initiative at U-Penn that is also tied to the World Happiness Reports the UN has taken to publishing. If he states that “in coming years I plan on continuing to use the tools of social science to improve human interaction and society. Through teaching, speaking, researching, and writing, I hope to do my part to help humanity realize the best possible version of itself,” we would be wise to listen.

Humanity is so grateful, I reply with my usual sarcasm. Hopefully such aspirations and scholarship in “studying how social context in various populations can impact people’s moral judgment and behavior…” will get Mr Yudkin tenure somewhere. According to the 2018 “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” the “work of rebuilding our fractured society needs to start now” and it needs to occur at the level of each person’s values, attitudes, and beliefs. This will allow “re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to building a renewed sense of national identity: A bigger story of us.” More in Common believes that “a healthy democracy…requires a sense of shared values and commitments, and a willingness to find common ground”. That desired answer to polarization and tribalism, a desired standardization at the level of “mind, heart, and soul” for all citizens, young and old, requires deliberately targeting:

At the root of America’s polarization are divergent sets of values and worldviews, or ‘core beliefs’. These core beliefs shape the ways that individuals interpret the world around them at the most fundamental level. Our study shows how political opinions stem from these deeply held core beliefs. This study examines five dimensions of individuals’ core beliefs:

  •  Tribalism and group identification
  •   Fear and perception of threat
  •   Parenting style and authoritarian disposition
  •   Moral foundations
  •   Personal agency and responsibility

This study finds that the hidden architecture of beliefs, worldview and group attachments can predict an individual’s views on social and political issues with greater accuracy than demographic factors like race, gender, or income.

So education at every level and the media, whether broadcast, print, or websites of various supposed spectrums, need to get at and change that hidden architecture. To uncover and understand core beliefs, and “explore how this understanding can be used, not to deepen polarization but to bring people together.” Does the coordinated effort to pretend that the Common Core was about workforce preparation or a database of personally identifiable information about students instead of an effort to change those prevailing values, attitudes, and beliefs suddenly make more sense? What if I told you that the initial indented quote on worldview came from something called the Lightbearers Curriculum from Summit Ministries that I found after a Daily Caller article this summer made a reference to something called a Blue Sky Worldview and a camp to create it? What if the same article simultaneously misrepresented socialism and asserted that Marxism is only what was found in the past in Communist countries or is what Bernie Sanders pushes?

Let’s just say our False Narrative purveyors were well-represented among the advocates for this curriculum that also seeks to control “what ideas will rule the world” and provide “guidelines for shaping society for everyone’s benefit”. It is a curriculum intended for “endowing [the student] with the responsibility for shaping the future of the world.” Theoretical Marxism, the non-historical kind that is a theory of Man as a Maker of History seeking to drive a transformational process in the real world, would recognize that aspiration as bringing about what Uncle Karl called the Human Development Society. It is still the same theory even when the M word is not used and the sales pitch is the need to “redeem culture as part of God’s creation.” Worthy aspirations and a theological emphasis do not change the nature of this theory or who created the idea of how to get such a theory into practice (Praxis?).

Calling it “faith in action” instead of praxis, or opining that “without action, students may relegate what they are hearing to dry academic philosophies and not realize that these ideas should become part of their lives on a daily basis,” doesn’t distinguish aims that function the same with comparable purposes. So religious based or classical schools want ideas embodied into action as an integral part of the curriculum to create Desired Habits and Behaviors and so do public schools now as part of learning standards and what is called High Quality Project-Based Learning. See what I mean about going to the same place and targeting the same normative realm in each student?

Tranzi OBE, in function even if now euphemized into a myriad of new names, still is in play if the curriculum actively seeks to tell students they should be change agents and

stop being conformed by the ‘water’ around them, the culture they were in. Rather, they should be transformed by renewing their minds. The idea behind the word ‘transformed’ is that of metamorphosis–changing into something different. While conformity to the world is something that happens passively, being transformed is something that happens actively. Conformity just happens, but transformation requires effort. Transformation only happens through mind renewal, changing the way you think.

I bolded that last part from the Lightbearers Curriculum to call attention to a discussion in the comments from the last post when I said that the predecessor to the Common Core was something in the 90s called the New Standards Project. Before Professor Lauren Resnick helped create that initiative, she called her curriculum a Thinking Curriculum to be grounded in HOTS–Higher Order Thinking Skills. Stipulated Ideas would dominate so that the real world perceptions would be controlled by Desired Ideas and Theories of What Could Be. The Soviets in 1962 called this a new kind of Dialectic Materialism that would allow a transformation of the existing world via a theory they called Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete.

Its ideals still work the same today whether pushed on adults to supposedly bridge a Perception Gap and create a Convergence to defeat Polarization, or on children via mischaracterized learning standards and Thinking Curricula.

All of these advocates recognize that changing how we think leads to “transforming our behavior” in predictable ways. If anyone wants to prescribe “the basis of our decisions and actions,” as these various NGOs like UNESCO or the OECD, faith-based institutions, think tanks, or any other institution have explicitly said they wish to do if we know where to look, we should all be aware that has become the new purpose of education and the goal of much of what is broadcast or published by the media.

I suppose I should be grateful my book and then this blog set off such an orchestration of False Narratives. The deceit left the crumbs that enable us to see the common vision. Everyone seems to want to get at what we believe and feel in order to control how we will behave.

And it has nothing to do with training pigeons except that once installed in our neural circuits via cognitive psychology, we will be programmed indeed.

 

 

Standardizing Self-Transcendence & Psychological Attributes to Deliberately Converge Prevailing Consciousness

Since none of us were probably invited to NYC for the United Nations General Assembly last month, they just announced the roll out of a Futures of Education initiative with a ‘Learning to Become’ theme. It “invokes the need to develop the capacity to imagine a good and fulfilling life.” Sounds like Statecraft as Soulcraft, doesn’t it, taken to a current, global level? If anyone is still wondering too why there is so much hype about how all weather disasters must be due to Human-Caused Climate Change, we have this next quote as part of the Learning to Become agenda:

As we come to terms with human-caused changes to the planet and face the possibilities of fundamental transformations in social organization, human consciousness, and human identity, humanity needs to devote attention to the question: What do we want to become? Knowledge and learning are at the core of transformations in human minds and societies. Learning to Become invites us to become something we have not yet become.

As usual, I think that ‘we’ is rhetorical and ‘we’ are not supposed to really have a choice. I have warned repeatedly going back to Credentialed to Destroy how learning standards really work, but this NSF-funded paper “Understanding Standards” from Michigan State’s Center for the Study of Standards and Society really does an explicit job of laying it out. The paper is from 2011 and is part of this Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences 2020 Agenda.  https://www.nsf.gov/sbe/sbe_2020/Abstracts.pdf Yes, that would be next year.

We live in a world in which we are surrounded by standards for people, processes, practices, and products. These standards structure the sociotechnical world as well as the behavior of people in a variety of ways…Standards may best be understood as a means of governance that fall (largely) between laws and social norms…Standards are exemplars against which people and things are judged…[They can also be used to mandate] ethical codes of various sorts…Since standards are all about what and whose values shall be incorporated in products, processes, and practices, they are as much ethical as technical phenomena.

That is especially true when the ‘standards’ are prescribed to organize how the human mind and personality are to work, with that mandate carried out through poorly understood educational processes, locking in the desired changes at a physiological, neural level. When I was reading about both the Vatican’s Humanity 2.0 Initiative and the Jubilee Centre’s new curriculum on Virtue, as well as the Templeton Foundation’s mega-million funding of planned social evolution, a name kept cropping up, Professor Candace Vogler, a philosophy professor at the University of Chicago. I located this interview with her on a Templeton supported research project https://news.uchicago.edu/story/qa-philosopher-candace-vogler-virtue-happiness-and-meaning-life where the repeated use of the term ‘self-transcendence’ struck me as the newest euphemism for what George Will called ‘soulcraft’, Amitai Etzioni calls ‘communitarianism,’ and the Marxist Humanist vision called little ‘c’ communism to be enabled by a high level of technological prowess and inventions.

Professor Voglin also came up as involved with numerous Lumen Christi Institute presentations including those pushing something called ‘Right Reason,’ which I am probably not exhibiting in writing this blog post. Templeton has now launched this initiative https://www.lumenchristi.org/news/2019/03/lumen-christi-receives-john-templeton-foundation-grant-for-science-religion-project to fund research at the so-called “intersection between science and religion”. Just imagine how useful learning standards are to THAT agenda, and why it would provide multiple incentives for think tanks with common funding to Professor Voglin and George Will to misrepresent how those Catholic Curriculum Standards REALLY work. Professor Voglin said the Virtue, Happiness, and Meaning of Life Project had its ‘genesis’ in her “thinking about what the difference was between the people whose daily lives could be a source of happiness and purpose, and the people whose daily lives were a giant to-do list that was mostly a slog.”

I will let everyone guess which expletive I wrote in the margin after that quote rationalizing this push towards collectivism, but the next quote did strike me as far more truthful:

We are mostly investigating the possibility that a fundamental attachment and orientation to a good can make your daily life into a source of happiness that can sustain you through struggle and trial and give you resilience and a sense of purpose.

That rang true because Hillsdale Barney Charter Initiative has used similar language, as do the Catholic Curriculum Frameworks, and the concept of a moral compass and guiding North Star also shows up in charters being funded by the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative. Tell me this next passage does not sound like Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi’s definition of Excellence as aligning what is thought, wished for, and felt as the goals of Education. Remember too that various civil rights mandates now require Excellence and Equity as an education requirement as a matter of law.

What does virtue mean to you in the context of this project? Virtue is a kind of strength of character that helps you organize the things you take in from the world and the way you respond to them in the service of the actual good. And virtue helps to do that by harmonizing your thoughts, feelings, actions, and aspirations in good ways.

There is a new Personal Growth Framework out that calls precisely that-‘self-authorship’- and we now know UNESCO calls it Learning to Become. A 2011 book I just finished called From Brain to Mind: Using Neuroscience to Guide Change in Education says  educational practices designed to create such harmony intend to get at, and rewire, something called the Anterior Cingulate part of the human brain. That’s one way to turn Mind, Brain, and Education into a true science, isn’t it? Let’s see what the two-day capstone project held in October 2017 had to say about this so-called virtue of ‘self-transcendence’ so we can appreciate what it means to enshrine it in learning standards, a school charter, a Portrait of a Graduate, or Curriculum Frameworks:

Our conviction that virtue is essentially related to self-transcendence has grown out of engagement with research throughout the humanities and the social sciences that has continued to suggest that individuals who understand themselves to be practically oriented to something greater than the self–a family with a long history and the prospect of future generations, a spiritual practice oriented towards due reverence for the sacred and the need to live right by and be consciously united with others, work on behalf of social justice and the improvement of one’s community–often feel happier, have a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in their lives, and have overall better life outcomes than those who do not. Some psychologists have labeled this necessity for locating one’s self within a broader context ‘self-transcendence’.

That phrase has more universal appeal, doesn’t it, than when George Will defined those same aims as ‘Conservatism’? We have a global convergence going on now to use education, governments, regulations, think tanks, and faith-based organizations, among others, to push a vision that seeks to instill, via each person’s central nervous system, “a deep attachment to an overall good (happiness or living well) that individuals cannot attain through dispositions of thought, action, and feelings that are ordered to securing individual benefit…One commonality explored in this volume [from capstone conference] is the way that virtue is intimately connected to a social or communal vision of happiness, and how virtue can play an instrumental role in securing this goal for us.”

All this manipulation via education and, quite frankly, also the media is because we apparently don’t know what is best for ourselves or our children so we need a reimagining of education to lock in the desired visions of transformation. Plus lots of deceit about what is really going on so not enough of us can balk at the requisite neural nets of ‘new citizenship’ in time.

As usual, I have too much going on to continue today, but I want to get back next to what is planned for us to force the so-called Better Angels of Our Nature to bloom. George Will used that Better Angels phrase a great deal and it showed up tied to yet another Kennedy School of Government Initiative from this summer.

I said I had to take a break from writing. I did not take any break from my reading.