Destination Identity: Scaffolding the Collective Images of the Desired Futures to Habituate Needed Action

Let’s go back in time to the 1960s for social plans before comparing them to plans from last month in the UK clearly following the same long desired blueprint. The back cover of The Art of Conjecture book from the last post mentioned a related book called Social Technology that helpfully explains to us that:

the gap between the social and the physical sciences will not persist…[as long as people come to recognize that] the comparison with the social with the physical sciences is a spurious one, based on an epistemological misconception regarding the nature and purpose of scientific activity…this is the crucial point–there is every reason to believe that, by effecting specific changes in attitudes and procedures, we can substantially narrow the gap between physical technology and sociopolitical progress…The time has come to emulate, not physical science, but physical technology.

Translating that into more graspable English, it is the role of the physical sciences to describe what is or, at least, what seems to exist. The role of physical technology is to be put into operation in the existing world to see what gets changed as a result. For this vision of Social Technology to work, it needs means for “devising appropriate educational innovations” that can “construct a common frame of reference in order to promote a unified collaborative effort.” We might call such an aspiration as the creation of an internalized common core of prevailing attitudes, beliefs, conceptual Ideas, values, and motivations to act. It was all laid out many years before what we today would call THE Common Core or Competency-Based Education. Think though of the potential of learning standards globally tied to UNESCO criteria if the sought sociopolitical transformations need a specified contextual map grounded at the physical, neural level, establishing:

a common vocabulary, an agreed-upon ideology, a set of reasonable goals, a common context for symbols, and ways of translating ideas into actions… [These would lead] above all, to acquiring an integrated overview of the problem area…forcing the analyst to make specific which elements of a situation he is taking into consideration and in imposing on him the discipline of clarifying the concepts he is using. The model thus serves the important purpose of establishing unambiguous intersubjective communication about the subject at hand. Whatever intrinsic uncertainties may becloud the area of investigation, they are thus less likely to be further compounded by uncertainties owing to disparate subjective interpretations.

Put the Reading Wars in a whole new light. doesn’t it? It also explains why phonetic reading and how to teach it had to be constrained until after learning standards could be mandated that would specify the desired conceptual frameworks that would provide the required new categories of thought. Let’s go back to The Art of Conjecture one more time since it accurately recognized that “Our perception of the facts depends on our ideas: it is through our ideas that we know reality.” Therefore through education that uses learning standards and required annual assessments of Higher-Order Thinking Skills to monitor and control which Ideas a Mind uses to guide perception and the interpretation of experiences, political authority and its think tank allies across the political spectrum have stealthily managed to control what every censor and authoritarian government in history craved control over: “our awareness of reality and our expression of this reality.”

That is because as a practical matter “our mind ‘sees’ by means of ideas” and education and the media have formally joined hands to control those ideas. The role of prescribed lenses, frames, narratives, or scenarios to imagine what might be different has the effect of prescribing the ideas we use in reading the facts. Now, the author of the Social Technology book, Olaf Helmer, was a co-founder of the Institute for the Future in 1968 to bring about the vision from both his book as well as The Art of Conjecture to create an institution to create a “constructive approach which will ensure to us some measure of control over the future of our society.”

IftF works closely today with Knowledge Works to create Forecasts involving to future of K-12 education and push Competency-Based Education. Its employees are also closely involved with pushing the potential of digital technology to reimagine what the world could become and why it is needed. is from 2013. IftF also repeatedly shows up working with the GEFF 2030 visions surrounding the SDGs and all of the OECD’s work called Education 2030. Now let’s come back to last month’s on how mass involvement in shaping the future can solve complex problems. It is where the term ‘Destination Identity’ and the aspiration for “scaffolding public imagination” come from.

Crucially,  before the social planners writing that paper get to specifying the desired changes at the levels of the community and institutions, they first target a desire to control each individual’s ‘Mapping horizons,’ ‘Creating purpose’ for individuals, ‘Charting pathways’ for each individual, specifying the criteria to habituate ‘Acting together’, and, tied to the discussion from the beginning of this post, framing ‘Testing ideas’. The Framework for Evaluating Participatory Futures, in other words, just happens to coincide with what 21st century skills hypes, as well as Project-Based Frameworks to implement Competency-based Education. It gets at what learning standards specify and it says the real reason all this must be standardized through a reenvisioning of education globally is to

build collective intelligence about the future by helping people to diagnose change over the long-term, draw out knowledge and ideas about how the future could be, and develop collective mental images of the futures people want.

Well, at least the futures people will want when digital simulations, required learning experiences, formative assessments for HOTS, and High Quality Project-Based Learning get done with their ‘imaginations’. After all, that report disdains “only engaging people to think about the future in an analytical and rational way.” Mustn’t greet the future, in other words, with an Axemaker Mind full of actual factual information and your own developed categories of thought. Might lead to disparate subjective interpretations of what is important or even a wise idea to be transforming at all. Instead, we get the admission:

Art, embodied and experiential processes have a much greater influence on citizens, their sense of meaning, motivation and subsequent actions.

Can you repeat after me: “Inside Out and Just as Specified for Habitualizing Future Actions”? Nothing sounds more effective for creating a desired Social Technology than helping participants, whether they be K-12 or higher ed students or adults on a Learning Together retreat, “feel the future” so they will come to believe “how malleable these futures are.” Activities and learning experiences can be used to “scaffold public imagination; drawing out knowledge and ideas about how the future could be, and developing collective mental images of the futures people want.” Then those deliberately instilled common collective images of the future can be used to create “new collective actions and behavior in the present”.

Remember how Catalyzing Change from the last post hyped student agency and critiquing the present as the excuse for reimagining high school math? It turns out to be essential for a requisite “need to help people and communities deal with uncertainty, build resilience to change and act collectively.” Now, math, science, or history learning experiences become a means for “helping people to feel a sense of agency over their own futures is critical for maintaining social cohesion and preventing a fracturing along ethnic, racial, cultural, historical or other identity lines. Participatory futures can also facilitate collective action that is necessary to tackle systemic challenges like climate change.”

The Social Technology book set out a vision for dynamic social planning that works a great deal like what NESTA is now laying out and it also relies greatly on the control of ideas. So much more effective at evading any perception of censorship or control and less rigid than any Five Year Plan. Think of required Literacy Activities through the following aspiration from the NESTA report:

Collective images of the future help orient and organize in times of disruption. Throughout history, humans, organisations and societies have used mental images in the forms of myths, legends and religion to organise themselves. Images of the future play a particularly significant role in our lives, since our ability to make plans, decisions or set goals rests on them. Brain research shows that collective images offer orientation in times of uncertainty or when the necessity of reshaping our living environments becomes apparent. Participatory futures approaches use and create shared public images of the future that can provide a ‘destination identity’–acting as a motivating force to turn the ‘imagined’ into the real…positive images help pull us toward the future helping to catalyze social change and overcome cultural obstacles to it.

I think that is enough to take in right now as we contemplate the use of the ubiquitous Greta Thunberg or why common weather events now have to be the lead story on the national news. If you desired that social science, including its education and pedagogy components, have a role to play in shifting from what is to what could be, social planners know they need to create a “shared diagnosis of the key facts, trends, and problems,” even if that shared diagnosis is factually untrue in the world that currently exists.

The whole point is the effect of the shared mental images on actions that can remake what currently exists. I wonder if anyone else will grasp all these aspirations as Uncle Karl’s Man as a Maker of History, usefully brought into place at a neural level by achievement standards that hype student ‘performance’ and actions.

It turns out to be a plan for social reengineering with a long pedigree if we know where to look.



Discerning and then Retraining the ‘In-Order-To’ Image that Will Guide Future Action

From the Ford Foundation’s Realizing Democracy template that lays out how “Fixing Democracy demands the building and aligning of people’s motivation and authority to act to the recent WISE Summit in Qatar with its “Unlearn, Relearn: What it means to be Human” theme, which even had our Blueprint author, Nicholas Christakis, as a keynote panelist, to the new Catalyzing Change plans for remaking high school mathematics around goals of Equity so that math can become a tool to “challenge injustices and contribute to societal improvement,” we have lots of openly declared education missions that reminded me of the goals of the Lame Demon from the 1967 book The Art of Conjecture, which the Ford Foundation also funded. It’s clearly part of the behavioral science file cabinet still in play so let’s take a look back at it to better appreciate all these similarly aligned goals.

After all if you are a social scientist intent on transformation and believe that “any power, whether social or political, is maintained by people’s attitudes; any project, short or long, shallow or profound, is founded on their attitudes and behavior” then you might make use of:

a Lame Demon who unroofed houses to reveal what was going on inside. Let us suppose that this diable boiteux could reveal people’s minds in the same way, enabling us to surprise the projects each member of a society forms in his inner self. We could then apprehend, at their origin, those shoots which as they grow will deform the familiar social surface and produce swellings, fractures, and cracks.

Those ‘swellings, fractures, and cracks’ are to an imaginary world that could supposedly exist if people simply had a different set of beliefs, attitudes, values, and motivations to act. Precisely what all those links above to recent publications aim to do.  Precisely what was laid out here as the new role of social science and the research university , which once again seems to be hyping Aristotle and his action-oriented phronesis as a less infamous substitute for what Uncle Karl laid out as Man as a Maker of History once the needed moral revolution could be made to occur.  Let’s go back then to the 1960s and the first time the global Marxist Humanist vision was launched to see the domain to be targeted and those blueprints for change.

I have formed a representation that does not correspond to observable reality and placed it in a domain suited to receive it; now my activity tends toward the validation of what my imagination has constructed. For the event to comply with my design, the moral force of my intention must hold and push me on the road to the goal [AKA ‘meeting the standard’ or ‘achieving the learning objective’]. ..The image that I have formed and placed somewhere in ‘time to come’ is like a beacon beckoning me…Hobbes put it like this: ‘For the thoughts are to the desires as scouts, and spies to range abroad, and find the way to the things desired.’

The book called that the ‘motive power of the image’ and we also saw it as a focus in the last post as to how to create a new ‘ontological reality’. Control a student or adult’s mental images and you control future behavior and motivations to act, as well as how current experiences are interpreted, and what gets perceived and what gets ignored. Behavior becomes a science via a certain vision of education for reasons that have nothing to do with Skinner or his pigeons as learning analytics and digital learning environments act as the Lame Demon getting inside the roof of the mind’s house in the brain. Again to Jouvenel:

Images are formed in our mind and inspire us; we know this from daily experience. It is absurd to look for explanations of human conduct that disregard this essential phenomenon. Our actions properly so called seek to validate appealing images and invalidate repugnant ones…Time future is the domain able to receive as ‘possibles’ those representations which elsewhere would be ‘false’. And from the future in which we now place them, these possibles ‘beckon’ to us to make them real…

the sufficient reason of human action is…[that] man acts, not ‘because…,’ but ‘in order to…’ Action is explained by its final cause, its goal: ‘In this sense we may say that in volition the practical motive lies in the future. We are to understand by this that the future is the domain into which a man has projected, and in which he now contemplates, the possible he wishes to make real, the image that is and will be, as long as it subsists in the mind, the determining reason for his actions.’

That change in the focus of education can be masked under terms like Standards-Based Reforms, High Quality Project-Based Learning, the AAR Inquiry of Anticipation, Action, and Reflection (part of the OECD’s Compass for Education 2030), or action learning as Doers of Mathematics laid out here .Ultimately, all these visions seek to control the nature of the Images in the mind because the imagination can be used as a place:

where I can place images that do not correspond to any historical reality. An image of this kind is not a mere fantasy if I have the will and feel I have the capacity [hence all the hype about student agency!] to bring about at some later time a state of affairs that corresponds to the image. The image represents a possibility because of my power to validate it in this way, and represents a project because of my will to do so…

For man as this role as an active agent the future is a field of liberty and power, but for man as a cognizant being the future is a field of uncertainty. It is a field of liberty because I am free to conceive that something that does not now exist will exist in the future; it is a field of power because I have some power to validate my conception (though, naturally, not all conceptions indiscriminately!). And indeed the future is our only field of power, for we can act only on the future. Our awareness of this capacity to act suggests the notion of ‘a domain in which we can act.

That Erhard/ Jensen Framework coaching adults from the last post called that domain the ontological.  K-12 learning standards simply get there by insisting that Equity mandates that student achievement be recast away from the mental to the domain of action–disarmingly called ‘performance standards’ to mask the shift to the realm of action. What about the Lame Demon’s goals to get at the contents of the mind we might reasonably ask? Let’s go back to a paper Michael Barber co-wrote in the 90s with Vicki Phillips before he moved on to working for Prime Minister Tony Blair on learning standards and then Pearson and before she moved on to Oregon and then the Gates Foundation. It was called “Fusion: How to Unleash Irreversible Change–Lessons for System-Wide School Reform” and I picked up my copy from a Hong Kong server where the protests of recent months might indicate that the mind might not be quite as malleable to change as the Chinese authorities and the paper’s co-authors laid out.

The popular conception is wrong. Winning hearts and minds is not the best first step in the process of urgent change. Beliefs do not necessarily drive behaviour. More usually, it is the other way round–behaviours shape beliefs. Only when people have experienced a change do they revise their beliefs accordingly. [Imagine the uses of digital virtual reality environments in the context of this quote!] And often they must experience change over a period of time for such beliefs to change permanently. Denial is a powerful force and it is not possible to overcome resistance simply by attempting to win hearts and minds, Sometimes it is necessary to mandate the change, implement it well, consciously challenge the prevailing culture, and have the courage to sustain it until beliefs shift. In other words, sometimes it is more effective to show people something or let them experience it than to tell them about it.

That quote would certainly explain why the law became such a useful tool for transformationalists seeking to force a change in the nature of education without the nature of the change or the reasons for it being apparent. It’s basically why I write and what brought me to the story that became Credentialed to Destroy in the first place. Because unlike those Hong Kong protesters who clearly always intuited the future impact of the collectivist vision the Chinese authorities had in mind with their Citizenship curriculum hyping Universal Love, most parents and students in the Western democracies have no idea the true nature of the transformation or how long these same plans have been in play.

The contemplated Futuribles has not yet been realized, but all the links in this post show that there is a clear and coordinated global march to realize this vision via experiential education grounded in specified guiding concepts. Controlling the Images of the Mind and the Actions that will create those desired Images.

Or as the French social theorist from the 60s put it above, controlling Attitudes and Behavior surreptitiously controls future Projects. Ultimate power then comes from making K-12 education about those bullseyes as the domains targeted for Continuous Improvement.

How to close the gap between what is desired under the roof of the Mind and what currently exists?

Gives a whole new meaning, doesn’t it, to what Standards-Based Reforms are really about?