Parrhesia, Bill Ayers, Reinventing Schools for Meaning-Making, and Rewiring Teens’ Brains

Does that title seem a bit like a Jeopardy Question that starts with an unusual word and then leads to a notorious name for click bait? I wish, but Parrhesia is a Greek word that was in the last post’s paper on how John Dewey’s Ethics of Moral Principles and Deliberation were to be incorporated per IEEE Standards (no one was to tell us about) into the ‘adaptive instructional systems’ being touted as the answer for the Pandemic’s need to social distance. Until a Vaccine!! The systems of ethical deliberation becomes a component via required practices adaptive instructional systems incorporate into supplied student experiences. These are to “allow participants to safely engage in parrhesia.” No mention of “Guilty as *, Free as a Bird” Ayers yet, as the definition is a democratic mode of being, that is “an ancient Greek concept…[of] telling truth as one sees it with honesty and integrity…parrhesia qualities include engaging in dialogue, questioning, having a passion for public affairs and human equality. Parrhesia requires intellectual courage and risk-taking in truth telling and pursuits of inquiry.”

Ok, then the footnote goes to a paper by Kerry Burch on “Parrhesia as a Principle of Democratic Pedagogy” helpfully placed on US education websites with the heading “Social Justice: A Language Re/Considered”, which seems to be something we should know about before assuming digital learning is the answer to all our problems. It starts with quotes from Cornel West (whose self-professed ties to the Marxist Humanist vision we have covered here at ISC) and Paulo Freire, whose name is associated with rejecting the so-called Banking Theory of Education. Bill shows up later in the paper, but not by his nickname or standing on a flag in a New York Times article published just before 9/11/2001. No, here’s the passage:

Few educational thinkers describe the kind of democratic personality traits [Dispositions or Attributes of cybernetic citizenship or Character Education?] that need to be cultivated today as elegantly as William Ayers. These traits cannot easily be brought about by relying on the mechanistic knowledge ordained in conventional approaches to ‘learning’ about ”democracy’. Ayers’ charts a different course: ‘We want to teach them to take initiative, to be creative, to be imaginative, to take risks, to question authority, to wonder about the world. This means fundamentally, in a school system based on democratic values, we really believe that the full development of all is a condition for the full development of each.’

Ayers said that and the footnote goes to a Winter 2009 published interview, but Ayers is in turn quoting from Uncle Karl and his Human Development Society vision of the premise for his little ‘c’ communism ideal. No wonder the Chinese and the UN love this vision of cybernetic citizenship, but what a mandate for ‘adaptive instructional systems’ to be cultivating in students to prepare them for parrheistic modes of being. Sounds a bit like the call for an Arational mind that we have discovered lies at the foundation of what is really student proficiency in a competency-based system. When we think of ‘adaptive instructional systems” for K-12, who thinks it is something that would please Bill Ayers and fulfill Uncle Karl’s plans? Who will be looking for “how the buoyant sociality of parrhesia would promote the creation of critically awake democratic personalities”?

Another paper I located called “The Ethics of Critical Inquiry: Educational Research Informed by Parrhesia” attributed this push to notorious French philosopher Michel Foucault, who in turn talked about Aristotle. Which one gets cited later for a similar vision with differing sales pitches and rhetoric does not seem to be about any disagreement on what is being sought through education. Instead, I believe, the different approaches stem from which name the audience, including people being solicited for donations, are likely to revere. Parrhesia here is an attempt to “contribute to social good and bring about positive change” by fostering educational practices that will create “an ethos of disrupting human subjectivities from within”. That sounds a bit disruptive to the student’s personality, doesn’t it? The

early meaning was to open one’s heart and mind completely to other people through his or her discourse…Parrhesia … became associated with transforming the soul of an individual. Most importantly the concept developed political dimensions indispensable to democracy. Parrhesia meant to engage socially and politically as a consequence of integrity of the heart. It required one to courageously say truthful things that are useful for all to hear…It’s not a ‘body of knowledge’ but a ‘body pf practices’ without reference to an external order…It allows for mediation between the ethos of an individual and the well-being of society. In short, it is through parrhesia that an individual constitutes him/herself as a moral subject in relation to others.

Just the thing if a moral revolution is sought at the level of the human mind, heart, and soul as Uncle Karl envisioned. If you don’t want resistance create a need for digital learning because of something like a Pandemic and then mandate ‘parrheistic practices’ into the programming the learning experiences provided by ‘adaptive instructional systems’ offer up. Now before we turn to the latter part of this post’s title I want to link to this article https://behavioralscientist.org/behavioral-public-policy-faces-a-crisis/ on the failure to properly respond to COVID-19 which calls for cultivating minds that can “understand complex systems in crisis”. Since we keep coming across the behavioral sciences and their desire to create a new kind of educational template going back to the 1950s at least, I thought that article’s confession that:

Behavioral public policy is rooted in the idea that biases, heuristics, and mental models determine behavior. If you reframe or alter individuals’ decision making context, you change their behavior.

We now know that is precisely what learning standards like the Common Core in the US or any tied to UNESCO’s ISCED globally and competency-based education frameworks are designed to do. The Pandemic simply makes this desire for “shared frames of reference” for meaning-making supposedly necessary. It’s to be perceived as a crisis, like climate change, that necessitates common ways of looking at the world and what must be changed to meet the demands of the crisis. Individual deviations are not allowed. Yes, tell that to Shelly Luther in Texas or that barber in Michigan.

Timely too is that the May 2020 issue of Educational Leadership published by ASCD, which is now independent of the NEA, unlike in 1985 when it first introduced an internalized common core as I covered in Credentialed to Destroy. The issue is devoted to “Learning and the BRAIN” and one of its articles called “Building Meaning Builds Teens’ Brains” lays out how “Connecting adolescents’ concrete work to big ideas may help shape their neural networks over time.” Research for the article was provided by the National Science Foundation, which certainly explains why they also funded the math and science constructivism covered in Chapter 3 of CtD, and the Templeton Foundation. It would explain the latter’s funding of the Jubilee Centre in the UK and its Virtues curriculum, which we have since tied to the Pope’s new Humanity 2.0 initiative and its new vision for education. Templeton also funded Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology and Positive Neuroscience work, among other things we have covered.

Remember so long ago here at ISC when I mentioned a new vision of Dialectical Materialism, a mouthful term, created in the USSR by Evald Ilyenkov called Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete? We have now over time here at ISC tied to cybernetic designs, conceptual frameworks, and the now federally required assessment annually of Higher Order Thinking in virtually all US students. Now we have this new article informing us of the need for “Reinventing Schools for Meaning-Making”. What it bills as ‘narrative building’ by students certainly sounds like what the others described above suggested as parrheistic modes of being.

These curricular practices turn out to be expressly designed to rewire what the neural networks in teenage brains look like and what the students can do. In fact, by going to motivation, these practices act as an accelerant of future likely behavior. All of these intended interventions are probably helped by the co-authors connections that I have encountered in my research over time. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang shows up at both UNESCO conferences and Aspen’s NCSEAD on the need for social and emotional learning, as well as the NSF’s Brain Initiative. Perfect places to push a vision of education globally grounded in DiaMat that asks “How can we know when young people are building [brain networks]…predictive of success in school, self-actualization, relationship satisfaction, and other positive indicators in early adulthood?”

Think of the parrhesia invisible focus of ‘adaptive instructional systems’ and then ask the article’s question of “What kind of learning experiences strengthen connectivity across these networks?” Remember Bill Ayers’ mention of democratic traits above, which is why I bolded it? The ASCD article focuses on a similar target it italicized as dispositions of mind, which it goes on to say is not a new goal of education, citing to John Dewey among others. These are the stories or narratives the students tell themselves:

their inclinations to engage reflectively with issues and ideas, their tendencies to be curious and compassionate, and their proclivities to use what they learn to inform their emerging values…the patterns of thinking and feeling associated with these dispositions appeared to be influencing the growth of the networks of their brains.

Sounds like Parrhesia’s vision too, doesn’t it? That’s what education for meaning-making and tied to Big Ideas is targeting and it is what grounding adaptive instructional systems in John Dewey’s work also seeks to reengineer. No question about it anymore. This is not a peripheral aim and it’s not really about education per se. It’s education as a tool to reengineer at a neural level the citizens available for the global future. At the service of governments and their cronies.

As I will cover in the next post, it turns out that the stories we tell ourselves, and the concepts and categories of abstractions we use to interpret our daily experiences, are key to how we see the world and plan to act in it. Let me close with another quote from the EL article and just imagine the effect of the Pandemic on “The Stories Teens Tell” or at least what they will tell in the future.

…tying these dispositions to neural development, life success, and mental health gives this effort new urgency, and points us due north in an attempt to reimagine adolescents’ schooling. Evidence suggests that educators can learn to recognize, model, and support the development of these dispositions if they know what kinds of narratives to listen for and what kind of learning experiences lead to these patterns of thinking?

Now imagine the utility of standardizing ‘adaptive instructional systems’ in John Dewey’s work and Parrhesia will do for controlling the needed learning experiences to produce the desired ‘patterns of thinking’ and feeling for the new type of future citizen.

Gives new meaning to calls of May Day, May Day, doesn’t it?

 

 

Stealthily Weaving Cybernetic Citizenship at the Requisite Neural Level in the Name of Universal Well Being

Getting back to our theme of how useful this Pandemic Hype and the mandated shutdowns of schools, colleges and universities, and many businesses has been to the already announced global agenda for transformation, in March IEEE issued an edict that ‘adaptive instructional systems’–you know like the digital learning so many closed school systems have resorted to–needed to modified to add John Dewey’s Ethics of Moral Principles and Deliberation. Anyone who has read my book Credentialed to Destroy understands precisely the transformation Dewey hoped for with his reimagining of K-12 education, but the IEEE paper began with this epigraph from his book Ethics

Especially in times like the present, when industrial, political, and scientific transformations are rapidly in process, a revision of old appraisals is especially needed.

Italicized just like that so that these ‘online’ or ‘digital’ systems will be designed to incorporate “Moral principles or standards that provide a consistent point of view to be taken in ethical deliberation.” Now each student can practice the Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions that they will need “for analyzing novel situations.” Like a Global Pandemic with a previously unknown deadly virus? Well, this high school English teacher certainly thinks so https://www.educationdive.com/news/coronavirus-the-definition-of-global-and-climate-curriculum/576322/ as he hopes for “a curriculum that leads to action and solidarity…as students see how true ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ really is.”

Nothing like these past two months of food insecurity and financial concerns to have a lasting impact on the children as they face a vision of education that wants to focus on:

the methods through which we seek to continuously determine what is good, what is of value, what should define our moral principles…As a pragmatist, Dewey’s interest was rooted in the importance of employing reflective, reflective, discriminate intelligence to revise our judgments as a result of acting upon them–what Dewey termed deliberation. Deliberation, Dewey asserts, includes the ‘reflections when directed to practical matters to determination of what to do.’ Through deliberation, our judgments are formed to redirect actions when habits fall short — particularly in the context of solving novel problems. Essentially, Dewey’s meta-ethics of value judgments derived from moral principles, and his notion of deliberation functioned as an iterative expression between thoughts and behaviors…

Dewey’s Deliberation then functions just like what Classical Education touts as the Good, True, and Beautiful or what is also termed Higher Order Thinking skills. Domain learning objectives, instead of actually being about history, science, math, or literature, become merely the avenue for “a continuous process of reconstructing experience that involves lasting adaptation of the learner.” Classes and online curriculum become, in this vision of education few are even aware of:

organs of initiation into social values. As mere school studies, their acquisition has only a technical worth. Acquired under conditions where there social significance is realized, they feed moral interest and develop moral insight.

Again, what could be of greater ‘social significance’ or involve more ‘practical matters’ that will “impact our perception of the world and how we interact with it,” than this pandemic, how it has been portrayed, and the shutdowns and their continuing, likely long term, consequences? Let’s pivot though from the changed function of adaptive instructional systems to be grounded in Dewey to another document with global aspirations (tied, in part, to Russian Pavel Luksha who we have covered numerous times here at ISC) to be found here https://weavinglab.org/ . We can all read that site and contemplate how the Pandemic impacts education to cultivate a need for Universal Well Being or what the constant refrains of “We are All in This Together” will do for the typical student being constantly exhorted to view themselves as Interdependent with the Collective.

Whereas, IEEE wants to make the focus practicing analyzing a novel situation where old habits fail, the Weaving Lab wants education to focus on how to “align people to shared notions of quality in daily practice (seeing that values are manifest in daily practice) [aka Action] and Helping your community agree principles that everyone will adhere to.” Hard not to think of the people descending on state capitols in still totally lockdowned states in the US or trying to get to a beach on a sunny day, while being told they will be punished for their defiance of official mandates with another month of lockdowns, and not think of this open admission of where education globally now wants to go. Honor political authority and its edicts. Respect the collective.

The Weaving Lab wants to make the focus what will this individual student and the adult they will become do in VUCA situations — Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Again like the Pandemic, where algorithmic answers will supposedly not suffice and Old Habits Fail. The Weaving Lab wants to create the mental conditions that support ‘collective action’ for ‘co-creating the future’. Nothing like the Pandemic and its shutdowns to fuel the kind of uncertainty to make students feel there is a need to co-create a different kind of future and imagine the “new ecosystems you want to bring about.” The Weaving Lab again was created before the Pandemic, but the Pandemic hype creates the incentives for transformation Luksha had already laid out in numerous papers I have written about. It reenforces at a turbocharged, visual, emotional level, the need for the New System being sought.

Just imagine how the Pandemic hype functions if students are to be “developing yourself through intentional inner-work” and the remedy curriculum for the stress of the Pandemic is Mindfulness Practices? The effect of a One World broadcast with lots of celebrities when there is a desire to have students “seeing the interconnectedness of the system and seeing yourself as part of the system.” Creating students who are “willing to change your mind, behaviours and approach” and shift their emphasis in schoolwork to “developing and paying attention to your inner compass to navigate your way in the world.” That ‘inner compass’ reference, like the North Star emphasis we saw with Valor Collegiate Academy that the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative funded, covered here  http://invisibleserfscollar.com/lucrative-deceit-managing-consciousness-by-conjoining-social-media-charter-schools/ is a cybernetic concept.

So is the Learning to Train Ethical Thinking that IEEE seeks to have incorporated invisibly into adaptive instructional systems. It’s why this paper I saw last week on “How to Make the Perfect Citizen? Lessons from China’s Model of Social Credit System” really caught my eye as it laid out a model of ‘cybernetic citizenship’. Precisely the purpose of how learning standards and competency frameworks really work under my analysis. In looking for the described paper, which was revised in April in light of the fact that the “Covid 19 crisis has triggered a new wave of digitalization of the lives of citizens,” I located this January presentation in Berlin http://global-citizenship.eui.eu/event/how-to-make-the-perfect-citizen-redefining-civic-virtue-in-chinas-social-credit-system/ that makes it clear that this vision is tied to a reimagining of governance globally and the areas for control over individual citizens using education and cybernetic principles. The Berlin presentation’s funding also usefully tied to the creation of PISA and the DeSeCo Framework that I covered in my book.

In other words, once again, we find education being used as a tool for the kind of internalized transformation of morals and ethics Uncle Karl said would be necessary for his Human Development Society (Universal Well Being seems like a good euphemism for the same vision) and John Dewey helped flesh out the blueprints for. We also have a great deal of attempts to mislead us about what is going on. I appreciated that paper’s authors being upfront that the Social Credit System China wishes to enact (with more precision than they were able to control bat virus research) is actually a cybernetic vision that “blurs the distinction between law, economics, and morality.” Just like education grounded in learning standards mandates these days, when those ‘standards’ are properly understood.

If a state-mandated Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Profile, like China’s Social Credit System, lays out a vision that “citizens ought to have certain qualities to sustain social order and harmony” or to drive desired future transformation to a New System as we saw above, these visions of what the student should be are also grounded in a cybernetic vision and an entirely new understanding of what citizenship is in the 21st century. China is being upfront about this aim (if about nothing else). Education systems elsewhere in the world, especially in the West, are using a new vision of education, cybernetic methods,  an emphasis on the collective, and a reenvisioning of the individual without being upfront about it. We are also subject to “new possibilities to reconceptualize citizenship” that the Pandemic is being used to shift into high gear.

What is student-centered learning grounded in social values but an attempt to assess and then change each student’s Purpose? Why does that matter to so many school or district mission statements these days? It gets at what is necessary to create Cybernetic Citizenship, which is less visible than a serf’s collar but every bit as constraining to future choices. Here’s the definition from the How to Make the Perfect Citizen paper.

In general, the field of cybernetics is concerned with understanding systems of control and communication–how humans and machines communicate with one another. It is premised on the idea that goal-directed entities such as animals, humans, and machines cannot only be understood in mechanical terms but should also be comprehended in teleological terms, that is, explaining behavior in terms of ‘purpose’. These entities are conceptualized as ‘systems’ in the sense that they are assemblages of parts (e.g., databases, surveillance cameras) in greater wholes. and have relatively stable boundaries. Cybernetic systems have an internal, corrective feedback mechanism, which makes use of sensory inputs to change a behavioral output; governing is perceived as a purposive action, a goal-directed behavior.

Do you know what another word for goals is? Standards. Learning standards properly understood prescribe how to turn students into the desired cybernetic systems that they are capable of becoming with the right kind of prescribed learning experiences. They become the desired citizen of the future with few parents or taxpayers recognizing the wholesale shift. They certainly don’t grasp it is the same principles the Chinese are using with their Social Credit System or the same methods admittedly totalitarian governments use on their citizens.

We need to understand how all these aims work together now that the Pandemic has acted as an accelerant. Only knowledge lets us see how to get control over these levers of change that are being used. Only accurate knowledge, not prescribed frames, conceptual lenses, or approved narratives, can intervene in this scheme to get children, and plenty of adults as well, to think the world must now be transformed into a new system to control the risks of a VUCA future.