Welcome to 2021 and if any of you have ever read a book or seen a film where Gaslighting by some villain was a tool of control, you will remember that the sanity of the person being manipulated always becomes an issue. Think of this post as a means of illuminating what may appear to be Gaslighting, but actually serves a long-term, even more insidious purpose, than making someone seem disturbed and crazed. As always I have lots of quotes. No need to speculate here.
First, I want to build on our ESS insight from the previous post by quoting from https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3761438 a recent legal paper on “Rescuing Our Democracy” by changing the legal standard involving defamation. It asserted that “a basic requirement of a healthy democracy [is] the development of a set of broadly agreed-upon facts.” No, not really, but later the paper asserts again that “a functioning democracy must have a basic consensus on what is real and what is fake and the way to reach such determinations.” Clearly, the Powers-that-Be want to Control the Narrative, while insisting erroneously that accepting such narrative is the essence of a democracy. Beginning to get a headache from the gas yet? Hold on.
In early January, a link to a June 2020 paper called “Rethinking Humanity: Five Foundational Sector Disruptions, the Lifecycle of Civilizations, and the Coming Age of Freedom” came my way. It called forthrightly for:
a new Organizing System, one governed by new rules with new belief systems, conceptual frameworks, and models of thought to better explain the world, leading to new political, economic, and social systems to influence, control, and manage society.
Not the first to call for that, but the ESS aspiration, the Fake News definition that is not about veracity but an approved source, the labeling of demonstrably true statements as Disinformation, and the above insistence that democracy is about a set of broadly agreed-upon facts should all be seen as a means to impose that New Organizing System without admitting that is the true shift. Learning Standards and competency frameworks further enable this stealth shift to a New Organizing System. The Dictatorship of the Dead quote is from Harvard Prof Roberto Unger and covered in this post http://invisibleserfscollar.com/multiple-recent-proclamations-laying-out-commitment-to-revolutionary-transformation-of-our-entire-society/
Unger has been referenced recently in numerous footnotes and this July 2020 interview https://www.thenation.com/article/culture/roberto-mangabeira-ungers-alternative-progressive-vision/ makes it clear that his imagination first wholesale restructuring would be greatly aided by outrage at present conditions and his call that education has “as its primary goal the enhancement of analytic and syntheticcapabilities, rather than the mastery of information.” How to Think is a great way to substitute a New Organizing System. What better way to get new conceptual frameworks than to insist that “what matters with respect to content is less encyclopedic coverage than it is selective depth.”
We use, someone else selects. If we happen to still have Axemaker Minds with encyclopedic elements and we notice the selected concept is inapt, we are not using the New Organizing System. We must be sent outside the mainstream of thought. Accusations of Sedition, being a Conspiracy Theorist, or deplatforming to shut up should do. The Gaslighting aspect has to do with the insistence of the New Way of Thinking. It’s actually not about facts. Now we are going back to the early 90s, when the hope for a Science of Emotion was just getting underway. A book The Nature of Emotion: Fundamental Questions came out and Richard J. Davidson was one of its two editors. Close friend of the Dalai Lama with whom he works regularly, on the Board of UNESCO’s MGIEP based out of India, author of Buddha’s Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation, and quietly while most of us were unwrapping Christmas presents, he coauthored “The plasticity of well-being: A training-based framework for the cultivation of human flourishing”.
That framework published by his Center for Healthy Minds in December https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/117/51/32197.full.pdf wants to get at
four dimensions of well-being: awareness, connection, insight, and purpose. These dimensions are central to the subjective experience of well-being and can be strengthened through training. In this respect, they can be likened to skills, and the cultivation of well-being for a repertoire of skills. The cultivation of well-being thus involves the use of self-regulatory processes to learn, practice, and apply these skills in daily life.
A feeling of interdependence with others, a “heightened and flexible attentiveness to perceptual impressions in one’s environments,” and purpose, all being manipulated by others via provided daily educational experiences, also sounds like a good way to get to a New Organizing System. Since these dimensions all have “neurobiological underpinnings,” the New System of Thought grounded in emotion is a keeper. Last Friday, the SoLD Alliance mentioned in the last post continued its “Who Gets to Thrive?” Series with a particular emphasis on SoLD as a “Tool for Anti-Racism”. When the speaker’s specialty is Affective Neuroscience and she talks about using functional MRI on students to see what is being changed and shows pictures of brain scans, we are once again looking at neurobiological underpinnings.
Professor Mary Helen Immordino-Yang spoke of addressing the notion of white supremacy and “a pivotal moment to grow our young people into the citizens they can be” by targeting each student’s “emotional feeling state that becomes the story a student uses to make meaning.” She asserted that “meaning making is where it all begins and ends because it’s how we create our reality.” It allows the student to focus on things that don’t currently exist now and she rued the fact that “Deep Reflection and Personal Meaning Making about the Problems of the World and How they can be transcended and what causes them” is not the focus of more school curricula. Suddenly, curricula “becomes about the nature of human rights, what is good and not good and we can see in the brain how it rewires when education asks these kinds of questions.”
That does sound again like a New Organizing System, hardwired in, and my hand was flying taking notes. When I looked up, I noticed the professor seemed to have been crying in excitement at the type of future world this kind of equitable curriculum would enable. She did note that these kind of practices and imagination grounded in feeling experiences did not change with varying socio-economic levels, immigration status, gender, or other characteristics of students. See where a civil rights mandate of Equity and Excellence really takes us? The webinar moderator, Karen Pittman, then lamented that the zoom webinar had no ability for everyone in the audience to stand and applaud as they would be in-person.
Pittman did later ask MHI-L about how to best get at Meaning Making and the response was that a student’s Identity and Cultural History affect the Brain more than Genes. It becomes epigenetically turned on by the experiences provided, especially once students are made aware of “How can I grow myself to be adaptive to what is needed?” It turns out that Karen Pittman is the co-author of a new book that was the subject of this article https://www.gettingsmart.com/2021/01/a-new-vision-for-a-new-administration-whole-child-development-learning-and-thriving/ that came out on the same day as the above webinar. It also explains why she brought up psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner and his Ecological Systems Thinking and other spheres of influence beyond just the mind, school, and family.
Urie was an exchange student working in the Soviet Union in the 60s so the Theories of Mind involved with pushing Dynamic Systems Thinking go beyond my ability to recover them in this post. http://invisibleserfscollar.com/imitating-the-ussr-in-striving-to-discover-how-the-child-can-become-what-he-not-yet-is/ is that old post. Two more quick points that I can see the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative is financing the research that created that book that came out of the SoLD Alliance. It is especially interested in ACTUAL student’s trajectories of change and what experiences caused them in something called MMDC–Measures and Methods Across the Developmental Continuum. Information based on group averages might not reflect an real human being and what can change them.
Secondly I found this related paper https://forumfyi.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Thriving.Equity.Learning.Report.pdf that also tied to the upcoming book and its desired neurobiological change grounded in a student’s inner characteristics and how they can be altered to cause them to act as desired on existing external conditions.Now we can come back to the 1994 book The Nature of Emotion because it fits with the curricula I saw created in advance before Charlottesville, the Racial Equity curricula capitalizing on the furor surrounding George Floyd’s death, and now the curricula and common narratives created for the so-called ‘Insurrection at the Capitol’. Those links can all be found in the comments on the previous post, this summer’s posts, and back in August 2017. Let’s look at these stated aspirations as looking for a New Organizing System.
Davidson and his co-editor noted that there is a physiological difference in the brain between information processing and “evaluation of events that provoke an emotion.” They further noted that “emotion involves a subjective experience, a feeling state” and that “emotion is not a peripheral phenomenon but involves the organism totally. Emotional experience shapes and reflects individual personality development.” Some of its undisputed functions back in 1994 were that “1.Emotions have motivational properties…; 2. Emotions organize behavioral and physiological patterns to deal with emotion-evoking events, interrupting less important ongoing events…”
I think all these curricula have been designed to get at what is known about the brain, how to alter its neurobiological underpinnings, the role of Image in dynamic systems theories, and what emotion-evoking events can do to help create a New Organizing System. As part of a CASEL Cares webinar on “Discussions about Teaching and Learning that will Last Beyond the Pandemic,” also held on January 22, the teachers were asked about the lessons they used “to help students process the events of January 6.” The teachers discussed how scary those events had been for both themselves and their students and how the students had to “have accurate facts about the events”. The students could then process their feelings by journaling or class discussion.
Since there is a dispute among reasonable people as to what happened, when, and why, the fact that students are not allowed that knowledge was interesting. Must be because the feelings created by an emotion-evoking event are the primary area to be cultivated. A featured teacher mentioned they got their lessons and the facts from Newsela. Of course I looked it up and the partners include most major print media plus Al Jazeera as well as entities like the Zinn Education Project and the SEL program Facing History and Ourselves. The latter two repeatedly state that their purpose is to reimagine the events of the past in order to affect how students feel about the present and the future.
We need to remember now that both education and journalism are branches of social science and as Jean-Francois Revel noted in The Flight From Truth :
In the social sciences it is what people want to see proved that becomes the main criterion of the ‘truth’…In the approximative sciences verification and refutation can be indefinitely delayed and contested. Not so in the exact sciences.
Now where exactly do emotionally laden Guiding Fictions created by prescribed subjective experiences that rewire the brain at a biological level to affect a student’s meaning making and view of reality going forward fit into this apt dichotomy between the social and hard sciences?
It’s going to be an interesting 2021 with these admitted aspirations and their ancestry, isn’t it?