If I have ever in my life said the trite phrase “may we live in interesting times,” I take it back. Hopefully, we are not all suffering too much from “What Next?” exhaustion because we have some interesting patterns of honesty peeking through all these released statements and visions that I am going to piece together. Especially since the visions predate George Floyd’s tragic death and the graphic visuals surrounding it and seem to have been waiting for the right incident necessitating transformative societal change as the remedy. There’s a new book coming out this summer called Narrative Change: How Changing the Story can Transform Society, Business, and Ourselves and its author pitches it this way:
Hansen reveals how narratives shape our everyday lives and how we can construct new narratives to enact positive change…Narrative Change provides an unparalleled window into an innovative model of change while telling powerful stories of a fight against injustice. It reminds us that what matters most for any organization, community, or person is the story we tell about ourselves–and the most effective way to shake things up is by changing the story.
On May 27 this article came out https://education-reimagined.org/getting-the-right-problem-before-getting-the-problem-right/ and systemic or structural racism can be considered the ‘right problem’ to generate the “kind of reimagining aimed at opening the door for real systemic change.” Except it was clearly written before Mr Floyd died. Its push for education to create ‘intrinsic’ change within each individual and thus generate a ‘we’ culture and society fits with so many of the statements issued after that video went viral and the protests, and then riots, began. It hypes ‘flourishing’ for all students as the goal of education, with an emphasis now on “What do we want for children we care about?,” instead of transmissive content acquisition. This new visionputs the emphasis on ‘possibility’ and new kinds of ‘created’ citizens:
The conventional K-12 system has learners spend about 14,000 hours in school. If our future selves are created out of who we practice being today, as both Aristotle and modern neuroscience tell us, then the habits and ways of being they practice in school will last a lifetime. These include habits of how students relate to themselves, their learning, and the world; and, habits of how they relate to others, co-create, and participate in communities.
That vision of thinking of education as a ‘design problem’ for the needed new hardware and software instilled in students as habits of mind fits right in with the following statements I culled to show the consistent, almost magical, drumbeat. From my alma mater, after a tie-in to the controversial SEL curriculum Facing History and Ourselves that has a tag already here at ISC, came the helpful nugget that “Education has the power to help us understand the most effective ways to discern what is needed and to do what is right.” Let’s classify that as a software adjustment, if not rewrite. https://education-reimagined.org/more-than-education-this-is-about-racial-justice/ makes the point that:
Calls to ‘say their names’–George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Michael Lorenzo Dean–have been one of many pleas from the communities across this country for all of us to acknowledge the justified anger and frustration millions who have to live in a society where their rights to safety, justice, and equitable opportunities for success are not guaranteed due to the color of their skin.
Long sentence, but common skin color is the constant focus, never individual behavior or, more importantly, misbehavior. Those wouldn’t call for the desired transformations in other ‘hardware’ systems beyond the individual mind and personality. It wouldn’t merit “creating a learner-centered system that has social justice as its centerpiece.” Here’s one example prior to Mr Floyd’s death, before it could be added to the list of justifications for wholesale change. https://behavioralscientist.org/we-have-a-rare-opportunity-to-create-a-stronger-more-equitable-society/ told us:
there is nothing natural about disasters because their impact is the result of the way society is structured. Viewed from this lens, the goal of policymakers during the pandemic should not be to reactively restore the status quo. Instead, the goal should be to proactively restructure society, so we are all more resilient the next time disaster strikes.
Resilience sounds intrinsic and restructuring society certainly seems like the collective ‘we’. To appreciate why the mind and personality may the foundations for the desired change, but they are merely the tools for changes to other ‘systems’ we have ChangeLab Solutions on June 3 informing us that:
Everyone has the right to be healthy. However, communities cannot be healthy if they are the target of racist policies. Unjust laws, policies, and practices have shaped the physical, economic, and social environment over many generations and perpetuated unhealthy communities. We must change the systems that perpetuate inequity and create new laws, policies, and practices that remedy the past and institutionalize fairness and justice so that all communities can achieve optimal health.
ASCD put out a statement on June 5 that they would be working with their “more than 80,000 education leaders from school districts around the country to ensure that education lays the foundation for the change that is necessary.” They are assembling resources
to help educators reflect on and address these challenges with their students; identify their own and their communities’ biases; and to assist them to find the words and learnings that enable them to help their students to makes sense of unconscionable murders and other, less visible forms of racism and bias…We will also expand the ways to support educators to provide them with more content focused on advancing equity…
Education Reimagined put out the statement that as an organization they stand with “Black Lives Matter” (the entity) and that they are
firmly committed to creating a socially just world by doing our part to transform the education system to one that honors each child and unleashes their power and potential to lead fulfilling lives. And we know a true societal shift will require the collective contributions of those committed to dismantling systemic racism.
Finally we had this statement from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education telling us that “white people need to go far beyond the usual lip service to racial justice.” No wonder everyone seems to want to get away from a transmissive vision for education with all these calls for wholesale change. Apparently “those of us who are white need to commit to…the humble work of allowing our views and sense of reality to be altered by what we hear.” At least as long as it is an authorized narrative that one is hearing and not that Mr Floyd had fentanyl in his body at the time of his death and tested positive for covid or that Michael Brown never had his hands up saying “Don’t shoot” and attacked a police officer instead according to uncontradicted testimony from numerous witnesses. Those kind of factual statements are currently the source of ire against a faculty member at Cornell Law School.
After telling us what we must come to recognize as white adults so that we will “recognize systemic forms of oppression,” whatever the actual underlying facts, the Making Caring Common Project statement pivots to the
crucial importance of talking about race and racism with our children. We need to raise our children to understand the history of race and racism in this country [using Big Ideas as lenses presumably instead of facts] and to recognize and fight racism in all its modern forms. That means talking to children in developmentally appropriate ways about why people are protesting and engaging children’s questions. It means explaining to them that at the core of a just society is the understanding that each one of us is responsible for all of us.
So tragic events and misreported narratives get used to pitch Uncle Karl’s undisputed vision for what he described as little ‘c’ communism on American school children as necessary to end structural oppression and systemic racism. The hardware metaphor came from this May 20 post https://education-reimagined.org/the-long-lasting-hardware-every-visionary-district-needs-to-invest-in/ while Mr Floyd was still with us. Its vision to “design learning experiences that pique interest and cultivate discovery,” while abandoning “our singular obsession with curricular content” merited inclusion in the Black Lives Matter vision issued later and quoted above. I guess protests and ‘murders’ do pique interest. That article points out that curricular content is transactional, not transformative, and thus misplaces the fulcrum of what education can be leveraged to change. After all, there “isn’t enough information sharing in the world that will provide the force needed to launch young people into dynamic and fulfilling lives.”
Finally, one of the bibliographies from the last post referenced the 2019 The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice: Black Lives, Healing, and US Social Transformation that caught my eye as I have attended Restorative Justice programs put on jointly by urban school and police departments. I knew the use of the program was an issue in Broward County when the tragic Parkland shooting occurred. I didn’t know that its author Fania Davis was Angela Davis’ sister nor how often she speaks to educators and at ed schools. She is apparently committed to the SEL practices I have described and the vision I termed Tranzi OBE in my book Credentialed to Destroy because she believes that “Western knowledge systems, based on an ethos of separateness, competition, and subordination, have contributed to pervasive crises that today imperil our future.”
Davis prefers “alternative worldviews that bring healing to our world.” Like what Making Caring Common has in mind? Probably as she wants a focus “on repairing and rebuilding in order to strengthen relationships and bring social harmony.” What I recognize as Uncle Karl’s vision for what he called the Human Development Society, the admitted CPUSA member attributes to the indigenous values of justice from Africa and its communitarian culture. As I have said before, same destination, but varying rationales and sales pitches. Fania’s book details all the dialogical, positive psychology, and holistic, intrapersonal practices she wants pushed by school districts. Fits right in with what was written above before there was any Pandemic or this year’s ‘murders’ meriting wholesale changes. She wants practices aimed at “creating school cultures of care, connectivity, and healing.”
The last chapter was titled “Toward a Racial Reckoning: Imagining a Truth Process for Police Violence” with the following epigraph:
Behold the bright sun of transformation and a new beginning.
That strikes me as where schools and institutions want to take us now as a society, and as individuals. Already planned for and just waiting for the right visuals to light the wick of outrage so that only wholesale change at every level can be an acceptable remedy. We will come back to this in the next post as I am running long, but this is what Fania wrote in the 2019 book:
While the nation abolished slavery, the racial terror at its essence continues to haunt us. We are caught in history’s pain, living it again and again. Until we engage in a collective process to face and transform this pain, we will perpetually reenact it.
It’s been a while since we discussed ‘deliberative democracy’ but it still has a tag. Last week the OECD moved to institute it all over the world to take Democracy beyond the ballot box and create Innovative Citizenship.
I don’t think any of this is coincidental, do you?