Aspiring to Create New Habits of Mind and Mental Models Suitable for A New Culture, Society, and Economy

As far as I know no one from MIT or Harvard stood on the banks of the Charles River holding a rally to jettison what the Systems Thinkers on both campuses call the “dominant rational/experimental model” of Western thought traceable to the Enlightenment. No, that rejection might have drawn attention to the desired shift to an “existentially-oriented approach.” Better to commit such aspirations to print in books and in lectures that only the elected to be Social Change Agents are likely to read or hear. The rest of us are just supposed to be confused when so much emphasis on Learning keeps resulting in ever decreasing levels of knowledge. You’d almost think there was a commitment to wholesale social, political, cultural, and economic change starting at the level of the individual student.

A student whose school activities and assessments and interactions with ICT technology can be used to develop a new Sense of Self. The last post mentioned David W Shaffer and his proposed Pedagogical Praxis for the classroom. Shaffer embraced the theories on Reflective Practice created by an MIT Urban Studies and Education Professor by the name of Donald Schon. He’s the one who did his dissertation on Dewey that I mentioned in the last post. Schon was a proponent of action research in the classroom to gain new mental maps and what Schon called “generative metaphors” that would guide a student’s future behaviors and actions. Remember those Ill-structured tasks we discovered Pearson plans to use in the Common Core and ATC21S and Texas STAAR assessments? Schon gives the reason for the the reliance of ill-structure beyond the social interaction it forces. When a student encounters a problem he regards as unique, Schon recognized the student would see it through the concepts already in his repertoire.

Schon liked that word “repertoire.” You and I can already sense the reason that the 10Cs Model of Diversity Awareness and Social Change pushing race and class oppression is now so popular at Harvard Ed school. Those become Generative Metaphors that influence how unique real world problems will be interpreted by students. And their teachers and administrators. Remember the C3 Social Studies Framework that is now part of the Common Core push and our concern that it was pushing metaphors like Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Thinking that are not factually true? Another useful Schonian Generative Metaphor that will come to be believed as true the more often it is used. Which certainly explains the language in the Framework about wanting students to practice daily with the C3 conceptual lenses.  Supplied Concepts=Generative Metaphor guiding Future Behavior.

It’s all consistent with what Shaffer’s Pedagogical Praxis encourages citing Schon. A student engages in activities at school and acts in daily life and then reflects on the results with peers and mentors. This action followed by inquiry and reflection (my IB Parents will recognize the significance of those terms. Which is why I believe the IB program has essentially become the Advance Guard in gaining implementation of this Action Research model) then becomes the Means for students to gain New Ways of Thinking. The desired outcome from school and daily living with such an experientially-oriented education is that the student will over time Reframe her Identities and Interests in relation to the experiences and the perspectives of others in the community. That’s why the Aspiring Social Change Agents and Theorists are so fond of referring to the Learning Community. School becomes the place where the Group changes the person from the inside-out.

I have written quite a bit about Peter Senge and Systems Thinking and also how the Positive School Climate Executive Order is becoming a means to stealthily shift to a social and emotional learning focus that looks almost precisely like the developmental model to remake human nature Karl Marx described repeatedly. Still as I was tracking the PATHS to PAX  SEL curriculum to a school piloting a Positive School Culture in Arizona, I was surprised to see Senge’s The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook listed as the implementation guide. So schools implementing Positive School Cultures and Climates will be practicing Senge’s Systems Thinking and they may not be going to Camp Snowball to set off alarms of concern among parents. Ah-Oh. Better get a copy of that Fieldbook. Sounds like Systems Thinking is coming to schools everywhere.

So I did and it turns out to have a whole section on the desired new Mental Models for students to fit all the desired Transformative changes in virtually every social system we could list. That would include us if you remember what Senge’s Presencing and MIT lecturer partner Otto Scharmer wrote in his 2010 Seven Acupuncture Points for Shifting Capitalism to Create a Regenerative Ecosystem Economy that I have already written about and linked to. Of course that was before I located that UN IHDP document that said Senge and Scharmer were among the futurists helping to shift education and business practices globally towards the IHDP desired fundamental revision of human behavior. Anyway Scharmer said in that article that the purpose of these new mental models was to allow a “reconnect with the deeper sources of inspiration and Self in order to reinvent both onself and the system.” I think he means all the systems and we should take him at his word on the desired intentions of all these changes and new models of Learning and desires for Irreversible, Second-Order Change we keep hearing about.

Rereading Scharmer’s aspirations as I did yesterday reminded me so much of what Alice Bailey described that I am going to link to that old post if you have never seen it. . I am sure that the fact that the Ford Foundation also created the named chaired professorate Donald Schon held at MIT from 1972 onward is purely coincidental. Since that foundation seems to show up constantly from the 50s to the present to fund desired transformative changes to all our social systems. No wonder our friend Jeannie Oakes went there to head their ed efforts in November 2009 just like we were in the end game and it was time for the final assault.

Back to the Fieldbook and the desire for new mental models (page 237 in my copy). Senge says Mental Models refers to:

“both the semipermanent tacit “maps” of the world which people hold in their long-term memory, and the short-term perceptions people build up as part of their everyday reasoning processes. According to some cognitive theorists, changes in short-term everyday mental models, accumulating over time, will gradually be reflected in changes in long-term deep-seated beliefs.”

Which is of course just the thing desired if you want Transformative Change in future behaviors. So the Reading Wars and the Math Wars and frustrations over integrated math and no more lecturing and the Digital Learning/ICT focus and the Actual Common Core implementation I have been describing all these months and the global ed reforms are all driven by a desire for Action Research on children involving those cognitive theories. Got it? And  Senge then goes on to tell us that “two types of skills are central to this work” of gaining the desired new mental models.

“They are Reflection (slowing down our thinking processes to become more aware of how we form our mental models) and Inquiry (holding conversations where we openly share views and develop knowledge about each other’s assumptions). The techniques we most favor for learning these skills emerged from ‘action science,’ a field of inquiry developed by theorists and educators  Chris Argyris [and he’s the link to Harvard’s Business and Ed Schools and is cited in Zuboff’s book from the last post as a mentor to her]  and Donald Schon.”

I am giving you a break Senge does not give in the Fieldbook where his sentences are too long. He goes on after mentioning Argyris and Schon to say their work is “aimed at exploring the reasoning and attitudes which underlie human action, and producing more effective learning in organizations and other social systems.”

Now when I wrote this post back in August, I speculated that it looked to me like the Harvard Strategic Data Project involved pushing Systems Thinking on participating districts like Fulton and Gwinnett Counties in Metro Atlanta and Charlotte-Meck in North Carolina and Boston Public Schools. Now that we know of Chris Argyris and Schon’s work and its aspirations as action science, there is no question. Students in those districts are being used as guinea pigs to collect data for what Argyris and Schon called Double-Loop learning.  What will it take before the student acquires “new capacity” for different types of behaviors?

Schon wanted people and institutions that were malleable and flexible enough to “become capable of transforming themselves without intolerable disruption.” I would argue that Aurora and Sandy Hook and Columbine may well be warning us that all this SEL/systems focus experimentation that has been going on in some schools and districts for almost 20 years  is in fact intolerable to some personalities. It sure is too coincidental to ignore as the number of districts and students undergoing action science research continues to grow. Common Core will be turning our schools into a giant petri dish of social science action research into what it will take to gain Systems Transformation.

Which is not something an education degree or a Harvard Masters in Public Policy or an Urban Studies degree or a Social Psychology degree should license anyone to do.

To our kids. With our money. To this Great Country. To the rest of the world looking to the US for guidance.

12 thoughts on “Aspiring to Create New Habits of Mind and Mental Models Suitable for A New Culture, Society, and Economy

  1. Hello Robin,

    Thank you for your indepth post about Senge, Scharmer and Systems Thinking. Just so we understand their educational backgrounds. They are sociologists, scientists, or spiritual leaders? Any training and education in K-12 education?

    • Senge has said he is Buddhist in his work. In a report I have he says that Argyris was one of his teachers but I cannot tell if it was an education course or a business course. Or just a class in Organizational Behavior. Scharmer’s Seven Acupuncture Points report I mentioned says he has a Ph.D in economics and management from Witten-Herdecke University in Germany. I do not know his other degrees.

      The 1994 Fieldbook has Senge with the Center for Organizational Learning at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. If either has formal training in education or sociology it’s not showing up in any of the books I have of theirs.

      I think the interest in K-12 is its lead role as the only public institution that virtually everyone must pass through and then stay for an extended period of time. The Generative Metaphors Schon is talking about and this determination to create new mental models that data will allow to be monitored has the effect of using schools to force political ideologies on students while they are too young to recognize they are false. Once practiced they are to become unconscious in guiding behavior. It reminds me of the quote from the previous post about integrated experience grounded in emotion basically causing permanent change.

      • Individual states have laws that require children starting at age seven to attend a school (defined by that state). Have you seen any school districts allowing parents/guardians to opt out of the mental model assessment for their children? If a child’s mental model is used for a basis of grading then that child will have to participate and then be persuaded by other students’ mental models in order to reach the collective intelligence that is desired by systems thinking. Since children are required to attend school, shouldn’t the school districts/boards protect the conscience of the child instead of altering the conscience?

        • All of this is hidden from plain view by Orwellian language like performance assessments that is rarely appreciated. The teacher evals that are part of Race to the Top are actually the mechanism to coerce the teachers into both pushing the sociocultural interaction in the classroom as well as being part of the Community of learners that essentially coerces students and teachers. That is in the Fieldbook as well and I was already familiar with it from taking almost verbatim notes when a fanatical Change Agent principal brought in by the Change Agent Super spoke. That principal has now gone back to Charlotte to work with the Opportunity Culture project there that the Gates, Joyce, and Carnegie Foundations are funding.

          I have not written about Ann Brown and her Fostering Communities of Learners work but I do have the research. I also have Courtney Cazden’s book where she says FCL was developed after a trip she and Ann Brown and others took to the USSR during the Cold War.

          In many states now the accreditation agencies are telling the school board they are outside their jurisdiction on any matter other than the district financial overview and hiring and firing the Super. All other areas are none of their business. The states that are the strictest on this are those like Georgia and Connecticut that have been piloting ever more aggressive versions of ed reforms. If you get a board member who recognizes what is wrong or listens to parents who do and have it documented like me, that board members hands are tied. Objecting to curriculum or instruction is an intrusion on the super’s professionalism. Which is ridiculous when so many supers have ed degrees from open admissions schools where the coursework itself is grounded in implementing Marx’s developmental model and Soviet psychological practices. That is what pedagogy got redefined as in the late 1980s. I know. I have that book too.

          Grades are going away except as a means of reassuring parents all is fine. There is research showing most parents simply assume everything is fine as long as their child has at least a B average.

          Describing these conflicts and real definitions and expressed intentions to as wide an audience as possible is the best way I know to protect children.

          And if this post seems graphic read what Bela Banathy has in mind with the unadulterated version of Systems thinking that came out of the Far West Ed Lab.

          That was from September. But Banathy still gets taught in ed school especially in administrator graduate degree programs. And when there was a controversy in Winston-Salem this fall over Peter Senge and Systems Thinking, the Waters Foundation tried to decouple its association with Senge and handed out an Ed Leadership article on Banathy’s Systems Thinking. As you can tell from the post, it is worse. It is also consistent with what I can prove is going on right now if you tie all the posts and documents I have together. Which is what the last 6 or so posts have been doing if read together.

          • Okay, so Waters Foundation is now using “Banathy’s Systems Thinking.” That is something to watch for. However, isn’t Camp Snowball put on by the Waters Foundation with Peter Senge as a keynote speaker the past few years? So, even if a district does not use systems thinking as an approved instruction tool, any teacher can be using systems thinking in the classroom in the name of common core? What are key words for parents to look out for?

          • Interdependence, web of relations. Really the New 3 R’s-Relevance, Relationships and Rigor is systems thinking. Holistic. Whole Child. I already mentioned Learning Community and Community of Learners. Also called a PLC-Professional Learning Community but students are included too. Senge puts on Camp Snowball. Last years keynoters were David Coleman, Common Core architect, former McKinsey consultant, and now new Pres of College Board. Also Tony Wagner of Harvard Ed School pushing those very new 3 R’s.

          • Also Old School, Systems Thinkers see the Self, who you are and how you define yourself as a System. So the essence of Outcomes Based Education of targeting personal values, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings and the social and emotional curriculum like PATHS or Responsive Classroom or PBIS are all assaults on the System of the Self.

            When the 9th Grade Language Arts teachers assign Carol Dweck’s Mindset excerpts to get the 15 year olds thinking about whether they have a Growth Mindset or a Fixed One and thus bringing the herd instinct to bear as well, they are pushing a systemic approach to remaking the essence of the student’s Identity.

            I suspect the link of systems thinking to the essence of OBE is what prompted a snide remark in an interview Spady gave where he complained in the late 80s that Senge got paid so much more as a speaker. Spady insisted he gave a better presentation at a fraction of the cost.

  2. From Scharmer’s Seven Acupuncture Points for Shifting Capitalism to Create a Regenerative Ecosystem Economy:

    “Capital: Redesign and redirect money and capital flows to serve all sectors of the
    economic system (and develop commons based property rights in support of it). ”

    Translation: expropriate the means of production and abolish property rights.

    I dare say I’ve rarely seen a more cunning, nefarious piece of rank sophistry in my entire life.

  3. “Capitalism 1.0: The original “freemarket” or “laissez faire” capitalism that has
    produced phenomenal growth as well as massive negative externalities in the
    form of poverty, environmental destruction, and periodic currency crises.”

    Capitalism causes poverty? If Scharmer is this economically, politically, and historically illiterate, I can only stand amazed at what damage could be done to children’s minds by taking the rest of his philosopohy seriously.

    • Hi Loran.

      I am going to deal with the economic vision next as Scharmer’s view of the future economy and society that goes with these ed reforms is by no means isolated. He has lots of influential company and I have tracked it. I had actually already put that aspect together before I wrote this post. It is part 2 as I have told some of the financial types who read the blog.

      Yesterday in anticipation of writing this up I was able to track all these intentions to what Sweden sought when it went to comparable ed reforms in the 50s and 60s. Then I got further confirmation I was on the right track when another footnoted book published in early 80s had an acknowledgment in the back thanking Robert Schrank, who Zuboff always thanks. And then followed that up thanking the Ford Foundation for funding the research that led to the book.

      When I wrote this post this summer talking about Management for a Small Planet and the Corporatism being assumed in the education/Sustainability push, I also read Stuart Hart’s book Capitalism at the Crossroads. He is another one pushing this vision of a new economic system that is only capitalism in terms of organizations providing goods or services for revenue. As you will see it protects existing Big Business but is quite static in terms of any future innovations that are not of the political sort.

      These people are futurists first and foremost. They have a reenvisioned society and economy and political structures and human interaction that is desired and they are using education and regulation to try to get there.

      And we are going to continue to talk about what is envisioned as the end goal instead of confusing the means-education and changing the drivers of future behavior- as if it were the sought end. Too many have made that mistake over the years and it allows schemers to wall off education and insist they are the specialists and no one without magic credentials can comment on what they are really up to.

      • Hi Robin and Loran,

        Otto Scharmer calls it Capitalism 3.0. I would advise anyone trying to debate any of the MIT profs to first agree on one english dictionary to use in the process. They are redefining the english language and it is difficult to trust their access to the development of children’s values, beliefs and knowledge. Mental model, blind spot.

        • Good idea Old School. Here’s a hint. Their Harvard fellow Systems Thinkers at the B School are calling it Distributed Capitalism and a few other things. Promise plenty of links on this tomorrow. My kids have me chauffeuring and cooking for them today. They apparently refuse to think of me as Miss Marple of Systems Thinking.

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