Assessing Deep Knowledge to Monitor Whether Theory is Guiding What Will be Noticed and Observed

Now you can just imagine the popular outcry if the Common Core and its integral 21st Century Skills were being sold as a shift to Abraham Maslow’s Eupsychian education. That would certainly make the current wholesale transformation of the purpose of education and the function of schools and universities much harder to sell. In fact, that overt psychological pitch might even get the attention of a social-climbing PTA President or a politician intent on ever higher elective office. No one but me at the moment is going to describe what is going on now in such explosively impactful terms. But that widespread omission doesn’t mean it’s not still the actual intention.

Professor Daniel Bell, then a professor of Sociology at Harvard, wrote a 1973 book The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting that laid out precisely why people guided by a theoretical understanding of reality was so crucial to any plan for social transformation. Which is precisely what he and others had in mind. The age of the individual and decision-making through free markets was supposedly over and the future was a planned society and decisions through the political process but not really by elected representatives. Bell believed in 1973 precisely what the federal Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission pushed in 2013–that the future political structure would be grounded in “equality of result–by sharing and redistributive policies–rather than equality of opportunity.”

Such a political demand either has to be imposed by brute force, which is another loser PR campaign, or by “being rooted in some powerful ethical system.” That’s why we have Maslow and Rogers in 1962 and Outcomes Based Education in the 80s and 90s and Global Competency and the Whole Child Initiative now all targeting new values. Global values. Humanistic values grounded in popular metaphors like Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community or potential apocalypses like Catastrophic Manmade Climate Change. It’s a rationale for developing what Maslow called the “self-actualizing B-Values” and Bell saw as the “philosophical foundation–a conception of justice as fairness–for a communal society.”  Bell goes on to describe an intention we need to keep in mind to appreciate why a nationally and globally imposed common core of beliefs and values is so sought in 2013:

“In the nature of human consciousness, a scheme of moral equity is the necessary basis for any social order; for legitimacy to exist, power must be justified. In the end it is moral ideas–the conception of what is desirable–that shapes history through human aspirations.”

Bell said the historic “premise of individual freedoms and the satisfaction of private utilities” was crumbling. All of the sought changes over the decades via education and the hyping of first global cooling in the 70s and then later global warming, and now the refusal to take actual temps amid an undisputed increase in Carbon Dioxide into account, all make more sense when you read Bell’s next axiomatic assertion from the 70s: “the political system is now being geared to the realization not of individual ends but of group and communal needs.”

Sounds just like a shift from a profit economy to a needs-based, For Benefit Economy, doesn’t it? Old ideas at social engineering apparently never die. They just get new names, different advocates, and better sales pitches on why they are necessary and must be imposed, something to keep in mind after Friday’s White House Executive Order imposing Climate Change adaptations like it or not. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/01/executive-order-preparing-united-states-impacts-climate-change .

Now the term Post-Industrial Society is used less now. Usually the UN or the OECD prefers the terms Knowledge Society or Information Society but the intentions do not really shift the nature of the transition to be facilitated through governmental planning of desired behaviors, distribution of resources, and public policies generally. All that needs new conceptual schema, a/k/a Big Ideas and Deep Knowledge. Bell says industrial society was the “coordination of machines and men for the production of goods.” Since he says, we have become a society committed to social control in order to shift to equality of results, that “introduces the need for planning and forecasting into society.”

Post-industrial society then, like its alternative names, is “organized around knowledge, for the purpose of social control and the directing of innovation and change: and this in turn gives rise to new social relationships and new structures which have to be managed politically.” Bell doesn’t point it out here but now we have the mayors and City Councils and Governors in the name of Economic Development all ready to do just that. The innovation and change then is not the historic Free Lunch For All/ New Kind of Technology like computer transistors shifting to integrated circuits but the kind of sociological innovation Bruno Latour also had in mind in a previous post. And Bell says it is the “altered awareness of the nature of innovation that makes theoretical knowledge so crucial.”

Although the Common Core is still not producing the level of popular uproar that would come if the actual implementation were better recognized, there has still been enough hype about the feds usurping the role of states and localities that the sponsoring trade group, the CCSSO, sent out a letter dated October 1, 2013.   http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/CCSSO%20Assessment%20Quality%20Principles%2010-1-13%20FINAL.pdf . The CCSSO tells the states the kind of assessments they need to have. Try to control your shock that when you cut through the rhetoric and the Appendix and the mentioned June 2013 CSCOPE report, you end up with a determination that these new kinds of assessments be looking for theoretical knowledge. “These new assessments will not be limited to surface level knowledge–they will better assess the deep knowledge students need to succeed post-graduation.”

That “deep knowledge” or what the C3 Social Studies Framework calls “lenses” or what the Hewlett Foundation calls “deep learning” or what Donald Schon (who worked with Bell in the 60s) called “Generative Metaphors” are all examples of what Bell called either “conceptual prisms” or “conceptual schemata.” Having education provide them for ALL Students aids this attempt to bring about a “change in the social framework of society.” I would add and doing so invisibly without bothering to amend annoying barriers like the language of the US Constitution. Friday afternoon Executive Orders on Climate Change Adaptation or Positive School Climate mandates gets the effect without the turmoil that could force policy retrenchment.

If you, like me, have often wondered why it always seems to be the Frameworks that guide the actual classroom curricula being developed or professional development instead of the standards that politicians supposedly adopted, the following passage will finally silence our curiousity about what is really going on. “Nomen est numen, to name is to know, is the ancient maxim” guiding so much of the actual classroom curricula to change values, beliefs, feelings, dispositions, and ultimately future behavior itself.

“Social frameworks are not ‘reflections’ of a social reality but conceptual schemata. History is a flux of events and society a web of many different kind of relations which are known not simply by observation. If we accept the distinction between matters of fact and matters of relation, then knowledge, as a combination of the two, depends on the correct sequence between factual order and logical order. For experience, the factual order is primary; for meaning, the logical order.

Mind knows nature by finding some language in which to express an underlying pattern. Knowledge, thus, is a function of the categories we use to establish relationships just as perception [bolded to remind you of Maslow and Rogers and the 1962 book for the NEA] is a function of the conventions we have accepted in order to see things ‘correctly.’ As Einstein once put it: ‘it is the theory that decides what we can observe.'”

So the social planners and transformational change seekers and psychologists and education profs have recognized all this for decades as an essential component of How to Achieve Equity in a Planned Society 102. Without having having to confess beforehand what is being altered and why.

Isn’t it about time we all knew it as well?

One thought on “Assessing Deep Knowledge to Monitor Whether Theory is Guiding What Will be Noticed and Observed

  1. Mindset Matters

    We now have, placed before our eyes, one of the seminal writers whose work provides a guiding light to the current steering of our education systems towards deliberately changing human nature. Daniel Bell — having recently died (2011) — there is a lot of information on his work and its significance.

    It goes back to the old nature/nurture controversies.

    If you are a “red diaper” baby you have a head start in being born and staying a socialist, a central control enthusiast, equality for the masses but a reserved space for those more equal and therefore the elite that mans the control levers. If at the age of 13 you join a Youth Wing of a socialist party, you take further training. Such is some of the history of Daniel Bell.

    With such a point of view and a brilliant intelligence, it becomes natural to construct and shape “scientific” theories that make abundantly “self evident” your belief system. How to “change the social framework of society” becomes broadcast and manifest to like-minded followers. Thus, by natural progression, we are now seeing the tentacles of socialist 21st C Learning being embedded in international education systems, invisibly and seamlessly.

    Consider the old saying: “The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at thirty he has no head.”

    21st C L is all about efforts to fixate and petrify the “values, beliefs, feelings, dispositions, emotions” at the 20 year age level of those thus “educated”.

    Today my Sunday paper had an ad for a Superintendent of Schools. Included in the 11 desirable criteria — of course, passion, curiosity, collaboration are included, is this important criteria —

    *** Understanding of current trends in instructional practices including inquiry based learning, formative assessment, social emotional learning and universal design for learning.

    Just how long will this forced march continue before it implodes upon itself or some rational counterforce emerges to ambush this juggernaut?

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