Behind the Backs of Individuals: Creating the Well-Trained Consciousness

Fasten those seatbelts because here we go again. In turns out that back in the 1950s, in Rockefeller Foundation financed research carried out at the Russian Institute at Columbia University, Professor Herbert Marcuse laid out the vision of what kind of changed individual consciousness would be necessary for a “society where the realm of necessity is brought under rational control.” I shorthand that vision using Uncle Karl’s term–the Human Development Society–and this blog has been systematically covering all the various announcements of it recently from the Next System Project from the last post or the Larry Summers-led Commission on Inclusive Prosperity from January 2015. Since this power grab is clearly a current quest, even if it is not being widely covered away from this blog, let’s go back to see what Marcuse laid out, especially as it fits well with the announced goals of the new federal education legislation in hearings this week.

This post should have everyone looking at the announced title of the ECAA–Every Child Achieves Act–and wanting to call Congress to protest calling psychological manipulation–student achievement. First let’s go back in time to look at where that title came from. Marcuse was pointing out that in the USSR “individual behavior and values” are “automatically directed by the political agencies” so that there is no such thing as the distinct individual making his own way apart from what is determined to be in the needs of the remainder of society. Marcuse really hated the Western tradition that views the individual as a ‘private person’ instead of merely a ‘member of society’. He called for “the passing of the bourgeois individual…as the autonomous ‘subject’ which, as ego cogitans and agent, was to be the beginning and the end of Western culture.”

All of the emphasis on the Whole Child and social and emotional learning and as I will show today–the “integration of education and mental health” into a single vision of what effective schooling is now to be–makes far more sense if we are aware of Marcuse laying out the preconditions for achieving the kind of social and economic visions we keep encountering. Think of the 21st Century required skill of collaboration as we read the call for “the shrinking of the ego.” Won’t all the data being gathered come in handy in the next Marcuse call for “the administrative regulation of his material and intellectual needs”? What could be done openly in the USSR in the 50s and 60s (my copy of the 1958 Soviet Marxism book is the 4th printing from 1969) was described by Marcuse as “the coordination between public and private existence, which, at the postliberal stage of Western society, takes place largely unconsciously and behind the backs of the individuals.”

Can we just all join together in unison and yell “No More”? Just because all these visions of transformations need the ‘passing of the individual’ as a ‘private person’ to make it so, and even though, the education reforms are quietly trying to arrange the necessary “internalization” that will otherwise “impair the social cohesion and depth of morality,” does not mean any of us have to accede to this vision, for either ourselves or our children. The political theory involved, being implemented quietly, then and even more so now as federally mandated and financed education policy, insists on redefining freedom. Marcuse even italicized redefine to emphasize this crucial point: “it no longer means being the self-responsible architect of one’s life, of one’s own potentialities and their realization…the standards of freedom are shifted from the autonomous individual to the laws governing the society which governs the individual.” (my bolding)

Well, that quote certainly explains why my tracking Radical Ed Reform via its accompanying legal mandates has always proven so prophetic of actual long term intent. Since the needed shifts must occur, per Marcuse, at the level of ‘inner being’ and we know that is precisely the area that the new kinds of Common Core assessments emphasize, let’s come back to the present. First though a wave to Marcuse for being so usefully graphic. It certainly puts the Common Core’s emphasis on creating and measuring desired Habits of Mind into perspective or “normed measures of social and emotional well-being.” A parent concerned about the increasingly widespread use of the PAX Good Behavior Game can add Marcuse’s confessed purposes to PAX’s admission that it:

“is teaching students to self-regulate, reduce impulsive or emotional reactions, delay gratification, and work together for a higher purpose. This is not achieved by lessons on the brain or behavior or some formal curriculum on social-emotional learning. [All of those would be, of course, somewhat visible rather than behind our backs]. Rather, this is achieved in the context of ordinary life at school that mimics the conditions of human evolution.”

Huh? That fascinating remark makes no sense in any biological sense, but it does begin to make sense for anyone who has read my coverage of using education to drive cultural evolution as laid out in my book Credentialed To Destroy. Marcuse also clearly had something similar in mind with his descriptions of targeting ‘internalization’ and an individual’s ‘inner being’. All of these things also become much clearer once we are aware of a desire to Integrate Education and Mental Health in Schools. is from the 2009 conference and shows the actual 2010 publication and Health and Human Services’ interest.

In fact, it is not just a federal agency’s interest in “examining models to better integrate learning and behavioral health” or support at the federal level for a “closer alignment between education and mental health.” It’s not just the citing of the P-20 education agenda “embraced by the National Governors Association and the Gates Foundation” or “other reform efforts (e.g. Next Generation Learners)” sponsored by certain states and the CCSSO or ‘personalized learning’ as good vehicles for this desired integration. All that is bad enough and ties directly to what we have been covering on this blog. No, what ties all this directly to ECAA and this week’s Senate hearings is the call-out for making such integrated education about identifying and cultivating “functional competencies.”

Competency-based education. Where have we heard that phrase before in addition to chapter 4 of my book?   If the new ECAA is about anything it about fostering the shift to competency-based education. As the 2009 paper noted a goal of schools focusing on improved student functioning and “this focus on competency could also create a better alignment between educational and mental health policy.” In fact, the paper concluded with “education and mental health will be advanced when the goal of mental health is effective schooling and the goal of effective schools is the healthy functioning of students.” I believe that would be the healthy functioning of students as ‘members of society’, not so much as private persons anymore. Sure does explain the anti-academic emphasis (there goes that pesky ego) and all the hyping of workforce needs.

I want to close with a quote William James, America’s original psychologist and John Dewey’s instructor, laid out a very long time ago, when so many radicals hoped to change the 20th Century towards collectivism. I wish I could say I pulled this from a long dormant book on him or Dewey. Instead, it is the epigraph at the beginning of a concluding chapter called “A Solid Bridge to the Future” from a 1992 book Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future-Today.”

“Of all the creatures of earth, only human beings can change their patterns. Man alone is the architect of his destiny….Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

Perhaps, given what is laid out in this post, we should rephrase that as having those ‘inner attitudes’ changed for them.

Behind their backs. In the name of Competency or Positive School Climate or Effective Schooling.

At least none of this is behind our backs.


44 thoughts on “Behind the Backs of Individuals: Creating the Well-Trained Consciousness

  1. So “freedom” is in the group not the individual. That makes sense together with the push to local governance — but always with a catch.

    We’re having NY state ELA testing this week, at least somewhat CC compliant. I read over the weekend that if parents opt kids out and there isn’t 95% participation, the District could lose Federal funds (not that we get much of that anyway — they aren’t helping us with the illegal immigrants they deposited in our district.) Anyway my 8th grader is taking the tests because we don’t want to lose any money for the district, and because standardized test practice is good. Regardless of niggles about asking students to guess at what an author had in mind when writing something (the author was probably drunk or stoned, but that’s not one of the choices) at least it’s a normal summative assessment that’s mostly objective.

  2. “PAX’s admission that it: “is teaching students to self-regulate, reduce impulsive or emotional reactions, delay gratification,”

    So far so good. Sounds like some Zen meditation thing.

    ” and work together for a higher purpose.”

    Oops. Something tells me we don’t have any input on what that higher purpose is.

    Rather, this is achieved in the context of an imaginary life at school that is nothing like the real world they will be thrown into, unless perhaps they go into ‘education.’ After leaving this school’ cocoon they may be thrown into college where they have to borrow money to pay thousands of dollars to take remedial classes to learn what they should have learned in HS. If they go to work they will be judged on performance, not ‘performance assessments” that do not assess performance.

  3. Welcome back! So glad you’re posting again. Just in time with the “education as mental health” information. That’s what they are looking at in Congress right now. Of course, they are not saying that’s what they are doing, but the Title I portability and the IDEA funds availability for remediation all empty into that pot. As I have mentioned before, the community education assistance all is for the transformation of families and children into the new mold that will give them this new “freedom” that you are talking about. The continual assessment (formative) that will be funded to replace the standardized and common core assessments will be totally aimed at mapping our children’s attitudes, values, beliefs and moods on a minute-by-minute basis. That, of course, will expose any “divergent” attitudes, etc., that can be reported for counseling follow-up. Wonder how any of them will come through the strainer without having some mental aberration to be corrected–Uncle Karl’s re-education plan.
    More later, but glad you’re with us again.

    • Thanks cp. Yes this post was an amalgamation of points that needed to be out to appreciate the language and long term intent of not just ECAA, but going back to ESEA originally. I kept thinking about all those reprintings of the book and how Goodlad and Tyler would have been aware of this desired internalization when they laid out what was in that 1966 Yearbook that I talked about in the book in depth. Still a model for today.

      I just finished reading ECAA a bit ago and have caught what can only be described as Lamar’s fundamental hat trick. It makes all the later trumpeting of no federal mandates irrelevant. Those are clearly cover for all the Republicans in Red states who are actually quite fond of this entire model of progressive federalism and Statist control of the economy that ECAA fits in to. “It is too conservative. See page 559 or 561 or 563 (that one may be my favorite. Talk about closing the barn door after the stampede out).

      The hat trick is on page 28 as I mentioned in the conference call with Women on the Wall last night plus all the repeated incorporations of Universal Design for Learning. (pp.286-288 of my book covers the pernicious effect of UDL back when I was horrified it was incorporated into the Common Core). The hat trick is in the definition of what is defined all through the statute as Challenging State Academic Standards. Go to page 28 and the state plan has to assure that they have adopted “aligned academic achievement standards” to go with any “academic content standards.” That comes out of the alternative assessments for kids with disabilities practices and basically says the states have to specify a means for all students to meet those content standards. That’s how all students can ‘achieve’. You force the states to adopt means of achievement that are not mental, but are behavioral instead.

      Then forever and ever in that statute and elsewhere, that crucial sleight of hand gets obscured as simply quietly hidden in the true meaning of the phrase “Challenging State Academic Standards”.

      Now you have to admit, referring to that unemployed philosopher who leeched off either his dad or Engels all his adult life as Uncle Karl fits. We will have to see who the modern day handmaidens to finally fulfilling Uncle Karl’s vision of internalization are in the House and Senate. Clearly it is a Bipartisan group. Maybe they would like to blame their support so far on poorly equipped staffers. I suspect most of the staffers are simply eager to research their poli sci or policy theories in real time and involving real lives. Probably so they can collect their federal pension and then move into the even more lucrative UN system.

  4. Everything I listen to and read talks about well-being. Even the opt out movement with its direction into inequalities and giving students what they need and not in an academic manner. This arrived in my inbox today.
    In OR this message is all over. Even at the board meeting this week a union rep stated that OR has the lowest C corp taxes in the US. So to combat the lack of funding they believe they have for public education in 2016 they are bringing to the state a bill to raise C corp taxes. It’s like a rat on a wheel. Before delivering the news about the bill the rep gave a nice little ditty on how the rich just keep getting richer.

    Opt out is growing rapidly. I am now nervous about what the mission of those pushing this will succeed in doing after they have the new assessments in place. The assessments are viewed as the solution and no one even blinks. Groups are now committed to action with those that favor a much different type of education, one where SEL is the focus. I watch them cave to the demands of the teachers because those change agents have power and legislators listen to them.

    In regards to progressive federalism, do you know much about Judith Resnik? After looking at TOGAs quickly tonight I really see it in communities now.

    • This Resnick ?

      I was Order of the Coif, but I am thinking my work is not sufficiently interested in transformation to win that award.

      I should finish ECAA tomorrow. All the language about incorporating UDL is hugely important.

      I am thinking “I refuse to allow the psychological interrogation of my child” ought to be a right the proverbial King & Country even if they have an Ed.D should have to respect should be our new rallying cry. We need a pithy acronym.

      I took a break after the conference call to watch Wolf Hall. I do love the Tudor period.

    • The proposed WIOA rules and the coordination between Labor and Education came out yesterday.

      There is also language in ECAA about coordinating with WIOA and the Perkins Act and IDEA. is another proposed rule from DoED. Page 7 has the workforce perparedness language that I had mentioned in my WIOA post as also capping what will constitute academics for anyone in this new coordinated federal vision of K-12 education.

      • Reading letters in support of ECAA. One gives them praise for using UDL and asks them to use the definition give in the higher ed act of 2008.

          • So what makes it “scientifically valid”? Someone with an education or sociology degree saying the phrase 3 times as they click the heels of their ruby red slippers?

            Do you realize that as a matter of federal law, ECAA intends to commit every state to requiring the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement from all public school students in each State. Apart from all the SEL, that’s a vision where the bright mind goes to school to be levelled downward until the fact that someone has a single teenage mom with a crack habit is not an impediment and neither is the recent arrival from Central America via the Open Borders executive order amnesty express.

            The language on the aligned achievement standards took me straight to those Dynamic Learning Maps the University of Kansas has created. Won’t those make the noetic keel construction so much easier.

        • It is clearly built around the CAST work. The first mention of UDL is on page 40. Next is on page 175 and then again on page 295. The official definition on page 541 cites the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the definition of UDL in Section 103. I remember thinking it must be a later amendment.


            UDL says that is about the whole child. It works with PBIS and RTI. That all fits what Anita brought up last week on the wotw conference call.
            It does appear that because of language barriers, cultural barriers and disabilities that they will change the entire classroom to meet all of these needs. I tend to believe it has more to do with amnesty over equality for severely disabled.

          • As you can tell from the book, I found the CAST UDL rubric utterly horrifying. Stanford has created an entire curriculum using the Common Core for English Language Learners. I stumbled across it maybe two years ago and thought that this explains much of the point.

            It also explains why the Lumina Foundation has put this competency based education paper on its website. “Schools and districts that have implemented key components of competency education use the Common Core or other high-quality standards that emphasize higher-level concepts and deeper learning skills over basic skills and factual knowledge.”

            I guess that would be the concepts and related skills laid out as Essential Elements of math, ELA, and Science on those Dynamic Learning Maps.

            Does that sound like prescribed ‘internalization’ to anyone else?


    Interesting article. But what really stood out to me was the fact the research has proven that things learned while multitasking (i.e., clicking back and forth, checking FB, emails, etc and in my mind, at least in the constructivist classroom) are stored in the striatum which is the place for storing procedures and skills instead of the hippocampus which is where facts and ideas are stored. Facts learned while focusing instead of multitasking go straight to the HC where they are organized and categorized in a variety of ways to make retrieval easier.

    huh…so the axe-maker mind is the one with a stocked hippocampus. But the powers that be would like to deactivate everyone’s hippocampus (so that THEY can provide the facts and ideas in a just-in-time fashion) so that they simply take what they’re told and proceed to act as programmed–good little drones.

    • Yes, anon, that is precisely it. The research out of ceri, which is the oecd’s entity, talks about how the constructivist math and whole language reading uses different neural pathways. There truly is no justification for politicians to support this unless they have sloppy researchers or collectivism is the actual goal.

      Mercy I wish the last was a hyperbolic rhetorical statement instead of an apt description of It is What it is.

  6. Eclectic-
    There are reasons we rate so poorly against the rest of the US. My son’s very old fashioned teacher was telling me Friday that a student in class whose parent is a public school teacher was quite upset because her child failed a math test. With proficiency in the public school students can retake the test as much as needed to demonstrate proficiency. Not so in our private school.

    • Just FYI regarding MOOCs and ‘proficiency testing.

      Different MOOCs have different policies on quizzes. The ones I have seen offer at least two attempts to pass every quiz. There is a deadline for taking the quiz after which your grade is reduced and after a hard deadline you receive no grade at all for the quiz taken.

      Some courses allow may too many attempts IMO as some of the questions do not vary much from quiz to quiz. Some courses only allow two attempts per quiz, which is good IMO because you have to prepare before taking the quiz. The quizzes are actually take home HW as they are not time limited. i find these educational. The tests are time limited.

      There are none of the other ‘proficiency’ testing aspects. There are right and wrong answers, no group projects (that I have seen), etc.

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