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 http://www.tascorp.org/sites/default/files/TASC_SELResourceGuide_FINAL.pdf 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? http://www.promoteprevent.org/sites/www.promoteprevent.org/files/resources/2013%20Purrfect%20PAX%20Rubric2_Text_only.pdf 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. http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/docs/pdf/camhs_special_issue/3_Toward_the_integration_of_ED_and_MH.pdf is from the 2009 conference and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874625/ 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.