Cannibals of the Mind: the Emancipatory Epiphanies that Must Not Be

Epiphany has long been one of my favorite words because it captures that moment of mental illumination when everything suddenly clicks into place in terms of connections. The sudden manifestation of the meaning of something though is a private affair and the connections I see, while real, may be inconvenient to those hoping for “shared meaning” as so many classroom mandates now require. It is also inherently “old brain thinking” instead of the desired “new brain thinking” that will be widely shared and politically approved. Even though most people are unaware of how learning standards like the Common Core or a Competency Framework really work, we are going back in time to a world where religious bodies and political authorities literally had an ability to rule “the activities and beliefs of its citizens.” That real effect gets hidden by what K-12 schools pretend they are really pushing. Meanwhile, school administrators, especially district supers, lie to parents and the public about it.

Since “New Brain Thinking ” is the true aim, let’s look into what is being eliminated. “Old brain thinking is characterized by the limited capacity to contemplate only those innovations that might logically evolve out of the current system. The old brain seems incapable of considering a radical change in the system itself–that is, the possibility of operating under a different set of rules.” No one is going to talk that explicitly in public of course. I only found that quote following the thread of Fostering Communities of Learners in schools to its US beginning, a book called The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. Parents, of course, would become rightfully alarmed if they traced the required obligations of collaboration and shared meaning back to a forthright statement of a required “psychological death” of their child.

See why there is such a fondness for euphemisms? Sometimes when I write I do mull over what would be a catchy metaphor to illustrate my point, but that is not where the phrase Cannibals of the Mind came from. Remember the famous phrase about being able to see the soul of certain people through the anger, joy, or flashes of brilliance firing through their eyes? Last week three different area School District Supers appeared on local TV. The first two, from the City of Atlanta, famous for its cheating scandal, and Fulton County, proud to be a national exemplar of competency-based learning, were in a local court fighting to be able to begin collecting property taxes, however confused or in error, the underlying tax digest was. They were very angry, not about the children, but about the ability to pay their loyal apparatchiks pushing these lied about visions.

If that seems cruel, so is area supers insisting they will use Kurt Lewin (by name)’s famous Freeze, Unfreeze, Refreeze social psych techniques on any teacher wanting to continue to make the transmission of a body of knowledge the point of school. Suddenly seeing the highly emotional anger in those eyes and hearing about their loyalist employees “right to be paid” and knowing what is actually being pushed and what it really intends to do, that phrase “Cannibals of the Mind” just came to me. Boy, does it fit. The other Super on area TV had issued a district ruling that none of the sports coaches in the districts could participate in any player-initiated prayers. I don’t think that is a valid interpretation of what Con Law requires, but what I noticed in this super’s eyes was not anger. Instead, he talked and his eyes simply looked vacant as if there was no synaptic firing.

Given what these Supers and their admins want to be paid and how they typically move from district to district pushing neural rewiring for ever increasing amounts of money (hence my phrase Gypsy Supers) as well as my personal experiences with what drives them, I think we have Greed, Chips on the Shoulder, and Downright Ignorance driving these Cannibals of the Mind. Since they will not truthfully tell us what they are doing, let’s dig into what is really being put in place and why. Otherwise, we are about to get a society inhabited by highly emotional people whose “New Brain Thinking” is not thinking in the traditional sense at all.

Scott Peck admitted in his book calling for “New Brain Thinking” and required practices that now “our individualism must be counterbalanced by commitment”. He was writing in the 80s when nuclear war with the USSR was still a real threat, but his required practices that would be “the only way that human evolution will be able to proceed” survived the USSR and the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Now they are inserted in learning standards or characteristics of each Learner or future Graduate. Peck knew, and now educators globally are using, the fact that “the most salient feature of human nature lies in its capacity to be molded by culture and experience.” This is what the Cannibals of the Mind and their Loyalists rely on to drive another revolution 100 Years after Lenin and the Bolsheviks commenced the last one on November 7, 1917. They are using psychological techniques and learning theories that were initially hatched in the USSR and this time they hope the revolution will take.

This time the revolution is at the neural level of the mind and personality with educators relying on what Peck called the “capacity for transformation. It is the capacity for transformation that is the most essential characteristic of human nature. And again paradoxically, this capacity is both the basic cause of war and the basic cure for war.” As I have noted, this real target and the reason for targeting it and methods used are all the source of a great deal of organized deceit. Teachers aren’t assigned Peck’s book and any references to the Soviet psych origins of classroom mandates are usually in a footnote. Fortunately, I have typically read the books being footnoted and can recognize the same or equivalent theories even when there are no footnotes at all.

In another book, The Personal Intelligences, promoting that teachers use social and emotional learning in their classrooms, we get an open admission in italics that Experiences wire the brain. And those Gypsy Supers and their loyalist employees can be wiring “New Brain Thinking” while parents still erroneously believe their child is learning science, history, or reading Shakespeare. As the book’s author put it in a chapter ironically called “Nurturing Independence” (the illusion of it would be more apt):

“I teach reading. I teach math. But I don’t think of myself as a reading/math teacher. I like the title ‘specialist in developing children.’ I help brains grow. I nurture new dendrite connections in all students.”

These teachers do help brains grow and these learning standards lay out and then use assessments to check for how those brains are growing and which dendrites are developing in what areas of the brain. There is no desire for a logical, fact-filled, independent mind capable of the kind of epiphany described above. Think of it now as prescribed epiphanies delivered via virtual reality and ed tech experiences that can be manipulated as desired to create “New Brain Thinking” and imagining new human systems like cities with new sets of rules. Remember how we keep coming across the phrase “self- regulation” or its cousins self-government or self-discipline instilled in all students? Is it about knowledge of the world as it exists and what got us here and what didn’t work? No, here is an example from that same book. This is what Student Success, Growth, or Achievement now mean:

“She’s thinking about herself rather than simply going through the motions. Self-regulating learners make plans, they watch their progress, ask for help when appropriate, and relate new learning to what they already know. This makes active inner speech.”

It also makes fully controlled inner speech, especially as teachers are advised to help students learn the vocabulary of the desired emotions they are to develop through school. The author wants “self reflection to guide their lives, supporting their growth toward positive goals.” Essentially education decides what goals and characteristics it wants students to internalize and then activities and experiences are developed until these traits become internalized Habits of Mind, neurally instilled. And lied about constantly. Does Cannibals of the Mind still seem harsh?

In thinking about the actual effects on students minds and similar attempts through the centuries to control what the individual mind may know, I pulled a book called The Passion of the Western Mind. It described the four “technical inventions” that played such a vital role in the birth of a respect for Individualism at the time of the Renaissance and the launch of Science as a means for understanding the natural world. It seems to me that learning standards in general and social and emotional learning in particular, under its variety of names, is an attempt to undo the emancipatory effects of these inventions by using a new vision of education as transfomation. Best we know what these inventions were:

“the magnetic compass, which permitted the navigational feats that opened the globe to European exploration; gunpowder, which contributed to the demise of the old feudal order and the ascent of nationalism; the mechanical clock, which brought about a decisive change in the human relationship to time, nature, and work, separating and freeing the structure of human activities from the dominance of nature’s rhythms; and the printing press, which produced a tremendous increase in learning, made available both ancient classics and modern works to an ever-broadening public, and eroded the monopoly on learning long held by the clergy.”

These kind of aspirations should not be implemented in the proverbial dark of night by Cannibals of the Mind overpaid to direct activities to rewire our children’s brains. These go to some of the most fundamental questions any civilization ever addresses.

See how dangerous it is to put school board members through psychological team training of the type Peck advocated so they will come to believe that what the Supers tell them is true? They also seem to be trained to believe that no one without an education degree is allowed to know comment on what educators can do in the classroom.

How convenient for the Cannibals of the Mind and the politicians, institutions, and theories they are installing and reenforcing. No scrutiny, no effective protest. No recognition that this was how dire times began in the past.

13 thoughts on “Cannibals of the Mind: the Emancipatory Epiphanies that Must Not Be

  1. The reference to the Renaissance as a vital “role in the birth of a respect for individualism” is important. However the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation very recently, preceded the Renaissance which would not have occurred, had the Guttenberg Press been invented at the Reformation and Luther’s time in which wheels were set in motion for the concept of individualism.

    Guttenberg Press was the technology of the times for the 16th Century Reformation. Today a different tech revolution is the means for reversing 500 years in name of “advancement”…but from individualism to “chains” of programmed mindsets.

    • This is from the next page in Tarnas’ book after the four inventions quote. Compare to required journaling now and the sharing of intimate thoughts and the required consensus all in a Discourse Classroom will adhere to.

      “Moreover, the spread of the printed word and growing literacy contributed to a new cultural ethos marked by increasingly individual and private, noncommunal forms of communication and experience, thereby encouraging the growth of individualism. Silent reading and solitary reflection helped free the individual from traditional ways of thinking, and from collective control of thinking, with individual readers now having private access to a multiplicity of other perspectives and forms of experience.”

  2. Excellent post Robin. This sentence from one of your quotes jumped out at me as a perfect example of duplicitous and manipulative language.

    “Old brain thinking is characterized by the limited capacity to contemplate only those innovations that might logically evolve out of the current system. ”

    Remove ‘limited’, ‘only’ and ‘might’ for their obvious subjectiveness and the sentence reads completely differently . Dare I say even accurately ?

  3. When I read “The cannibals of the mind” I think of the Ayn Rand essay “The Comprachicos.”

    “The old brain seems incapable of considering a radical change in the system itself–that is, the possibility of operating under a different set of rules.”

    IMO the ‘old brains’ ARE capable of operating under a different set of rules, but they would need to know what those rules are and have the oppurtunity to discuss them. I am sure Robin is capable of operating under changing laws, regulations, and rules of court. The ‘new brains’ seem incapable of articulating what those new rules are.

    Thomas Sowell wrote about justice vs. ‘cosmic justice.’ Some people want the process to be fair while others want the result to be fair. Impartially enforcing legal statutes, regulations, and rules of court are a system of justice under man (not God). Enforcing the rules of baseball with nuetral referees are a system of fair play. Social justice warriors want the results to be ‘fair’ in their minds but they cannot say which rules would lead to those ‘fair’ results. They just want to get rid of the existing rules and replace them with some hive mind.

    E.g. I think that Robin long ago about ‘formative assesments.’ I recall that objective grading results in ‘unfair’ results in their minds so they get rid of objective standards.

    • I covered formative assessments and their role in learning progressions in Credentialed to Destroy, but this just out https://www.inacol.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/iNACOL-RedesigningSystemsOfAssessments.pdf builds on what is in the book. Reenforces just how timely it remains. Notice it is behavior (performance) that is the ‘answer’ not knowledge. Think of all this as programming the student as if they were a piece of software. Then using the designed software could alter the hardware (ie the brain).

      I thought about Comprachicos when I was writing yesterday, except those misshapen effects of manipulation could be seen.

  4. Robin,
    My husband just stumbled upon the NAIS push for Mastery Transcripts. https://hundred.org/en/innovations/mastery-transcript
    He is trying very hard to imagine there is some silver lining here even though I have told him not to hold his breath. Could you offer up some laymen explanation of what mastery transcripts are really assessing that I could show him? I am not communicating as effectively as I would like to.
    His biggest concern is that private schools are piloting this garbage and he his wondering how that will affect who is admitted into colleges. Again. I’ve tried to give some back ground but as you know this is a monstrously huge ( 5 years worth of blogging ) topic.

    • I had not seen this, but recognize what I am looking at as it builds on the next book. Keeping it simple it is tracking what has been internalized that will guide what will likely be perceived, how it will be interpreted, and what the likely action of someone with this internalized “web” is likely to be.

      Remember there are to be no institutionalized ports in the storm. Private schools are allowed here but in reality they must adhere to the same templates,

      Also remember most of the truly elite schools have banded together in this Making Caring Common program of who should be admitted.

      The layman definition is that they want to know what concepts, principles, and categories of thought anyone uses to perceive and interpret. They want to know how you plan and what you plan to do (skills). Then they want to know your personal characteristics. The latter is hidden in the “habits of mind” phrase but I have tracked these euphemisms over time and oceans.

  5. Thank You Robin!! I’ve passed along. It will have to sink in for a while but he is beginning to see what I have been blathering about for the last 8 years is actually not the fairy tales of an over active imagination.

    • My husband had that epiphany at the convocation for our youngest child when he heard what the various administrators said they intended to do.

      Of course my oldest child likes to refer to CtD and this blog as mom’s Illuminati project.

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