Neuroeducation via Learning Standards to force Neuroliberalism: Such a Fruitful Site for Intervention

The original title for this post on the admissions about Psychological Governance (PG) and its declared ties to ‘standards-based’ education reforms and ‘competency frameworks’ was going to be “Shaping Citizen Identity and Social Practice so that Governance is Inside-Out, not a Building”. That gets at the function nicely and what must be, and is being, changed by law and governmental edicts as a matter of public policy. It’s also an aim that has been lied about repeatedly over the years in a most coordinated manner by people with ties to public policy think tanks and the philanthropies that fund them. I don’t think any of this is coincidental as I will explain. As I was outlining this post, however, the admissions about what neuroeducation and PG are were even more explicit than I remembered. Plus, the Hewlett Foundation, which has been heavily involved with education reforms via its Deeper Learning Initiative to prescribe the conceptual frameworks to be internalized within each students’ minds (the micro level of reforms),  moved forward in December 2020 to the needed shifts at a more macro-level in what it is calling its Economy and Society Grantmaking Initiative that seek to explicitly move beyond ‘Neoliberalism’ to get to a ‘Fairer Tomorrow’ as the our old instigator-in-chief the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences is calling it.

We are going to deal with the micro-level today, although I have tracked down, downloaded, and read all the cited macro reforms that apparently can now be put in place via higher ed and the Academy because the K-12 learning standards aligned to neural pathways are fully in place. Let’s start off with the definitions of Neuroliberalism and PG contained in the 2017 Psychological Governance and Public Policy: Governing the mind, brain and behavior. They are essentially the Goal and the envisioned Tool of Choice.

Neoroliberalism is a vision to change the contents of people’s heads using education, cognitive restructuring and behavioural exercises…[to get to] a more inclusive and emancipatory politics. Psychological Governance are interventions targeted at the interface of conscious and non-conscious thought and action, connecting emotional response and rational deliberation…The exercise of psychological governance is a form of regulation of the social good through targeting the minds of individuals as a means of changing their behaviour…with a view to normalizing ‘an interrelated set of psycho-emotional’ attributes, dispositions, attitudes and behaviours associated with emotional regulation/intelligence/literacy, resilience, stoicism, optimism, character, hope, aspiration and community-mindedness…

I was revisiting my ISC posts from the spring of 2018 when I was working on the nexus of the think tanks and their seemingly organized deceit around education over the weekend. I came across the advocacy for instilled Fuzzy Cognitive Maps (the Reflective System!) within the mind of each student and the accompanying quote about how what air is to the lungs and blood is to the heart, experience is to the brain. I guess the author of the analogy wanted to remind readers that the brain is a physiological organ of the body with a purpose, but, in my mind, pumping blood and breathing air don’t change how the heart and lungs function. Experience, though, changes the brain at a physiological–predictable and observable–level and that universal reality of being a human being is precisely what standards-based reforms and competency frameworks have always been intended to quietly manipulate. That manipulation embodies a new vision for “an understanding, empathetic citizenship [grounded] in a ‘universal’ dimension of human experience and identity.”

That’s why john a. powell in Racing to Justice wants to hype racism in the US as a reason to target students at the level of their automatic decision-making systems. It’s why the 2020 Behavioral Insights book from MIT argues for a vision of education that recognizes “there are many environments that individuals struggle to change on their own, indicating a change in politics or policy is needed…to gain a healthy democracy and civic agency.” Sounds like just the thing Hewlett now wants to fund under its Moral Economy or Law and Political Economy Initiatives, doesn’t it? Getting back to our micro-level discussion though, that sought civic agency needs  “the use of behavioral insights can actually help build that agency.” Here’s the next paragraph on how–

At the most basic level, behavioral insights can be used to nudge people to take part in civic activities in the first place. Although this nudge may be operating on the Automatic System, the goal is to make sure that someone takes part in in an activity that engages their Reflective System [where it gets to use the instilled Fuzzy Concept Map]. Then, behavioral insights can be used to design better deliberative mechanisms. Many of these activities take place in groups, but behavioral science shows that groups are vulnerable to issues like group polarization, availability cascades, and self-censorship. We can’t just assume that good reasoning prevails in deliberative settings–but evidence-based design makes it more likely.

Both of these books insist that this nudging and the behavioral insights work is done in “full public view,” that there is no “conspiracy to govern through expert knowledge on the mind, brain and behaviour,” and that “there is no sense it was a secret cabal unleashing a programme of control of citizens around Whitehall.” None of those assertions, however, dovetail with the ties to mandated learning standards globally that quietly impose a vision with “implicit moral assumptions about the kinds of young people we ought to cultivate” by targeting their Automatic Systems through the classroom and digital learning and manipulating their Reflective Systems. When the footnotes in these books take me to the 2012 Special Feature of the journal Ecology and Society called “Nudging Evolution” that laid out how to manipulate conceptual frameworks to gain new useful belief systems to allow a reenvisioned social construction of reality, it becomes clear just how targeted both the Automatic AND Reflective visions are in this vision of education reforms.

Learning Standards, and the curricula and assessments they quietly impose, then simply become a euphemism for what author Daniel W. Bromley called “Rules to Live by”. In this vision, instead of the purpose of education being to gain an understanding of reality itself, we are to get a replacement–

a workable view of the world out there, and its meaning to us, [which] comes to fruition (is realized) as a process of convergence…this alternative approach authorizes an epistemic community to engage in a process whose very purpose is the creation of convergence. When a consensus emerges among members of that epistemic community, then this consensus might as well come to be regarded as the accepted account of that observed and apprehended reality. In other words, what is really out there is the agreed upon account presented to us by those whose job it is to study and analyze what is out there, and then report back to the rest of us.

So in this vision of the social construction of reality it is the media, the academy, and public policy think tanks who are to provide us with the agreed upon account, which we are to simply accept. No wonder I angered so many when I wrote Credentialed to Destroy and then started this blog. Learning standards, in fact, prevent the ability for most students to develop “our own idiosyncratic meanings”  and they force students to come to a “shared understanding” of global challenges and observed problems. Those are necessary for social systems, including individual people, to evolve toward “a desired outcome in the future, and the preferred means by which that outcome might be brought about.” Further,

In essence, each individual must work their way through this process by continually ‘updating’ their beliefs, as new evidence emerges, in order to reach some consensus on the exact problem, plausible solutions to that problem, and the range of feasible instruments by which the solution might be achieved…Reason giving is the essential component of democratic discourse in which a gradual evolution in mental models is the point of that discourse.

In PG, and its favorite tool–learning standards–we see a phenomenon going on around us that is insufficiently understood–“the role of the state in responding to and producing particular subjectivities.” It’s every bit as intrusive if it is the local mayor and Chamber of Commerce pushing for this invisible manipulation, as it is if Congress enacts it (which it has). In actuality, all these levels and institutions coordinate around the use of neuroeducation for 21st century transformations and “the broader rubric of psychological governance as a strategy for molding the adolescent brain, behaviour, character, and resilience.” Remember all the references we keep encountering to Virtues and Aristotle, apart from all the mindfulness mandates grounded in Buddhist practices? PG recommends either turning to “ancient Western or Eastern philosophies,” such as Aristotle, to “provide philosophies for living, tools for happy, virtuous and well-regulated emotional lives.”

How ironic, huh? Let’s finish with the quotes from the title that bring this all together.

Neuroeducation is still very much an effort to make pedagogy more effective in terms of teaching competencies that are dictated by standards committees…in neuroeducation, neural pathways are the real and imagined site of relevant moral and pedagogical interventions…what makes the brain such a fruitful site of intervention is that it is located at the threshold, intimately connected as it is to the senses, between the body and its social networks and environments, and that it is plastic, changeable, malleable. The brain is a site of encounter amenable to manipulation…the objective of teaching pupils to ‘respond not react’ to stressful, emotionally charged situations has put the brain and, in particular, the prefrontal cortex as the location of ‘executive function’–as that which must be crafted in order to achieve the most positive outcomes.

See how ALL students can learn or succeed and why Equity mandates are so crucial and ubiquitous now? They all force or flow from this recrafting of the brain quite literally to supposedly force a more normative vision of the future. Let me close with a quote which followed the above and note that by writing about these aims and methods here today they are ‘unnoticed’ no more.

What goes unnoticed, however, is the difference between the brain as a real organ in people’s heads and the brain as an ethical object that motivates new practices and behaviors.

Interesting isn’t it how all the offered solutions to the hype misrepresenting the nature of the Common Core and competency frameworks turn out to envision an education remolding the brain as an ethical object? That thus “Nudge Evolution’? That this is also ultimately the solution being pushed as the solution for ‘systemic racism’?

These days nothing is a coincidence when it comes to education. It’s simply too useful a tool and the changes are mostly hard to observe, unless you know who to quote as they proclaim their intentions and methods of choice.

 

Mappae Mundi, Psychological Governance, and 21st Century Citizenship Priming

Let’s start with a quote that will help us recognize the bullseye that needs to be manipulated by education reforms tied to social and political transformations. This blog and my earlier book laid out in depth that those transformations are the undisputed goal.

To acquire knowledge we need an apparatus of concepts to classify and organize our sensory experiences–the more so as the latter become, through all kinds of measuring equipment, elaborate extensions of those experiences…Beyond our immediate sensory experiences, with or without artificial extensions, we use inferences, hypotheses, speculations, conjectures and refutations as part of our genetic and acquired configuration…It may sound trivial but: you can only see what you can see. Yet even in the realm of sensory perceptions philosophical questions may arise about the relationship between those perceptions and the associated experiences, information and knowledge. There is always a lot of filtering and selection going on, followed by complex cognitive processes which add ‘meaning’ to the perceptions–or simply ignore them.

That’s what was being manipulated that gave rise to what were misleadingly termed the reading, math, and science ‘wars’–pretending the dispute was about how to properly teach a subject. As the book Mappae Mundi put it, “human beings are able to conceive new ideas, put these new ideas into practice and transmit their innovations that come after them”. That capacity, however, is not evenly distributed among human beings and is thus not equitable. Even more crucially though, those who possess that capacity, really do not fit well into a collective. Inventors of new ideas may not simply accept the transformational “myths, maps, and models” those with political power insist that they use.

the idea of myth as a narrative account intended to make sense of the present by explaining it in terms of events and developments in the past…[This interpretation of myth] has the advantage of not drawing a sharp dividing line between ‘true’ and ‘untrue’ images of the past…The standards by which we measure the validity of our myths evolve; but this applies to our maps and models as well. Maps are a pictorial means of orientation and communication…The standards by which we measure the quality of maps depends on the purpose for which we wish to use the maps…Loosely speaking, any scheme representing associations between events may be called a model…In the process, the complex forces at work are interpreted and simplified. Even rudimentary and relatively simple models can serve important heuristic purposes by pointing to significant problems for further research…Myths, maps, and models represent three modes of discourse, that is, of thinking and communicating, which are, respectively, mainly narrative, descriptive or explanatory.

Useful to control in other words for anyone wishing transformation in the world that currently exists, but not just at the level of conscious thought. In July 1999 American Psychologist published an important article entitled “The Unbearable Automaticity of Being” that recognized a crucial aspect used by learning standards and the conceptual frameworks they mandate. School curriculum can be created to manipulate “mental processes that are put into motion by features of the environment and that operate outside of conscious awareness and guidance.” See how useful controlling Myths, Maps, and Models can be once they become embodied in the neural architecture of the brain as Habits of Mind that can be activated without any conscious thought, but still actively guiding both perception and behavior? That article quoted a 1911 insight of philosopher Alfred Whitehead we should also be aware of:

It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle–they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.

Controlling conceptual frameworks instilled in students at both a conscious thought and an automatic level means that when the student believes they are making their own decisions–launching a cavalry charge to use the above metaphor–they are still coordinating their life in a way designed by others. When it is unconscious, it uses what that article called “a direct and automatic route provided from the external environment to action tendencies, via perception.” Makes the requirement that student achievement now be measured by action required–‘performance standards’ as the measure of learning make more sense, doesn’t it? The student as automaton, completely unaware of how much his or her future action has been programmed into them. A useful tool for anyone with aspirations for a compliant collective and disdain for the historic Western conception of the individual.

That includes john a. powell from Racing to Justice to build on the previous post, whose interest in dreams in the book, made it crystal clear that he too wants to reconfigure K-12 and higher ed to use the psychological fact that:

Mental representations designed to perform a certain function will perform that function once activated, regardless of where the activation comes from. The representation does not ‘care’ about the source of the activation…The activated mental representation is like a button being pushed; it can be pushed by one’s finger intentionally (e.g., turning on the electric coffeemaker) or accidentally (e.g., by the cat on the countertop) or by a decision made in the past (e.g., by setting the automatic turn-on mechanism the night before). In whatever way the start button is pushed, the mechanism subsequently behaves in the same way.

Think of it as BF Skinner’s aims, but not his methods, because the values, attitudes, and beliefs–the categories of thought whether myths, maps, images, models, lenses, or frames–become the activated mental representations guiding perception and behavior. Across the political spectrum, this bullseye appears to be what everyone wants to use education to remodel and control. It’s also the source of a great deal of deceit. Much of the deceit comes from think tanks, which makes far more sense given these totalitarian aims, when we become aware of a book from 2017 called Psychological Governance and Public Policy: Governing the Mind, Brain and Behavior. No wonder there was such an organized effort to misdirect public attention away from the documented revelations in Credentialed to Destroy, especially in the areas of how learning standards, competency frameworks, and Tranzi OBE (as defined in book) operate.

They all utilize both the manipulation of nonconscious processes, as well as when the student believes they are making their own decisions consciously. Why on earth would a think tank that quietly advocates that governments and the law promote “the widespread use of psychological governance techniques” be forthcoming about such aims? Utilise the methods of 21st century governance that rely on

the ‘two-brain model’ that succeeds in gaining policy traction precisely because it does not challenge liberal democratic assumptions of political freedom…Certain nudges are aimed at cultivating deliberation and rational responses, whilst others seek to bypass conscious awareness to achieve rational responses through irrational (heuristic) means.

That 2017 book recognised valid concerns that such psychological governance techniques could be considered by some to be overly intrusive in a free society, but rejected that contention since there was supposedly no covering up of this nudging. My point in today’s post is to reject that contention because this targeting is being made in K-12 learning standards that virtually everyone writing books and white papers on behalf of think tanks is misrepresenting. That deceit then leaves no impediment to each student’s very mind, brain and behavior becoming a means where

Key to the exercise of psychological governance in this case, therefore, is a set of technological developments that represent certain tools and techniques necessary for the practical workings of governmental power…[It allows] the political and cultural normalisation of a therapeutic behaviour change agenda. In educational settings from early years to university, numerous policy reports reflect a wide, influential consensus that an interrelated set of psycho-emotional attributes, dispositions and behaviours…can be taught, learned and transferred over time as an essential foundation for successful education and life functioning…All mainstream political parties now agree that the inner states of human subjects determine the relationship between psycho-emotional responses and behaviours in complex, non-linear ways.

Ways that are now being deliberately manipulated via education globally to create the desired citizen of tomorrow, ready for the ‘wicked problems’ of 21st century living. For our own good supposedly we are seeing a new vision of 21st century education grounded in values, attitudes, and beliefs and controlling the instilled mental representations, operating largely unconsciously where

psychology is a source of knowledge and practice with regard to policies and initiatives designed to make live: to impel people to live in particular ways, to endorse certain views of the good or responsible life, to promote and normalise ways of achieving this good life.

In the next post,  I will track this aim through particular curriculum like a 21st century conception of American Democracy grounded in a new vision of History and Civics, as well as Global Education Futures new Learning Ecosystems: An Emerging Praxis for The Future of Education.  These qualities for a governmentally mandated and psychologically instilled ‘good life,’ with its need dispositions and attributes, are ALL communitarian in their vision. They all have the effect that at least john powell laid out explicitly as the real purpose of all this attention on race–to target and then rearrange–“the meaning of the Western self, to bring us into a new relationship with the other and the self. We can and must expand the circle of human concern and attend to our structures and the work they are doing.”

Rather than quoting more from powell that ties to the next post’s specific curricula or restate his tied to both K-12 education and higher ed, let me point out he has a tag for anyone interested in previous posts. Let me close by pointing out that he covered the importance of “framing and priming” because “what we call something can be consequential, affecting the way we think and what we do in relation to our conceptualization of it.” Mandating desired categories of thought to guide our perception and thought at an unconscious level are a major target of his book Racing to Justice as a way to get to his vision of a just society laid out here in a way that will fit well into the next post.

as humans, we are living beings, inherently connected with one another and with the natural world. So although our brains develop partly through categorizing and organizing in ways that can be challenging in a diverse society, our hearts orchestrate a system hardwired to care and respond empathically to one another’s suffering and joy. We can’t allow structures–economic or political–to block or blunt these connections…To embrace our commonality…will require new selves, who are citizens in the true sense of the term: individual, interconnected, and inclusive in ways that reflect the highest aspirations of our nation and our species.

Those new aspirations, to be instilled neurally at an unconscious level, just happen to be the target of the Roadmap to American Democracy and Learning Ecosystems for the global or species level. I guess we could call this the Instilled Mental Map Trilogy.

Promulgating a Personality Manipulating System However One Regards Cries of Structural White Supremacy

The word ‘promulgate’ has several meanings per the always useful OED, but today I am using it in the sense of “to make widespread, as, promulgate learning and culture.” Lots of stories in recent days and weeks of the curricula planned beyond the links I have provided, including a Fox News story on Oregon’s Department of Education revising its learning standards, https://thefederalist.com/2021/02/08/how-socio-emotional-learning-became-another-vehicle-for-anti-white-racism-in-schools/ and https://www.dailysignal.com/2021/02/12/activists-outline-their-plan-to-push-black-lives-matter-in-classroom/ as recent examples. These are all rightfully outraged, but erroneously create the impression that there is a special place where these types of emotionally evocative curricula (to go back to the point of the previous post) can be avoided. No, not until the actual source of the contagion, and its true target, is understood.

That’s where ISC comes in as usual using my quite literally huge library of materials, which I mine to put things into perspective. The category White Supremacy is an example of an idea being used in the same twofold process first described in a Dutch book by Fred Polak from the 1950s called The Image of the Future. It won lots of European awards and fellowships for its author, including one at the inaugural program of the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) in 1954-55. Polak became close friends with the same Kenneth Boulding (see tag) who would create the systems science vision of education and helped found the social science-oriented General Systems Research Group that same year with fellows at CASBS. Kenneth’s wife Elise taught herself Dutch in order to be able to translate and abridge Polak’s book into English.  That’s what I am quoting from:

Man’s attempts to push back the frontier of the unknown…can be seen as a twofold process: the development of ideas concerning the ideal future as it ought to be, and the unfolding of the real future in history, partly as a result of man’s purposeful intervention…The relationship between conceptions of the time-dimension, the future, and the idealistic ethical objectives of mankind for that future, has been a neglected one and offers a fruitful field for research.

Well, it’s no longer neglected and has been a major source for behavioral science research of the kind laid out in my book Credentialed to Destroy and now on ISC where we cover the twists and turns of a new vision of education and student learning. Neither actually seeks a return to the past or a ‘classical time.’ Rather, this new vision seeks concepts and images that:

picture a radically different world in an Other time, and they are imaginatively shaped in a way that they can be applied on behalf of mankind…The more general theory of images may be thought of as ‘eidetics’. This concept, derived from the Greek eidelon, ‘image,’ has a long history…[Not] enough emphasis [has been put] on the significance of the time-dimension in the dynamics of image formation and image propagation…attention must be given to the dynamics of image formation, both in the public and private mind, and the function of images in the economy of the individual personality and the social, national, or cultural group.

What do images mean, how are the meanings transmitted, and how do they affect individual and social behavior? Under what conditions do images change, and why? What can accelerate or retard these changes? How amenable are they to purposeful manipulation, in both the short and the long run?

The answer to the last question is quite amenable to purposeful manipulation, which is precisely how we should start seeing the New York Times’ 1619 Project or Howard Zinn’s work as well. It’s not about history as a body of knowledge, where someone is erroneously changing the facts of the past. This is actually about how education, as a social science, is a tool to where “social science is increasingly making use of these images to increase its analytic power.” That analysis is only the beginning though as this later quote recognizes. The point is to “control social processes” and redirect them to what john a. powell [see tag] described in his 2012 book Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society as the use of allegations of White Supremacy to change our categories of thinking to force “a renewed commitment by all of us to fulfill the promise of a truly democratic society.”

Before getting back to powell and his intention to use White Supremacy as a means to target and alter the unconscious mind to create his desired new kind of self and new kind of citizen, let’s quote again from Polak because powell’s techniques seem to be exploiting Polak’s insights.

The image of the future as such may be an important tool for interdisciplinary social science. The possibility that science may be able to predict and control social processes through analysis of existing images of the future, both private and public, and direct a change of these images, is a thought-provoking one… it is still not too soon to begin pondering the problems of controlled image-change. How could such a possibility be fitted into a democratic system of government?..If we pause to think what can be done with the minds of men…

And women. Boys, and girls. It has happened and is happening even more now. These aims of reconstruction are how we should view not just these White Supremacy curricula currently receiving so much attention, but also the Pandemic, the Holocaust, Reconstruction, the Charlottesville Hoax with the tiki torches, and, finally, the Insurrection at the Capitol. It’s about the Images of the Future  and their potential to incite and justify transformational change in the minds and hearts of students at all levels of society. To quote powell again from his Afterword:

Although our brains develop partly though categorizing and organizing in ways that can be challenging in a diverse society, our hearts orchestrate a system that is hardwired to care and to respond empathically to one another’s suffering and joy. We can’t allow structures–economic or political–to block or blunt these connections…To embrace our commonality in an increasingly diverse public space will require new selves, who are citizens in the truest sense of the term: individual, interconnected, and inclusive in ways that reflect the highest aspirations of our nation and our species. This is a heavy lift for all of us, and it is particularly heavy for those who continue to organize around the myth of the radically isolated individual. The alternative–a just society–requires major realignments with respect to corporations and a remaking of our institutions and ourselves. But it is a dream worth dreaming and a fight worth fighting for.

I think that Dream fits with the essence of what ‘public policy’ is always about, whatever the expressed goals of any think tank, is, which is why we keep getting cries for School Choice that actually enable the planned mechanism of change when examined closely. I think it’s why there has been so much deceit surrounding the Common Core, competency frameworks, and especially CtD’s coverage of what I nicknamed Tranzi OBE. There is a desire for this kind of change to a just society grounded in the minds and hearts of a new kind of citizen. Powell mentioned the unconscious target, but his footnote went to a 2002 book Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious . It is that adaptive unconscious, a term I had never encountered before, that I immediately recognized as the true realm of Tranzi OBE, the actual language in charters for schools and districts, mission statements for private schools now, the Catholic Curriculum Frameworks, state Portrait of a Graduate mandates, and other redirections with the same aim.

Let’s finish this Part 1 on Images of the Future, the ‘adaptive unconscious’ with its “distinctive characteristic ways of interpreting the social environment and stable motives that guide peoples behavior”, and how it can be manipulated by quoting the ‘personality mediating system’ it creates. Yes, I substituted the word ‘manipulating’ for the original term ‘mediating,, but it fits with what media actually means and does. Media, whether print, broadcast, or social platforms for dissemination, has now set itself up as the Lighthouse that gets human perception to notice and then the Interpreter that explains the to be accepted significance of what got noticed. It is no accident that the Oregon pamphlet on Equity in its new curricula intends to target the ‘lived experiences’ of the students as the area of change to supposedly end White Supremacy. It gets at what Walter Mischel in 1968 found in a review of personality research (my numbering to ease the categories):

people possess a unique set of cognitive and affective variables that determine how they react to the social world. They describe five components of this ‘personality mediating system’ that guide people’s behavior: [1] encodings (people’s construals of themselves, others, and situations); [2] expectancies about themselves and the social world; [3] affect and emotions; [4] goals and values; and [5] competencies and self-regulatory plans. In short, they argue, people have distinctive ‘if-then’ rules that determine how they respond in a particular situation; for example, ‘If I feel I’m being ignored, then I get angry and aggressive.’ [Remember] a fundamental property of the adaptive unconscious is that people have no access to the ways in which it selects, interprets, and evaluates information.

The student may not know that, but personalized learning, formative assessments, and holistic, evidence-based strategies can all ferret that out, call it personalized learning, and use curricula to instill the desired images, ethics, categories of thought, and interpretive tools to be changed. Feelings and emotions can be changed through role play. Digital learning is a particularly rich source for mining and manipulating this ‘personality mediating system.’ The system each and every student has so targeting it for change is equitable and coincidentally, conducive to the sought change to “ourselves and institutions”. The other part of the rallying cry and civil rights mandates of Equity and Excellence turns out to mean getting at students at the level of what they want, think, and feel. http://invisibleserfscollar.com/excellence-means-education-putting-what-we-feel-wish-for-and-think-in-harmony/

Sounds just like a bullseye of the Adaptive Unconscious to me.

Education as a Form of Brain Surgery Means We Better All Appreciate the Function of an LMS

Gone for a while and here I show back up with a new acronym. An LMS is a Learning Management System. It provides the learning experiences, prescribes the activities, and collects tremendous amounts of data generated by online experiences about the student so that who the student is at a fundamental level–‘desired character traits’ was the term one LMS used–can be restructured at a neurobiological level. Hope that explicit explanation does not make anyone wish I had stayed gone. In fact, between personal issues this summer I have spent a great deal of time on webinars laying out precisely how LMS’s work. The so-called global pandemic has essentially made them mandatory in districts not already using them since, even in districts with in-school classes, the risk of sudden flareups has forced almost everyone into at least a hybrid model if not purely distance learning.

How’s this for a relevant quote for these times? The discussion was about the ability of the constructed virtual reality experiences an LMS can provide to illustrate how ‘models’ work. The example given in a book published back in 2017 by MIT Press went like this:

models are often used to develop predictions, test predictions, and explore relationships among variables. We use the content area of global pandemics to address different ways that models can facilitate decision making. For example, students work with a simulation model to test predictions about whether disease containment (e.g., quarantine, minimizing potential disease transmission on public transit) or prevention (e.g., vaccination) would more effectively stem a global pandemic.

That particular book was about an LMS being used by a university, but it has since expanded into K-12 https://www.gettingsmart.com/2020/07/new-standards-of-quality-minerva-baccalaureate-and-debt-free-college/ and the location of its use does not alter the planned physical and emotional alteration of students. So feel free to substitute any school using an LMS in the following quote instead of the referenced ‘universities’. Function matters, not the location of the manipulation.

…in order to develop the mind, universities must provide a structured approach. One could think of education as a form of brain surgery: education effectively changes the structure and function of the brain. And, as with other forms of surgery, there must be a clear plan of action before the education operation begins. [See why the prescribed Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Profile matters?] It is not acceptable to start an operation and only then start thinking about what the next step should be. When universities perform this ‘brain surgery’ and try to grow the capability and capacity of the mind, they should not do so in a haphazard way. They should have a plan of action [maybe a Common Core of Learning tied to standardized goals each student is to demonstrate?]. And therefore the structure of the educational path, commonly known as the curriculum, is important.

The LMS is what is providing that curriculum in either Hybrid or Distance Learning. Even physical experiences get uploaded via a rubric to the LMS so it begins to have a picture of each student that functions like ‘Google Maps,’ as one summer webinar laid it out, for the desired Knowledge, Skills, and Personal Characteristics (Attributes or Dispositions are the usual terms used). Let’s abbreviate that as a useful KSA and the LMS acts like many people’s phone prescribing what a student needs to change and how given where they are now in their KSA vs. the desired destination. Skills is self-explanatory since it involves actions and behavior but our ‘K’ is something too few appreciate since it has quietly shifted to something known as ‘practical knowledge’.

We believe the basic task of a liberal arts education [feel free to substitute Classical Education such as the Barney Initiative in K-12] is to provide citizens with a set of intellectual tools that is applicable across a wide range of situations–and that therefore serves as practical knowledge. Practical knowledge, as we use the term, is knowledge that one can use to adapt to a changing world, helping one to achieve one’s goals…[Knowledge] becomes a set of habits of mind and foundational concepts… [that] everyone ought to use–something akin to a basic cognitive operating system.

Two of the terms being used to deal with a new vision of education being pushed in either the name of Covid     https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/restarting-reinventing-school-covid-report or systemic racism, or both  https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/brooklyn-laboratory-charter-schools-partners-release-guidebook-on-cultivating-learner-identity-and-agency-to-better-equip-students-to-deal-with-covid-19-this-fall-301117433.html has been Identity and Agency. It also fits with what is called Culturally Relevant Teaching in other summer webinars. It’s omnipresent as the remedy in other words with a variety of justifications. LMS’s are good at cultivating both of these as well since they can use the insights from “new technologies that afforded insight into how the mind functions and the brain reacts to the signals it receives from different modes of communication and different media.”

In fact, “because of their immersive narratives, video games have the potential to play an important role in communication and persuasion for socially beneficial purposes.” The LMS facilitates the creation of a shared understanding because it can be set so that it “requires developing a dialogue with previously unexamined layers of the self and one’s relationship to the world. This [manipulated] interior dialogue and self-examination are [supposedly] the first step to good communication.” Students can learn to use the models and simulations available in the LMS to study “how to change the behavior of groups and individuals” and move on to “some of the most pressing social and political challenges facing the world today.” These activities and experiences create an embedded reality “where students come to see themselves not as mere cogs in the complex systems in which they exist but rather as agents whose behavior and initiative have the power to change these systems, potentially in far-reaching and beneficial ways.”

Let’s pivot just a second away from what the LMS is facilitating to just how very useful it is. Last week, “The Anti-Racist Discussion Guide” came out for higher ed. Now just imagine the use of a higher ed LMS if this is the ultimate goal of the change in the nature of what will now constitute an education.

What we are exposed to shapes our worldviews. And in very real ways, our worldviews shape the world, through our perspectives, our words, and our actions. Because of this educators, have a unique responsibility to play an active role in helping students become aware of their role within larger societal and global systems, and to help students build the critical questioning skills and confidence necessary to create change in these systems.

What underpins an ‘anti-racist’ teaching method–or critical pedagogy–is the desire to help students question and understand the systems and structures of power which exist in our society, both implicit and explicit, and actively critique and dismantle them to create a society that maximizes the happiness, success, and freedom of all of its citizens.

Long time readers will recognize that last line as Uncle Karl’s Human Development Society, which again fits with numerous webinars from this summer, especially some quotes from both PolicyLink’s Angela Glover Blackwell, as well as Beloved Community. It also fits with the Happiness Curriculum being pushed globally. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Development-of-student-and-teacher-measures-of-HC-factors-FINAL-081920.pdf is from a Center that ties to UNESCO for anyone not familiar with their work.

In the Bibliography of that last paper was one published in frontiers in Human Neuroscience that also takes us back to the title of this post. “Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence (S-ART): a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness” will be fascinating to anyone concerned about mindfulness mandates imposed on their local schools. The practices that go hand in hand with what constitutes education to promote Agency and Identity though also trigger those same neurobiological mechanisms if you actually read the paper along with what is laid out in the papers I have linked to (which are only the tip of the iceberg of what is out there from just this summer).

That’s right. These shifts laid out as remedies to COVID and Systemic Racism literally are designed to both alter the human nervous system, including the brain, as well as finally embody, in the most literal way, the qualities John Dewey laid out as necessary for a citizen in the reimagined democracy of the future. He does get mentioned a lot again in case anyone wants to go back and reread Chapter One of my book Credentialed to Destroy. He would be so excited about the potential of an LMS, as would the Communists who used their then precious resources just after the Russian Revolution to translate Dewey’s work.

It’s all coming together now in earnest. Best to understand now or we will all be targeted by the Revolution at the Level of our Minds–the ultimate microsystem.

Intrinsic and Collective: Race and Restorative Justice as Visions to Upgrade the Brain’s Hardware and Software

If I have ever in my life said the trite phrase “may we live in interesting times,” I take it back. Hopefully, we are not all suffering too much from “What Next?” exhaustion because we have some interesting patterns of honesty peeking through all these released statements and visions that I am going to piece together. Especially since the visions predate George Floyd’s tragic death and the graphic visuals surrounding it and seem to have been waiting for the right incident necessitating transformative societal change as the remedy. There’s a new book coming out this summer called Narrative Change: How Changing the Story can Transform Society, Business, and Ourselves and its author pitches it this way:

Hansen reveals how narratives shape our everyday lives and how we can construct new narratives to enact positive change…Narrative Change provides an unparalleled window into an innovative model of change while telling powerful stories of a fight against injustice. It reminds us that what matters most for any organization, community, or person is the story we tell about ourselves–and the most effective way to shake things up is by changing the story.

On May 27 this article came out https://education-reimagined.org/getting-the-right-problem-before-getting-the-problem-right/ and systemic or structural racism can be considered the ‘right problem’ to generate the “kind of reimagining aimed at opening the door for real systemic change.” Except it was clearly written before Mr Floyd died. Its push for education to create ‘intrinsic’ change within each individual and thus generate a ‘we’ culture and society fits with so many of the statements issued after that video went viral and the protests, and then riots, began. It hypes ‘flourishing’ for all students as the goal of education, with an emphasis now on “What do we want for children we care about?,” instead of transmissive content acquisition. This new visionputs the emphasis on ‘possibility’ and new kinds of ‘created’ citizens:

The conventional K-12 system has learners spend about 14,000 hours in school. If our future selves are created out of who we practice being today, as both Aristotle and modern neuroscience tell us, then the habits and ways of being they practice in school will last a lifetime. These include habits of how students relate to themselves, their learning, and the world; and, habits of how they relate to others, co-create, and participate in communities.

That vision of thinking of education as a ‘design problem’ for the needed new hardware and software instilled in students as habits of mind fits right in with the following statements I culled to show the consistent, almost magical, drumbeat. From my alma mater, after a tie-in to the controversial SEL curriculum Facing History and Ourselves that has a tag already here at ISC, came the helpful nugget that “Education has the power to help us understand the most effective ways to discern what is needed and to do what is right.” Let’s classify that as a software adjustment, if not rewrite. https://education-reimagined.org/more-than-education-this-is-about-racial-justice/ makes the point that:

Calls to ‘say their names’–George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Michael Lorenzo Dean–have been one of many pleas from the communities across this country for all of us to acknowledge the justified anger and frustration millions who have to live in a society where their rights to safety, justice, and equitable opportunities for success are not guaranteed due to the color of their skin.

Long sentence, but common skin color is the constant focus, never individual behavior or, more importantly, misbehavior. Those wouldn’t call for the desired transformations in other ‘hardware’ systems beyond the individual mind and personality. It wouldn’t merit “creating a learner-centered system that has social justice as its centerpiece.” Here’s one example prior to Mr Floyd’s death, before it could be added to the list of justifications for wholesale change. https://behavioralscientist.org/we-have-a-rare-opportunity-to-create-a-stronger-more-equitable-society/  told us:

there is nothing natural about disasters because their impact is the result of the way society is structured. Viewed from this lens, the goal of policymakers during the pandemic should not be to reactively restore the status quo. Instead, the goal should be to proactively restructure society, so we are all more resilient the next time disaster strikes.

Resilience sounds intrinsic and restructuring society certainly seems like the collective ‘we’.  To appreciate why the mind and personality may the foundations for the desired change, but they are merely the tools for changes to other ‘systems’ we have ChangeLab Solutions on June 3 informing us that:

Everyone has the right to be healthy. However, communities cannot be healthy if they are the target of racist policies. Unjust laws, policies, and practices have shaped the physical, economic, and social environment over many generations and perpetuated unhealthy communities. We must change the systems that perpetuate inequity and create new laws, policies, and practices that remedy the past and institutionalize fairness and justice so that all communities can achieve optimal health.

ASCD put out a statement on June 5 that they would be working with their “more than 80,000 education leaders from school districts around the country to ensure that education lays the foundation for the change that is necessary.” They are assembling resources

to help educators reflect on and address these challenges with their students; identify their own and their communities’ biases; and to assist them to find the words and learnings that enable them to help their students to makes sense of unconscionable murders and other, less visible forms of racism and bias…We will also expand the ways to support educators to provide them with more content focused on advancing equity…

Education Reimagined put out the statement that as an organization they stand with “Black Lives Matter” (the entity) and that they are

firmly committed to creating a socially just world by doing our part to transform the education system to one that honors each child and unleashes their power and potential to lead fulfilling lives. And we know a true societal shift will require the collective contributions of those committed to dismantling systemic racism.

Finally we had this statement from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education telling us that “white people need to go far beyond the usual lip service to racial justice.” No wonder everyone seems to want to get away from a transmissive vision for education with all these calls for wholesale change. Apparently “those of us who are white need to commit to…the humble work of allowing our views and sense of reality to be altered by what we hear.” At least as long as it is an authorized narrative that one is hearing and not that Mr Floyd had fentanyl in his body at the time of his death and tested positive for covid or that Michael Brown never had his hands up saying “Don’t shoot” and attacked a police officer instead according to uncontradicted testimony from numerous witnesses. Those kind of factual statements are currently the source of ire against a faculty member at Cornell Law School.

After telling us what we must come to recognize as white adults so that we will “recognize systemic forms of oppression,” whatever the actual underlying facts, the Making Caring Common Project statement pivots to the

crucial importance of talking about race and racism with our children. We need to raise our children to understand the history of race and racism in this country [using Big Ideas as lenses presumably instead of facts] and to recognize and fight racism in all its modern forms. That means talking to children in developmentally appropriate ways about why people are protesting and engaging children’s questions. It means explaining to them that at the core of a just society is the understanding that each one of us is responsible for all of us.

So tragic events and misreported narratives get used to pitch Uncle Karl’s undisputed vision for what he described as little ‘c’ communism on American school children as necessary to end structural oppression and systemic racism.  The hardware metaphor came from this May 20 post https://education-reimagined.org/the-long-lasting-hardware-every-visionary-district-needs-to-invest-in/ while Mr Floyd was still with us. Its vision to “design learning experiences that pique interest and cultivate discovery,” while abandoning “our singular obsession with curricular content” merited inclusion in the Black Lives Matter vision issued later and quoted above. I guess protests and ‘murders’ do pique interest. That article points out that curricular content is transactional, not transformative, and thus misplaces the fulcrum of what education can be leveraged to change. After all, there “isn’t enough information sharing in the world that will provide the force needed to launch young people into dynamic and fulfilling lives.”

Finally, one of the bibliographies from the last post referenced the 2019 The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice: Black Lives, Healing, and US Social Transformation that caught my eye as I have attended Restorative Justice programs put on jointly by urban school and police departments. I knew the use of the program was an issue in Broward County when the tragic Parkland shooting occurred. I didn’t know that its author Fania Davis was Angela Davis’ sister nor how often she speaks to educators and at ed schools. She is apparently committed to the SEL practices I have described and the vision I termed Tranzi OBE in my book Credentialed to Destroy because she believes that “Western knowledge systems, based on an ethos of separateness, competition, and subordination, have contributed to pervasive crises that today imperil our future.”

Davis prefers “alternative worldviews that bring healing to our world.” Like what Making Caring Common has in mind? Probably as she wants a focus “on repairing and rebuilding in order to strengthen relationships and bring social harmony.” What I recognize as Uncle Karl’s vision for what he called the Human Development Society, the admitted CPUSA member attributes to the indigenous values of justice from Africa and its communitarian culture. As I have said before, same destination, but varying rationales and sales pitches. Fania’s book details all the dialogical, positive psychology, and holistic, intrapersonal practices she wants pushed by school districts. Fits right in with what was written above before there was any Pandemic or this year’s ‘murders’ meriting wholesale changes. She wants  practices aimed at “creating school cultures of care, connectivity, and healing.”

The last chapter was titled “Toward a Racial Reckoning: Imagining a Truth Process for Police Violence” with the following epigraph:

Behold the bright sun of transformation and a new beginning.

That strikes me as where schools and institutions want to take us now as a society, and as individuals. Already planned for and just waiting for the right visuals to light the wick of outrage so that only wholesale change at every level can be an acceptable remedy. We will come back to this in the next post as I am running long, but this is what Fania wrote in the 2019 book:

While the nation abolished slavery, the racial terror at its essence continues to haunt us. We are caught in history’s pain, living it again and again. Until we engage in a collective process to face and transform this pain, we will perpetually reenact it.

It’s been a while since we discussed ‘deliberative democracy’ but it still has a tag. Last week the OECD moved to institute it all over the world to take Democracy beyond the ballot box and create Innovative Citizenship.

I don’t think any of this is coincidental, do you?

 

Parrhesia, Bill Ayers, Reinventing Schools for Meaning-Making, and Rewiring Teens’ Brains

Does that title seem a bit like a Jeopardy Question that starts with an unusual word and then leads to a notorious name for click bait? I wish, but Parrhesia is a Greek word that was in the last post’s paper on how John Dewey’s Ethics of Moral Principles and Deliberation were to be incorporated per IEEE Standards (no one was to tell us about) into the ‘adaptive instructional systems’ being touted as the answer for the Pandemic’s need to social distance. Until a Vaccine!! The systems of ethical deliberation becomes a component via required practices adaptive instructional systems incorporate into supplied student experiences. These are to “allow participants to safely engage in parrhesia.” No mention of “Guilty as *, Free as a Bird” Ayers yet, as the definition is a democratic mode of being, that is “an ancient Greek concept…[of] telling truth as one sees it with honesty and integrity…parrhesia qualities include engaging in dialogue, questioning, having a passion for public affairs and human equality. Parrhesia requires intellectual courage and risk-taking in truth telling and pursuits of inquiry.”

Ok, then the footnote goes to a paper by Kerry Burch on “Parrhesia as a Principle of Democratic Pedagogy” helpfully placed on US education websites with the heading “Social Justice: A Language Re/Considered”, which seems to be something we should know about before assuming digital learning is the answer to all our problems. It starts with quotes from Cornel West (whose self-professed ties to the Marxist Humanist vision we have covered here at ISC) and Paulo Freire, whose name is associated with rejecting the so-called Banking Theory of Education. Bill shows up later in the paper, but not by his nickname or standing on a flag in a New York Times article published just before 9/11/2001. No, here’s the passage:

Few educational thinkers describe the kind of democratic personality traits [Dispositions or Attributes of cybernetic citizenship or Character Education?] that need to be cultivated today as elegantly as William Ayers. These traits cannot easily be brought about by relying on the mechanistic knowledge ordained in conventional approaches to ‘learning’ about ”democracy’. Ayers’ charts a different course: ‘We want to teach them to take initiative, to be creative, to be imaginative, to take risks, to question authority, to wonder about the world. This means fundamentally, in a school system based on democratic values, we really believe that the full development of all is a condition for the full development of each.’

Ayers said that and the footnote goes to a Winter 2009 published interview, but Ayers is in turn quoting from Uncle Karl and his Human Development Society vision of the premise for his little ‘c’ communism ideal. No wonder the Chinese and the UN love this vision of cybernetic citizenship, but what a mandate for ‘adaptive instructional systems’ to be cultivating in students to prepare them for parrheistic modes of being. Sounds a bit like the call for an Arational mind that we have discovered lies at the foundation of what is really student proficiency in a competency-based system. When we think of ‘adaptive instructional systems” for K-12, who thinks it is something that would please Bill Ayers and fulfill Uncle Karl’s plans? Who will be looking for “how the buoyant sociality of parrhesia would promote the creation of critically awake democratic personalities”?

Another paper I located called “The Ethics of Critical Inquiry: Educational Research Informed by Parrhesia” attributed this push to notorious French philosopher Michel Foucault, who in turn talked about Aristotle. Which one gets cited later for a similar vision with differing sales pitches and rhetoric does not seem to be about any disagreement on what is being sought through education. Instead, I believe, the different approaches stem from which name the audience, including people being solicited for donations, are likely to revere. Parrhesia here is an attempt to “contribute to social good and bring about positive change” by fostering educational practices that will create “an ethos of disrupting human subjectivities from within”. That sounds a bit disruptive to the student’s personality, doesn’t it? The

early meaning was to open one’s heart and mind completely to other people through his or her discourse…Parrhesia … became associated with transforming the soul of an individual. Most importantly the concept developed political dimensions indispensable to democracy. Parrhesia meant to engage socially and politically as a consequence of integrity of the heart. It required one to courageously say truthful things that are useful for all to hear…It’s not a ‘body of knowledge’ but a ‘body pf practices’ without reference to an external order…It allows for mediation between the ethos of an individual and the well-being of society. In short, it is through parrhesia that an individual constitutes him/herself as a moral subject in relation to others.

Just the thing if a moral revolution is sought at the level of the human mind, heart, and soul as Uncle Karl envisioned. If you don’t want resistance create a need for digital learning because of something like a Pandemic and then mandate ‘parrheistic practices’ into the programming the learning experiences provided by ‘adaptive instructional systems’ offer up. Now before we turn to the latter part of this post’s title I want to link to this article https://behavioralscientist.org/behavioral-public-policy-faces-a-crisis/ on the failure to properly respond to COVID-19 which calls for cultivating minds that can “understand complex systems in crisis”. Since we keep coming across the behavioral sciences and their desire to create a new kind of educational template going back to the 1950s at least, I thought that article’s confession that:

Behavioral public policy is rooted in the idea that biases, heuristics, and mental models determine behavior. If you reframe or alter individuals’ decision making context, you change their behavior.

We now know that is precisely what learning standards like the Common Core in the US or any tied to UNESCO’s ISCED globally and competency-based education frameworks are designed to do. The Pandemic simply makes this desire for “shared frames of reference” for meaning-making supposedly necessary. It’s to be perceived as a crisis, like climate change, that necessitates common ways of looking at the world and what must be changed to meet the demands of the crisis. Individual deviations are not allowed. Yes, tell that to Shelly Luther in Texas or that barber in Michigan.

Timely too is that the May 2020 issue of Educational Leadership published by ASCD, which is now independent of the NEA, unlike in 1985 when it first introduced an internalized common core as I covered in Credentialed to Destroy. The issue is devoted to “Learning and the BRAIN” and one of its articles called “Building Meaning Builds Teens’ Brains” lays out how “Connecting adolescents’ concrete work to big ideas may help shape their neural networks over time.” Research for the article was provided by the National Science Foundation, which certainly explains why they also funded the math and science constructivism covered in Chapter 3 of CtD, and the Templeton Foundation. It would explain the latter’s funding of the Jubilee Centre in the UK and its Virtues curriculum, which we have since tied to the Pope’s new Humanity 2.0 initiative and its new vision for education. Templeton also funded Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology and Positive Neuroscience work, among other things we have covered.

Remember so long ago here at ISC when I mentioned a new vision of Dialectical Materialism, a mouthful term, created in the USSR by Evald Ilyenkov called Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete? We have now over time here at ISC tied to cybernetic designs, conceptual frameworks, and the now federally required assessment annually of Higher Order Thinking in virtually all US students. Now we have this new article informing us of the need for “Reinventing Schools for Meaning-Making”. What it bills as ‘narrative building’ by students certainly sounds like what the others described above suggested as parrheistic modes of being.

These curricular practices turn out to be expressly designed to rewire what the neural networks in teenage brains look like and what the students can do. In fact, by going to motivation, these practices act as an accelerant of future likely behavior. All of these intended interventions are probably helped by the co-authors connections that I have encountered in my research over time. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang shows up at both UNESCO conferences and Aspen’s NCSEAD on the need for social and emotional learning, as well as the NSF’s Brain Initiative. Perfect places to push a vision of education globally grounded in DiaMat that asks “How can we know when young people are building [brain networks]…predictive of success in school, self-actualization, relationship satisfaction, and other positive indicators in early adulthood?”

Think of the parrhesia invisible focus of ‘adaptive instructional systems’ and then ask the article’s question of “What kind of learning experiences strengthen connectivity across these networks?” Remember Bill Ayers’ mention of democratic traits above, which is why I bolded it? The ASCD article focuses on a similar target it italicized as dispositions of mind, which it goes on to say is not a new goal of education, citing to John Dewey among others. These are the stories or narratives the students tell themselves:

their inclinations to engage reflectively with issues and ideas, their tendencies to be curious and compassionate, and their proclivities to use what they learn to inform their emerging values…the patterns of thinking and feeling associated with these dispositions appeared to be influencing the growth of the networks of their brains.

Sounds like Parrhesia’s vision too, doesn’t it? That’s what education for meaning-making and tied to Big Ideas is targeting and it is what grounding adaptive instructional systems in John Dewey’s work also seeks to reengineer. No question about it anymore. This is not a peripheral aim and it’s not really about education per se. It’s education as a tool to reengineer at a neural level the citizens available for the global future. At the service of governments and their cronies.

As I will cover in the next post, it turns out that the stories we tell ourselves, and the concepts and categories of abstractions we use to interpret our daily experiences, are key to how we see the world and plan to act in it. Let me close with another quote from the EL article and just imagine the effect of the Pandemic on “The Stories Teens Tell” or at least what they will tell in the future.

…tying these dispositions to neural development, life success, and mental health gives this effort new urgency, and points us due north in an attempt to reimagine adolescents’ schooling. Evidence suggests that educators can learn to recognize, model, and support the development of these dispositions if they know what kinds of narratives to listen for and what kind of learning experiences lead to these patterns of thinking?

Now imagine the utility of standardizing ‘adaptive instructional systems’ in John Dewey’s work and Parrhesia will do for controlling the needed learning experiences to produce the desired ‘patterns of thinking’ and feeling for the new type of future citizen.

Gives new meaning to calls of May Day, May Day, doesn’t it?

 

 

Pandemic’s Utility as a Massive Shared Meaning Making Tool to Force Widespread Systems Thinking

How many of us recognize the current widespread school and higher ed cancellations and switch to online and virtual learning as fitting with the education template various global institutions are pushing called the Libre process of digital pedagogies we covered in the last post? Never let a crisis go to waste, indeed. If you read as many global plans and conference materials for using education to force change as I do, it is hard not to notice that the word ‘pandemic,’ like man-made climate change, has long been considered a tool to force the desired sense of interdependence and communitarianism. Here’s a quote from a 2019 paper https://www.wise-qatar.org/2019-wise-research-learning-ecosystems-innovation-unit/  that makes the desired shift explicit:

The starting point must be around the holistic development of living in a better world–to be changemakers. I am convinced that ecosystemic approaches are necessary to move from mechanistic education systems to learner centric ones…It is clear that education needs to become an avenue through which global society will overcome the challenges, gaps and barriers we have created: the digital divide, the growing economic and social inequality, religious, ethnic, and cultural divides, and the extreme ecological pressures we are placing upon the Earth…An active search is underway for new ways of learning and new organizational forms for education that will be consistent with the emergent social and economic reality. In such a context, perhaps it is unsurprising that inspiration for change is sought from biological, as opposed to mechanical, analogues.

A biological lens is certainly easier to practice with during and after a global hype of deadly pandemics, isn’t it? Here’s another quote from that same paper that again fits where we are all suddenly being forced to go:

Across the globe there is a growing consensus that education demands a radical transformation if we want all citizens to become future-ready in the face of a more digitally enabled, uncertain and fast changing world…As learning frameworks outlining ambitious global agendas for inclusive education and lifelong learning begin to emerge, and as societies become more connected and intertwined, it is becoming clear that society has a collective role to play in equipping people to create meaningful futures, through lifelong learning.

Deriving from the field of evolutionary biology, an ‘ecosystem’ is a community of interdependent organisms acting in conjunction with the natural environment…This type of ecosystem comprises complex, evolving networks of organizations including think tanks, foundations, governmental and global agencies and others who are consciously connecting to facilitate the sharing of new knowledge about education and learning, innovation, funding opportunities and more. It is largely concerned with building the global shared knowledge base, scaling innovation and enabling the better use of resources and opportunities to tackle shared global learning challenges, not only within but between networks.

What is meant by a ‘global shared knowledge base’ we might ask and how does that tie to ‘shared meaning-making’ via common global learning standards? It reminded me of the requisite ‘systems thinking’ push over the decades that I first covered in my book Credentialed to Destroy and have since found in recent federal statutes and a new vision of Regulatory Governance pushed by a New Zealand professor, Jeroen van der Heijden, that has made its way here   https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3531381 for broader dissemination. It helpfully (with italics) pointed out  the need for a shift from:

thinking of systems as something ‘out there’ –an ontological approach –and systems thinking as a tool that helps us to think about reality–an epistemological approach.

The kind of conceptual learning frameworks I have covered repeatedly on this blog that require a common understanding to become widespread (that the Soviets also pushed as Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete) fits right in with what that paper above covers as “Regulation and Soft Systems Methodology (SSM)”.

SSM requires a careful understanding and defining of the system at hand–known as ‘root definition’. Defining the system and the problem it seeks to address is best done by a variety of individuals and organizations from within the system. In short, the definition includes the basic transformation a system seeks to achieve (T), the worldview that provides meaning to this transformation (W), system ownership (O), system operators (A), the customer or target of the system (C), and the environmental constraints of the system (E)…After establishing the root definition–again, done in a deliberative process with a variety of individuals and organisations from within the system–conceptual models are developed to actualize the stated aims (C). These conceptual models then must be compared with the real-time, real-world situation to define possible and feasible changes.

In late February in the US a paper came out called “Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce” that laid out such Conceptual Models as the new kind of knowledge all teachers are to develop–Deeper Learning. Reading the paper it is impossible not to recognize that without a deep and broad knowledge base that comes from being well read with an Axemaker Mind, the typical student, and the adult they will become, is not in a position to know whether the required Conceptual Models fit with reality or not. What a useful means of covert regulatory governance by governments at all levels and the institutions that serve as their cronies and proxies. It all fits perfectly with this SSM, 21st century global vision, of “regulation as a (cybernetic) system of control” where people and the organisations they are a part of can be:

configured in relation to each of the three components of a cybernetic system: that is, at the level of standard-setting (whether behavioural standards are ‘simple’ /fixed or ‘complex’ /adaptive) [Common Core/Competencies!], information gathering and monitoring (reactive or pre-emptive) [formative assessment and continuous improvement], and behaviour modification (automated or recommender systems) [aka Learning!]…

A call for applying systems thinking to a regulatory problem is a call to focus on the emergent behaviour of a collection of parts and their interactions as they ostensible relate to that regulatory problem…systems thinking sets boundaries to delineate what is relevant and what is not–such boundaries are often operational rather than spatial. Systems thinking introduces a set of concepts that help to map, explore, interrogate and give meaning to a complex problem at hand.

Finally, let’s quote from yet another paper being linked to globally on what learning standards and a transformed vision of education is really intended to do. It is by Ervin Laszlo’s son Alexander from 2014 and came out of ISSS’s 57th meeting on the meta-theme of Curating the Conditions for a Thrivable Planet. Called “Connecting the DOTS: The Design of Thrivable Systems Through the Power of Collective Intelligence,” it sought (with italics in original) systemic leverage points for emerging a global eco-civilization. Number one leverage point? The

centrality of meaning-making to human activity systems–at both individual and collective levels…This meaning-making drive brings us together…[it creates] a community of interest–around systems perspectives and approaches; a community of practice–around the application of systemic ways of thinking/ doing/ being; and a community of place–that sees and appreciates the interdependence of a globally interconnected world.

As we self-isolate in the coming days and weeks, let’s remember that creating a common vision and vocabulary for meaning-making is a prerequisite for the desired transformational change–first, at the level of each individual, but then also in broader political, social, and economic spheres. Notice how often the rhetoric is looking to foster, at both a visual and emotional level,  those very communities of interest, practice, and place needed for transformational change for a different type of collective future. Notice how the release of a new virus from Wuhan China somehow gets used to reenforce the desired changes at an internalized, personal, level that global education conferences have been laying out graphically and with explicit transformational rationales for about a decade.

What a fortuitous kickstart as long as we remain in the vast majority of this planet that will probably not get seriously ill or even know someone who has.

Timely, isn’t it, with only a decade left to the declared finish line of 2030.

Driving Behavioral Change by Building a Different Kind of Brain Circuit in Students: Unity for Our Strife-Driven World?

Let’s finally get to the end of the Trilogy on Enactive Cognitive Science which is not really about how human minds work. It is about how the human mind can be made to work when immersed repeatedly in the ‘right-kind’ of experiences. As we will see, virtual reality and digital technologies are seen as a Godsend to aspirations that go back to 1932 Congress of the International League for a New Education in Nice, France stating:

The current crisis calls for a worldwide concentration of all the efforts made towards a renovated education. In 20 years, education could transform the social order and establish a spirit of cooperation susceptible of finding solutions to our present problems. Only an education that completely redefines the relationships with the children can start a new era, freed from the ruinous competitions, the biases, the concerns and miseries so characteristic of our civilization.

That aspirational quote from the past was in an insert from UNESCO’s MGIEP publication Blue Dot, Issue 8 (July 2018), article called “Learnification: Encouraging Learning Through Video Games” that also informed us that:

Education can no longer mainly be focused on reproducing content knowledge; it evolves too fast, and has never been so broadly shared and so easily accessible. Educational success is now more about what people are able to do with what they know, how they adapt and how they behave. It is more about being versatile, about constantly adapting and constantly learning and growing in a fast-changing, hyper-connected world.

A renovated education needs to balance content knowledge and understanding with skills that help students extrapolate what they know, and with curiosity, motivation, and socio-emotional intelligence that will teach them to consider the wider implications of their actions, and to act mindfully.

I found that issue because to a cited author in this India Today story from a few days ago https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/featurephilia/story/how-a-global-citizenship-curriculum-could-create-the-empathetic-citizens-we-need-in-future-to-save-the-world-1642944-2020-02-03, Professor Duraiappah, also wrote the lead-in called “Technology: A Game Changer in Education”. Today’s title came from the article’s aspiration to use  a new curriculum to “to incorporate MGIEP’s socio-emotional learning framework titled EMCC or EMC2 and aims to build empathy, mindfulness, compassion and critical inquiry in students.” Sounds complementary to the Right Brain planned dominance covered in Part 1 of this Trilogy, doesn’t it?

With proper socio-emotional training, children understand how to deal with their emotions better. Apart from building emotional resilience, they effectively learn how to control their behaviour and relationships with others.

SEL training focuses on the core personality traits of students and develops them into wholesome human beings rather than specifically targeting subject-knowledge.

Moreover, SEL can serve as a proactive measure to prevent mental health illness, reduce stress, anxiety, depression and impulsive behaviour.

Why do we need a Global Citizenship Curriculum?

“Global citizens can be described as lifelong learners, who possess the critical consciousness to drive ‘active citizenship’, to recognize the inherent interconnectedness and dignity of all life, and instill the values of acceptance, equality, respect for diversity, empathy and compassion,” explains Prof. Anantha Duraiappah, Director, UNESCO MGIEP.

Now, it is not possible for students to suddenly transform their behaviours. Thus, the curriculum needs to be created in a way that can train the students and drive behavioural change by building a different kind of brain circuit.

Building a different kind of brain circuit. Hard to get more explicit about the real purpose of learning standards and global competency frameworks than that, is it? Here’s a bit more and think Axemaker Mind as a metaphor for what must be changed by the planned curriculum delivered in a virtual environment by digital technologies.

This means that the usual way their brains worked in certain situations would need to be changed via extensive training to build both intellectual and emotional intelligence. This is the kind of transformation that the Global Citizenship Curriculum aims to bring.

“MGIEP’s Global Citizenship (GC) curriculum is designed to inculcate such behavioural change. It advocates that it is not enough just informing students about why one must be a global citizen but to also inculcate the competencies of understanding the ‘other’ and doing concrete action to foster global citizenship,” Prof Duraiappah adds.

Going back to that earlier article from the Blue Dot, it ended with the aspiration that:

Education needs to change in order to prepare the future generations not only to thrive as individuals, but also to take up the incredibly complex challenges humanity as a whole will face in the near future. We need a renovated education system to save the world. And, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, we might need video games to save education.

Before we cover all these plans for manipulative virtual reality environments some more because of the planned experiences to create new neural Habits of Mind they can provide, let’s look at two more books that also cover the crucial effect of experience: The Biology of Belief and The Embodied Mind. As the first book cited put it:

I call it the belief effect to stress that our perceptions, whether they are accurate or inaccurate, equally impact our behavior and our bodies…[a] whole new field of research called behavioral epigenetics [whose] mission… is nothing less than to figure out how nurture shapes nature…Here, nature refers to gene-controlled characteristics, and nurture refers to the influence of a wide range of life experiences, from social interactions to nutrition to positive mental attitudes.

So when another Blue Dot article on Virtual Reality in Education tells us that “Pedagogically, these types of interactive VR display systems can offer major advantages over other visualisation media, because of the engaging, immersive and interactive (active rather than passive) nature of the learning experience they create,” we need to recognize this as the manipulation of experience that it is. In fact, MGIEP notes that it “collaborated with Google to develop several 360-degree expeditions,” which again matters because Google is also the Vatican’s partner in using education to achieve Humanity 2.0 and was the developer behind Search Inside Yourself from Post 1. All of these see VR and embedding SEL within its experiences as a means for “transforming education for building peaceful and sustainable societies. It [MGIEP] sees immersive experiences such as VR as an integral part of SEL for our younger generations as they face 21st century challenges to build a peaceful and sustainable planet.”

The Biology of Belief provided this succinct explanation of the role of experience without regard to how the concept can be turbocharged for manipulation via VR and immersive digital environments that include what parents have been told are simply ‘digital textbooks’. Look for the Immersive Experience could be the warning label!

The same epigenetic influences also continue after the child is born because parents [and then educators] continue to influence their child’s environment. In particular, fascinating new research is emphasizing the importance of good parenting in the development of the brain. ‘For the growing brain of a young child, the social world supplies the most important experiences influencing the expression of genes, which determines how neurons connect to one another in creating the neuronal pathways which give rise to mental activities.’

The bookwent on to urge parents to act as ‘genetic engineers’ to provide the right kind of environment to “activate the genes to develop healthy brains,” but as the Blue Dot cover story “A New ‘Digital Ecosystem’ for Whole Brain Learning” made clear, parents are no longer to be the primary ‘genetic engineers’. From the article with the same co-author as cited by India Today above:

To summarise, new digital learning environments engage students in ‘real world-like’ interactions forcing them to use multi-sensory ways to learn. Resources from technology can provide access to multiple simulated environments and virtual reality experiences in novel situations, enabling students to experience the real-world relevance of their learning. For instance, learning platforms facilitate building skills of collaboration and communication. Similarly, digital games have emerged as a novel methodology to teach and assess both prosocial behavior and socio-emotional skills. The digital gaming scenario lends itself rather appropriately for SEL since it allows stealth assessments in real-world scenarios and opportunities to intervene and remediate them when necessary.

Who do you think evaluates such a necessity and whose vision lies behind the Learning Trajectories for remediation? As usual I am running long, but imagine the uses of this recognition that “genes are shaped, guided, and tailored by environmental learning experiences” when tied to digital VR student environments and remediation tied to global learning standards and frameworks. The Biology of Belief illustrates the role of environment and experience by pondering the effect on Liza Minnelli of being raised not in Hollywood by her “superstar mother Judy Garland and her father filmmaker Vincent Minnelli,” with its highs and lows of stardom and abuse, but:

If Liza had the same genes but was raised by a nurturing Pennsylvania Dutch farming family, that environment would have epigenetically triggered a different selection of genes. The genes that enabled her to pursue a successful entertainment career would likely have been masked or inhibited by the cultural demands of her agrarian community.

Masked or inhibited. Now imagine the effect of all this planned role playing in virtual reality with the provided student experiences grounded in how “the actual connections among ensembles of neurons change as the result of experience. In brief, these ensembles present us with a self-organizing capacity that is nowhere to be found in the paradigm for symbol manipulation.” That latter is a quote from The Embodied Mind, which recognized that:

it makes no sense to speak of brains as though they manufacture thoughts the way factories manufacture cars. The difference is that brains use processes that change themselves–and this means we cannot separate such processes from the products they produce. In particular, brains make memories, which change the way we’ll subsequently think. The principal activities of brains are making changes in themselves.

I am going to close today’s post on how neuroscience can create the very needed experiences using digital technologies to alter how most students brains will be wired. Many such changes have already taken place and such neural transformations go to the very essence of what learning standards tied to data standards seek to alter.

Such neural transformations that go to the dialectical nature of brain activity in conjunction with its environment, whether natural or artificial, are the essence of what stakeholders all over the world mean when they proclaim the upcoming Sustainable Future. It is why “it will be necessary to use performance-based assessments as manifested in behavior” that cross-check what students do in ‘novel situations’ instead of what they know from the past or how the world works in external reality now.

As usual, I am glad we know what is planned for us and our children, even if it is not particularly pleasant. If experience alters neural wiring in meaningful ways, knowledge of these plans helps us retain the ability to still act as ‘genetic engineers’.

 

Eradicating the Axemaker Mind via Schools to Supposedly Promote Global Flourishing

Welcome to the 2020s! This is the Decade where Governments all over the world intend “to act as an instrument of the common good” and use the schools to rewire students’ brains so that they are more amenable to the plans political leaders have for us in the 21st century. I wish this was fiction or just a theory of mine, but it is not. I certainly was not going to write about this during the holidays, but there were quite a lot of white papers put out in December on this point, and being the careful researcher I am, I then followed up on the books and papers cited in the footnote and here we are. This is not a one shot post, but the beginning of what has become a well-documented armada of coordinated initiatives to use schools to cultivate “positive attitudes and activities” so that students can “develop the inner means to handle distress themselves when it arises. In other words, we should aim at a society in which people have the inner resources to flourish.”

About the same time those words were published in the inaugural 2018 World Happiness Policy Report presented at the World Government Summit in Dubai, a retired MIT professor, John Ehrenfeld, submitted his vision of “Flourishing: Designing a Brave New World” to she ji, a journal of design and innovation, asserting that “Flourishing is possible only when the right brain hemisphere is the master, but balanced with the left. The ultimate goal of every designer should be to foster flourishing…For humans, flourishing requires (1) restoring the supremacy of the right brain through direct practices, for example, mindfulness training, and (2) re-designing institutions and artifacts to enhance presencing: the perception of being connected to the contextually rich surrounding world.”

Well, that got my attention since the actual classroom practices now tied to learning standards all over the world fit with what Ehrenfeld wrote would be needed to make the right-brain dominant. I have school mandates under Positive School Climate prescribed materials that turn out to be renamed cognitive behavioral therapy practices. I poke familiar names and find books like Super Better: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver, and More Resilient that plan to use digital learning virtual reality and videogames to Hardwire the Brain via “repeated activation of specific neurological circuits that train the brain to be motivated by challenge, rewarded by feedback, and more resilient in the face of temporary failure.” Use the fact that “neurons that fire together, wire together” to create digital learning experiences to hardwire “cognitive habits that lead to lifelong success and psychological well-being.”

If “Schools are the primary place where the values of a culture get instilled in young people” and the materials quoted above and conferences like Learning and the Brain repeatedly declare that the ‘instilling’ is to be neural, we need to think about the implications of poems like the following created as part of the Search Inside Yourself e-book “Practice Kindness” created for students in honor of World Kindness Day.

Kind hearts are the gardens,

Kind thoughts are the roots,

Kind words are the blossoms,

Kind deeds are the fruits.

The new way for governments, political leaders, and their cronies to control behavior in the 21st century is not overt coercion, but by controlling the inner psychology and the practices and experiences known to instill desired neural and cognitive structures. Let’s get back to how Ehrenfeld laid out the how and why, but never believe his is a voice in the wilderness. Instead, it is entirely an accident that I came across his article while following up on something else and, using my experience from writing what is detailed in my book Credentialed to Destroy, recognized how his prescriptions for right-brain dominance were already enshrined in what has been misleadingly labelled as the Reading and Math Wars. Right Brain Dominance “can create a pull towards a different kind of future.” A future where the focus is no longer on the individual as those of us located in the West have always believed, but on the collective and its supposed needs. That shift needs to get at “the way we hold reality” itself and shift it to focus more on empathy or caring.

Think about all the changes in the nature of education and the new purposes of schools and higher education as you read this Ehrenfeld quote:

With new understanding of how the brain functions, the root causes can be traced to an imbalance between the two cerebral hemispheres. Modern culture is the product of the left-brain dominance, but flourishing can arise only from the opposite: the mastery of the right over the left. The challenge ahead is to reverse this through design and practice…Only the right connects to the [world as it is, with its rich context] , and can produce empathy and enable authentic caring…A key to increasing authenticity is the ability to delay or stop the left brain from taking over–that is, to remain in the present moment…Mindfulness offers a possible way to maintain the attentional stance of the right.

Now all the hype about bullying, where mindfulness practices are held out as the remedy and we happen to also notice that the trainer for the teachers does New Age Buddhist retreats on other days of the week, make far more sense. In fact, in Super Better, McGonnigal notes that “mindfulness meditation, for example, has been measured to have quite similar physiological benefits as casual game play…game play is a way to learn to control our attention–which is one of the primary aims of Buddhist practice!” Neuroscientists have shown that attention is a necessary component for neural rewiring and certain kinds of practices make the emotional side of the brain dominant. Here’s the sought practice beyond mindfulness training under “Reflective Practice”:

Reflective practice is a general label for the interruptive process by which experience can be embedded to the brain as part of learning. Reflective practice in design is driven by direct experience (right-brain) [virtual reality counts as direct!], rather than the mere application of abstract, general rules (left-brain). In terms of the divided brain model, reflection is the process that new experiences, under the control of the right brain, are passed over to the left hemisphere.

How often now are we hearing hype about students needing Whole Child instruction in controlling emotions to “develop five skills: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. All correspond to right brain activities.” Those of us who have ever had a child in an IB Program who were paying attention know we got almost as tired from hearing hype about “Inquiry Learning” as we did from the “Are you an IB Learner?” question. Now we discover that Inquiry is a right brain activity and Lecture is a Left:

Science is the paradigm of the left brain at work. Conversely, pragmatism is based on paying persistent, broad attention to the whole system and creating new understanding; it depends on holding the left at bay. Meaningfulness, or pragmatic truth, is not to be found in the abstract, left-brain, self-consistent, world of science. It is to be found in the real, right brain, phenomenal world…Pragmatic inquiry is a method that keeps the right brain engaged over extended periods in order to capture the dynamic, context-dependent character of complex systems…Presencing is a form of attention, which exploits the right brain’s attributes of breadth, persistence, and exploration/creativity. Presencing restores context to the external world that has been lost while the left-brain was dominant. Such context is necessary for flourishing.

Presencing looks at the world as a domain for acting and transforming. The focus becomes on what could be, instead of what is. Now that we have covered this desired rewiring, in the next post we will cover how this new right-brain vision of what it is to Understand in the 21st century is “not about cognizing a pre-given world, it is about becoming aware of and consciously choosing the aspects of the world we decide to cope with.” That quote was from a paper featured last week in a newsletter I receive and was written by a member of the American Society of Cybernetics. It fits with what the Father of Positive Psychology and Positive Neuroscience who presented at that World Government Summit says should be the new focus of Models of the Human Mind.

Are we going to be Driven by the Past and the dominance of the left brain or shall we make the focus of education “Navigating into the Future”? No, we are actually not the ones who get to design that future. It gets selected for us and then hardwired into our brains neurologically so we can “draw on experience to update” our choices and then act accordingly based on our “needs and goals” that have also been the aim of Right-Brain focused education.

It truly is a Brave New World once we read certain influential journals and look at the programs being put on at the certain well-attended conferences. No need to theorize about this coordinated effort at all. Just review the documentation. At least that is still possible for those of us for whom the left brain remains dominant.

Here’s to the Axemaker Minds who are not yet left to accepting an offered narrative of where education is really going and why it must be changed.

 

 

Collective Cognition: Stipulating Right Thinking and Prescribing Prevailing Ideas to Defeat Polarization

Never heard the phrase ‘collective cognition’ before? Wouldn’t creating required learning standards and then assessing for their presence in guiding a student’s thoughts and actions amount to learning How to Think as a Community? After I wrote last week’s post, but knowing we were about to pivot next to something called the Hidden Tribes Project, I was fascinated to read the bio of the co-author of this recent article https://behavioralscientist.org/the-cognitive-science-of-political-thought-practical-takeaways-for-political-discourse/ where Professor Sloman admits that the cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences can be used to create Collective Cognition. If only some ultra-rich person would bequeath mega-millions to his employer, Brown University, to set up a Center to create models for K-12 education reforms.

Think of the Hidden Tribes Project as what to do about the adults whose minds and values got away when earlier versions of K-12 education reforms, like outcomes-based education, failed to shift as desired away from subject-content to changing:

the ideas that give your life direction. And the answers fit together into a larger picture–what we call a ‘worldview,’ a way of understanding and making sense of our world. Your worldview determines (consciously or unconsciously) how you interpret and respond to everything in life. This is why it is so important to begin thinking about your worldview and the ideas you believe to be true…develop a worldview that influences everything you do.

That is a really useful definition of worldview and why, I believe, we have found it as the aim of what my book laid out as Tranzi OBE from the 90s, and what we are seeing as Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Profiles now. It’s why learning standards globally carefully lay out the desired elements and seek to prescribe the ‘learning experiences’ that will create the characteristics at an internalized, physiological level. The Hidden Tribes Project, clearly related to the same aim but geared to adults and located at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, stated that its “focus is to better understand the forces that drive political polarization and tribalism in the United States today, and to galvanize efforts to address them.” I found the Project after it was hyped here in July https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_are_the_solutions_to_political_polarization and I recognized the links to both Seedbed of Virtues and the 1997 “A Call to Civil Society”.

George Will, in his Soulcraft book, kept using the same term “Better Angels of Our Nature” so let’s look and see how ‘our nature’ can be reengineered with education reforms and other social science projects. After all, one of the co-authors of the June 2019 More in Common report “The Perception Gap: How False Impressions are Pulling Americans Apart” is tied to the Templeton-funded Positive Neuroscience initiative at U-Penn that is also tied to the World Happiness Reports the UN has taken to publishing. If he states that “in coming years I plan on continuing to use the tools of social science to improve human interaction and society. Through teaching, speaking, researching, and writing, I hope to do my part to help humanity realize the best possible version of itself,” we would be wise to listen.

Humanity is so grateful, I reply with my usual sarcasm. Hopefully such aspirations and scholarship in “studying how social context in various populations can impact people’s moral judgment and behavior…” will get Mr Yudkin tenure somewhere. According to the 2018 “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” the “work of rebuilding our fractured society needs to start now” and it needs to occur at the level of each person’s values, attitudes, and beliefs. This will allow “re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to building a renewed sense of national identity: A bigger story of us.” More in Common believes that “a healthy democracy…requires a sense of shared values and commitments, and a willingness to find common ground”. That desired answer to polarization and tribalism, a desired standardization at the level of “mind, heart, and soul” for all citizens, young and old, requires deliberately targeting:

At the root of America’s polarization are divergent sets of values and worldviews, or ‘core beliefs’. These core beliefs shape the ways that individuals interpret the world around them at the most fundamental level. Our study shows how political opinions stem from these deeply held core beliefs. This study examines five dimensions of individuals’ core beliefs:

  •  Tribalism and group identification
  •   Fear and perception of threat
  •   Parenting style and authoritarian disposition
  •   Moral foundations
  •   Personal agency and responsibility

This study finds that the hidden architecture of beliefs, worldview and group attachments can predict an individual’s views on social and political issues with greater accuracy than demographic factors like race, gender, or income.

So education at every level and the media, whether broadcast, print, or websites of various supposed spectrums, need to get at and change that hidden architecture. To uncover and understand core beliefs, and “explore how this understanding can be used, not to deepen polarization but to bring people together.” Does the coordinated effort to pretend that the Common Core was about workforce preparation or a database of personally identifiable information about students instead of an effort to change those prevailing values, attitudes, and beliefs suddenly make more sense? What if I told you that the initial indented quote on worldview came from something called the Lightbearers Curriculum from Summit Ministries that I found after a Daily Caller article this summer made a reference to something called a Blue Sky Worldview and a camp to create it? What if the same article simultaneously misrepresented socialism and asserted that Marxism is only what was found in the past in Communist countries or is what Bernie Sanders pushes?

Let’s just say our False Narrative purveyors were well-represented among the advocates for this curriculum that also seeks to control “what ideas will rule the world” and provide “guidelines for shaping society for everyone’s benefit”. It is a curriculum intended for “endowing [the student] with the responsibility for shaping the future of the world.” Theoretical Marxism, the non-historical kind that is a theory of Man as a Maker of History seeking to drive a transformational process in the real world, would recognize that aspiration as bringing about what Uncle Karl called the Human Development Society. It is still the same theory even when the M word is not used and the sales pitch is the need to “redeem culture as part of God’s creation.” Worthy aspirations and a theological emphasis do not change the nature of this theory or who created the idea of how to get such a theory into practice (Praxis?).

Calling it “faith in action” instead of praxis, or opining that “without action, students may relegate what they are hearing to dry academic philosophies and not realize that these ideas should become part of their lives on a daily basis,” doesn’t distinguish aims that function the same with comparable purposes. So religious based or classical schools want ideas embodied into action as an integral part of the curriculum to create Desired Habits and Behaviors and so do public schools now as part of learning standards and what is called High Quality Project-Based Learning. See what I mean about going to the same place and targeting the same normative realm in each student?

Tranzi OBE, in function even if now euphemized into a myriad of new names, still is in play if the curriculum actively seeks to tell students they should be change agents and

stop being conformed by the ‘water’ around them, the culture they were in. Rather, they should be transformed by renewing their minds. The idea behind the word ‘transformed’ is that of metamorphosis–changing into something different. While conformity to the world is something that happens passively, being transformed is something that happens actively. Conformity just happens, but transformation requires effort. Transformation only happens through mind renewal, changing the way you think.

I bolded that last part from the Lightbearers Curriculum to call attention to a discussion in the comments from the last post when I said that the predecessor to the Common Core was something in the 90s called the New Standards Project. Before Professor Lauren Resnick helped create that initiative, she called her curriculum a Thinking Curriculum to be grounded in HOTS–Higher Order Thinking Skills. Stipulated Ideas would dominate so that the real world perceptions would be controlled by Desired Ideas and Theories of What Could Be. The Soviets in 1962 called this a new kind of Dialectic Materialism that would allow a transformation of the existing world via a theory they called Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete.

Its ideals still work the same today whether pushed on adults to supposedly bridge a Perception Gap and create a Convergence to defeat Polarization, or on children via mischaracterized learning standards and Thinking Curricula.

All of these advocates recognize that changing how we think leads to “transforming our behavior” in predictable ways. If anyone wants to prescribe “the basis of our decisions and actions,” as these various NGOs like UNESCO or the OECD, faith-based institutions, think tanks, or any other institution have explicitly said they wish to do if we know where to look, we should all be aware that has become the new purpose of education and the goal of much of what is broadcast or published by the media.

I suppose I should be grateful my book and then this blog set off such an orchestration of False Narratives. The deceit left the crumbs that enable us to see the common vision. Everyone seems to want to get at what we believe and feel in order to control how we will behave.

And it has nothing to do with training pigeons except that once installed in our neural circuits via cognitive psychology, we will be programmed indeed.