When I came up with the title “Everybody In!” I had hoped to cover more of the groups who had come up with a similar vision, but time grew short and the last post grew long. With Irma gone, power back on, and the Internet back working, let’s get back to the story that helps explain why faith-based institutions appear to be an integral part of where education wants to go. Last week the Convergence Center’s Pioneering publication mentioned a book called Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit by Parker J Palmer. That same issue had stressed that Alamo Heights ISD in Texas was engaged in an education vision called “Transformation of the Heart” that complained that:
“As a nation, we are addicted to high-stakes testing, grade point averages, and class rank. This makes it easy to forget our real purpose: to help young people grow and develop into honest, kind, and compassionate citizens…Resting on the laurels of our district’s academic accomplishments was no longer enough…the Strategic Plan called for us to aggressively confront the social and emotional issues of our community.”
When I ordered the Palmer book I thought I would find another political transformation vision tied to an education vision. It was that, but the book also laid out why “Classrooms and Congregations Converge” if a Transformation grounded in new morals and values is desired. They converge because in “both settings, there is power to form us inwardly in ways that can undermine or enhance our capacity to play a creative role in a democratic society.” Palmer used the term “democratic society” as a euphemism for what I shorthand as the MH Society. The Marxist Humanist Society, where all human needs are to be met out of the collective wealth of society empowered by technology, simply takes too long to write. So the MH Society, in order to finally arrive as a historical reality, needs to alter and guide each person’s so-called “inner search.”
It needs a view where “Educational institutions have at least as much impact [as religion], and arguably more on our basic assumptions about what is real, possible, and meaningful.” Any group with aspirations of going from “Inner Liberation to Outer Transformation,” as Palmer called it, needs some kind of “community of congruence” that will provide the “dispositions, knowledge, and skills that will allow them to enter the political fray and make their voices heard. So communities of congruence [schools, workplaces, or churches as examples] help people develop the habits of the heart that agents of social change and all engaged citizens must possess. They help people master the information, theories, and strategies that will allow them to advance their cause. And they offer people small-scale opportunities to become the kind of leaders that a large-scale movement demands.”
In my last post, I mentioned that Davidson College had issued an MH-oriented vision that they attributed to the ‘Reformed Tradition’. I related my experience that a comparable vision had been justified under many other names and faiths. Months ago I also noticed the Pioneer Institute’s recommending that the new Catholic Curriculum Frameworks would also work in Jewish schools. Since I found that compatibility to be rather curious, this footnote in Palmer’s introduction was rather telling:
“‘Congregations and the Human Heart’ [explores] what congregations can do to help create ‘a politics of the human spirit’. For an example of how an interfaith group of congregations has put those ideas into action, see our ‘Season of Civility’ project…this 2013 project [in Wisconsin] trained more than four hundred people of faith across the state to facilitate civil discourse in their communities. Leaders of six traditions–Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist–translated the five habits of the heart …into their own theological language, supported by texts from their traditions, creating study guides for their members.”
Fascinating admission, isn’t it? It shows how an overarching political and social transformation vision can be translated into an article of faith and what it means to adhere to a particular tradition. Both universal and personalized. It gets at that level of inner transformation that could become an invisible serf’s collar. Now let’s shift to an even more revealing book from 2000 called The Ambiguous Embrace that is dedicated to “those in faith-based schools, social agencies, and other organizations who provide loving care with high expectations, in the name of a loving and righteous God.” The book was financed by the same Bradley Foundation that financed so much of the faith-based agenda in the 90s, the New Citizenship Project, the Council on Civil Society, Hardwired to Connect and so much else we have covered in 2017. Bradley is also the chief funder of the School Choice agenda and, in my personal experience, invariably tied to people misleading the public about the Common Core, social and emotional learning, and competency-based education.
The Ambiguous Embrace provided insights into why all those potential tools in education for inner transformation work more effectively if no one much accurately understands their true function. The Foreword laid out that “throughout the Western world it has become clear that the modern welfare state…must be modified if it is to continue being affordable. A very plausible formula for such a modification has suggested that functions of the welfare state (including education) should be devolved onto institutions of civil society.” When I read this morning in a weekly newsletter from a state public policy think tank that more than 80% of the relief aid that had already reached hurricane victims was delivered via faith-based organizations that is cheerleading for this vision. After this past week I am all for that aid. Here’s the part that gets left out and may be the reason for all the deceit.
Apparently in November 1996 an international conference was held at Boston University that “explored the possibility of a ‘remoralizing’ of society through institutions with the authority and integrity to overcome excessive individualism and inadequate socialization.” The interest was in creating institutions, especially schools, that would “nourish opportunities for children–and adults as well–to develop the sense of moral obligation and the settled disposition to act virtuously.” The vision is to have “publicly guaranteed benefits” so that all human needs are to be met, but to use non-governmental entities like faith-based organizations to “deliver education and social services because they are better than government at generating the sense of moral obligation that is essential to both.”
Hopefully the vision being instilled will be a good driver of future behavior because Habits of Mind and complained about personality manipulation can barely hold a candle to an expressed aim that “intends to inform and form the very being of their students, to mold their identity and agency–who they are and how they live.” That passage was talking about a Catholic high school, but the goals of education are not really different than what public schools are doing now in the name of personalized or competency learning according to this recent post http://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/08/creating-change-agents-the-intersection-of-critical-thinking-and-student-agency/ That book passage also wanted to make students into “responsible decision-makers” so maybe the point is that all types of education these days are devoted to the formation of students, not just faith-based schools wanting access to taxpayer money.
Maybe it’s the breadth of the vision of what now constitutes “religious understandings” per The Ambiguous Embrace–” a set of beliefs, values, and sentiments that order social life and create purpose for human activity.” Sounds like an internalized common core, doesn’t it, of the type I found and covered in Chapter 7 of my book Credentialed to Destroy. Sounds just like what the MH vision needs to target for transformation and the area where the Battle for Human Nature is being waged. It’s the area that will be targeted now with required Charlottesville Conversations. “Civil society institutions are able to have a more powerful effect in changing character and giving direction to lives than can institutions that must comply with bureaucratic rationality”
It turns out then that the phrase ‘limited government’ is government being the planner, financer, and steerer of people, society, and economies to see to the “human care of human beings…with government playing a watchdog role on behalf of the vulnerable.” There apparently will be no discussion that we must transition to the MH vision as a matter of indisputable public policy. Transformational education and a new vision of the role of faith is to get at the desired inner transformation without hardly anyone apparently being the wiser.
I will close with a quote from yet another book tied to a faith-based vision and transformation via education. It is called Building a Healthy Culture: Strategies for an American Renaissance and came out in 2001. Edited by Don Eberly, who joined Bush 43’s faith-based agenda, it opened with the Moral and Intellectual Framework that hopes for educational programming of “hopeful images of a society filled with meaning and opportunity, where everyone was committed to service to humanity.” No wonder Marx himself described the MH vision as little ‘c’ communism. Think maybe I am quoting out of context? Well, our title came partly from this book because its “thesis…that it is increasingly the culture that is the preeminent force of history, helping to shape the attitudes and the choices of the young, the overall ethical tone of society, and even America’s role in the world.”
The book went on to state that “the debate now is about what kind of society we intend to build as we move into the future, and we believe that this should be one which embraces important principles from the past, but which is nevertheless geared towards advancing individual and collective health in the context of today’s economically dynamic and technologically advanced world.”
The latter context just happens to be the preconditions for the MH vision. Its 21st century open advocates are all dedicated to what can drive historical change. But we cannot have that debate as we ought to be entitled to as long as everyone pretends that this new vision of education in the 21st Century is about math or how to best teach reading.
Let’s debate away now that we have collected a few more pertinent confessions of intent.