Does Common Core Target Hearts and Minds to Sway Future Voters?

A famous economist, Kenneth Boulding, basically invented systems theory to analyze people and their behaviors and the resulting societies about 60 years ago. It came from his concern over issues like preventing war, overpopulation, use of nuclear weapons, and other global issues. I have long known that the people who wanted to use education as a social, political, and economic weapon had a real interest in systems theory. What I didn’t know until recently is how Boulding believed in using what he called Preachments and not just prices to influence the behavior of individuals and groups. One way then to look at all this emphasis on Social and Emotional learning and Purple America and Global Competence and Dewey’s Quality Learning and Wellbeing and Happiness as desired goals for education is to create influencing Preachments. Especially while the mind is still physically developing as CASEL noted. Even better if the affected level is reflexive. Not a matter of conscious thought.

“Hearts and minds” is a phrase that just keeps recurring when you talk with politicians or professors or bureaucrats involved with implementing Common Core. It’s clearly the emphasis at meetings you and I were not invited to. It seems designed to generate excitement over what will make Common Core a superior method for the schools and classrooms. The students will be engaged with video games and interactive visuals instead of bored with lectures. Of course good lectures are not boring and videos and visuals are probably doing nothing to add to know-how or know-what.

But hey I clearly am not in the spirit of 21st century learning. And it is very rude of me to keep asking whether anyone would voluntarily pay for the skills, knowledge, values, and habits to be cultivated for the 21st century workplace. It clearly is designed to increase the comfort level with Common Core’s dominant emphasis on emotion and attitudes and cultivating useful political beliefs and social values. Nothing like a captivating slogan to make anything seem acceptable.

Remember though when we recognized that a primary goal of Career Ready Practices was to require each student to recognize their responsibility and obligations to others? And that the schools would be monitoring for daily examples of that desired attitude? I am not being Scrooge or a modern-day misanthrope when I worry about the consequences of such an explicit Common Good first emphasis. I can know what I think is for the best for me and anyone I actually know.

Calculating a Common Good for strangers though is impossible. Trying is dangerous and likely to create Common Bads. Trying to cultivate a belief in individuals that they exist to do for others and not their own needs or wishes is essentially trying to create a tolerance for modern-day serfdom. It is useful to anyone who seeks power over others which is why it has been attempted throughout history. Calling it a 21st Century Skill or Global Competence or Workplace Readiness does not change its essential function. Nor the fact that it is lethal to economic prosperity. It has people chasing after the unknowable instead of the real needs and actual preferences of people in the here and now.

Recognizing the Communitarian economic emphasis in those Career Ready Practices and other Common Core initiatives sent me scurrying toward Amitai Etzioni’s work. And guess what I found? Well, the Communitarian prof who wants to cultivate We-ness instead of individuality and reorganize the market economy around the new values to be cultivated via education mentions the necessity of “changing the hearts and minds of individuals.” Now where have we heard that phrase before? And this was in his 1988 book The Moral Dimension: Toward a New Economics.

He has had to be very patient. He must be very excited about all the emotions and values embedded into Common Core’s actual implementation. After all he saw them as necessary to the kind of altered decision-making he had in mind. A way of curbing each individual’s future choices without any need for their even being aware they had been so influenced.

Maybe by that 3rd Grade Teacher or maybe the Middle School Principal who pushes feeling over knowing. See how this all works?


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