Those of us who play a mean game of Trivial Pursuit tend to remember that the word “Utopia” literally translates as “Nowhere.” And Nowhere is an unacceptable expression for philosophers and dreamers and self-interested planners who do want to reorganize society going forward towards new values and new beliefs and a hoped-for vision of the future. One of those people was the creator of Humanist Psychology and the Eupsychia vision of the Good Society, Abraham Maslow, who laid out theories for education and a new type of school in a book published after his death in 1971. It builds on the New Focus of Education/NEA financed vision from 1962 that I wrote about here. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/psychological-approach-to-a-humane-politics-restructuring-the-west-quietly-and-effectively-via-ed/
Ever since I wrote that post as I have sat in Mindfulness seminars that curiously enough now count as continuing legal education and all our encounters with Robert Kegan and the competences vision being pushed by the UN and the OECD, I keep coming back to that 1962 vision as the foundation for so much that has been called “transformational” ever since. I think it is the grounds for the increasing acknowledgment that long-term behavioral change is a major purpose of the Common Core classroom. http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2013/10/14/cm_socialemotional.html?tkn=NXTFXS1JDKswLa9ZdPz%2Fis6ez0YbkU87li9t&cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS2 . So when I saw a recent reference to the later book, I thought we might gain some important insights into what is coming at us.
Because I now live in a world where a Professor Emeritus at the New School for Social Research, Hans Jonas, laid out in the early 80s his understanding of the then planned shift from each of us being “responsible subjects” to “programmed behavior systems.” And that was before the rise of adaptive software, blended learning, Big Data, and Gaming to constantly crosscheck how the new psychological emphasis in the classroom was doing. When we talk about education reform and assessments that are not measuring knowledge that parents are not allowed to see, keep this long-term aspiration in mind:
“Here I merely point to this most ambitious dream of homo faber, summed up in the phrase that man will take his own evolution in hand, with the aim of not just preserving the integrity of the species but of modifying it by improvements of his own design.”
Well, neither you or I have been invited to participate in such designing but Maslow was and Jonas was aware of it. Jonas presciently asked the question that should be on posters at Dalian, China and Davos, Switzerland and plenty of ed labs globally:
“Who will be the image-makers, by what standards, and on the basis of what knowledge? Also, the question of the moral right to experiment on future human beings must be asked.”
That’s still a critical question to ask now as consultants and district administrators and principals are all being paid to push just such experimentation of untried psychological theories. Or if not untried, ignoring the indisputable linkage to prior tragedies from such probing of the “deeper self. (Maslow’s italics)” Maslow notes that primary creativeness (one of the 4 Cs of 21st Century Skills) “comes out of the unconscious, which is the source of new discovery-of real novelty-of ideas that depart from what exists at the moment.” You see, the psychological emphasis in education that has been trying to come in the front door of being the new focus of education globally since the 60s in earnest is based on Maslow’s belief that “We need a new kind of human being who can divorce himself from his past, who …[can] handle the problem well in an improvising way, without previous preparation, if need be.”
Now the latter is called the 4C of critical thinking & problem solving and gets measured via new planned Common Core assessments of Higher Order Thinking Skills where there is no fixed, linear answer and ambiguity is preferred. By the way, in 1970 Maslow wanted a “new kind of human being that we would need even if there were no cold war, and even if we were all united in a brotherly species, is needed simply to confront the new kind of world in which we live.” Now that’s a sentiment that fits right into what a conference of ed professors or administrators is still hearing in 2013. They simply may not know it comes from Maslow saying:
“What I am really interested in is the new kind of education which we must develop which moves towards fostering the new kind of human being that we need, the process person, the creative person, the improvising person, the self-trusting, courageous person, the autonomous person.”
That latter reference to autonomy frequently came with a cite to Erich Fromm of the Frankfurt School so please do not get excited that there was a glimmer of legitimate individualism being allowed through. No, in fact real education should impel the student on an “Ought-Is-Quest” that does NOT distinguish anymore between facts and values. Maslow called those Species-Brotherhood new values Being Values like Justice and Equality that are to “guide human action” in the future. They should be instilled and monitored via education. In fact, humanistic education had a “new conception of learning, of teaching, of education. Stated simply, such a concept holds that the function of education, the goal of education–the human goal, the humanistic goal, the goal as far as human beings are concerned–is ultimately the ‘self-actualization’ of a person, the becoming fully human, the development of the fullest height that the human species can stand up to or that the particular individual can come to.”
And of course, Maslow noted that such a shift in vision would require a substantial shift in the psychology of teaching. Which as my new book details is precisely what has happened. I am going to leave you to mull over another part of this new vision of education and school which you may well also discover to be embodied in charter language that was designed to both bind and not be well understood by outsiders. Or as Maslow noted tactlessly: “even morons can learn emotionally and spiritually” so beware of mandates that instructional methods used MUST close the achievement gaps. Just think of the enhancement of power in a desired public-centric economy of the future based on officially designated needs rather individual consumer choices this goal of future education will be:
“this is a way of discovering what the self is like. There are signals from inside, there are voices that yell out. ‘By gosh this is good, don’t ever doubt it!’ This is a path, one of the ways we try to teach self-actualization and the discovery of self. The discovery of identity comes via the impulse voices, via the ability to listen to your own guts, and to their reactions and to what is going on inside of you.
This is also an experimental kind of education that, if we had the time to talk about it, would lead us into another parallel education establishment, another kind of school.”
Like a student-centered school that must be engaging and provide success for all students?
That sees all students as “assets” and refuses to accept any “deficit” visions for 21st century education?
Those last two are quotes from the education vision I heard being pushed at the September (co)lab summit in Atlanta.