What’s that line from the movie Casablanca about “of all the gin joints in all the world you had to walk into mine?” I read so much troubling stuff, from theories to open declarations, that I tend now to take what is going on for granted and try to figure out ways to explain it. When I read statements about research into “characteristics of users” I know users refers to actual children and their personalities and what makes them tick and what their family background is. When a federal report talks about “solid evidence of combinations of user characteristics and specific adaptations that matter” the report wants to use American students as guinea pigs to see what it will take to make students change behaviors and feelings and values and other motivational factors. The report seeks to examine how the level of resistance or ease corresponds to personality traits and family back ground.
When I first read http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/files/2013/02/Expanding-Evidence-Approaches.pdf released by the federal DoEd in February about “assessing noncognitive features” I knew the feds wanted to investigate feelings and beliefs and values at a horrifically intrusive level that does not belong in a free society. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/if-the-system-seeks-to-destroy-the-ability-to-think-can-james-madison-save-us/ is a piece I wrote more than a year ago explaining that under the US Constitution the feds are targeting areas that constitute personal private property that is supposed to be off limits. I had no idea then at the level of sought intrusions, only that I was looking at principals and Supers who seemed to assume there were no barriers except personal ambition on what they and their staffs could do to students in the classroom. Think of it as a cultivated belief that a title or Ed doctorate authorizes all except sex with an underage student or embezzlement.
The recognition that the schools plan to conduct cutting edge research through “learning sciences theory” into “metacognitive factors” that have previously been inaccessible in a mass way and use “educational data mining and learning analytics [to] uncover patterns of learner behavior” that can lead to “insights as to whether alternative A or Alternative B is more promising” was alarming when I read it in that federal report. It also put the controversy last winter when both Glenn Beck and Michele Malkin did stories on the hugely troubling Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance Report into context. http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/files/2013/02/OET-Draft-Grit-Report-2-17-13.pdf .
Grit, tenacity, and perseverance are all the so-called “metacognitive factors” the federal DoEd wanted to use digital learning to do research into. When the stories came out the media dutifully responded with attempts to portray the stories as out-of-line, over-hyped to get readers and viewers, and consistent with a black helicopter view of the world. A rather strange way to characterize accurate reporting of an official federal agency report. That had been quietly released without publicity.
The critical reports would have had more bite if Beck and Malkin and others had known about “Expanding Evidence Approaches Learning in a Digital World” that laid out the broader research agenda. Especially looking at all the Recommendations on page xii that the federal government wants to do or have others push with its support. And great gratitude with its coffers of taxpayer treasure and ability to regulate to show its thanks. When recommendation 2 says “Learning technology developers should use established basic research principles and learning science theory as the foundation for designing and improving digital learning resources,” the feds are saying to the private sector and venture capitalists that to gain the lucrative education contracts, they need to design based on the cultural-historical activity theory that radical professors who studied with Soviet psychologists like Luria and Leontiev developed. The theory that rejects individual mental thought altogether except what is picked up from personal experiences interacting with others. I first explained this shift here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/so-now-common-core-rejects-individual-thinking-to-embrace-soviet-psychology-ecology/
Coincidentally I was actually reading a 2005 book this week called Culture & Context in Human Behavior Change: Theory, Research and Applications to clarify why this new sociocultural emphasis for the classroom that comes from Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky had become so vital to the actual Common Core classroom. The book kindly informed me that references to improved student performance or achievement or learning are all euphemisms in sociocultural, learning sciences, theory for changed human behavior. And that emotions are a type of behavior. Comforting, huh?
So who are the lucky schools and districts doing this experimental research on their students to use computers as the Vygotskyian sociocultural tool that mediates thought and makes collaboration with others the whole point of education? Well the initiative is called Digital Promise and the feds are hyping that it is bipartisan and authorized by Congress. Arne Duncan also likes to call it an independent third party nonprofit which is rather Orwellian since the seed financing was $500,000 from the federal DoEd with another $2,000,000 or so from the Gates, Carnegie, and the Hewlett Foundations. The very foundations who asked for and underwrote that Education For Life & Work report rejecting traditional education research as too oriented to individual thinking. And its governing Board is congressionally appointed. Does anyone on the Rep side on Capitol Hill appreciate what CHAT and learning sciences theory is and why all this matters? Why getting digital and blended learning to US classrooms is an essential part of a stealth long-term political coup financed with taxpayer dollars?
The initial guinea pigs are students in the 32 districts and schools that have signed this Organizational Charter to join the League of Innovative Schools. http://www.digitalpromise.org/content/uploads/LIS-Charter-FINAL-5.23.12.pdf Unfortunately one of the districts who signed was my school district, Fulton County. I was not following what Fulton was doing but looking at what is cutting edge research now. And Fulton, like many districts with a strong property tax base and lots of upper middle class neighborhoods, is quite full now with ambitious people who want to sell what they are willing to do to children as a means of getting the next promotion or maybe even their own school district to manage.
That’s how ed administration works these days. “What will you agree to do no matter how horrified parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers are? Are you good at deceit? Can you dissemble with a grin as if you care?” Many of the districts on that list like Chicago, NYC, Houston, and Baltimore are typical urban districts but in a suburban district like Fulton, administrators are agreeing to take high schools that used to regularly produce 5s on the AP Calculus B/C exam and leave students only with a “strengthened ability to leverage cutting-edge technologies and to demonstrate 21st century skills.” That’s vocational as the new definition of what it means to be college and career ready. Deliberately levelling down while targeting the student’s personality for change.
To get the desired “real-time updates about what’s working and what isn’t” means taking the taxpayers’ property and sales taxes and using it to fund human behavioral experimentation. On their own or neighborhood children. There is no term better known from the controversial BF Skinner era of behavioral research of Stimulus-Response than the Black Box as in “I don’t care what goes on in the Black Box of wishes, I can train people like pigeons.” So when Digital Promise’s Charter agreement says ” A series of micro-level experiments will be rapidly conducted to unlock the black box of achievement and discover how technologies should be used to make classrooms and schools work more effectively.” these districts and schools are agreeing to impose CHAT sociocultural theory on classrooms and then conduct the kind of noncognitive research outlined above. The research that cared about student characteristics and what it took to gain adaptation. Change within the student.
There are only a few countries in the world that are listed as attempting to carry on the type of research that the League of Innovative Schools has agreed to deliver up their students as sacrificial lambs to do. Denmark, Norway, the UK, and now the US. The type of shifts that will constitute the new learner outcomes and the planned shift in both the classrooms and future workplaces (the attached new type of capitalism, remember?) are laid out if you have the time in a 2010 book called Learning Across Sites: New tools, infrastructures and practices.
So once again what is masquerading in the US as the Common Core is actually part of a much broader global vision to use education and technology to remake the nature of the economy and society. In the West that did not just try to overlay Uncle Karl’s vision of the future on an agricultural society but went though the Industrial Revolution and created high levels of wealth and technology. It is redistribution time.
You know how one of the 4 Cs of 21st Century Skills is Collaboration? That Learning Across Sites book makes it clear that collaboration, either at school or the workplace, is NOT just joint activity. No, participants must see each other’s perspectives and appreciate each other’s experiences and aptitudes and collectively reach an agreement of how to proceed. Collaboration is priming the student to break down beliefs that he or she is entitled to their individuality. Instead, he or she is to adjust to being a contributing member of the group and a proficient user of the tools of technology.
I wish I was exaggerating or making this up. I wish I was straining to make pieces fit to tell a good story instead of dropping pieces into places they were created to fit.
I wish our children were not the next targets to be created to fit.