Please try not to get whiplash as we move back and forth through the decades. Just this week the OECD conceded openly that instead of focusing on structures and incentives, which both traditional government approaches and New Public Management theory (arose in the 1980s and 90s and tied to what is also called the Third Way) “are prone to do, it is more important and fruitful to focus on the type of individuals, particularly their competences and skills, which are populating these governance structures.” Explains so much, doesn’t it? That’s why education now targets what the Paris-based Futuribles initiative funded by the Ford Foundation in the early 60s called the ‘inner self’.
http://oecdeducationtoday.blogspot.com/2016/04/governing-complex-education-systems.html is the truly stunning confessional document on ‘steering’ people and places to fit with desired theories of change in the “socials sciences, it [complexity theory, which the OECD itself states is akin to the Dynamic Systems Theory fiction we met in the last post] offers a metaphor, or a lens, through which we might better understand what it takes to initiate and sustain systemic change.” All of our recent encounters with various members of the Atlas Network and their frequent teaming now with either the Brookings Institute or Center for American Progress makes much more sense when we recognize that the official OECD position on how to achieve “socio-historical change in human society” is through “policy making” and changes in consciousness.
This is also why it matters so much that, unbeknownst to us, the behavioral sciences have been thoroughly embedded in education ‘reforms.’ They now define students as ‘goal-seeking systems’ as Boulding laid it out. Competency-based education and ‘evidence-based policy in education’ are simply the newest obscuring euphemisms for what the Futuribles contemplated as the way to use education to ensure that the “social sciences should orient themselves toward the future.” Futuribles wanted “to instigate or stimulate efforts of social and especially political forecasting.” It would be based on using the human imagination, unrestrained by fact-based moorings to the present or the past, to speculate on different futures and then to motivate personal action to make it so.
Quoting Destutt de Tracy who was declared to have “said very well: ‘It is the constant march of the human mind. First it acts, then it reflects on what is has done, and by so doing learns to do it still better.'” That’s the theory of education being espoused now when we hear a Principal or Super declare that a school or district no longer embraces a ‘deficit view of the child.’ For any readers who are unaware, the same Ford Foundation funding the Futuribles research organization and the translation of The Art of Conjecture into English in 1967 also financed the creation of our often-encountered Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences in the 50s. That would also be the place where Kenneth Boulding and others created systems theory.
A chapter of that book is called “The Project” and seeks to use mental images “that do not represent any reality past or present” to become a person’s goals for acting in the future. Here is the vision for the Project (italics in original).
“There is no volition without object, and the object of a volition is that a fiction of the mind become a ‘fact’. This fact is the goal of action (in the sense of ‘action’ defined below). When we retain a fiction as something to be enacted, it serves as the source of systematic action. This fiction–a non-fact–can be situated only in the future, which is necessary as a receptacle for a fiction accompanied by an injunction to become real.”
I am going to stop for a moment to come back to the present. Just this week I got an announcement from a company called ProExam of a new product called Tessera that could be used by schools to assess non-cognitive attributes and qualities of students using what it called Forced Choice and Situational Judgment scenarios. It also reminded educators that these social and emotional learning attributes were now a statutory mandate for measuring and monitoring under federal law. Now we can go back to what was laid out in 1967 in the intro to the next chapter called ‘The Conditional’:
“I have formed a representation that does not correspond to observable reality and placed it in a domain suited to receive it; now my activity tends toward validation of what my imagination has constructed. [Anyone tying this aim then to the rise of Project-Based Learning and the Maker Movement now?] For the event to comply with my design, the moral force of my intention must hold and push me on the road to the goal. But the road must really lead to the goal; and this implies that the appropriate road has been discerned (an intellectual operation). Hobbes put it all like this: ‘For the thoughts are to the desires as scouts, and spies to range abroad, and find the way to the things desired.'”
The goal then is “like a beacon beckoning me.” Those of you who have read my book know how much research I laid out showing that the real Common Core implementation targets ‘values, attitudes, and beliefs’ as a means to change behavior in the future. On top of those disclosures, let’s now overlay this Futuribles recognition from that same chapter:
“Any power, whether social or political, is maintained by people’s attitudes; any project, short or long, shallow or profound, is founded on their attitudes and behavior. Now each of us is capable of changing his attitude and behavior…Concerning the individuals of a society, we cannot doubt that they have received a code of behavior from their family and from society, that they are subject to pressure from their fellow men, and that they are pushed into particular roles.
But we also know that they are able to form and pursue projects. And each project is the germ of a shoot which may or may not be propitious for the maintenance of the general form of the society. Lesage once made use of a Lame Demon who unroofed houses to reveal what was going on inside. Let us suppose that this diable boiteux could reveal people’s minds in the same way, enabling us to surprise the projects each member of society forms in his inner self.
We could then apprehend, at their origin, those shoots which as they grow will deform the familiar social surface and produce swellings, fractures, and cracks. What will these changes be? How can they be foreseen? Here lies the subject that preoccupies us.”
And I would add that this is the subject that has preoccupied all so-called K-12 education reforms globally from the 60s forward under a variety of names. It absolutely is the lodestar of what is mandated under ESSA and what practices are required to merit federal funding and expansion of charter schools. It also is what drives the social and economic steering visions laid out in that graphic OECD report that is part of its New Approaches to Economic Challenges(NAEC) initiative. Given that the acknowledged target of all these education reforms is the inner self, which is why I bolded it, we should read carefully that a key component to “building the systemic capacity of the government to improve policy design, steering, and implementation” is Trust.
I am sure that it is entirely coincidental that the same theme of Trust was a major component of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s recent speech on public policy. As the OECD laid out as the requisite means for Governing Complex Systems that includes people and their inner selves (their competences and skills, remember?), “the public’s trust in government must be reenforced, and efforts must be made to strengthen institutions and build capacity across different dimensions of trust (e.g. reliability, fairness and impartiality, integrity and honesty, and inclusiveness).”
That VA Scandal and the lack of actual consequences is just so darn inconvenient to this trust demand, isn’t it? All of our encounters with think tanks and what I call the Faux Common Core narrative, as well as deceit surrounding the nature of federalism and the Constitutional Convention calls, makes much more sense when we throw in this quote:
“Which outcome is realised in the social sciences is a question of intervention at as many levels as possible: for example, at the macro-structural level [WIOA] and at the intentional human agency level [ESSA], so that sufficient momentum is generated in a particular direction to displace the inertial momentum of the current dispensation and to create a dominant inertial momentum for the desired changes.”
Not the desired changes you or I might seek, but the changes desired by political and economic power to secure the futures they seek. DST from the last post, and complexity theory to the OECD oligarchs and their allies, is “first and last, about reaching critical mass among the diverse range of factors, elements and agents that constitute a particular environment.” In other words, complexity theory sounds more scientific that simply citing to the infamous Uncle Karl, but still allows political power to guide the so-called Scientific Management of Society he and the USSR dreamed of.
Instead of openly decreeing the institution of his Human Development Society that is also known as little ‘c’ communism to political theorists, we get the same ends approached through ‘complexity theory.’ We are all to still be the Governed with our inner selves measured and manipulated as “new properties and behaviors in the education system, emerges from the interaction of a myriad factors in the economic, political, social, and cultural environments in which education is situated.” Those would be the same environments currently targeted for steering via legislation that starts with Congress and the federal agencies and goes straight through to all of our local communities. All targeted for steering in the 21st Century.
If this sounds like we are to have sovereigns and be ruled, like it or not, the OECD paper actually used that word when it stated that “complex societies cannot be ruled rationally from one centre, if only because the amount of information that needs to be processed to make that possible far outstrips what any central government can achieve.” I guess that means that we are guided by oligarchs who believe there is nothing wrong with ruling per se. Governance is just a matter of finding better methods, starting again with that inner self.
Next time a think tank or politician hypes the ‘local’ or a private provider as the “Conservative’ position, remember that the OECD said that “privatisation and decentralization are not just about raising efficiency. They can be interpreted as ways in which national governments are moving power to places better able to handle the complexities of global, liquid, and interdependent societies.”
If governance in the 21st century and the Levers of History really have decreed the Inner Self as the key to sustainable change, it certainly does explain why there has been so much deceit surrounding what is really going on in education.
“We are creating the citizens who will be amenable to being governed” is certainly not why we send our kids to school and pay all the taxes that support this industry.
Frankly admitting that the true global aim after the Fall of the Berlin Wall was that “Power has moved away from central governments in different directions: upwards, toward international organizations, sideways to private institutions and non-governmental organizations, and downwards toward local governments and public enterprises such as schools and hospitals” would have each of us reexamining the load of deceit doled out by politicians of both parties over the last thirty years.
Mustn’t have us accurately reexamining the provided narrative of the past. History, after all, is now about imagining what the future could be and what must be done to act to achieve those goals.
The beauty of theorizing that we are all now just goal-setting systems and subject to manipulation by political power.