Igniting an Entire Generation of Dedicated Social Change Agents via Education Compelled to Act Now

The great Political Theorist Kenneth Minogue’s tragic death yesterday gave me a good reason to go back and reread the highlights of his fine 2010 book The Servile Mind. Turns out to be just the kind of insights we need to grasp precisely what is being attempted globally in education. And why. I had been fuming since Friday that we have basically three tracks going on right now in education. Track 1, the vast majority, really have no idea that there are to be dramatic changes in the nature of K-12 and higher education. Track 2 is aware of the Common Core and is concerned that it is a usurpation by the feds of local control over the curriculum.

I observe and write about Track 3–the real implementation  intended to fundamentally change attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors in order to gain a desired political, social, and moral transformation. Track 3 is so anti-content that it calls for substituting emotional engagement instead (this past week’s Partnership for Global Learning annual conference in NYC). Or as this influential group advocates  http://p21.org/tools-and-resources/p21blog/1151-how-can-technology-empower-deeper-learning-in-a-21st-century-school “deriving the curriculum from the lived experience of the student” rather than “a collection of fixed texts.”

Minogue recognized in The Servile Mind that something fundamental was shifting all over the world “as governments take over the tasks individuals used to do for themselves.” That our very conception of society is changing and much of the attitudes driving those changes are being first nurtured, and then required, by education “reforms.” He rightfully worried about what happens in countries where a majority of voters come to see themselves as “an association of vulnerable people whose needs and sufferings must be remedied by the power of the state.”

Minogue recognized that the power and unprecedented prosperity achieved by countries in the West grew from a foundational vision of “self-conscious individuals guiding their destinies according to whatever moral sentiments they entertain.” Now, all over the world, a competing vision seeks stealth enactment and education is the preferred means of avoiding detection as the rulers sculpt the citizens to be malleable. And behaviorally predictable if only the right buttons are pushed. Yes, that would be another job for the compliant media if Minogue had only had a copy of all those UNESCO reports. Minogue does nail the new vision though. A future society “in which individuals find their identifying essence in supporting public policies that are both morally obligatory and politically imperative.”

That future vision now can quietly come in the front door of the school to coerce compliance from an early age. Via lots of psychological student data and a very poorly understood definition of Student Growth. Which will make it much more difficult for us to protect the next generation from being manipulated into a “gullible acquiescence to the projects of government.” Minogue wrote about the Romans and how they “had learned the moral practices needed for a sycophantic submission” during the long reign of Augustus. And when the atrocious Tiberius came along they had been mentally and emotionally disarmed from coping with overt tyranny. The usefulness of deliberately targeting “hearts and minds” has been clear from time immemorial and we should honor Professor Minogue’s admonition that “we should never forget that moral change takes place below, and often deeply below, the surface of a culture.”

Back to track 3 to discuss what is off most radars. It has explicit intentions to create those very moral changes we were just warned about. In an entire generation of learners. Hoping to, in the words of one speaker, create “habits of head, heart, and hand that together will hopefully cause students to take meaningful action. And engage in volunteerism and service. Standing up against injustices and improving conditions and making changes in the world around them.” I have warned about media education and the primacy of the 21st Century Skills push and also the Global Competence portion of the Common Core that guides the classroom vision even though it is usually unmentioned in the PR push. On June 4, 2013, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (which had deceitfully claimed to be shutting down a few years ago) put on a Congressionally Sponsored Global Awareness Event at the Capitol Hill Visitors Center. To push Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy. We had the Pearson Foundation as a sponsor and a Disney executive (as in Mickey Mouse and lots of Media pull) as the moderator.

If you have 40 minutes to spare, here’s the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Us7qvshjhw&feature=c4-overview&list=UUK7RYYXF4XqP_mIDu28ZtuQ . I am going to assume you are busy though and give you the highlights. Or what I consider the troubling implications of a vision of education that regards the whole point now as getting students to “become passionate about global issues.” Issues selected and fostered because they will be useful to growing the tendency of the government to intervene, or at least guide, in all matters in the future. I was quoting Scott Hirschfield of the US Fund for UNICEF earlier so let’s continue with what knowledge and values and skills he wants to see K-12 schools cultivate. He said UNICEF defines global citizen as someone who “understands interconnectedness and appreciates global diversity. Someone who challenges inequities and takes meaningful action in their communities at the global level.”

Hirschfield went on the say that “head–heart–hand is how we shorthand this.” I am going to interrupt my quoting to point out that genuinely free market economies provide people with what they want to buy but they are drivers of economic inequality. It’s just that the least successful still are better off financially than has ever been the case in a state-directed economy. With Statism what gets equalized has generally been misery unless you are politically connected. Everyone else gets misery without much recourse apart from physical escape. On rafts. Over Berlin Walls. Tunneling. A human drive to be free.

So when content is pooh-poohed and emotions are pushed and equity becomes the driver we need to beware of knowledge as officially described as “economic and political literacy and an understanding of human rights.” Hand is the “skills we want” like “conflict resolution and a willingness to negotiate and compromise.” Then we get heart as “the values and dispositions we want young people to internalize” like “compassion and toleration of others.”

I will interrupt this troubling confession of the new purpose of education to once again borrow Professor Minogue’s insight that “the ideological frenzies of the twentieth century” like Nazism and Communism “have largely disappeared, except in universities, but the basic impulse in our civilization toward collective salvation has not.” And the way an elite go about obtaining that collective salvation and servitude is through a “change in the hearts and minds of human beings.” So we recognize the impulse but what happens to a society where the next generation knows little but feels the need to jettison what exists and try to design anew?

I will shift and end with Kathleen Welling’s vision since she too sees the new purpose of education as “changing lives.” She hyped the first Global Student Leaders Summit in March in Costa Rica with Al Gore as the keynoter. Next April the Summit is going to China and the emphasis is on “how do we change this world?”

I think the term “playing with fire” is too mild to describe the dangers of this new, to be mandated, view of education. Welling also mentioned that she believed that the Asia Society was doing fine work in promoting this new view of Global Education which is why I led off this post with a mention of its PGL13 conference last week. http://sites.asiasociety.org/pgl2013/about/ She also mentioned the work of Fernando Reimers at Harvard as guiding this new vision of global education for all in the future.

He’s probably not on your radar yet but he’s been on mine for a while. At the beginning of this week that celebrates genuine freedom, what type of meaning would freedom have in a country where K-12 education becomes devoted to “all children” must “develop their own understanding about how we all share responsibility for the well being of humanity?”

Not just that understanding mind you, but also “develop that compassion” so that students will learn to act as desired. And on the political issues desired.


18 thoughts on “Igniting an Entire Generation of Dedicated Social Change Agents via Education Compelled to Act Now

  1. The youtube video is really a series of four videos. The first one is 40 minutes, I am now listening to the second which is about how they built community consensus over a period of 10 months. (A blitzkrieg!)

    It’s quite scary. The woman speaking is from Edleader 21 which is in some sort of collaboration with PARCC. She describes how they had a series of meeting of “stakeholders” in the schools: staff, administration, business, students, parents … the “stakeholder” idea is always a way of disempowering those who are supposed to be in charge. In the case of corporate finance 30 years ago, it put management on a par with shareholders, when actually management is supposed to work for the shareholders. Here it is obviously a way to take control of schools away from the parents.

    She describes how there were carefully selected leaders pushing the movement (agitators), and how the topics came from all parts of the group of stakeholders, including students, even students in 4th or 5th grades! “Out of the mouths of babes!” she says happily.

    If my 10 year old is going to be telling me what he should learn in school, I’m taking him somewhere else. It’s just that simple. But not everyone can or will do that. Imagine that, within 10 months our schools could be following the tune of words put into the mouths of 4th graders.

    • I watched that entire video. I think my hands are shaking as I type since I can hear that and recognize the links across countries and across decades.

      Tony Wagner was one of the keynoters at the 2012 Camp Snowball. So there is your link to Peter Senge beyond the mentions of Ken Kay in the Camp Snowball cartton graphics.

      Did you listen to how often the term “learner outcomes” was used? Or systems thinking? Or the clear references to student-centered learning being about adopting the desired character traits? Just like the IB Learner Profile?

      And they kept saying we are already there in terms of the Common Core shifts. We are already using performance based assessments looking for competency. We have already changed instructional practices in the classroom.

      We have changed the curriculum so that it is aligned “to our vision of the graduate.”

      Most importantly for me is this link http://www.edleader21.com/index.php?pg=33&id=2 which makes it clear that Michael Hinojosa of Cobb and Avossa of Fulton and Wilbanks of Gwinnett, who form the northern arc of metro Atlanta geographically have banded together to push this P21 vision without telling their citizens.

      • So this consortium spans the east coast from MD to Fla.—“joining forces to address critical issues at the forefront of education.” What’s this, ed-regionalism? I suppose the most critical issue facing them is: “how do we pull this cr— off?”

        On a side note, you’d think that Cisco or someone would jump in there and get the EL21 and P21 a better audio system. That webinar recording was awful.

        • Yes it was. Cisco’s Strategic Business Devt Manager is on that America Achieves Board too.

          Plus that Jim Merrill on the webinar tape is the new super for Wake County, NC. I think we can rely on him to steer Greensboro and Raleigh towards the vision he pushed in Va Beach.

          And Charlotte’s Heath Morrison was in Montgomery County working for another member of the America Achieves Board, Jerry Weast, before gypsying out to Washoe County Nevada to push that district to this same model. He only seems to have stayed long enough to win Natl Super of the Year for the Model.

          I had no idea how right I was when I invented the term Gypsy Super to describe how every new Super pushes the districts further along to what was so controversial in the 90s it never went into effect in US outside of urban districts.

          No more. Coming to the ‘burbs like a bad TV show. No comedy here but a laugh track would come in handy.

          It is easy to pull off when the lawyers representing the school districts are also involved in pushing these transform America through education policies and practices.

          See why I worked kleptocracy into the previous title? That’s what these public-private partnerships like accreditation turn out to be. An excuse to tap taxpayer coffers while getting the political shifts sought too.

  2. At least the hostess asked the guests some pointed questions:
    What is Global Competency? Do we have to measure it? Is it good to have yet another set of standards for kids? She asked them to explain themselves which is not always the case

    A globally competent student “challenges inequities.” Just what they need to be doing in Kindergarten—If parents only knew . . .

    Kenneth Minogue. I’d never heard of him. I found some great interview with him on YouTube. Thanks Robin.

    • And this is how we monitor compliance with the international vision.

      http://www.americaachieves.org/oecd The OECD test for Schools. It was piloted last year and becomes available for schools and districts this fall 2013. I have not talked about PISA much on the blog but I have all the documents from when it was created and OECD is a partner in ATC21S. I know all about DeSeCo–the Definition and Selection of Competences. No wonder Michael Horn said that Competencies would be a good fall back for the hullaballoo over the Common Core. It would get the desired end all along while quieting critics concerned with a federal takeover.

      That’s all you need to impose Milton Rokeach’s Competency as a blend of skills and values on all states. Back to OBE without it being apparent. President Obama had mentioned in an aside last year I read in Ed Week that the US was going to move away from NAEP and shift to PISA. This is clearly what he meant. Especially as the funding for America Achieves is much the same as who funds Ed Week. And Peter Senge is listed on the Board of External Advisors as is Richard Riley whose Educational Counsel is listed as being tied to Ed Leader 21. The law firm side just hired the lawyer who wrote Fulton County’s charter I have been concerned about and who was paid to be the head hunter who recruited Hinojosa and Avossa. All while also representing the school districts in their daily needs.

      Who is the client here? We know who is being billed but when districts are pushing stealth education policies that have been controversial for decades designed to change the American political and economic system, this all stinks to high heaven. No wonder I read Fulton’s charter and immediately recognized the global Transformational Outcomes Based Education template. No wonder Fulton and Charlotte are using the co-creator of the template, Spence Rogers, to do their professional development. It’s professional devt that aligns with Spady’s vision from the 90s and Senge’s systems thinking vision now and Barber’s Global Citizenship vision from the UK, Scotland, and Australia.

      I wonder how Cobb, Gwinnett, and Fulton taxpayers feel about the toxic history of these ideas. No wonder I always saw IB as just a stalking horse for this template. It is all the same vision and it is precisely the vision Michael Barber described as creating the decline of the US and UK and the rise of China.

      And this is precisely what Minogue wrote about in The Servile Mind. He recognized what he was seeing in UK but did not know about all these explicit ed policies. He just understood the political function because he was one of the world’s great political theorists.

      Boy I wish I could read the draft of the book he was writing when he died. Have a mental conversation with that fine mind one more time. We could use those insights in the coming years.

      • Just a random thought, not knowing any of the facts of the matter … do you think Minogue might have been murdered?

        • No, he was 83 and a widower whose wife had died about 3 years ago. The attendees at the Mont Pelerin Conference came back from the Galapagos on two different flights about 20 minutes apart coming back to Ecuador. Apparently there were 4 medical doctors on Minogue’s flight and nothing could be done. He supposedly gave some fabulous lectures last week. But in hindsight was quiet that last day before the flights home. I have heard feelings of indigestion frequently precede fatal heart attacks.

          I am sorry to have lost such a prescient mind at such an important time and the personal loss to his loved ones. But every elderly person I have known who lived life well wanted to go quickly while they were still essentially at the height of their physical and mental abilities. My grandfather even talked about envying a friend who was in the garden with hid grandson and simply had a his first and fatal heart attack. And my grandfather went to Antarctica when he was 90.

          He really did have a tremendous capacity with words to pithily capture the essence while others simply notice something is wrong. http://pjmedia.com/rogerkimball/2013/06/30/kenneth-minogue-1930-2013/ is a nice tribute from Roger Kimball.

  3. Robin – what do you think about the third video and the arts map for education? I listened to about half the presentation and noted that the speaker from NAfME (Music Educators) said that music teachers had been involved in mulit-cultural music for decades and that we often used art to teach environmental issues, etc. Is art just going to be the mouthpiece for the rest of the subjects? What about the real, genuine value of the medium, apart from it’s ability to talk about something else? I heard a quote awhile back that said “art needs no justification”. Apparently music teachers feel like it does and we are being sucked into this grand plan as well.

    • Anon–

      I have to take a kid to a music lesson so I will give you a quick reply and more later. John Dewey had a desire to push the Aesthetic precisely because for most it was emotional and visual and not the abstract, rational mind. It relates to his Quality Learning which I have written about.

      Art is an activity so it plays into the CHAT activity theory. Not mental. Elliott Eisner is a good name to search out and his theory on the purpose of art in the curriculum. Hint: it’s not yours but it is the Common Core. Also Howard Gardner started in the Aesthetic Mode.

      More later.

    • My sixth / now 7th grader is also taking music lessons outside the school. What I’ve noticed is this:

      1. The music biz is the most money-hungry I’ve ever seen. This is true in schools and outside as well. It’s avoided in plain speech but everything is driven by the almighty buck. As Common Core follower groups flood into the schools via bribery as is well documented here, the music department will always have their hand out and be very appreciative of any penny that comes their way. An easy target, low-hanging fruit!

      2. School music teachers focus on teaching “all students”, always have. That is why school orchestras and bands are so bad. Mistakes are not corrected, everyone gets a good grade, behavior is most important. Standout skills are tolerated at best, games are even played to prevent the development of talents above the pack. Hm, sound familiar?

      3. However my son has found a couple of good music teachers on the outside. The characteristic they share is that neither has a job teaching “all students” in a school music program. Real music is practically the opposite of school music, though it’s still true that money (paying for lessons, paying for everything) makes the world go ’round.

    • Hi Dan,

      I try to bring it in slow and with history to put it into context so it is less offputting. Scares me too which is why I write about it. And go back in time to a Minogue or Jean-Francois Revel or a Robert Conquest. Or Hayek. Use their knowledge and experiences and insights too. It is what it is. If anything I am underplaying to give people time to get used to reimagining things they take for granted. Like the circumstances surrounding the Big C Communism mostly goes poof without bloodshed and isn’t it marvelous. No need for an autopsy of why the political theory met its demise. Do NOT question the assigned narrative for veracity or poke around in our books and documents from that era. We were just talking among ourselves.

      I have an Edutopia guide to implementing ed reform that makes it clear how important the gaming will be and alternative role playing. I strongly suggest readers take a look around that site because it is where Lucas is putting the money he got from Disney. Which after all is also a 21st century sponsor and with a network that is quite determined to take every visually compelling weather event and turn it into an excuse for a managed society.

      In the era of a politically connected and centrally coordinated economic and social vision, every large multinational gets on board and wants a seat at the table to decide the menu. But we cannot survive long term limiting knowledge, gutting incentives to become genuinely innovative, and confiscating dollar bills from the private sector and lighting 40 cents of what was taken afire.

      Thanks for your kind words. I will keep searching for ways to take the unfathomable that is rolling into effect out of sight and pull it into the daylight. Nothing but the disinfectant of sunlight, a sense of humor, and a lot of knowledge of previous tragedies from history told a little at a time will stop this.

      And thanks for the link. Edutopia is also involved with the international coordination of all this in education. Couros who I have linked to writes a column for them and he helped me see the commonality of what is being pushed simultaneously in the US, Canada, and Australia with Lucas paying the jetting around airfare apparently.

  4. Pingback: The Thinking Housewife › Common Core, Common Mind

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.