Let’s go back in time again to a 1955 book cited in some footnotes on social and emotional learning. Called Utopia 1976, it alerts us why values, virtues, and imagining a different tomorrow are suddenly the focus of all forms of education. “…we must recognize the most dangerous–those who do not dream at all. Even if the pessimistic dream is defeated, the nondreamers may prevent any Utopia. Dreams are a form of ideas and hence are powerful makers of history. Nineteen seventy-six is of course not ineluctably determined in 1955, but here I write the story as I see it and as it will be–if enough men and women so want it.” From now on, when we hear or read a discussion about learning standards like the Common Core in the US or competency frameworks or learning objectives, I want us to recognize that the actual purpose is to get enough people signed on to a common vision so they are motivated to make it happen.
Math or science class, a book from literature, or a social science project then become vehicles to create a recognition of what the social problems are. They create a means to instill common desired dreams so that people begin to have common mental models of what is wrong and what they must do. Let’s come forward to 2008 to a philosopher and religion professor, John Haldane, I found following up on the False Narrative. The book Seeking Meaning and Making Sense reminds us that “human experience is structured by meanings and values” and whoever controls the prevailing “standards of value and virtue” controls an intermediate layer of our world that most of us rarely pose to think about. That’s the layer that guides our purpose in life and everyday actions and it’s also the bullseye of what many members of that NCSEAD Council of Distinguished Scientists focus on in their remaining academic research. Here’s Haldane again:
“…we are imaginative and creative animals that construct an intermediate surface between ourselves and the purely material world, an intermediate lining on which we draw and colour our compositions.”
Anyone controlling the construction of that intermediate layer, in other words, can drive cultural evolution. Getting at that intermediate layer can be called an SEL focus to prevent bullying and create a Positive School Climate. It can be called creating the attributes or dispositions for good citizenship. It can sold as instilling self-esteem and a sense of agency by creating a Learner Profile of personal characteristics that together amount to a student’s Identity. It’s all the same bullseye, with varying rationales that obscure that reality. One of the members of the NCSEAD Council, David Yeager, turned out to be involved with the New Paths to Purpose Project, funded by the same Templeton Foundation behind so many of the Character-building curricula, the Science of Virtues, the UK Jubilee Center, the US Constitution Center, and the Positive Education push of another member (see tag), Martin Seligman.
Let’s use their definition of purpose and their italicized “central question: How might individuals actively shape–rather than merely inhabit–their environments, and thus become more purposeful, powerful creators of their destiny?” That would actually be ‘our’ destiny given the nature of these plans and the constant use of the community and culture-shaping institutions, so let’s quote that purpose definition–“Purpose is a stable or generalized intention to accomplish something that is meaningful to the self, and often is of consequence to the world beyond the self. Purpose provides a guiding light as we forge a path through the frenzy and chaos of modern life.”
All those constant references in education reform to ‘grit’ and ‘perseverence’ are about practicing to achieve purpose and closing the gap between what is sought and what currently exists. That’s probably why Angela Duckworth was also a member of the NCSEAD Council. That also means we, our children, and our psyches are to be the sources of the experimental research and putting political theories into practice. One more note, Richard Thaler, the U-Chicago prof who won the Nobel Prize in Economics last week, led this NPP Project. Another example of the level of proof and the ubiquity of Templeton funding in this area is the Youth Purpose Project at Stanford with an explicit paper that “Exploring Empathy, Discovering Roles, Shifting Priorities, and Creating Pathways” is the way to shift this guiding light of Purpose.
NPP then turns out to generate the very useful to anyone desiring transformational change-“‘mindsight, dedication, and grit” . Purpose can quietly and invisibly “reflect and propel everyday patterns of human thought and behavior.” Very influential and not what anyone thinks is lurking behind rhetoric about “higher standards and local control” or the constant offering of Classical Education as the panacea to the created controversy over the Common Core and Child Abuse in the Classroom. In case anyone thinks I am picking on Classical Education, remember how its mantra is the True, Good, and Beautiful? This is from the Institute for Cultural Evolution and was a speech given this past July. https://www.culturalevolution.org/political-campaigns/growing-americas-divided-culture/ . It informs us that the “art of intentionally fostering cultural development is still in its infancy.”
The recommended means to foster that development though is by “framing culture in terms of worldviews.” For once that was not my bolding and the definition of worldview fits with what Templeton is funding in the name of Character or Positive Education and how learning standards like Competencies really work as “a worldview is a coherent set of values and ideals that persist across multiple generations. Worldviews are large-scale social agreements about what is good, true, and beautiful [see my concern?]. They give meaning to reality and help us understand the world.” So where Stanford and the Aspen Institute want to lead us in the name of purpose is also where the False Narrative surrounding the Common Core and SEL Standards takes us as well. Let’ s go back to a longer definition again from that same July 2017 paper on cultural evolution.
“In fact, worldviews are arguably the basic units of culture . And while we can certainly identify thousands of different worldviews in American culture, for purposes of understanding cultural development the worldviews that matter most are the historically significant ones that organize society, frame values, provide personal identity, and play a recognizable role in world history.”
In fact, that ubiquitous aim now at controlling internalized worldviews via education and the media is precisely why Larry Arnn’s vision of The Founders’ Key struck me as very similar in effect to where admitted communitarian and transformationalist, Amitai Etzioni, wanted to take us in the name of the New Golden Rule. With Hillsdale’s sponsorship of the Barney Charter School Initiative with its openly-declared Classical Education template we really do have all education leads to Worldview Cultivation in 2017, much as all roads used to lead to Ancient Rome. It’s where the desired action is to get the future influential people hope to achieve. After all, no recognition equals no effective opposition. Other papers in that series on cultural evolution admit that evolving human morality and controlling conceptual cognition are the keys to these plans.
I want to close with a passage from the admittedly progressive and tied to our Search Engine Overlord, New America, called “Building Civic Capacity in an Era of Democratic Crisis” that just came out. It wants to reject what it refers to as ‘exclusionary populism’ by consciously striving to “build constituencies and identities that are more inclusive and accommodating.” So everything laid out in this post, whatever the offered rationale, plays right into using education to do just that. Probably not a coincidence.
Remember how I warned that we cannot fight against what we are unaware of or have been misled about? The transformationalists all want cultural evolution via values and ideas at the level of the mind and personality and they no longer regard democracy as being about elections. No, now “at its core, democracy is fundamentally about a type of relationship between citizen and state–one where constituencies can mobilize and make binding claims on policymaking institutions.”
Those constituencies are built up from students who have Instilled the Desired Dreams and are ready to join together to “play a recognizable role” in history. All that comes quite effectively and invisibly from making education about Worldview cultivation instead of the transmission of knowledge.
All education unless we catch on to the Bait and Switch and how the internalization works.
I am trying my best to warn. Instead of “the British are coming” though, it seems like the 2017 version is that the Deceivers are already Here. They are consciously targeting the ears of any parent or politician worried about these education visions.
Let’s start to pierce these False Narratives so we can really protect our children and this great country.