Jumping from the Skillet into the Fire by Misunderstanding the True Common Core

Last week there was a great deal of coverage by many of the same sites that have no interest in truthfully describing competency-based education, the purpose of student data collection, what Outcomes  Based Education is really about, or how learning standards really work hyping Governor DeSantis’ decision to take Florida from the Common Core. I read the articles in between my real life appointments these days and continue to see an alarming pattern of deceit. Let’s talk a bit about what the seemingly well-intentioned governor should know apart from his need to quickly read Credentialed to Destroy cover to cover. First, if the new goals for what the students in Florida are to Know and be Able to Do are still aligned to CEDS–the Common Education Data Standards, then Florida remains tied to the Common Core. It simply misunderstands its true nature.

Since Florida, like Texas, was one of the early states that transitioned to outcomes-based education several decades ago it is hard to see it going backwards into a true traditional content emphasis. My second word to the wise in any state or other countries is that if the teacher is using direct instruction to teach DCIs–Disciplinary Core Ideas– that then serve as ‘lenses’ for how to perceive the world, interpret experiences, and evaluate contexts, that explicit instruction is NOT, in fact, traditional subject-matter instruction. Don’t be fooled by some Type 1 vs Type 2 metaphor that also insists that Constructivism is about Discovery Learning. Let me quote an absolute authority on the subject, UNESCO, which stated that the Lev Vygotsky Learning and Development approach to create a new internalized basis for viewing the world is:

“the revolutionary approach to these issues pioneered by Vygotsky has linked these two processes together in a way that was never before considered. According to Vygotsky, some of the developmental outcomes and processes that were typically thought of as occurring ‘naturally’ or ‘spontaneously’ were, in fact, substantially influenced by children’s own learning or ‘constructed’. Learning, in turn, was shaped by the social-historical context in which it took place. This dual emphasis–on children’s active engagement in their own mental development and on the role of the social context–determined the name used to describe the Vygotskyian approach in the West–‘social constructivism.'”

So so-called Type 1 direct instruction can be used to instill what John Hattie called ‘visible learning’ that is designed to implement this Vygotskyian approach to get at the desired Constructs, Principles, and Concepts that guide a student’s thinking going forward. I bolded a few terms in that quote so we could specifically address them so we can each avoid this desired individual, ‘personalized’, fire that is to promote collective transformation at an internal, neurological level. Did you know that back in April 2018 the Council of Europe formally adopted “Competences for Democratic Culture: living together as equals in culturally diverse democratic societies.” It created a CDC framework on “how we nurture a set of common values around which to organise,’ which could usefully be nicknamed a ‘common core’. The framework creates 3 sets of values, 6 attitudes, 8 skills, and 3 bodies of knowledge and critical understanding that all students must now be able to demonstrate.

So if what Florida implements instead fits with what that CDC Framework lays out as its concept of ‘competence’, then Florida still has a common core and it’s a global, transformative template.

“Democratic and intercultural competence is defined as the ability to mobilise and deploy relevant values, attitudes, skills, knowledge and/or understanding in order to respond appropriately and effectively to the demands, challenges and opportunities that are presented by democratic and intercultural situations [aka social contexts]. Competence is treated as a dynamic process in which a competent individual mobilises and deploys clusters of psychological resources in an active and adaptive manner in order to respond to new circumstances as these arise.”

Pretty sure that active and adaptive manner for a given social context in that last sentence is what we in the West now call a Growth Mindset, which makes sense since Carol Dweck was a Vygotsky scholar before she came up with that particular euphonious euphemism for his Soviet theories. Anyway, we need Governor DeSantis and his advisors to appreciate something else I picked up from a 2017 presentation on the CDC Framework in Moscow, Russia where the slide laid out what it called Descriptors that ties in with what I know about how the referenced CEDS mentioned above or UNESCO’s standards actually work globally. There are Sets of Descriptors for each competence specified by the model. “A descriptor is a statement or description of what a person is able to do if they have mastered a particular competence, These descriptors have been formulated using the language of learning outcomes, and they were validated through a survey that involved over 1,200 teachers who were drawn from across Europe.”  The slide goes on to note that there are Descriptors for the various levels of education (e.g.- preschool, primary, secondary, higher) and to proficiency levels (e.g.- basic, intermediate, advanced).

So if Florida is going to use some type of Descriptors for the Desired Outcomes of the type we see in Learner Profiles and Portrait of a Graduate that we see public and private schools using all over this nation now, then we still have a common core being instilled. It still has the purpose mentioned in a different slide where the answer to “What Kind of Education do we need?” is answered by another question–“What kind of society do we want to live in?” That DeSantis is guided by the latter suggestion is indicated by his stated desire for civics instruction to be emphasized. Want to know who else wants to emphasize civics instruction? Thorbjorn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe that published that CDC Framework. In a 2015 speech to the UN that is quoted in another one of those Moscow slides, he said: “While most states have some form of civic education, we don’t–as standard practice–teach our children what it means–explicitly–to be a democratic citizen.”

If you remember, I quoted a Howard Gardner book Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, Reframed in the last post. His vision of an instilled set of virtues that would guide each of us as we “navigate the shoals of work and citizenship in a highly complex and interconnected world” is all about the “need to evolve models of citizenship that can be embraced by the diverse populations of the world.” Just like that CDC Framework. Just like a Yuval Levin quote from the promotion for a February 12, 2019 Hoover/ Fordham Speaker Series where “he will make the case for reasserting the role of education in character formation…conservatives should reassert education’s vital role in molding the souls of rising citizens, not just future workers. While many institutions–family, religion and civic life–are under stress, schools remain an essential pillar of American life. Civic and character education deserve a place of honor alongside more utilitarian considerations.”

Is Yuval Levin’s vision one of those Governor DeSantis is listening to in promoting his civic instruction for Florida schools? If so, we still have a common core being instilled of the same kind Vygotsky had in mind years ago and what the CDC framework promotes now. The Governor also made a statement about moving away from ‘standardized assessments,’ which suggested to me someone is shifting him towards the Learner-centered, Transformative-based, Context-oriented vision laid out last week here https://education-reimagined.org/how-to-shift-from-education-as-content-to-education-as-context/ that fits with all the quotes I have used in this post so far. That author from Iowa BIG uses the term Universal Constructs to mean what is laid out in the CDC Framework. If someone is providing and reenforcing something akin to these Universal Constructs tied to something like CEDS and its Descriptors, then we still have a common core, instilled character and citizenship, vision.

Reading, math, and science are no longer valued as a body of knowledge useful for its own sake and an individual’s own purposes. Let me close with a quote to illustrate the difference and hope that February will not throw up as many personal roadblocks to my writing as January did.

“inside contextually-rich environments and experiences, we are able to help students ‘see’ the knowledge and skills required for diverse contexts and to learn and practice them in unique contexts. Being competent at the Universal Constructs enables a person to effectively navigate and succeed across a myriad of ever-changing contexts. My staff and I cannot know what any of our learners will ‘need to know’ in terms of content or standards in the future. What we can do is ensure our learners are effective at reading context and having the skill set to know how to access and use the content and concepts necessary for their success in that environment.”

I boldfaced all the euphemisms used to obscure the intentional creation of a common core that will purposely guide future decision-making and motivations to act. If there is still any doubt how deliberate, transformative, and global this all is let me close with a link a 2018 Update to IB’s Primary Years Programme called Action. https://drive.google.com/file/d/166FvIsUHIBKEYASa6MWd9Hn1MdLmEFC2/view Notice all the references in it to Learner Profile Attributes. That would be another name for Descriptors. Connecting action and the learner profile tells us that “Through developing attributes of the learner profile, students grow in their ability to make informed, reasoned, ethical judgments and to exercise the flexibility, perseverance and confidence they need to bring about positive change in the community and beyond.”

Those students have an instilled common core at the level of their mind and personality designed so that they act and are motivated to act in a certain way that is designed to ultimately transform how both American society and the world function in the future. It could not be more centrally planned, but because the planned implementation is local and neurological, it can be hard to see. All the deceit surrounding the Common Core simply made that harder.

But as my writing continues to demonstrate, difficult does not mean impossible once we discern the true actual template and need for a common core. It’s essential to all these plans for transformative change without effective opposition.

And there is nothing Conservative about deceit to effect intentional social, political, and economic transformations using education. It reminds me of something one of the Integral Theorists wrote where he said the admitted Progressives could focus on transforming the external, material world, while declared ‘Conservatives’ could maneuver to transform the internal rudders guiding personal behavior.

That really does describe what is going on and why I see such a Convergence behind the scenes. Let’s talk about that next.

3 thoughts on “Jumping from the Skillet into the Fire by Misunderstanding the True Common Core

  1. When they talk about creating “contexts” in students’ minds, somehow I don’t think that they want students to read any Mancur Olson, or indeed any of Public Choice Theory.

    • One of the areas of research I have been doing in the last month in between doctors’ appointments with my parents has been tracking down what Jack Mezirow meant by Transformative Learning. If you view perspective transformation as the necessary “central learning process” needed so the status quo is not simply accepted and “understanding and action interact to produce an altered state of being” [aka Growth Mindset], it makes perfect sense to make Context the focus of education. Plus there’s the useful benefit that there’s an insufficient factual basis in the mind to grasp that a desired concept functions as an inapt metaphor for a given context. You or I would recognize that, but not these trained students.

      Learning standards tied to Descriptors or Learning Profile Attributes or Student Pillars, for example, create a group that thinks it is thinking as an individual even though their entire framework for ‘making-meaning’ has been carefully instilled and then built on for purposes of political transformation. Act as a collective while falsely believing you are autonomous. That emphasis on Context allows for the “deep shift in frame of reference as Mezirow defines it” that appears to be the essence of transformative learning. What Mezirow imagines is what I see in charter language, private school mission statements now, the CEDS aligned learning standards, the Catholic Curriculum Framework, the Classical Education movement including Barney, that agency-based education movement calling for a Revolution of the Heart, or that Christian School statement on the previous thread that tied to Ken Wilber. His associate, Robert Kegan, wrote a chapter in the Mezirow book I am quoting in this comment. This level of convergence is no accident.

      Context is being emphasized so much now because “what shifts in the transformative process is our very epistemology–the way in which we know and make meaning. In his latest work, Kegan (1994) refers to these meaning-making frameworks as ‘orders of consciousness,’ arguing forcefully that they are driven both intrinsically by developmental forces in the individual, and extrinsically by conditions in the world, particularly by social complexity. That is, although the capacity to develop more adequate meaning-making frameworks is always there, transformative learning is by no means inevitable and depends strongly on the particular environmental and cultural forces at work in the individual’s life.”

      The true Common Core is all about making sure that the needed environmental and cultural forces needed for transformative are not just present, but legally mandated as a matter of law. Then we get the active deceit to make sure that fact is not appreciated. Then we get the active coordination, including stripping school boards of their power to intervene on curricula used. This would all be fascinating if the likely results were not so grim.

      You are right though. No one is intended to be capable of reading unauthorized theories or creating unapproved narratives or refusing to go along with the shared frameworks of meaning-making. It’s not a world where people will be capable of looking at a summary of a book and then insist that it is not an accurate synopsis because they have read the book and understood it perfectly well.

    • By the way, if the Common Core is now largely defunct and everyone has moved on to competency-based ed, why are the writers just now finishing up the pertinent Learning Progressions just like I wrote that they would in Credentialed to Destroy

      http://mathematicalmusings.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Progressions_CC_to_RP_02072019.pdf Notice that February 7, 2019 date. Also notice the importance of conceptual categories and topics as the means of organizing what math is now all about. They are creating a prescribed semantic web in the student’s mind ready to act as the perceiver and interpreter of future experiences.

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