We already knew the essence of what makes us individuals was being targeted each time the social science profs described us a a ‘system’. Now it appears the social scientists and educators are comparing us to cutlery. Assessing whether we will perform and behave reliably and as expected. That really is a translated quote from Dilthey as to what the Human Studies, or as he also called them–‘the moral sciences,’ were interested in monitoring and measuring. “Dilthey was anxious that his methods should be put to practical use. [Actual quote translated from German] ‘The usefulness of methods emerges from their use, just as the test of the knife is if it cuts.'” Since this is 19th Century Germany and the aspirations for the future, we now know that ultimately the knife could cut and the Germans would march thoughtlessly and emotionally to war.
Now remember all the data being gathered on students, the formative assessments, the open-ended questions on mandated tests, and the soon to be federal requirement to use digital technology to push ‘personalized learning’ and read this quote.
“So, how people think and feel, how they perceive the world and what they strive for, is due to a mental structure which has resulted from the moulding influence of physical, social, and cultural factors upon the innate configuration of the mind.”
Learning standards like the Common Core in the US and a Competency orientation generally seek to grasp the essence of the innate configuration of each student’s mind. Then activities, projects, or group problems can be chosen in a personalized, individualized fashion to manipulate that mind, at a physiological level, to interpret the world as desired. To act in it and on it, reliably. I will let that unfortunate social engineering reality sink in while I tell you where the first part of the title came from. In 1976 Harvard sociology prof Daniel Bell wrote a blueprint for aligning the social, cultural, political, and economic systems in the US away from the focus on individuals. Called The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, it sought to shift the US to what he italicized as state-directed economies and state-managed societies.
To accomplish that shift without a full-scale uproar over coercion and the loss of liberty required a ‘public philosophy.’ I believe that K-12 education, first via what used to be called Tranzi OBE and now going by Competency, Excellence, and a Whole Child emphasis was picked to be the means for shifting the prevailing consciousness of each student away from “an individualist ethos which at best defends the idea of personal liberty, and at worst evades the necessary social responsibilities and social sacrifices which a communal society demands. In sum, we have had no normative commitment to a public household or a public philosophy that would mediate private conflicts.”
Now remember that imperative every time you hear Collaboration as a necessary 21st Century Skill or ponder why the targeting of new values seems to pop into every assignment. Bell bemoaned that “without a public philosophy, explicitly stated, we lack the fundamental condition whereby a modern polity can live by consensus (and without it there is only continuing conflict) and justice.” By the time Bell wrote the Afterword for the 20th Anniversary Edition of the book, he added another way of describing the needed public philosophy: “the binding fidelities of consciousness, rooted in history and tradition, kinship and race, religion and nationality, that shape the emotional consanguinity, literal or fictive, among individuals and make them one.”
In 2015 we seem to be calling such a still desired mandate Deeper Learning and required Communities of Learners in each classroom and the entire school. Anyone hoping that the plans for economies and societies have gone stale has not read the nature of the proposed regs under WIOA just issued by the federal government. Between what is required in each state’s plans, sought in each plan, and who must benefit from the various programs, the long-sought vision is unquestionably here. What I am also saying is that the true purpose of the ESEA Rewrite, now in Congressional Conference, is to force schools to inculcate the needed public philosophy in each student, to be instilled via ‘meaningful’ assessments and required state academic goals (misleadingly labeled ‘content standards’ to deceive) grounded in behavior.
Remember my receiver analogy from the last post? Dilthey recognized that the Human Sciences needed to assess each student because “if we wish to know the meaning of behavior we must know the meanings of the behavers.” How’s that for putting student-centered learning into its true context? Dilthey recognized that out of man’s psychological reactions and attitudes to the world (now accessible on each student via all that DATA flowing into state longitudinal data systems) “grew world-views. World-views were the result of the giving of content to the forms of the mind by the historical stream. [now the Learning Registry or SAS, Pearson, Amplify, AIR, etc] They were the primary patterns in which the sensory impressions of the external world were organized. They, therefore, basically determined the thoughts, values, and action of the individual.”
Anyone beginning to get nervous about what personalized, brain-based learning actually means? And world-views need not be true or factually grounded. Dilthey again: “Worldviews, then, were not universally valid views of the world, but rather systems of values which were widely shared.” Wrong, but commonly believed is simply not going to end well for any of us not currently in public office at the local, state, or federal levels or working for one of the agencies pushing this. Speaking of data, Bell in his 1996 Afterword also reminded us that the essence of the Post-Industrial Society is that “information, not production, became the control system of the economy.” So all the hype about manufacturing is more to aid the transition to state-directed economies and state-managed societies than anything grounded in fact.
The employers concerned with inadequate skills are actually seeing the real effects from the pushes in the 80s and 90s to make instilling a public philosophy the primary purpose of K-12 education. Back in the original 1976 body of the book, Bell explained that the public philosophy was to be “the single overriding principle…to which all persona, as members of the community, must subscribe.” In fact, Bell sought “to find a social cement for the society” in 1976, interestingly enough about the same time as state or national think tanks hyping liberty, freedom, and free enterprise began popping up.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if part of the actual purpose in some funders’ minds was to deceitfully create a means to quietly guide, and shut up, anyone noticing a shift in values and political programs? In the name of School Choice all schools, public, private, or online, could be forced to be institutions that would force the “restatement of what is legitimate (the grounded values) in a society.” That reality sure fits the facts I personally have encountered and what teachers in private schools and charters now tell me. Bell was aware and annoyed at how much the West, and the US especially, reveres the individual. His goals were:
“Where bourgeois society separated the economy from the polity, the public household [and now WIOA] joins the two, not for the fusion of powers, but the necessary coordination of effects. The public household requires a new socio-economic bill of rights [WIOA again!] which redefines for our times the social needs that the polity must try to satisfy. It establishes the public budget (How much do we want to spend, and for whom?) as the mechanism whereby the society seeks to implement ‘the good condition of human beings.'”
We can see why politicians, university profs, and district administrators are being less than forthcoming about what is really going on. All the known facts, statutory language, regulations, and anything else designed to control the classroom implementation and the social and economic consequences dovetails with all these declarations. Our students are living in a world where education is to become a means of human study. The declared intentions are to use the behavioral sciences and data from students to instill the requisite values, behaviors, and beliefs to be the needed social cement. Grounded neurally as the prevailing consciousness among a majority of future voters.
In a February 14, 2015 post I covered the just released America Next Education Reform report and its declared ties to the Heritage Foundation in particular. I just did not equate an acceptance of a welfare state as being a conservative position. Bell also called for what was laid out in that 2015 report except he attributed the same idea to economist Alice Rivlin, with an emphasis “not on public provision, but on public financing of care.” In fact, Bell reiterated his preference by saying that “what some liberals and some New Leftists have rediscovered are the virtues of decentralization and competition.” Maybe, after two failed attempts at fundamental transformation in the US, we can see why everyone with aims to steer public policy might be shouting “Local Control” in the kind of Bipartisan manner we saw with WIOA and now with the ESEA Rewrite.
I know it is quite mean of me to read what no one ever assigned to me and grasp what no one ever intended to tell me. That’s just how language intended to have legal effect works sometimes. That’s why this vision needs Axemaker Minds and to a large degree print itself to go away. Much better to embed the students in a controlled virtual reality that can be made to function in whatever way best produces the desired Public Philosophy.
I have a Public Philosophy too. It is to save as many students as possible and this great nation and other countries from a toxic vision that has already caused too much unappreciated harm.
We are now where Bell hoped to get to back in 1976 and then 1996. We had best all grasp the implications in time. Our Governors, Senators, mayors, and legislators do not intend to tell us.
It is what it is and we must deal with this head-on.