Can you imagine if your new District Super or a School Principal or the head of your state’s Workforce Development Panel announced that they were basing their mandates for the classroom on psychotherapy techniques developed at the Tavistock Institute? Insights from a man best known for his work “stemming from his psychoanalysis of patients in psychotic states.” Now I know Psychanalysis is a change of pace from all those theories and philosophies pretending to be a better way to teach or learn while leaving out their ancestry in the Soviet Union or 19th Century Germany or aspirations of how to gain a Model for a new collectivist World Order as our last post openly touted.
Well kind of openly. It was open in the book and conferences. By the time these ideas make it to coursework for a Masters in Public Policy or a Doctorate in Educational Leadership or Curriculum or School Improvement, we might get more euphemisms. Laundering Ideas to Gain Committed Implementation with Fidelity relies on a large helping of Ignorance with those Degrees.
But maybe the Degree Holders should know something is wrong. I first encountered the name Wilfred Bion in a Masters paper for the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs called “Eleven Distinctions” and written by a Bryan F Lindsley. Now I am not picking on Bryan as his paper popped up as I was researching innovation and my idea that it is actually being touted so much now to create the conditions to make it much less likely in the future. But since 2009 Bryan has been the Executive Director of the Minnesota Governor’s Workforce Development Council. So his ideas on what constitutes thinking and the purpose of education are relevant and Common Core related education reforms have been a big part of his job.
His paper contemplated creating Learning Work Communities which would go hand in hand with the high school reform model we are quietly seeing in the states. Plus it fits with what we saw being pushed in the Twin Cities in their Living Cities and Regional Equity involvement. Not to mention that Minnesota is where community organizing visionary Harry Boyte lives and works with his aspirations that the US become a “cooperative commonwealth” in the 21st Century. And Minnesota was where the Asia Society went recently to trumpet Global Learning and a Metropolitan Business Plan centered on the new economy. You know the one centered around Green Energy and Sustainable Planned Development involving public and private groups?
So Lindsley is quite influential in a state interested in being cutting edge on shifting to a planned Regional Economy centered on Sustainable Development. And his mentors in his Masters program have been quite busy in getting him to focus on how students supposedly Learn How to Think so they can develop self-efficacy (20 points to the first reader who thinks of psychologist Albert Bandura or the California 2010 Equity Frameworks) and an ability to overcome frustration (another 20 points to remembering Carol Dweck and Fostering Growth Mindsets instead of Fixed Ones).
I am joking, kind of, because Lindsley actually did not mention either Bandura or Dweck but he used their ideas that we have discussed previously. Those ideas have a history and a purpose that come with them even if the Degree Holder like your School Principal or Learning Community Assistant Super are ignorant of it. Lindsley then went on to say:
“In an influential essay entitled “A Theory of Thinking,” pioneering psychoanalyst W.R. Bion examined how ‘inability to tolerate frustration can obstruct the development of thought and a capacity to think.’ By learning to control frustration, learners are able to solve complex problems by determining the causal forces in play [how precisely? By role playing Isaac Newton?] and then determining ways to influence these forces through action. For Bion, this is the entire purpose of thinking. It is about exercising competency when confronted with real-world changing conditions.”
Now I found that passage to be alarming at so many levels I just had to find out who Bion was. You can imagine my horror upon finding the info in my lead-in or Bion’s involvement with the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine. But let’s face it, most Graduate students presented with such a passage would not have investigated further. It would simply be taken as a given theory of the new breakthroughs in Learning or the Social Development Model. Something to be foisted on schools and teachers regardless of outcries.
Genuine outcries since these are actually theories of the Mind developed from working with deeply troubled patients. Bion created these theories to go after the unconscious part of the Mind and change that. “Unconscious functioning” was how he described it. Decreeing an organized assault on it should not be in anyone’s job description outside of a well-advertised psychiatric clinic.
But being a stickler for such details is no way to get mass social change and increasingly Education Doctorates are being upfront that credentialing Social Change Agents is their stated mission. They just leave out the details of the ancestry of the theories and models. Which means we have a collision course going on right now as the definition of an Effective Principal becomes about creating coercive behavioral Learning Communities. When Collaboration is touted as one of the 4Cs of 21st Century Skills. When Randi Weingarten, President of the AFT teachers union wants to postpone Common Core assessments for a year to make sure they are measuring the desired objectives of Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Teamwork.
Because it turns out that there is a surge of interest now in Bion all over the world because of his 1961 book Experiences in Groups, based on his research between 1943 and 1952, and the desire to incorporate his theories into creating better group dynamics in schools and reorganized workplaces. No mention of the ancestry of this “lens for understanding the dynamics of groups and organizations” or Bion’s “fascination with the dark undercurrents of human interaction” as a 2010 Working Group paper in the UK described it. But not for our benefit as parents or taxpayers. Nor will there be any warning to us or the Credentialed Mandaters of the acknowledged “danger of attempting to work ‘below the surface’ in this way”.
The Powers-that-Be who want radical social change ASAP have decreed that Bion’s research on creating a “Work-Group Mentality” will be useful in fostering their New World and revised Human Nature. So we get deliberate targeting in the classroom of each student’s “capacity to contain emotional tensions, conscious and unconscious.” Apparently the desired emotions and ways of thinking are easier if the group has a purpose. You might want to keep that in mind every time you hear the words “our vision” and “our mission” in connection with education and schools.
So the development of a Work-Group Mentality, WGM, is said to constitute Student Growth. Which not so coincidentally is now to be the measure of TEACHER Effectiveness. And WGM is defined as a willingness to take action in the real world coupled with an engagement with the “psychic reality of group life.”
That psychic reality is quite simply about making school address the “tension between shared intention and individual differences.” The Learning becomes a matter of developing “good interpersonal chemistry” and a recognition that any “intellectual understanding” a student has is “mobilized not for personal advantage or pleasure but ‘in the service of the mission.” The utopian vision behind all these group projects and mentions of Teamwork and Collaboration, that are essential components of Common Core Comes to the Actual Classroom, is the idea that:
“By valuing each other’s areas of expertise, for example, trusting each other and speaking frankly to one another, new ways of thinking, relating and acting together can emerge.”
So Bion’s theories fit in perfectly well with the collectivist vision of a planned economy and society we keep encountering as part of all these education reforms. And there’s a reason. It comes from the UN’s aspirations of global Education for Sustainable Development–that Decade Long Program running quietly from 2006 to 2015. But that toxic political, economic, and social vision gets omitted in most discussions of the Common Core except on this blog.
Also omitted is the truly shocking ancestry of all the psychological theories and political philosophies designed to change values, attitudes, and beliefs. To redirect and channel the very ability to think at all. Plus the focus on the “emotional life” of the group, with all this being gathered and kept as data on Growth, is not being talked about either.
So it is now known to us but not known to most Edudoctorate holders or Workforce Development Directors being paid with your tax dollars to force implementation in every K-12 classroom.
Now what do we do?