That quote came from a fall 2017 slideshare down in South America by Pavel Luksha, the Director of the Global Education Futures Initiative where he went on to post in his next sound byte that “The frontier of evolution of the [sic] humanity is thus the self-guided evolution of consciousness.” Now someone can accuse me of simply mining for inflammatory comments as to what is planned for K-12 education and its true aims and Pavel Luksha is not showing up at school district planning strategies, but education consultants who have been working with him at forums like the one on Silicon Valley in 2015 I wrote about or GEFF forums in Russia are. The GEFF plans “that aim to change global model of education at scale” thus may have a way into your local schools, public or private.
Aspirations of “Improving collective understanding and collaboration capacity of human groups through new modes of (collective) consciousness” are not in fact grandiose declarations if those common understandings and capacities make it into prescribed learning standards and new definitions of student achievement and frameworks for success. Luksha ended the slideshow with a picture of Buckminster Fuller and this quote: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Too many parents are still listening to hype about Student Success, or a Portrait of a Graduate in a state ESSA plan, or a vision statement from a charter, parochial, or independent school through the existing reality of education that they experienced.
All over the world they fail to realize that a new model is being set up using enough old rhetoric to obscure the enormity of the sought shift or its revolutionary declared intentions (if, like me, you know where to look). It aims to shift “living systems” like people, but also cities and workplaces by targeting “human intentionality and social structures” while we assume the familiar is what is intended. Meanwhile, UNESCO, foundations, ed supers at a district level, and school heads are, as Luksha’s slides also showed, targeting “Psycho-technologies (including spirituality & religion)” for deliberately designed change along with “Institutes /Norms/ Rules/ Soft Tech.” Since Luksha stated it was in an effort to shift us all to a “Thrivability” or “Wisdom-Based Society” and GEFF’s tentacles extend all the way to the local level on an organized basis, we should listen to this planned:
“shifting to ‘horizontal’ net-centric world ‘working for 100% of humanity…without ecological damage or disadvantage of anyone’ (B. Fuller). Implies involving everyone and all in a ‘revolution of consciousness’. Technological advancement is necessary but secondary to the development of individual and collective human potential.”
Since one of my life mottoes is to recognize when we are on the menu so we can recognize how we are to be captured for eating, and this aspiration for some type of planned cultural evolution via education to alter consciousness, has kept coming up since I covered UNESCO founder, Julian Huxley in Credentialed to Destroy, let’s use a quote of his brother’s, cited early on in a book on Esalen, The Upstart Spring, that I stumbled across during an offline discussion on the commonalities between what is going on in K-12 globally and required management training and coaching practices that kept linking to Esalen and Integral Philosophy. If all these collective institutions like schools and workplaces, especially involving multinational corporations, are suddenly requiring participation in practices designed to alter consciousness and prevailing understandings in common ways, we have every right to recognize those intentions and track through to the beginning of such plans for a “psychological revolution.” Here is Aldous in 1960:
“Let us begin [said Huxley in his kindly Oxonian accents] by asking a question: What would have happened to a child of 170 I.Q. born into a Paleolithic family at the time of, say, the cave paintings of Lascaux? Well, quite obviously, he could have been nothing but a hunter and a gatherer. There was no other opportunity for him to be anything else.
The biologists have shown us that, physiologically and anatomically, we are pretty much the same as we were twenty thousand years ago and that we are using fundamentally the same equipment as the Aurignacean man to produce incredibly different results. We have in the course of these twenty thousand years actualized a tremendous number of things which at that time and for many, many centuries thereafter were wholly potential and latent in man.
This, I think, gives us reason for tempered optimism that there is still a great many potentialities–for rationality, for affection and kindliness, for creativity–still lying latent in man; and, since everything has speeded up enormously in recent years, that we shall find methods for going almost as far beyond the point we have reached now within a few hundred years as we have succeeded in going beyond our Aurignacean ancestors in twenty thousand years. I think this is not entirely a fantastic belief. The neurologists have shown us that no human being has ever made use of as much as ten percent of all the neurons in his brain. And perhaps, if we set about it in the right way, we might be able to produce extraordinary things out of this strange piece of work that a man is.”
I bolded that line because I think a great way to accurately decipher the purpose of all these education reforms grounded in ‘cognitive science’ with holistic aspirations that started in the 1960s in earnest after Huxley’s speech, and in earnest in the 80s just after The Upstart Spring was first published, tracks to what both Huxleys had in mind. It’s also what UNESCO clearly has in mind now in the name of Media Education, Futures Literacy, and the Discipline of Anticipation. It’s what Pavel Luksha and GEFF have laid out. What if all these aspirations and their commonalities keep coming up because no one accurately told us where Uncle Karl’s hoped for battleground for transformation really lay?
In the 1930s professor Sidney Hook published a book he called Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx: A Revolutionary Interpretation that he refused to allow to come back into print during the remainder of his life. The publisher of the reprint, the humanist Paul Kurtz in 2002, shows up at several points in that Esalen book and then at 21st century UNESCO conferences. If altering consciousness via education is everyone’s actual aim, let’s see why:
“all social action and change is mediated by ideas in the minds of men. Ideas, therefore, cannot be passive images; they must be active instruments…The scientific approach to society involves the continuous application of ideals to the functioning of institutions and the continuous testing of those ideals by the social consequences of their application…Processes of social transformation are thus at the same time processes of psychological transformation. The dialectic principle explains how human beings, although conditioned by society, are enabled through activity, to change both society and themselves. Intelligent social action becomes creative action. ‘By acting on the external world and changing it,’ says Marx, ‘man changes his own nature.’…
Human nature does not change over night. It develops slowly out of the perception of new needs which, together with the limiting condition of the environment, determine new tasks and suggest new goals. But the new needs themselves do not emerge suddenly into human experience. They arise out of an attempt to gratify the old needs in a shifting environment and find conscious articulation only in the active practical process by which man both changes and adjusts to his environment…This theory of perception was necessitated by his [Marx] philosophy of history. If human beings are active in history, then, since all human activity is guided by ideas and ideals, human thinking must be an active historical force.”
And so it is. If we do not understand its role well enough to grasp why Sidney Hook himself italicized the word thinking back in the 1930s, having those thought processes of concepts, ideas, and ideals manipulated for political purposes in the 21st century is exactly what will continue to go on in earnest. Tying these aspirations over decades and continents to recently, Education Week ran a story on August 13 that “Meditation Isn’t Just About Self Help. Here’s What Educators Need to Know”. It wanted to make sure yoga, meditation, and mindfulness standards (sometimes as part of anti-bullying or Positive School Climate mandates and others as part of Physical Well-being State Standards) were not merely being used as a “distraction to get people to adjust to oppressive conditions.”
Oh, no, these requirements are needed to change consciousness just like Aldous Huxley, Esalen, and Pavel Luksha’s presentation all had in mind. The post ended with a call that these practices are a necessary component to education now to cultivate the necessary “critical consciousness. We also need the knowledge and skill to challenge norms and structures perpetuating inequities. Integrating both mindful reflection with social-justice action has the greatest potential to shape coalitions, build collective empowerment, and mediate a new standard for education.”
That new standard is all about altering prevailing consciousness, or, as an earlier post noted, regulating subjectivity at the individual level of the mind and the cultivated ideals instilled in the personality at the level of ideals, norms, and habits.
Is that what anyone is recognizing when they think of Student Success and Achievement or Competencies in the 21st Century? Time to wake up to get ourselves off the revolutionary transformation menu.