Now It’s Head, Heart, and Hands to Get Us to Environmental, Social and Economic Justice

No, we have not had a Dr Faustus moment since the last post where the human soul went missing. Just a matter of tact when you want widespread changes to pedagogy and classroom practices and teaching beliefs. Diplomacy and a desire for successful adoption without a brouhaha over what’s being pushed suggests tucking those intentions to alter values and help the students search for meaning and purpose in their lives into the generic Heart designation. Or in Student Engagement as a Goal. Just some feelings after all coming into the classroom to help the students deal with their experiences. Those existential issues that lead to a sense of crisis and adaptation but otherwise nothing to worry about. The questing for answers is just a part of growing up. It’s not like they have a solid base of history or characters from classical literature to help them frame their lives.

If you are still not sure why we have to talk about spirituality apart from its omnipresence in the intentions for K-12 and higher ed, it goes to quietly gaining widespread acceptance of the planned transformative social, economic, and political change. Not just in the US but all over the West. Because the literature leaves no doubt over what is sought. The only real question takes us back to how much economic redistribution–strict Equality of Results or Bounded Inequality? What level of personal freedom will be left? Are fossil fuels still allowed in a Low Carbon future? What if that means no reliable efficient energy? If these admissions seem startling and you are just reading this blog wondering what Common Core will look like in the classroom or why the UN and the US EPA keep pushing to regulate carbon dioxide, four simple words for you.

Means. To. An. End. Several in fact. Not really about content or temperatures. We are in fact about to have a rerun of the State vs Individual and desire to control the economy that is very similar to what happened about 100 years ago. Igniting a conflagration in 1914 that was supposed to be a lark and over by Christmas. I personally am hoping for better results this time which is why I write. But I have no delusions about what the stakes are. And if all these mentions of values and meaning-making and Authenticity and College and Career Ready actually having a Communitarian emphasis make no sense, maybe this passage based on insights from previous attempts at such equality will help (my bolding):

“a political-economic framework that can execute the redistribution standard requires a cultural context in which social actors are guided by a shared view of themselves a embodying a ‘community of attitudes’ or ‘collective conscience’ . . . The harmony and stability of the collectivist society envisioned by Rousseau and Durkheim depend on people viewing the constraints of society and sovereign will of the state [how Washington DC seems to see itself] as the natural order of things. They must also transfer to civil society the commitment they had traditionally held for the sacred, and schools must teach children the importance of the political community’s claim to their loyalty and of their commitment to the morality of the collective.” Anne Wortham, under The Cultural Context

Professor Wortham nailed the why. Let’s look at just how broad the definition of Spirituality becomes as the target of education now and the source of Education as Transformation. This is from an essay called “Spiritually Engaged Pedagogy:The Possibilities of Spiritual Development Through Social Justice Education” and is intended to be a warning on how easy all these Values, Attitudes, and Belief altering plans are to now get into the classroom. All classrooms. Holistic spirituality is what it aspires to be. Also looks like the IB Learner Profile for some of you. This is also why we have to have a Student-Centered focus.

*Spirituality is a lifelong development of a sense of the authentic self.

*Spirituality places us in relationships with others through care and outreach.

*Spirituality involves ongoing construction of meaning and knowledge.

*Spirituality and spiritual experiences can be symbolic, unexpected, and present in learning environments.

* Spirituality emphasizes interconnectedness and wholeness.

Long-term readers of this blog may have just spilt their morning coffee on what may now be a sticky keyboard. But those intentions pick up Peter Senge’s Systems Thinking and Bronfenbrenner Ecological Systems Theory and powell’s insistence we are not Unitary Selves anymore. It’s also the New 3 R’s-Rigor, Relevance, and Relationship. It’s  Vygotsky and the Sociocultural Theory that got adopted as part of Education for Life and Work. This broad concept of Spirituality completely saturates the actual Common Core implementation we have been documenting. And for good reason.

Transformative change, to have any chance of success (I imagine you and I have a different definition of success than the bureaucrats) has to start with the individual. Changing him or her from the inside-out, while they are young enough to be malleable. Some revolutions have the best chance for success as a fait accompli. That could be the operating motto for Transformative education for a radically transformed society. And planet when you add in the Environmental intent to no longer exploit nature. Different advocates take that goal anywhere from a little backwards to a Leap as if you can moderate the rejection of reason and the “free play of intelligence.”

I have protested before that my caution in advocating for 21st Century Utopias does not make me a Scrooge.  I have read through all the Henriot & Holland Pastoral Cycles Linking Faith,  Action, and Social Issues many religious faiths are putting out as they advocate for social justice and cannot find much more to the analysis than “It’s not fair” and “I wish it were different.” Feelings that the world could be more just may lead us to ignore what works that we are not seeing in favor of the remnants that could be better. But blindly jettisoning what works. Asking K-12 or college students to be aware of their positions of privilege and to name and understand injustice, while “providing opportunities for students to consider their own vision and participation in a more just world” strikes me as dangerous. Would you let an art major design a load-bearing bridge? Of course not. Why would we push people who do not know what got civilization to this point of progress and what failed in the past to decide what would be better?

“Social justice is a set of principles and a process that governs humans’ behavior to one another and the natural world. Social justice is based on the premises that society is characterized by inequalities in resources and influence, and that individual and collective actions can and will transform society. Social justice promotes awareness of inequalities, action to redress inequalities, and ongoing habits of mind and actions that continue to address inequalities.”

Does that strike anyone else as a dangerously naive mantra to be learning to habituate? No one defends inequalities or differences in influence as good in themselves. They are just the natural by products of a focus on the individual and freedom to trade and develop ideas that benefit more than the people involved in the trades. The inequality from economic freedom is tolerated because our choices are (a) to have inequality of incomes but at a higher average income for all. Or (b) to have a relatively equal distribution but at lower average levels for everyone. That’s the choice. Is anyone explaining that fundamental fact to the students learning about social justice? Would that reality affect how they feel about social justice? No, you know why no one wants to frame it honestly. It would influence the advocacy for redistribution.

And the desired sense for community. That will make today’s students so easy to exploit emotionally as adults. And politically. I mean grow up. There are individuals involved in these various Justice movements with good intentions. But this in the aggregate is not a well-intentioned initiative, not at the UN-level or the national or locally. It’s a power play by politicians and bureaucrats and their Cronies. There will be no parades or trenches or poison gas to tell you that your future, your wallet, your children, and the legitimacy of Individualism and self-interest are under organized attack. Hoping for a lasting victory.

I call these types of pedagogies and political theories unilateral intellectual disarmament. Everything that brought progress and prosperity is being jettisoned so that Government officials and their Cronies can direct the economy, control natural resources, and dictate permissible personal behavior. Social Justice education at its core cultivates a self that will go along. Preferably without recognizing what is to be lost.

No wonder Bill Ayers advocates it as far superior to bombs.


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