Personalized Learning as a Molding Mechanism and Prime Instrument for Social and Political Control

We have discussed some of the implications of the personalized learning language in the Every Child Achieves Act rewrite of the K-12 federal education legislation, but most of what will guide the classroom practices and data being accumulated (“a data warehouse for every student”) lies in documents other than ECAA. Scouring those, as I am prone to do in my research, in turn sent me scurrying back to a Carnegie-funded book from 1952 called The New Man in Soviet Psychology. Similar language, comparable visions, and the same recommended changes to education generally means the same real goals whether that is being acknowledged up front or not. I want to go back to something Stalin told Party members in 1933, since we are highly unlikely to get a comparable confession from members of Congress in 2015, on the need to solve the ‘human problems’ if the desired transformations were to truly take hold in the USSR. “Even though the industrial and social base of the old society had been largely destroyed, the ‘remnants of capitalism’ still lingered in the minds of men.” Quoting Uncle Joe himself:

“You as Marxists should know that in its development the mentality of man lags behind his actual condition. In status the members of collective farms are no longer individual farmers, but collectivists, but their mentality is still the old one–that of the owner of private property.”

Stalin and the Soviets made no bones about their intention to “bring all possible facilities of society to bear on the problem of training and controlling its individual citizens.” They were especially fond of using the law in such a binding manner. Methinks they would have liked the language of ECAA and its close sibling, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) from last summer, a great deal. What these measures share in common is a desire to create an organized society. Now obviously that was not news to any Soviet in the 1930s, but it is news to many Americans in the 21st Century, which is why so much of what is intended to bind and quietly alter the minds of men is hidden and not being discussed openly.

What is an organized society anyway? It’s the idea that a society can be consciously organized and directed. In the case of the US in the 21st century, the organization is around the concept of Equity and an obligation to meet people’s needs, whoever they are and however they came to the US. In pushing this vision of social justice, or as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calls it–Dignity for All by 2030–the organized society shifts from a place where people make their own choices to a “society in which–insofar as possible–all the parts are coordinated to the service of the whole by the deliberate decisions of persons who are in a position to implement that decision.” Hard to get politicians or public sector employees at any level to back off that kind of decision-making power once they get a whiff of the possibilities.

And the number one “theoretical tool for the coordination of society” in the Soviet Union of the 30s or America in 2015 is education. What the Soviets decided in the 30s and what people pushing all these reforms now know is that if they can train and guide people’s purposeful action, they can control future behaviors reliably without that being apparent. I am pretty sure Carnegie did not fund that book above just because it just loves to spend old Andrew’s steel fortune. It found its vision compatible with where it hoped the US would go as well. That likelihood becomes even more apparent when we look at the Foreword of the book and find Harvard prof and cognitive scientist, Jerome Bruner, wrote it. Bruner, citing John Dewey as having a comparable vision, wrote about:

“the need for a psychology that may support democracy. For man’s image of the nature of man is not only a matter of objective inquiry, it is and has always been a prime instrument of social and political control. He who molds that image does so with enormous consequences for the society in which he lives.”

Words to remember as we delve into personalized learning and so many of the practices and theories we have imported from the Soviet Union. What Bruner knew and what Carnegie knows since it funded the research, we are dealing with a comparable vision of using psychology to mold a consciousness and personality that becomes an activist in remaking the world that exists. Would you like to hazard a guess at the number 1 aspect or trait the Soviets knew they needed to control and mold? Motivation. Would anyone like to hazard a guess as to what the number one feature of ‘personalizing learning’ is in 2015 in the US? That’s right. It’s determining and then accessing student’s at the level of their intrinsic motivation.

I have tracked the meaning of personalizing instruction and learning through a lot of reports, but the most graphic is probably in the January 2015 National Initiative from the School Mental Health Project at UCLA. Given all the references in ECAA to the needs of the students and the communities and ‘learning supports’ it appears to me that the entire 204 page document is intended to be implemented via ECAA without anyone in Congress giving a Heads Up. The report is called “Transforming Student and Learning Supports: Developing a Unified, Comprehensive, and Equitable System” and it tells us upfront it has been created as part of that theme I am asserting is being used to turn us quietly into an organized society. “Equity of opportunity is fundamental to securing civil rights; transforming student and learning supports is fundamental to enabling equity of opportunity.”

Law school was decades ago but there is a trigger threshold in con law once something is deemed a ‘fundamental right’ and that seems to be precisely what this plan wants to trigger. Awfully crucial not to be in the open, isn’t it? Well, it is now so let’s quote what it says about personalization in education:

“personalizing instruction means ensuring conditions for learning are perceived by the learner as good ways to attain goals s/he wants to reach. Thus, a basic intervention concern is eliciting learners’ perceptions of how well what is offered matches both their interests and abilities. This has fundamental implications for all efforts to assess students and manage behavior.”

Manage behavior? Goal-seeking, purposeful actor? Doesn’t this sound precisely like the 30s Soviet shift on how to get at the minds of men to mold a new mentality? Should we be concerned that this 2015 National Initiative says that “From our perspective, the aim of personalizing learning is to enhance stable, positive, intrinsic attitudes that mobilize and maintain engagement in learning.” So all the language about “(a) ensure motivational readiness, (b) enhance motivation during learning, and (c) increase intrinsic motivation as an outcome” seems a bit heavy-handed, but it’s only one document, right? Well, there’s also the ISTE 2014 “Personalized Learning: A Guide for Engaging Students with Technology” that will likely guide what the language of ECAA really means for our students and ultimately all of us.

It helpfully lets us know that “personalized learning is not the digitization of traditional learning” since after all, it is the student’s mind and personality that are the real focus of this digital menu. Showing that unfortunately subject content areas are merely the means to get the desired changes in the students we are told to set goals and then try to achieve those established goals. How purposive! A goal-seeking actor just like Stalin wanted the emphasis to be on. “Progress through subject area content is measured by the demonstration of proficiency in identified skills and understanding.” Those would be the skills and understanding needed not for the world we now have, but that desired future which needs a new kind of citizen and worker.

Now I can say repeatedly that this is not the model of coursework we are all used to and insist how much manipulation is going on, but a vision of “courses built around concepts and learning outcomes” just speaks volumes about how socially engineered this “self-directed learning” will actually be. Let’s look somewhere else since this 2014 Summit on Personalized Learning of the White House-sponsored Digital Promise and League of Innovative Schools was uploaded to the internet about the time this new version of ECAA–1177–became available. Let’s go to page 18 since it is describing a federal grant to “revolutionize instruction”.

Now how ‘personalized’ does learning in the ordinary dictionary meaning of the term seem if we specify what all students need to know and then want to assess “How will we know they’ve learned it? and “What will we do if they haven’t learned it?” How a student chooses to show their learning is flexible and the activities they engage in to practice the desired learning has lots of options, but what is to be learned does not. Whether the student gets it or not, there’s actually a great deal mandatory to this personalized vision. That’s just not supposed to be apparent to either the students or us, lest we object to the clear coercion at the levels of mind, values, attitudes, and feeling.

This was true in every recent personalized learning paper I found. Here’s another The quiet mandatory nature makes perfect sense if this is all intended to be a molding mechanism in pursuit of an organized society where Equity is the lode star for decision-making.

If we go back to that 1952 book it will tell us that “The Bolshevik controls man by training his motives and shaping his ideology.” As someone who has read all these reports and ECAA, I am now asserting that personalizing instruction and “personalized rigorous learning experiences” are intended to train student’s motives for future action as well.

And the requirements about annual assessing of “higher order thinking and understanding” are monitoring whether the minds are being suitably molded and trained in “ideological thinking.” Because at its core, that’s where there is no flexibility.

Is the student using the desired concepts? Is she demonstrating desired values and appropriate attitudes?

Will he be motivated to act when and in the way desired? At least Uncle Joe was transparent in his aims, unlike Congress and most legislatures, governors, and city councils.

Eager to benefit from such social and political control over us.



27 thoughts on “Personalized Learning as a Molding Mechanism and Prime Instrument for Social and Political Control

  1. The people who make the decisions will always do the right thing. The are sensitive, compassionate, tolerant, and inclusive. They’ll never do anything to hurt us. We can trust them and get back to enjoying our lives. All their plans for our children will work, because democracy works. We will love them even more later once we see what they can do for us through transformational change. The children are the real problem that must be addressed. Any resistance to personalized learning is just proof that the plans aren’t harsh enough.

    • Hi jud. Welcome to ISC. Yes, we want to Dennis hastert’s of the world making decisions for us and a corrupt system that would enable him to have that much spending money to pay blackmails all empowered to act on our behalf. Only the best and brightest go into politics and they always recuse themselves when there is a conflict of interest.

  2. Don’t forget the UN Convention on the Rights of The Child. Personalized learning gives the kiddos choices. Choices for children is what the UN Convention wants. As rights. This in itself is a step towards the US acceptance of this bollocks which opens the doors for collectivism, child trafficking and pedophilia, restructuring families out of rights to their children. Its just a different avenue to the destination already arrived at in Scotland and the netherlands. Obama said he wiuld sign the concention. His tv sycophants already have said that our children belong to the community and Hilary said it takes a village to raise a child.

    Also, Unlike lecture format everybody treated equally, same test notes to study from same book…etc. everybody gets fair game at success, Personalized learning will forever give opportunity for fascilitators to choose who fails and succeeds. People like a friend of mine will be forver wondering why their bright wonderful child cannot get good grades or read well and is put isolated with autistic children.
    Personalized learning is a link in the chain around our freedom.

    • As usual I ran out of time, but given what personalized learning actually clearly means, incorporating it as an obligation into a federal statute is a bit like putting some nitroglycerine in your saddlebags to go for a horseback ride. The question becomes when and where the explosion occurs, not if. This is not accidental language. This is a hugely effective area to be in if social control is what is sought. Doing it through education law make this ridiculously difficult to see, except I chase down terms. Through collateral documents, across continents, and through the decades.

      Apart from what personalized learning is really getting at, we have the continued push to circumscribe knowledge itself.

      When I testified in CA, on rebuttal, I called attention to the fact there is something ridiculous about insisting you are against rote learning but want to create habits of mind.

    • CP-I had pegged UDL as fitting Bloom’s actual definition of Mastery Learning. UDL gets at changing the nature of what constitutes showing that learning has occurred. In other words, that the desired concepts are now part of how experiences will be interpreted and how the world and other people are viewed. Available to guide future action at an unconscious level. At that point the real goal of Mastery Learning will be met, change the student to fit the task, which does rather sound like what personalized instruction and “personalized dynamic learning experiences” or “rigorous” ones as ECAA cited aim at too.

      As the former general counsel of a health care company who now knows the ed story thoroughly, the link between education and healthcare is this “subjective well-being” as the new prerogative and even mandate of governments. It has come out of the OECD and the UN as the above link to LL from December 2013 reveals. Thanks for putting that up.

        • Funny, there is a single narrative being pushed, yet no one on the ground seems to realize they are merely puppets. In CA we are now approaching this reform the “California Way.” And when I’ve met with various superintendents & heads of assessment, each says (with conviction) “Well, in this district we are doing things differently…we’re doing it the Newport Mesa way.” Yet, the content in this Frameworks doc is the same junk Fullan is scaling here and the same ideologies pushed by RTTT, DQC, WIOW, ECAA etc. Do folks really, really believe they have had any part in the creation of the ideologies driving this reform? I keep going back to the UNESCO paper that explains how even the top dogs in the schools of education must not be allowed to set the values and desired outcomes. The endgame, of course, is to be controlled by the puppeteers–everything else amounts to pulling the strings. How are so many so easily fooled? Proves how far along this reform actually is, doesn’t it?

          • Learning is the constant means that there is to be no variance in the concepts pushed to guide perception and the skills approach that is behavioral bound up in emotions.

            I was just downloading something called SCASS–State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards–that CCSSO set up in 1991. It’s been actively coordinating among the states all along. In 2006 they set up FAST– Formative Assessment for Students and Teachers that has Rick Stiggins from Oregon and Dylan Wiliam who helped create this for the OECD, except he admits it is inspired by Benjamin Bloom’s work. Now that I have Bloom’s own unfiltered words from the 70s these CW papers read differently and accurately, right down to the constant references to Equity.

            This is all a massive case of organized deceit that refuses to tell the truth to taxpayers and also is unwilling to stop whatever the outcry. Personalized is truly becoming a terrifying term, isn’t it along with learning. Ken Kay from P21 and now EdLeader 21 is also involved with FAST. Think of all the money these reforms have pushed at consultants. In Fulton we have former social workers now insisting they get $2500 a day for training personnel involving the charter and governance councils.

            I have to go to a program this afternoon involving the 50th anniversary of the civil rights act. I suspect it is about to have its purpose reinterpreted, which is why I will be there listening.

          • Yes, Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (funded by Gates et al) pays KnowledgeWorks to develop those “scientifically tested” metaphors. During the second round of board hearings one of the propents’ testimony came directly from this site. Again, are we really this dumb already?!

            Anyone recall a marketing campaign for NCLB?

          • Look what came out the year before NCLB.

            Look at who is involved with this Commission on Instructionally Supportive Assessment. There are your friends at CRESST.

            Apparently I was right on the money about trying to impilcate Learning Supports as a federally protected right. Readers would have cried at the sneering about “white people” that I heard yesterday at what was supposed to be a celebration of civil rights milestones. So much hate has been and is being created and false causes cited. Clarence Thomas was called a homeboy. Sad for me to hear because the last thing going on in K-12 ed right now is white people thinking black kids are stupid. Every effort has been made to use urban schools to keep all minorities stupid and outraged and predictable in their voting patterns. Now those same goals are targeting suburban schools for manipulation.

          • Take a look at this Marzano Taxonomy and the emphasis on emotions and assessing them as part of becoming the self-system at the apex.

            This truly is the kind of mind molding and personality manipulation Stalin lusted after. Now with that revelation on page 58 of the CompetencyWorks document and then the announcement that Fulton is creating ‘enterprise architecture’ to track all the relevant data flowing in on students and ‘learning’ and the announcement of using Marzano, I now connect the sing-songy “Fulton County Schools” recorded voice with that Marzano image.

            Abusing the child psychologically for personal profit to advance the goals of State and Local officials. Isn’t that the essence of what is being sought in ECAA? Just like we are all Soviet citizens in the 30s and subject to the law being used to bind us to state predation?

            Look at this one– . It ties the creation of this mind/personality molded “Self System Thinking” that is a living, breathing student to SLOs. No wonder Fulton insisted parents cannot opt their kids out. Look at it “Verbs, Phrases, Definition Useful for SLOs”. Really gives the appropriate meaning to what outcomes and objectives mean when schools hype them.

            I always wondered why the Chinese Communists in 1987 treated Benjamin Bloom and his wife Sophie like rock stars or visiting royalty per her account later. This is the kind of manipulation dictators have always dreamed about and it is being imposed on schoolchildren in supposedly free countries with hardly anyone recognizing what all these terms and changes really mean.

          • JT-look at this graphic in this post

            It really gets at what it means to be using core disciplinary ideas and crosscutting concepts to guide perception. This is precisely what an assessment designed to measure higher order thinking and understanding is looking for. This shift is what ECAA mandates. So everybody wanting a visual has one now and these Big Ideas then guide how and when to act (skills in the graphic).

          • Look at this language. “Poor ghettos are the flip side of rich ghettos. Poverty is the flip side of super-wealth. The solution is shared prosperity, and that never happens without strong rules that limit market forces. It requires government—and government run by people who believe in the power of laws and rules to change human behavior, institutions, and society.”

            I took it from this post and am looking at the accompanying cited report.

            We have put this all together, but increasingly it is all being asserted in a single document quite matter of factly.

    • So this would suggest that robots are being made more lifelike and humans, via personalized instruction and contrived neural circuitry as a result are to be made more robotlike?

      Deep learning, just like the Hewlett initiative that is also tied to the UN/Brookings Learning Metrics Task Force. Never forget how many people involved now with K-12 education actually have AI degrees,

    • If you go to page 57 of the Competency Works brief I put up yesterday, you will find the announcement that Fulton School District, with its conversion charter and having been paid by the state of Georgia with a $ 4 million Enslave those Children First Grant, is piloting this kind of cutting edge, Soviet psych created under Stalin program. I knew it from sitting in meetings and knowing about EdLeader 21 and League of Innovative Schools and Digital Promise.

      It also says that Fulton has partnered with Marzano labs which means we are using that Taxonomy. No wondr the central office did not want parents Opting Out of the SLOs designed to mold minds and personalities into perfect little comrades.

    • CP-look at who is involved with this Place-Based vision and then marry to wioa and the access to molding the child’s mind, personality, and motivations given by ECAA’s current language.

      If you go to page 25 of the pdf (page 17 of doc) there is language about the community school that contemplates turning it into a job training center as well. Notice all the references to ‘needs’ and the use of data to determine whether needs are being met.

      This is indisputedly a vision for an organized society. How many politicians of both parties will walk away from a vision promising to eliminate poverty. Notice the mentions of the Promise Neighborhoods as an ed initiative as they were heavily featured in who Lamar invited to be witnesses.

      It is very frustrating that there is no dispute on what the true vision is or its troubling antecedents, but ISC seems to be the only place covering this.

      • LL-i am going to give you this week’s Attentive Reader award. With the book, the blog, and various presentations I have done, you are really in sync with where I am going.

        Perhaps that should be ‘sculpting’ formative assessment. Taking the child you sent to K-12 and reconstructing them from the inside-out. The new America where politicians and public policy majors think they get to tell us what we can be or must be.

    • That particular report is part of the same troubling initiative I wrote about here. MacArthur also recently gave one of its Genius awards to Angela Duckworth for her ‘grit’ work that is actually a reboot of Vygotsky framed as positive psychology. They and Hewlett are the two consistent funders of the UNESCO/Brookings Learning Metrics Task Force.

      I had not seen that one but I see James Paul Gee, a Gordon Commission member with his own ISC tag, wrote a different report in that series. That is really troubling because one of the makes my hands shake revelations this week is a paper that same prof just published on the use of data in education to remake who people are at their psychic core so they will be the kind of new citizens needed for a hoped-for future. Honestly it just assumes that public policy makers and theorists get to plan the future. It fits with this that just came out as well and it’s not news to me, but it’s so presumptuous and confessional.

      Anyway the new paper was published online about a week ago in the Journal of Educational Administration and History. Its title was “Governing Methods: policy innovation labs, design and data science in the digital governance of education.” Here’s the link to download with.

      Important to remember that nesta, which is mentioned often, worked with Michael Barber and Pearson on that troubling Oceans of Innovation report. Of course that fits in with the LMTF vision as well. Lots of connections at the depth we are at now.

      • Wow…the implications of the “Governing Methods” article are horrifying. “NESTA has enthusiastically endorsed a major agenda around ‘learning to code’ and actively lobbied for the introduction of new computing programmes of study in the National Curriculum in England. In short, through learning to code, young people are to become governable as the digital citizens required to participate in the digital governance of the state.” That last line is beyond horrifying. Also remember that NESTA contributed to “A Rich Seam,” the white paper Fullan and Langworthy (of Pearson) wrote. Brings all of this close to home.

        • It also cites “Alive in the Swamp” that I found so horrifying I added a reference to it in one of the last drafts of my book before we set it up to be published.

          Don’t you just love the parts where they admit that they are giving the public bogus reasons for why this is necessary and that it’s all about the need for citizens to be governable and be able to “participate in the digitised state.”

          I also think the reference at the bottom of page 262 to “international benchmarking of standards” is a reference to the Achievement Standards Network that Gates funded and Diny Golder was involved with as well as the New Standards Project. Its bibliographies always laid out the other initiatives globally tied to the same vision.

          I actually retitled the next post with a quote from this barnburner of a confession. Did you notice how the MacArthur funding described on page 257 ties this vision to the Learning Metrics Task Force that MacArthur is also a cosponsor of?

          My posts and book only seem “out there” because the goals I document and describe really are “out there” with the authority to get what they wish. There’s also language in this document that ties to the America Next report Jindal and the Heritage Foundation were touting. That’s how I read that carryover paragraph from page 253.

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