The word ‘promulgate’ has several meanings per the always useful OED, but today I am using it in the sense of “to make widespread, as, promulgate learning and culture.” Lots of stories in recent days and weeks of the curricula planned beyond the links I have provided, including a Fox News story on Oregon’s Department of Education revising its learning standards, https://thefederalist.com/2021/02/08/how-socio-emotional-learning-became-another-vehicle-for-anti-white-racism-in-schools/ and https://www.dailysignal.com/2021/02/12/activists-outline-their-plan-to-push-black-lives-matter-in-classroom/ as recent examples. These are all rightfully outraged, but erroneously create the impression that there is a special place where these types of emotionally evocative curricula (to go back to the point of the previous post) can be avoided. No, not until the actual source of the contagion, and its true target, is understood.
That’s where ISC comes in as usual using my quite literally huge library of materials, which I mine to put things into perspective. The category White Supremacy is an example of an idea being used in the same twofold process first described in a Dutch book by Fred Polak from the 1950s called The Image of the Future. It won lots of European awards and fellowships for its author, including one at the inaugural program of the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) in 1954-55. Polak became close friends with the same Kenneth Boulding (see tag) who would create the systems science vision of education and helped found the social science-oriented General Systems Research Group that same year with fellows at CASBS. Kenneth’s wife Elise taught herself Dutch in order to be able to translate and abridge Polak’s book into English. That’s what I am quoting from:
Man’s attempts to push back the frontier of the unknown…can be seen as a twofold process: the development of ideas concerning the ideal future as it ought to be, and the unfolding of the real future in history, partly as a result of man’s purposeful intervention…The relationship between conceptions of the time-dimension, the future, and the idealistic ethical objectives of mankind for that future, has been a neglected one and offers a fruitful field for research.
Well, it’s no longer neglected and has been a major source for behavioral science research of the kind laid out in my book Credentialed to Destroy and now on ISC where we cover the twists and turns of a new vision of education and student learning. Neither actually seeks a return to the past or a ‘classical time.’ Rather, this new vision seeks concepts and images that:
picture a radically different world in an Other time, and they are imaginatively shaped in a way that they can be applied on behalf of mankind…The more general theory of images may be thought of as ‘eidetics’. This concept, derived from the Greek eidelon, ‘image,’ has a long history…[Not] enough emphasis [has been put] on the significance of the time-dimension in the dynamics of image formation and image propagation…attention must be given to the dynamics of image formation, both in the public and private mind, and the function of images in the economy of the individual personality and the social, national, or cultural group.
What do images mean, how are the meanings transmitted, and how do they affect individual and social behavior? Under what conditions do images change, and why? What can accelerate or retard these changes? How amenable are they to purposeful manipulation, in both the short and the long run?
The answer to the last question is quite amenable to purposeful manipulation, which is precisely how we should start seeing the New York Times’ 1619 Project or Howard Zinn’s work as well. It’s not about history as a body of knowledge, where someone is erroneously changing the facts of the past. This is actually about how education, as a social science, is a tool to where “social science is increasingly making use of these images to increase its analytic power.” That analysis is only the beginning though as this later quote recognizes. The point is to “control social processes” and redirect them to what john a. powell [see tag] described in his 2012 book Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society as the use of allegations of White Supremacy to change our categories of thinking to force “a renewed commitment by all of us to fulfill the promise of a truly democratic society.”
Before getting back to powell and his intention to use White Supremacy as a means to target and alter the unconscious mind to create his desired new kind of self and new kind of citizen, let’s quote again from Polak because powell’s techniques seem to be exploiting Polak’s insights.
The image of the future as such may be an important tool for interdisciplinary social science. The possibility that science may be able to predict and control social processes through analysis of existing images of the future, both private and public, and direct a change of these images, is a thought-provoking one… it is still not too soon to begin pondering the problems of controlled image-change. How could such a possibility be fitted into a democratic system of government?..If we pause to think what can be done with the minds of men…
And women. Boys, and girls. It has happened and is happening even more now. These aims of reconstruction are how we should view not just these White Supremacy curricula currently receiving so much attention, but also the Pandemic, the Holocaust, Reconstruction, the Charlottesville Hoax with the tiki torches, and, finally, the Insurrection at the Capitol. It’s about the Images of the Future and their potential to incite and justify transformational change in the minds and hearts of students at all levels of society. To quote powell again from his Afterword:
Although our brains develop partly though categorizing and organizing in ways that can be challenging in a diverse society, our hearts orchestrate a system that is hardwired to care and to respond empathically to one another’s suffering and joy. We can’t allow structures–economic or political–to block or blunt these connections…To embrace our commonality in an increasingly diverse public space will require new selves, who are citizens in the truest sense of the term: individual, interconnected, and inclusive in ways that reflect the highest aspirations of our nation and our species. This is a heavy lift for all of us, and it is particularly heavy for those who continue to organize around the myth of the radically isolated individual. The alternative–a just society–requires major realignments with respect to corporations and a remaking of our institutions and ourselves. But it is a dream worth dreaming and a fight worth fighting for.
I think that Dream fits with the essence of what ‘public policy’ is always about, whatever the expressed goals of any think tank, is, which is why we keep getting cries for School Choice that actually enable the planned mechanism of change when examined closely. I think it’s why there has been so much deceit surrounding the Common Core, competency frameworks, and especially CtD’s coverage of what I nicknamed Tranzi OBE. There is a desire for this kind of change to a just society grounded in the minds and hearts of a new kind of citizen. Powell mentioned the unconscious target, but his footnote went to a 2002 book Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious . It is that adaptive unconscious, a term I had never encountered before, that I immediately recognized as the true realm of Tranzi OBE, the actual language in charters for schools and districts, mission statements for private schools now, the Catholic Curriculum Frameworks, state Portrait of a Graduate mandates, and other redirections with the same aim.
Let’s finish this Part 1 on Images of the Future, the ‘adaptive unconscious’ with its “distinctive characteristic ways of interpreting the social environment and stable motives that guide peoples behavior”, and how it can be manipulated by quoting the ‘personality mediating system’ it creates. Yes, I substituted the word ‘manipulating’ for the original term ‘mediating,, but it fits with what media actually means and does. Media, whether print, broadcast, or social platforms for dissemination, has now set itself up as the Lighthouse that gets human perception to notice and then the Interpreter that explains the to be accepted significance of what got noticed. It is no accident that the Oregon pamphlet on Equity in its new curricula intends to target the ‘lived experiences’ of the students as the area of change to supposedly end White Supremacy. It gets at what Walter Mischel in 1968 found in a review of personality research (my numbering to ease the categories):
people possess a unique set of cognitive and affective variables that determine how they react to the social world. They describe five components of this ‘personality mediating system’ that guide people’s behavior:  encodings (people’s construals of themselves, others, and situations);  expectancies about themselves and the social world;  affect and emotions;  goals and values; and  competencies and self-regulatory plans. In short, they argue, people have distinctive ‘if-then’ rules that determine how they respond in a particular situation; for example, ‘If I feel I’m being ignored, then I get angry and aggressive.’ [Remember] a fundamental property of the adaptive unconscious is that people have no access to the ways in which it selects, interprets, and evaluates information.
The student may not know that, but personalized learning, formative assessments, and holistic, evidence-based strategies can all ferret that out, call it personalized learning, and use curricula to instill the desired images, ethics, categories of thought, and interpretive tools to be changed. Feelings and emotions can be changed through role play. Digital learning is a particularly rich source for mining and manipulating this ‘personality mediating system.’ The system each and every student has so targeting it for change is equitable and coincidentally, conducive to the sought change to “ourselves and institutions”. The other part of the rallying cry and civil rights mandates of Equity and Excellence turns out to mean getting at students at the level of what they want, think, and feel. http://invisibleserfscollar.com/excellence-means-education-putting-what-we-feel-wish-for-and-think-in-harmony/
Sounds just like a bullseye of the Adaptive Unconscious to me.