Radio Silence and the Dog that did not Bark: Positioning Positive Education Globally

Sometimes the most telling fact for figuring out connections is the non-existence of something we would normally expect to see. For the intrepid detective Sherlock Holmes, it was the failure of anyone to mention hearing a barking dog on the night of a murder. The watchdog, then, must have known the attacker and let him by without alarm. It has been three weeks since the World Government Summit 2017 was held in Dubai. There were two substantial papers released at that summit. One, on desired Innovations in Government, has been written about. The other called “The State of Positive Education” has not. Radio Silence about a desired global paradigm shift so that “schools all around the world should place well-being at the heart of education” means that those of us who are paying attention do not get a chance to bark in alarm.

Why would we be so alarmed you may wonder? The Summit had two Americans as the keynoters on this topic. A U-Penn prof, Martin Seligman, with his own tag who we have previously tied to the UN’s World Happiness Reports and Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi, who is tied quite simply to virtually everything. For starters, it is Csik’s definition of Excellence as bringing together what we want, feel, and think into a single act that is in play every time we hear a desire for Excellence in Education. Think also of the federal civil rights laws and the repeated command for Equity and Excellence.

How does this tie to Mrs DeVos’ statement from the last post and the repeated push to federalize an obligation that every school have a Positive School Climate? Surely I don’t want schools to have a negative culture, belittling the less capable, or strange, student until they can barely look up from their pain. Of course not, but making how students treat each other,  whether they cooperate in joint projects, and whether they show ‘prosocial attitudes’ and reach ‘shared meanings’ of what abstract ideas must mean the new purpose of schools is too transformational to be something imposed under the radar in silence.

Last fall the State of Rhode Island created a Statewide Personalized LearningTemplate for its schools. A little discussed essential component of this student-centered transformation was a requirement for “school culture shifts” of the precise kind laid out by Positive Education. It is also a fundamental component of a Colorado district piloting ‘performance-based education’. Australia, relying on Professor Seligman’s work has crafted a Positive Educational Practices (PEPs) Framework published in 2008 by the British Psychological Society’s Journal. It stated that the “major focus of the positive psychology movement is how to facilitate flourishing lives that promote individual and organisational wellbeing.” Happiness, flourishing, mental health, and ‘what makes life most worth living’ sound like such tremendous goals. Wouldn’t it take someone with the heart of the Grinch, before his Christmas epiphany, to oppose such a focus?

Readers in the United States still unsure about how widespread this focus is and just how much has been put in place under conditions of silence should know that the National Institutes of Health and fed ED have already been funding Positive Education to create “classroom interventions.” It satisfies the criteria for ‘evidence-based’ under federal law and ‘scientifically-based practices’ in legislation passed by states. Last July, the author of that summit paper, the International Positive Education Network, IPEN, held its first ever Festival. 850 delegates from 30 countries came to Dallas, Texas for the event. Apparently those Essential Knowledge and Skills Frameworks Texas has in place marry well with Positive Education.

One more example, this one cited in that Summit Report IPEN created: fed Ed recently announced its “new ‘Skills for Success’ grant competition, aimed at improving students’ mindsets and learning skills. The awarded projects will involve more than 10,000 students in various school districts in the US.” Those districts may brag about the money as demonstrating they are on the Right Track locally. Bet the grants will not be touted as being a Positive Psychology experiment. There are five listed foundations in this approach to education: Social and emotional competency, positive emotions, positive relationships with peers and teachers, engagement through cognitive and character strengths so these can be developed at school, and students having opportunities at school and in the community to develop a sense of meaning and purpose. No need for Personally Identifiable Information at all.

Would anyone like to guess how often anti-bullying is cited as a reason to shift to Positive Education? I bolded the word ‘strengths’ in the last paragraph because the provided definition reminded me so much of how Excellence is also defined. “A ‘strength’ can be defined as a natural capacity for behaving, thinking and feeling in a way that promotes successful goal achievement.” With all the mentions of prosocial actions and instilled values, it is not too clear exactly who will be setting the goals that each student is to achieve. Do remember Mrs DeVos said we all have moral obligations we may not abdicate. I suspect she will just love Professor Seligman’s definition of a ‘meaningful life,’ at least she will if anyone at DoED describes it to her.

“a meaningful life is one that joins with something larger than we are–and the larger that something is, the more meaning our lives have. [Seligman] states that life is given meaning when we use our signature strengths every day in the main realms of living ‘to forward knowledge, power or goodness.'” This really is NOT education in the traditional sense and reads like training for collectivism so that students will not question an obligation to act from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. We will cover more proof in the next post that whatever the personal intentions of Mrs DeVos or Professor Seligman or others pushing this template, it truly is creating the desired consciousness and personality traits and habits needed for a shift away from the individual’s right to decide their own pathway in life.

Actually I will close with a statement Seligman made in June 2009 for the Oxford Review of Education when he answered the question of “Why Positive Education now?” with “What is all our wealth for, anyway?” I am tempted to pretend to be Tonto when the Indians are attacking him and the Lone Ranger and ask “who is we?” but then no one thinks wealth is easier to come by apparently than politicians and tenured profs. Here is Seligman and the reason for the Radio Silence:

“General well-being–how much positive emotion, how much engagement at work, how much meaning in life our citizens have–is now quantifiable and it complements, and makes sense of, GDP. Public policy can be aimed at increasing general well-being and the successes or failures of policy can be measured quantitatively against the standard.

Prosperity-as-usual has been equated with wealth. The time has come for a new prosperity, a prosperity that combines well-being with wealth. Learning to value and attain this new prosperity must start early–in the formative years of schooling–and it is this new prosperity, kindled by Positive Education, that the world can now choose.”

I bolded that word ‘kindle’ so we can have a chance to make this choice ourselves rather than have it imposed at summits we were not invited to or educators hoping for federal grant money. Because what Positive Education seeks to kindle at the level of each child’s mind, habits, and personality is intended to turn into an invisible bonfire motivating his or her future behaviors.

It really gives new meaning to imposing a cultural revolution from the bottom-up and the inside-out.


12 thoughts on “Radio Silence and the Dog that did not Bark: Positioning Positive Education Globally

    • I did and look how convenient it will be for Mrs DeVos to just drop in on Crystal City and get fully up to speed on what she is pushing.

      Did you notice another one of their programs was at the Fairmont on Nob Hill in San Francisco? These programs sell out too. I love how in the World Summit IPEN report they spin this story of how Angela Duckworth came to Penn to do graduate work with certain theories. The narrative leaves out her behavioral science undergrad degree from Harvard.

      Basically when it became notorious after Columbine Tranzi OBE got broken into pieces and the 2002 launch mentioned is the Dispositions or Attributes part of Tranzi OBE or competency-based ed. The cognitive component neurobiologically locked in gets launched as science with the creation of IMBES at the Vatican we have covered at about the same time. 21st Century Skills also launches at the same time. Much of the PE work is also based at U of Melbourne. Left out is that that is where ATC21S is based. Mrs DeVos will be working with Cisco, Microsoft, and INtel along with the Ed Ministers of the 5 sponsoring countries.

      The only real local aspect to Competency is the physical location of the student and his mind and personality targeted for reengineering.

      So he or she can FLOURISH!!

  1. According to my Australian relatives, the system described has been so successful that parents are putting themselves under severe financial pressure to afford private schooling. I’ve already started a fund for my Aussie grandchildren.

    • The private schools are using this template too. They always target some of the most famous schools in an area and get the Headmaster or Mistress on Board. The article mentions targeting the posh Riverside School in Northern Manhattan.

      Here in Atlanta where I live the local paper just ran an ad where a tony school has a lecturer in mid-March teaching that Empathy is the most crucial of skills for students to master. is the PEPs Framework template I was using. Notice my comment above how this also ties to where ATC21S is based and John Hattie’s Visible Learning work.

      And welcome to ISC. We are dealing with the same evil aims and tools with some slight differences in terminology as Australia, the UK, Canada, the EU, South America, China, Japan, and Korea.

  2. Dear Robin,

    Jasun posted our interview this weekend- I referenced your work and its timeliness- you may be interested in how we have had our work and intentions co-opted-the best of intentions can easily morph into malevolence under the influence of personal and mis-guided intentions of others-like Seligman

    Happy to know you are still fighting the fight. Bravo!

    • Thanks. I am building up slowly to what I know so it is easier for newcomers to read, especially those who have not yet read Credentialed to Destroy.

      You should find this link’s vision of education to get to the Common Good economy illuminating. It fits with PEPs.

      “A Workable, Transformative Ethics-Based Alternative” needs a vision of Education where “one of the most important prerequisites for a flourishing Economy for the Common Good entails conveying new values, sensitizing people to their own human existence, rehearsing social and communicative competence, and setting an example when it comes to respect for nature.”

      I bolded the word ‘flourish’ there because it is common to all these documents as well as what the Atlas Network think tanks push too. It appears to be the dog whistle our Generalized Ears (to borrow Boulding’s term as it was created to be used) are not supposed to hear. Those in the know recognize the arrival of what Uncle Karl called the Human Development Society. I now have confirmation from Gorbachev himself beyond what was in my book that this is precisely what the term perestroika meant. The Third Way has to be engineered through the human mind coupled to a reimagined vision for the law and education. I am not speculating this is what it appears to be. Insiders are very graphic at a certain level. probably because they assume only insiders would be reading and have the Specialized Ears to discern what is being laid out.

      What a journey this has been for what started as a curious parent trying to figure out why a Lower School Principal was lying about what was shifting in a private school and why.

  3. This is why we do not need a Dept. of Education. They have an almost 70 billion dollar budget and nothing to do but sit around and think up lofty goals for the poor schlubs in the classroom to have to pretend to implement in lesson plans (I say pretend because these goals are usually nebulous and vague). If the Dept. of Education did anything of value, why are our schools getting progressively worse? I maintain that their mischief is the primary cause for the sorry state of education today. America did quite well educating it’s children before 1979.

    • If you read my book Credentialed to Destroy, you will see that the groundwork for what is going on now, currently calling itself PEPs and competency-based ed, sparng from redesign originally laid out in the 60s. Eliminating fed ED is a start, but the problem remains until the reasons for Tranzi OBE as I call Transformational Outcomes Based Education are grasped. Otherwise the local control of a child’s mind and personality can continue unabated. That is why CtD just becomes more relevant as this implementation proceeds.

      Otherwise, parents can fall prey to this False Narrative that ‘competency’ is a locally-invented remedy to the problems of education.

      Ponder the implications too of that graphic and that PEPs impose an obligation for students to come to a shared meaning of concepts and ideas.

    • This report Leverage Pointswas released yesterday by the CCSSO (the creators of the Common Core who had already moved on to the real aim of competency-based ed in 2011) and Results4America. The latter is tied to data-driven, evidence-based policymaking across all levels of government. Notice that the reality of this vision is the states, districts and schools having autonomy to pursue a particular vision laid out in ESSA for what is ‘evidence-based’. We know from this post that the PEPs Framework is being pushed as those very same ‘evidence-based’ classroom practices. They are likely to have a positive impact, show results, and affect student outcomes–all terms used in that report for what ESSA calls for–precisely because these practices are known to have neurobiological effects when translated into student experiences and activities in a given classroom.

      There is a common vision among all levels of government here. No one is independent. Everyone is acting like the orchestra where the individual voices are to meld into the desired harmonic effect. This blog now and my book Credentialed to Destroy exist to alert people to what that desired harmonic effect is and why this shift in the purpose of education is occurring.

      Please don’t fall for the fallacy that the level of government has any impact on the polyphonic harmony being sought.

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