Reimaging the Nature of the World in the Minds of Students Alters Future Behavior and Social Events

When I read something troubling and manipulative about change in the nature of education for the 21st century or in a recent book like America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, I have recourse to comparable pushes from previous decades to help me examine what is really going on. And what the likely consequences will be. Professor Lester Milbrath, who we met in the last post, also had a 1989 book Envisioning a Sustainable Society: Learning Our Way Out where he laid out the vision for the to-be-sought wholesale transformation that remains current today. Key of course is what Milbrath called social learning-new values and beliefs of cooperation that would guide perception and thus learning itself. Milbrath especially wanted “systemic and futures thinking modes” to be developed first in students and then applied by a variety of institutions until “the public could learn to demand this kind of thinking in the planning and decisionmaking of their governments and other social institutions. This mode of thinking would be a key component of a society programmed to learn.”

Now society is NOT demanding that kind of thinking nor that governments take on that kind of decision-making Overlordship but federal agencies have usefully (to themselves) seized this kind of coercive authority anyway. Either by Executive Order or regulation or overly broad readings of court cases. And now of course the public sector wants Mindsets in citizens amenable to someone having such sovereign power. Over the decisions that history shows are best made by private individuals who have to bear the consequences of lousy decisions. In unlikely to be accidental timing, the Obama Administration in the US and the OECD and UNESCO globally are currently pushing wholesale transformation of K-12 and higher ed. They can thus try to cultivate worldviews that either embrace, or ignore, wholesale changes in governance of society and citizens.

We have already encountered the Humanist Psychologists like Maslow and Carl Rogers whose theories for change are so useful to turn to. Let’s go back to one of the main creators of systems thinking, Kenneth Boulding, and a book published in 1964, The Meaning of the Twentieth Century: The Great Transition, to examine the importance of what a person thinks the world is like. So we can understand why this is the bullseye in the middle of the noetic transformation template and has been for decades. Before I lay out Boulding’s quote, let’s follow it up with his next concession that what people “think need not of course be true.” As he says “It is sufficient to note that the presence of any image will affect a system in a certain way.”

So those seeking transformation first need to create beliefs about the nature of the system they want to change and then plant beliefs about why it is unsatisfactory, and then prime for what should be changed. Education has always been useful for this goal but the advent of computer gaming and immersion of students in virtual, deliberately created worlds, takes the possibilities of implanting the desired images to a whole new level. A fact quite apparent here for reasons that seem to have everything to do with what SRI has always pushed in education (more in a moment). Here’s the crucial point that schemers who want the world to now be guided by social science theories have long known. It’s time we all did too.

“the social systems of ants and bees are essentially static in nature and do not exhibit adaptation to the environment beyond what biological mutation can provide. With man, however, comes self-awareness and awareness of a whole system in which the self is embedded. This can produce conscious effort toward  a change in the system of the world whether biological, physical, or social.

In any human social system, therefore, the image of the world possessed by its human participants is a vital element in the over-all dynamics of the system. We cannot tell what the system will do unless we know what the people in it think of it, for what they think affects their behavior and their behavior affects the system.”

And that Crucial psychological fact with a capital C is what has guided higher ed for at least two decades now. Common Core and 21st century learning are designed to bring it to K-12, public and private, globally, in any country with a tradition of individual liberty. especially the US. Think of it as cultivating Milbrath’s needed Social Learning component. But also have no doubt about what is going on via education and its close ally, the media, that insist dangerously that we should “stop dichotomizing the world and develop a pragmatic, indeed a social scientific approach to the problem.” As when Boulding wrote that in 1964 and now, there remain groups that wish us harm just waiting for us to naively simply begin to “see mankind as a whole.”

Last week MIT announced a new videogame to teach students empathy called Quandary. Players “win the most points by accurately predicting each character’s reaction.” Helpfully the game is said to address multiple Common Core standards and be appropriate for grades 3-8. Now since the characters are not real people, the game is also a highly useful technique for fostering false beliefs about people and their values and what drives them. Unlike the real world or even an accurate history textbook, the Quandary characters will be driven by what the game designers want students to believe about the world. Those desires become the guiding images for students during their most pliable, personality formation, years. And in that post I linked above, game designer Jane McGonnigle was quite forthright in the intentions to use games to create images of a desired future and the need for change.

Both Jane’s boss, Marina Gorbis (see tag for her) and Willis Harman (discussed in linked post) worked during the 80s at SRI. Now I first became familiar with what used to be known as the Stanford Research Institute when SRI kept coming up as the grant evaluator for university partnerships aggressively pushing constructivist math and science on K-12 in return for multimilliondollar grants from the National Science Foundation. Just imagine how much better I would have understood the dynamic of why aggressive implementation (whatever the outcry or results) brought renewals for a new term if I had better understood SRI as a hive of Humanist Psychology. But better late than never as we evaluate this interview with SRI’s Director of Research in Informal Learning Environments being pushed by the MacArthur Foundation as part of their Reimagining Education digital learning initiative. is a good basic short overview of the belief about learning now being pushed by the foundations and the federal DoED. It asserts without proof based on desires for cultural change that “learning is not about knowledge accumulation and test performance, but about participating in activities that are well designed or that naturally provide an opportunity to become better at something.” Now if that sounds to you like a shift to Milbrath’s Social Learning without saying so, here’s a bit more of this new vision of 21st century mandated education. In these new school environments:

“it’s much more about kids trying, maybe failing, and maybe succeeding, all the while engaging with the materials and each other and doing so in ways that show they are attending to the resources and the possibility for building skills in that environment that help them solve a problem, accomplish a goal, or succeed at a game.”

Maybe Quandary? This is education that assumes a Great Transition is to finally be eminent. Seeking to create the Mindsets to make it so all while misrepresenting to parents, taxpayers, and teachers what is really going on. Lest we all rebel and tell the Malevolent Marshmallow Brain Superintendent or Consultant to quit trying to blow up the society and economy that produces the taxes that overpay them for their willingness to push such nonsense without scrutiny and usually with deceit.

That link mentions another April 2010 paper “Naturalizing Assessment” that I managed to secure with some appreciated help. In case you cannot get a copy, it graphically explained the whole point of such reimagining and new theories of learning and the nature of the classroom as being this newsworthy goal–Redefining Learning to Focus on How Well Prepared Individuals Will Be for Adaptive Behavior in New Situations.

Now the New Situations are of course the sought Great Transition wholesale social, political, and economic transformations being masked under euphemisms like Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community or Harry Boyte’s cooperative commonwealth or just the term ‘democracy’ as Gar Alperowitz likes to now use.

Let’s take a hard look in the next post on the erroneous assumptions in the required classroom implementations to get us to a new “sustainable” public sector centric collectivist society.

That no one tells us about unless we start with the Great Transition and trace backwards to the how.


14 thoughts on “Reimaging the Nature of the World in the Minds of Students Alters Future Behavior and Social Events

  1. Robin, Did you hear about the public school in Chicago they are transforming into a military school? I’m not sure if this is the first one, but anything Rob Emanuel does sends chills down my neck. I just think about the presidents desire for his own army here at home. Put that together with this, oh brother….

    Also Robin, was on a liberal education blog and over and over was called a Neo-liberal. What is this new buzz name supposed to replace, Free Market Capitalist? It’s scary listening to the teachers who have embraced communism.

    • “Liberal” is still the term used in Europe to describe someone who believes in the primacy of the individual. Revel talks about that. Bastiat and Edmund Burke are two other famous Liberals. It is where I would classify myself. Boulding talked a lot about ideology as a good thing in that book I cited and he saw it as something that went to how someone would define their Identity. I find people do like to label others as a shorthand for not listening to what you are saying, especially if you are heavily fact based and they want to see the world through emotions and expressed intentions.

      I saw something over the weekend that involved Chicago and pushing themed schools where parents think there is a meaningful choice but nothing is quite as it seems. That at the core all is emphasizing environment and social and emotional learning.

      This little c vision can look appealing if you fail to understand what happens to incentives in such a world. If paychecks have always magically appeared in your adult life, you can easily have no idea what actually produces wealth. You never appreciate that you like to have choices about what to buy and spend money on and what not to and then you turn around and sneer at “consumerism” as if there is no connection.

      I finished Speth’s book and it is just chock full of fallacies are Milbrath’s but these are policies attached to these ed reforms. Speth was cited Harvard’s Howard Gardner and Positive Psychology and Martin Seligman as how to get the desired change in values and consciousness.

      If you have read even the first chapter of the book, you can see why I see parallels to what Johann Fichte pushed in the 19th century. The Germans launched the Great War to prove the “Liberals” were wrong and weak.

      • Robin, Nothing they are pushing deals with reality. The very same intellects who are pushing all of this are the same son of a guns who championed all that has broken down our society in the first place. What a way to justify a job, destroy and then come to the resuce. It’s insane.

  2. Reading more about digital learning recently. My child’s school is raising money for ipads. (of course they are, and I will not be contributing to the cause,notice the sarcasm here?) I have been refreshing my memory on a seminar that I attended some years ago at my church with a well known PhD. The seminar was about our children and parenting in the digital age. Some interesting information came out of that day on how the focus of media impacts our children. The gaming and digital learning reminded me of this article and how the constant “on” in our children is not helpful for developing minds.

    • LL-do you remember my posts about the Social Brain Project in the UK and also contemplative education?

      Now the Garrison Institute (affiliated with Peter Senge on their Board) is pushing this October lecture (first of 6 now that I listened to the 80 minute program) called Beyond Belief.

      This implicates K-12 education because transforming the individual’s conception of the self and their values and ethical beliefs is seen as the means to obtaining the desired social and political transformation. And the extent of the assault does get hidden now under terms like “engaging all students” and teaching resilience to students.

      Not a week goes by that I do not see Mindfulness exercises being pushed on teachers and students. Frequently in Ed Week columns. We are intervening in emotionally and psychologically intrusive ways to ensure that students change from the inside out so they will act for change in their community and see themselves as interdependent on others.

      About midway through the program a speaker mentions the need for people to see that “I am who I am because of everyone else.” I don’t think that is true and it is a troubling focus to foist on impressionable young minds.

      Again the desire for transformation seems to be blinding us to the ethics of using schools for this kind of manipulation and the spiritual bankruptcy of denying knowledge so there is nothing to contradict the politically useful message that allows future easy manipulation by anyone aware of what is being promoted and how. It’s like the old subliminal advertising that sent everyone for popcorn before it became illegal except all this manipulation by education is not just legal but mandated by accreditors and politician and schools of ed and district charters and school governance councils dominated by public employees or consultants with a vested interest contingent on pushing the manipulation.

  3. Robin says, “the desire for transformation seems to be blinding us to the ethics of using schools for this kind of manipulation and the spiritual bankruptcy of denying knowledge so there is nothing to contradict the politically useful message that allows future easy manipulation by anyone aware of what is being promoted and how. It’s like the old subliminal advertising that sent everyone for popcorn before it became illegal,”

    vs SRI in link posted above

    ” In the world we’re living in right now there’s really no value in accumulating lots of knowledge, but instead there’s value in having a foundational sensibility and appreciation of a domain of activity and knowledge enough where you can leverage and capitalize on that foundation so you can do more, choose to do more, in the future. ”

    There are a million miles between those two world views, and I am so glad I retired from the propaganda machine that is the current public school system and can see the reality of what and how I taught. I left while I could still look myself in the mirror every day.

  4. Robin, I am attending a Common Core Forum/debate tonight. If allowed a question or comment, what do you think would be the best one or two liner? My first thougth is a comment on how the whole debate is based on a false premise in the first place. That the Federal Government has no business, no constitutional right to dictate state and local education.

    • Anon-

      Whoever you are talking to is not in a position to judge constitutionality. All the grant money from the feds and foundations to adopt all this is designed to make politicians and school administrators not care.

      I would use the question/comment to get an important point about the actual implementation not just before elected officials but more importantly the community.

      To me that is the constant references to targeting the Whole Child or the social and emotional learning emphasis.

      Or asking if the use of computers becomes the main focus under Common Core, how is that not a shift to a vocational emphasis.

      In the early days of blog posts were shorter. They are a good source of basic info, especially on the connection to outcomes based education.

      Hope that helps.

  5. “All the grant money from the feds and foundations to adopt all this is designed to make politicians and school administrators not care.”

    Robin, can you expand upon this thought more? I have encountered this many times with supers and legislators. What is it specifically that was targeted and designed to make them not care?

    • Have you read this post?

      It is a good place to start. The feds are flooding states and localities with money through the various federal agencies that give politicians the idea that they only have to put up say 15% of the money plus there are the construction jobs at Davis-Bacon rates. It seems like free money and the locals say what do you want us to do? And it all just becomes more public debt but it destroys federalism.

      There is an organized effort called Grantmakers in Education and other areas that works hand in hand with this Corporatist/Remake America through the Democracy Collaborative vision. There’s also a Philanthropy Roundtable that coordinates with governments at all levels and Big Business.

      Part of the Regionalism effort is you pitch that certain regions have specialties like aerospace. Regions come to regard that area of the economy as their turf that govt and regulators will protect.

  6. After withdrawing my 12 year old from Olympia Pubic school I wrote this the day the school board held a pubic meeting for the 2014 tech levy proposal…..2 million on digital survelance and security -9,000 students
    The counsil may propose federal progress
    and spend millions on the schools
    assume senate functions to benefit education
    yet our children see this governance breaking rules
    Cash dollars from taxes are the focus
    Electric grid in hand
    standardize a generation
    and children in schools demand
    Computers don’t teach knowledge
    or facilitate true teaching or laws
    there’s an expensive computer in between the two
    and costly curriculum inherantly flawed
    Knowledge is passed from teaching people, personal truth in a health space
    we look to release a free minds passion to learn
    technology partnered education displaces the earning
    in this costly grid.
    As a citizen, taxpayer and caring mother
    I don’t gie permission to this counsil to digitally smother
    our future generation
    Our fisherman, our woodsman, mechanical engineers,
    shoemakers, farmers, and plumbers bring problem solving here.
    The hands and mind of coordination come first
    listening,seeing true teaching, like water for thirst
    Seeds are sewn -they can grow to be what they only know
    Money toward anything beyond common core and technology partnered learning will grow.

    • sqirl-

      You should locate the Learning to Adapt pdf I mention in this post. It was created by Education Growth Advisors and it does an excellent job of laying out just how circumscribing of knowledge and full of multimedia presentations this software is.

      If you go back to the beginning of the founding of P21 in 2002, the original docs make the connection of 21st century learning to Peter Senge and systems thinking and all the tech companies perfectly clear.

  7. Pingback: Amazing blog links Common Core and Gamification Efforts | MillerTime

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