Sometimes these days my life feels a bit like that Broadway farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Yet another official power grabbing, crony rewarding, and individual subjugating report will come out that I catch and know I need to tell you about. Then as I continue my snooping into what is going on out in the real world, I get the perfect illustration of why this all matters. Even if you don’t currently have a child in K-12 or in higher ed.
I was going to explain this week’s release of the troubling “Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy” from our politicized National Academy of Sciences (again! John Holdren is VERY busy) where the “Science” is the Social Sciences, not Chemistry or Physics. Shades of what we detailed here.http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/if-reality-is-ignored-or-disregarded-when-do-we-become-a-state-against-its-people/ And Evidence is Needed because of the official belief and desire that our economy and society, an Ecosystem according to the Planners, needs to be managed by decisionmakers with the proper credentials instead of people themselves.
So I attended an “Innovation in Education Conference” on October 24 put on by the State Chamber of Commerce with official support from businesses likely to benefit from the new emphasis on digital literacy and technology and Sustainability and Soft Skills and a new Culture as the focus of the classroom. In the sought Mercantile post-Consumer 21st Century Communitarian world we have discussed numerous times http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/didnt-adam-smith-write-a-book-explaining-why-this-is-a-bad-idea-back-in-1776/ this is not a shocking concept anymore. I do wish though these vendors seeking government contracts and political protection from competition for their current products would quit pretending their education advocacy efforts were all “for the children.” Philanthropic endeavors where they just wanted to give a heads up for future workforce hiring purposes.
But I am a tough, old, experienced corporate negotiator who has seen a great deal of what makes a business work and recommended walking away from deals that do not. When your audience is politicians and public and private sector bureaucrats, they can be fine, well-intentioned people. But you get a bobbing heads agreement to social policy talking points where the individual with his or her own money on the line in a free market would say ” Wait a minute. What are you really urging?”
The dangers of the herd and trying to manage and rearrange an economy at the political level are even more acute when the policies sought go to changing personality traits of children and limiting their ability to think rationally at all. While locking in the policies as a taxpayer paid contract with a district Super or School Principal or even the state. As a Student of History, let me just say that Benito in the 20s and 30s had a name for that kind of Corporatism trying to squelch the individual in favor of the collective while profiting from the lucrative connections. And no it was not a movement of the Right. It was collectivist socialism with the revenues of the economy being split among political favorites in addition to government officials. Jonah Goldberg wrote an excellent book about it.
Back to the Luncheon. The talking point was the supposed need for a new kind of education for the 21st century centered around the student (let’s all chime in snarkily “to actually change their values, attitudes, and beliefs”) through making school about using computers and digital technology. Missing was the fact that Soviet Psychologist Lev Vygotsky recognized that these external cognitive tools would change people mentally once you made use of the device the focus. The known and desired hobbling effects on the human mind were conveniently left out of the presentation.
So whatever the convenience of the computer as a tool, Totalitarian governments have also rejoiced that it can become an Individualism Extraction Device. The repeated rhetoric about lecturing by the best prof or teacher you ever met is mostly an illusion to sell the devices and broadband and get it to the classroom. And education conferences in the US were giddily calling this digital tech initiative a Trojan Horse and a subversion technique to finally get John Dewey’s vision of democracy by 1990. Yes, I do have a copy of the book. And rereading it yesterday did delay this post.
So politically connected Joel Klein who is now heading up the company Amplify http://www.newscorp.com/news/news_536.html was the Keynote Luncheon Speaker. A state politician did the introduction and emphasized the constantly pitched need to change education for the 21st century economy. The intro made a reference to not needing the kind of education suitable for the 1960s. That was an odd decade to use since that is when the onslaught via federal government money coercing changes via behavioral and social sciences really began in earnest. It was also when SAT scores stopped advancing. Plus economists have noted it is when real per capita growth in the economy began to slow down dramatically.
So I am thinking a 1960s mind would probably be darn useful for a genuinely innovative 21st Century economy that really was about mass prosperity. And here is where I believe Joel Klein went off his prepared normal presentation based on quotes I recognized and reports I have actually read celebrating education that is visual and Tablet-based instead of intellectual. He got up and said, probably to emphasize the need for dramatic change, that traditional education was actually promoting an 1860s mind. Horrors was the desired reaction Joel wanted from his audience and nodding and bobbing heads in agreement is what he got. Not surprising as every experienced trial lawyer I know can play an audience.
But let’s think about this for a minute as I think this is an important herd lesson on precisely why you do not want the government using education to monitor and plan people’s personalities so they develop a communitarian mindset. Selling contracts with taxpayer funds to put devices in place that consciously seek to shut down the ability to think abstractly and independently. Manipulating emotions of 5 Year Olds via chosen vendors in the name of Soft Skills and Positive School Culture.
The 1860s mind being belittled and scorned was the Age of the Individual with almost universal genuine literacy. Did you know coal mining camps in the 1870s put on Shakespeare plays with widespread participation from the miners? The 1860s Mind fought the bloodiest war in US history because it so valued the individual that slavery became unacceptable. The 1860s Mind hatched the Industrial Revolution and the great inventions of the 20th century. And the greatest mass prosperity the world has ever known. And if bad things happened in the 20th century, they were never launched in a society or a culture that cherished the individual. They were always launched in societies that pushed the collective.
There is a mention in that Amplify press release above about Digital Learning leading to an “equitable society” which sounds like John Dewey’s little “d” democracy to me. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/why-quality-learning-may-be-the-last-thing-you-want-for-your-child/ . I think taxpayers have a right to know that is what is being sought and what the likely costs are even if they have already stupidly approved the revenues to be delivered up in an ESPLOST referendum. Taxpayers and parents should know that the real assault is on Axemaker Minds in suburban schools created at home by attentive parents. Now to be under organized assault at school. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/blending-sustainability-and-education-to-gain-arational-nonlinear-minds-and-new-behaviors/
I am going to close with a point from the Computers as Cognitive Tools book I mentioned above coupled with a point from a book on Ecological Literacy to get to a new Postmodern World that came out about the same time. The 1990 conference focused on the ability of the computer to be a pedagogical tool that would reshape the student’s mental processing. The computer can also be used to instruct and transmit knowledge but that is expressly not the function educators want. Recognizing that reality lurking behind the lovely videos or Powerpoint speeches, lets go back to Professor David Orr who we have met before.
As always the whole point of Ecology Policy Making has to do with “changing the way we think and what we think about” to shift away from the Modern World’s emphasis on the “I’, the interiorized ego” capable of rational thought.
“I think it is time to ask about the software of sustainability as well, and thus about the qualities people will need to build and maintain a durable civilization. . . [One with] people motivated by a sense that their wellbeing is linked to that of others and to other life forms.”
We have nodding heads about matters with unappreciated actual stakes and likely tragic consequences. We have a current federal desire for Policy Making via Social Sciences being sought in the name of implementing Peter Senge’s Systems Thinking and destroying lingering Climate Skepticism. Once again we see why the schemers do not want Axemaker Minds with knowledge of history coming out of classrooms or sitting in the audience.