That precise phrase first came up when I watched a tape from October 2011 of a National Network for Educational Renewal Conference explaining how “this time” we would finally get meaningful educational reform with the prevailing US culture and the whole child to be the focus of the school and curriculum. John Goodlad was quite passionate on the subject of the Good Society and its necessary conditions finally being in reach.
Then there was a controversy when a large metro Atlanta school district that had hired the former Dallas, Texas super was suddenly spending hundreds of thousands from a budget already in deficit for administrators to attend a William Daggett Model Schools Conference. I recognized Daggett as being one of the primary pushers of Outcomes Based Education (OBE) in the 90s. When I looked at his current work for the International Center for Leadership in Education, there was that phrase again about the New 3 R’s. So all that money was really being spent to make the school district’s Common Core implementation align with OBE. Great. I guess that is what a Gypsy Super does as I first described in a May 25 post.http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/gypsy-principals-gypsy-supers-and-engrenage-3-more-superb-things-to-know/
I have written about Outcomes Based Education before and how its real focus is to change the child http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/if-standardsoutcomesobjectives-what-is-the-real-common-core/. I stand by that today and would now like to point out that Professor John Goodlad was Ralph Tyler’s student and close friend and colleague. So there are numerous direct connections between that 8 Year Study and desired ed reform today. To really get a handle on what OBE looks like in a classroom and the kinds of explicit intentions I read all the time as I plow through official documents, let’s go Down Under to Australia which actually implemented the education reforms designed in the US and for the US in the 1990s. That’s what makes it a perfect place to see what full implementation of Transformational OBE looks like and what the actual aspirations for culturally transformative change look like. Take a deep breath or pour yourself a drink, whatever has a calming influence. Here goes.
The Australian Council of Deans of Education (2001) argued “old learning, which focused on fixed content knowledge, is now redundant as it fosters a rigid way of thinking which will be counterproductive for the workers, citizens and persons of the new future.”
Instead the Council in Oz insisted in language that fits perfectly with what I am seeing in official but not widely shared documents surrounding the US Common Core now:
“The new learning is less about imparting defined knowledge and skills and more about shaping a kind of person: somebody who knows what they don’t know; knows how to learn what they need to know; knows how to create knowledge through problem solving; knows how to create knowledge by drawing on informational and human resources around them; knows how to make knowledge collaboratively; knows how to nurture, mentor, and teach others; and knows how to document and pass on personal knowledge. In sum, this kind of person is open to autonomous, assisted and collaborative learning.”
Open there does seem to be a synonym for persuadable. Malleable. Ready for transformational, doesn’t it? Now the Rigor in our 3 R’s actually tracks back to the definition for Higher Order Thinking. Both Rigor and Higher Order are synonyms for deliberately confronting students with unfamiliar problems, uncertainties, questions, or dilemmas that have no fixed or linear solution.
Relevant means not abstract. Tied to real world problems in need of solutions. It allows an emotional response instead of a fact based analysis to be a perfectly valid student perspective. Relevance can also be satisfied by a vocational emphasis such as career pathways for all. A service learning mandate that gets students working in the community to try to solve real problems that they can then reflect upon at school is also a commonly cited means of obtaining relevant and authentic learning.
That gets us to relationships which brings in the Caring Economics of the previous post. That professor and Australian Student Wellbeing advisor, Nel Noddings, who wants to use school to instill competences of care in each student, wrote the Prologue for Riane Eisler’s 2000 book Tomorrow’s Children: A Blueprint for Partnership Education in the 21st Century. Partnership education seeks a radically new integrated approach to learning that changes student values and their filtering mindset for encountering experiences in the future.
Eisler’s point is to live on our Mother Earth in less destructive, more peaceful, equitable, and sustainable ways. It is a hard book for me to read because I think her recommendations will gut everything that does work now Even if it is not perfect. I think Eisler is guided less by reality than the utopian future she wants to use education to try to create. But factually wrong does not mean a book or concept is not still influential. And most of her readers will not have a working knowledge of history, economics, and political theory to rebut the assertions.
2007 brought The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics which has Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Deepak Chopra, and Gloria Steinem doing the back cover recommendations to read and embrace its tenets. Eisler again has many influential educators as endorsers of this alternative approach to restructuring society by fundamentally changing relationships. Relationships are the essential focus because Eisler says they “define our lives. They are the foundation for all social institutions, from the family and education to politics and economics.”
Partnership education wants to change all those social institutions and not just at the edges. As Eisler says in her advocacy for cultural transformation for the 21st century: “we can’t just focus on economics to change economic systems.” Either no one has ever told her or she has refused to listen. The economic systems that have worked and brought widespread prosperity were not designed intentionally. They arose spontaneously under certain conditions. Designed economic systems are what brought so much grief to the 20th century. She is misguided but this is the foundation for the new caring economics that is the background goal of so much of this global OBE/SEL ed reform:
“Economic systems are about a form of human relations. It isn’t the goods that relate, it’s the people. Therefore, people and the activities that support and enhance human life and human relationships, need to be the focus of economic analyses.”
She’s not kidding either. She wants to transform “the psychological and social dynamics of relations in all spheres of life.” No wonder we see so much focus on social and emotional learning and affirmative measures to redefine School Climate. And Purple America.
Common Core then is not about content to be taught. It is about the kind of values and attitudes and beliefs a person will need for this reimagined society. If this is a false, potentially tragic pathway, and I think it is, we really are careening towards an abyss if we blindly keep implementing Common Core as it is actually configured for schools and classrooms near you. This fall. 2012.