Science Fiction Made Real: Were We Ever To Know In Time?

This is not the kind of science fiction we read in Frankenstein where the experimentation is physical change. Well, it might be physical, but it will be at the mostly invisible neural level. MRIs would do it though. What lights up and where is a very good indication on whether classroom practices are having the intended effect of putting certain capacities like reason and logic to sleep, while building up the habit of channeling all thought through emotions. Hard not to think of that functional MRI study I went over in the book isn’t it? Political purposes for educational manipulation via the schools. Now see this October 2013 paper on using values analysis and psychology to shift and manipulate a “new electorate.”

The new central role of the behavioral and social sciences in trying to create and manage an entirely new and theoretical vision of the world turns out to be openly announced, repeatedly, if we know where to look. I was not particularly looking. In fact, my intention was to make this post about Connected digital Learning and how that initiative is openly grounding itself in Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, our beloved CHAT, and proclaiming the plan to remake the American economy and society in the name of equity for all. I have been writing for a while about the kind of personal, unconscious level, data adaptive software and gaming and virtual reality exercises will be accumulating. I have also been researching the new federally established Learning Registry (linked via its ADL partner to comparable global initiatives in other countries) and recognize it is about accumulating practices shown to create desired change at the level of a student’s mindset–what they believe and value.

So when the federal DoED this week put on a well-attended Dog and Pony Show around ensuring student data privacy Privacy and Online Educational Services (February 2014).pdf , my reaction could be succinctly described as “What a sham!” and “So not the point.” I actually have been doing my homework around the aspirations for Big Data. My musings though pulled up intentions I never would have guessed about where all these pushes around systems thinking and ICT were going. And what’s more it even announces its links to IBM (Smarter Planet from Conclusion of book), Microsoft (Models of the World, who knew?), Alex Pentland and his MIT Media group (that new Social Physics book I wrote about recently), and George Soros, among others. Oh, and working with Oxford University. Remember that 2013 book Big Data: A Revolution that Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think I wrote about?

Imagine forgetting to mention the FuturICT Project and its plans to remake the world and “manage the future,” that would be our future, you and me, around Big Data and social science theories? To shift to an interaction-oriented view and to seek to change human behavior and values and how we govern ourselves. How COULD you forget to mention those essential facts in a book on Big Data? In all these pushes about the need to shift to digital learning? I cannot quote the entire over grasping and very real agenda so here’s the link . I do want to quote a particular passage though that captures the massive, experimental plan of social engineering we are dealing with here (Page 6, my bolding and my voice in the brackets):

“In order to understand systemic risks resulting from the new interdependencies and develop the ability of integrated risks management [telling each of us what we can or may not do or know or value], we need to overcome the classical silo thinking and even more than that: We need a new way of thinking, a paradigm shift from focusing on the components of a system [that would be us] to focusing on their non-linear interactions [what we are to be allowed to do or required to do], as studied by complexity science [a theory not necessarily factual]. This paradigm shift will be of similar importance as the one from a geocentric to a heliocentric worldview (without which modern physics and launching satellites would have been hardly imaginable). It will promote a new understanding of our techno-socio-economic-environmental system and facilitate new solutions to long-standing problems.”

Not so fast on the likelihood of solutions. Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike lousy metaphors? They are generally the mark of either a weak mind or a deceitful one. When the prevailing perception of how our solar system was structured shifted to the heliocentric view, it was simply shifting to reflect demonstrable reality. The solar system as it existed. That is a far cry from analogizing to a paradigm shift grounded in theory of how reality and human behavior and human institutions might be restructured around ICT and Big Data. Especially hoping for new forms of governance with an emphasis on collective behavior and deferring to the democratically adopted consensus. These are theories designed to alter reality, not reflect it, and that is all the difference in the world in whether a paradigm shift is desirable. Especially one that is essentially taking place under cover of darkness.

All the intended modelling via the behavioral and social sciences, by the way, is openly acknowledged by FuturICT to not be an actual forecast. Its admitted purpose is to alter and constrain human behavior. The project intends to “develop a visionary information framework, considering insights from social sciences, complexity theory, and ethics.” It just keeps getting better and better. “The framework would analyze data on a massive scale and leverage them with scientific knowledge [behavioral, not physics!], thereby giving politicians and decision-makers a better understanding to base their decisions on.” And you wonder why the typical legislator or City Council member or Governor is gung-ho on the Common Core. What a king-maker vision.

It gets worse when you tie FuturICT with another recent report that seeks to base “long-term public service reform strategies on themes of reciprocity, responsibility, trust and partnership, and the need for a much closer understanding of how people behave, and what they want, need, and aspire to.” Information that Big Data, especially Big Data coming in through education and connected learning initiatives, has in abundance. Plus in preschool and elementary school it likely reflects what was absorbed from home too.

That RSA report envisions a cultural shift towards what can only be described as the kind of communitarian agenda Amitai Etzioni has always hoped for. No wonder RSA had Harvard’s Robert Kegan (also the OECD’s Key Competences) and his stages vision over to speak. No wonder the Positive Behavior Mandates in the US and the actual definition of Career Ready track back to Etzioni by both function and a cited reference source. No wonder the architect of RSA’s UK ed vision, Guy Claxton, can also be found as the co-author of that 2002 book Learning for Life in the 21st Century that coughed up the importance of Piotr Galperin’s Soviet psychological research to creating desired predictable future behavior.

The hardest thing about writing this blog is synthesizing so many books, reports, and videos that I read all the way through. Condensing is never easy, especially with complicated material, but these aims are quite clear. The use of education as the means is THE essential component of the sought transformations. These reports keep saying this is untried theory, but that does not seem to be stopping a massive social experiment on us, our children, our society, and our economy. Everything I have (too much to cite on a blog) aligns with this vision and the urgency with which it is being pushed from every direction. This idea that the public sector and universities and NGOs and foundations and Big Business are entitled to remake citizens in order to entrench their own power. It’s not an unprecedented aim, but, with Big Data and ICT, the tools of manipulation have gotten so much better.

The theories remain revolting. The way out is to understand this for precisely what it is and to recognize this grasping in real time. It’s why I write. This is not fun, but I believe it is necessary for there to be a way out in time. Perhaps the hardest part of that RSA report on Demand Management is its recommendations to politicians on how to sell this vision without really admitting what is being sought and transformed.

Guess what? We figured it out anyway. No chance of the trust of the public sector and governments that these theories all mention as essential happening now. Let’s see what we can do about the rest of this juggernaut going on at our expense.

We also need to strike the term ‘public servant’ from the way anyone is allowed to describe themselves from now on.


20 thoughts on “Science Fiction Made Real: Were We Ever To Know In Time?

  1. Whenever I read EdWeek columns about critical reading and Common Core, I get a creepy sense that these teachers believe it’s a good thing to displace the author of the readings they assign because the author’s authority threatens the authority of the teacher/school/educational establishment in some very unsettling way. So it’s not just about leveling differences between children in the class: it’s about leveling the difference between a tenth grade English teacher and the Shakespeare play she is walking her students through — the teacher and her ed school methodology and the educational institution become the focus of the lesson — the bureaucracy is the imperative — and the Shakespeare play is just the temporary vessel in which they can engage in these inane, jargon-driven routines.

    Replicating Common Core is a central goal of Common Core.

    All the religious fervor they bring to having Tablets in the classroom, and introducing templates for “critical” reading, and the four-block methods of comprehension — none of this is technologically advanced: it is garishly primitive.

    It’s a simulacrum of learning, directed by teachers who adore simulacrums and find them very safe and also find some deeply needed personal validation in reproducing this bureaucracy in the classroom. Thus the near-religious tone of these articles.

    What, me paranoid? Only in a Twilight Zone-ish way. Thanks, Robin, for keeping me awake at night.

    • Tina-

      It’s not about teaching the play, it’s using Shakespeare to illustrate some broader point about relationships and how human beings interact. In the Gordon Wells/Guy Claxton book I mentioned here and previously there’s an essay by Raqaiya Hasan called “Semiotic Mediation and Mental Development in Pluralistic Societies: Some Implications for Tomorrow’s Schooling.” It gets at your point about the author’s language not being the purpose. That kind of reading of course nurtures a sense of individuality as John Dewey himself noticed. No, “semiotic mediation is the inculcation of mental dispositions, that is to say, tendencies to respond to situations in certain ways and beliefs about what things are worth doing in one’s community–and how they are to be done.”

      You and I would call that an attempt at behavioral programming that gets at motivation on when and how to act. So Frankenstein becomes a means of role playing what it is like to be different and ostracized (well, that word is probably no longer in the high school vocabulary pantheon) or it could be a means of discussing a focus on Lookism. It will not have anything to do with why Mary Shelley wrote that story or who she was or the England of that time. Nothing may reenforce a sense of the constancy of human nature.

      Welcome to ISC. No need to stay awake at night. Let’s just be glad this time I was mulling over Seymour Papert’s inclusion in that Prezi presentation linked on the previous post.

      The sadness of the simulacrum of learning beyond this manipulation is the void that exists that the individual may not even appreciate. They just wonder where their middle class job is since they “have their degree.”

      • Did you see the editorial in the WSJ today? Just 11% of business leaders “strongly agree” that today’s graduates have the skills and competencies that their businesses need, while 96% of chief academic officers were extremely or somewhat confident in their institution’s ability to prepare students for work-force success. Only 75% of the general population know that businesses are looking for college-level skills, but 89% thought that colleges needed to change to meet current needs.The numbers are from two recent surveys reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

        A degree and a job don’t go hand-in-hand. Of course, I’m still wondering why my youngest son had to take a course in “Lesbian Studies” to meet the humanities requirements at his college.

        • Mike-at least one of those studies is out of the OECD to deliberately fuel this same fire. I truly do mean from every direction. What I have is both astonishing and sickening.

          I am really hoping that course was not at a private college, where you keep wondering how much you worked to fund such nonsense.

          We talk less about higher ed and graduate schools but I also track those stories. The belief seems to be that if the expectations for a type of employment are created but remain unmet, the fuel for the revolution begins to burn.

      • Exactly,
        In NY we are told to teach Shakespeare through excerpts to get the “arc” of the story in order to teach the standards. Not knowledge, not literature, not writer’s craft-just standards. Despicable. if parents only knew!

        • Anon- I was working on the required ‘close reading’ today using a recent ASCD pushed book and it was all about using lenses to see patterns and then applying the insights to the real world. It even said to appreciate how the world could be restructured.

          I know this story and I have tons of cites, but even I am shocked by the transformative coup at the level of mind and emotions that is being openly admitted to in these sources.

          I am trying my best to tell parents and protect the teachers who do want to pass on the knowledge accumulated over the generations. It remains incredibly useful and quite interesting. So many parents still believe that their property taxes and tuition payments protect them. Then something happens that rattles them to the core because it seems inexplicable. It’s why I am in this story for the long haul.

          And welcome to ISC.

          • Robin, I have been following this blog for months now, and I am so thankful for your diligence.
            I am a teacher and a parent, and am incredibly dismayed and outraged by what is going on in education. Our district has had groups of teachers working in committees to create mandatory common core units for use in all content areas at all sites in the district.
            When they returned to our site, we in the English department were told from now on we had to learn to “quit the lit”. Any literature we retain in the curriculum that hasn’t been replaced by bite-sized, shallow “relevant” nonfiction pieces is to be viewed as interchangeable and merely a vehicle to convey “big ideas”. Here’s the central idea used with Romeo and Juliet: “Who should be blamed for the events in the play?”
            The mandatory culminating activity involves writing a letter of advice (from the vast experience of a 14 year old) to the parents of R& J explaining what they did wrong in raising their children, and then to extend that to advice to parents today.
            This is “rigor”. This is “critical thinking”.
            This is conditioning.

          • Thanks so much Vic. I may know where this is going and why, but front line stories like yours are invaluable for convincing parents and others who do not want this story to be true that this is the inescapable reality. We can no longer discuss the idea of the Common Core. It’s the actual classroom implementation we must address and its evil intentions to control the inner mental images our kids are to have of reality.

            It’s not Skinner’s conditioning. These learning tasks and assessments have been created with Galperin and other Soviet psychologist’s research in mind. Galperin’s student is saying “if we control the nature of the cognitive activities, we can control the nature of the thoughts and how the world is viewed.”

            Thanks for your kind words. Only sunlight on these ideas can stop it.

  2. Robin-
    This is all rather mind blowing. And these planners have been doing this in the dark for decades. Dear Lord. The papers below address the specifics of Nudging and Demand Management and how the techniques manage behavior around specific issues.

    CCSS is systematized and systemic Nudging of a student population anywhere where pre determined conceptual lenses and architectures ( I cannot stand Cass Sunstein ) change values and behaviors without awareness.

    And of course pointing out the obvious I just love how all of Amitai Etzioni’s plans for new communitarian citizenship naturally indicate a huge reduction in services for everyone along with increased taxes for us all. He makes my blood boil.

    These planners are missing a few synapses. They are almost worse than the despots who rules us serfs 500 years ago. The Kings at least were landowners even if that land was acquired via sword point. These modern day despots are utterly dependent on income derived from the serfs in the form of their salaries or grants etc….Yet they view themselves in their role as Planners to be completely entitled to direct the great unwashed in whatever manner they see fit.


  3. In Cass Sunstein’s paper there is so much to reject, but Part II ,’The Rationality of choices’ is particularly awful.

    “The presumption that individual choices should be respected is usually based on the claim that people do an excellent job of making choices, or at least that they do a far better job than third parties could possibly do.19 As far as we can tell, there is little empirical support for this claim, at least if it is offered in this general form.”

    In the authors’ own footnotes they waffle on this determination but only just a little. Autonomy is hugely overrated in their world view. Just not for them I suspect.

  4. Trina Trent,

    About teachers being happy to displace the author. Sad to say, I think most teachers simply do not think that deeply about things. I think they are aware they are under assault, but I think they lack a true understanding about why they are under assault.

    And to all: where oh were in this world can a teacher teach actual content, with a focus on the individual child, not group think? Seriously, not a rhetorical question-does anyone know a city, state, or country that hasn’t been infected by this?

  5. There was an interesting article in the 01Mar14 WSJ on C2. Robert Sapolsky was writing about conformity and how humans and monkeys often demonstrated remarkable ability to do what everyone else is doing. This included ignoring alternative solutions and avoiding food previously known to taste bad, even if it no longer tasted bad. For the latter example, this included members of the existing group teaching new-comers to avoid the (no longer) bad tasting food.

    It struck me that a lot of what we’re concerned about is how conformity could be used to bend kids into ways of thinking and behaving that will be increasingly at odds with what we consider “normal”. At first glance, most of these thoughts seem to be not too far off the beam. However, how far could it be taken and where does it end? If you keep working on their minds in class, presenting only situations that lead to “desired” outcomes and reinforcing how these outcomes come from these situations ad nauseum, how far can their expectations be pushed when they are outside of the school? The expectation appears to be that the routines will become so ingrained that they will never fail, which pushes past any normal concept of teaching and appears to fall dead-center into brain washing or religion.

    Just taking that last thought, WUWT had a link to this video in comments: The video is a segment done on Apple products and how they have such a strange allure to certain people. Almost, per the video, like a religion. I got the concept of a ten year old merrily pushing a button and getting bells and cheers every time they make the correct “green” choice. And they’d happily do that because every one of their peers get the same treats. Next level, people only get treats when everyone makes the same choice, at the same time, and those that don’t get “special” attention.

    And the personally scary thing is that I’m seeing many of the same words and phrases coming out of the HR department where I work. I get the feeling the kids aren’t the only ones getting slowly programmed or weeded out.

    • Mike-it’s the conferences everyone is attending pushing the same memes. What is being done is turning people into closed systems. Highly predictable. I found out over the weekend that there is an 11th Amendment (that is what Swedish prof called it) attached to this work. Don’t point out anything that could interfere with the predictability of the models until you have found a way to play it. And ‘reflection’ and all the references to ‘metacognitive’ are ways to do that. “Monitor your own thinking.’

      Well, I am monitoring my own thinking right now by having a conversation via print on a blog with you, but that’s not what is meant. I think it helps keep people with poorly stocked minds who are habituated to responding from emotion following along that ‘image, associations, conceptual tie’ we encountered with the Galperin post. His name does not come up much outside insider literature, but boy does his theory and the whole function of Ascending from the Abstract (concept or theory) to the Concrete (everyday experience).

      One of the things I have been researching over this weekend comes from Christopher Laszlo’s work with Big Business. I recognized the last name and sure enough Ervin is papa. Ervin is tied to many of the influential creators of radical K-12 ed reform if you know where to look and I will explain that today. Christopher has Peter Senge doing the Foreword for his new book and he teaches at Case Western, home of the Appreciative Inquiry we have already encountered when we researched Kenneth Gergen and the Gordon Commission and the Taos Institute. And everyone is pushing altering consciousness or keeping the mind relatively empty so it can be altered later. This is in fact not a game about Kevin Bacon and 6 degrees of separation. In ed and this whole sale endeavour to transform perspectives in all our social institutions including work, the separation is never more than about 2.

      I have encountered the appreciative inquiry training at more than that Houston summit I cited in that post. It is being used with much envisioning of metro areas and in Atlanta I noticed the trainers were coming from the school districts. Lovely, huh?

      Thanks for the video link. I will watch it after I look at one more thing and then get today’s post up. I guess I am on another transformative trilogy, midway through, using insider’s own words.

    • Mike-thought you’d appreciate Mary Grabar’s story on the Next Generation Science Standards.

      What we know, especially after looking at the British Columbia Transformational Curriculum the RSA is now citing as a global model is that ‘know’ is about those Enduring Understandings, not facts like real scientists have to know. Just enough conceptual knowledge to either feel the need to act personally or ask governments to act. That’s the new purpose of science and these federal agency activities Mary cites fit right in.

    • Good link narciso, but not surprising to us. Perhaps we should simply admit as our neighbors to the north in British Columbia have that math is now to be about personal empowerment and global citizenry.

      Look at those Enduring Understandings for each subject area in light of what we know about this drive for social transformation. Education as primer.

  6. “During the years I was superintendent in Fairfax County, Va., I was struck by the difference between running a large countywide school system and my previous experiences as a suburban superintendent in New York. Just as I had benefitted from my relationship with my superintendent colleagues on Long Island, I craved a relationship with other large county school systems. That never came to pass during my tenure in Fairfax, but I recently discovered that Jack Dale, the current superintendent in Fairfax, had been holding discussions with Jerry Weast, then in Montgomery County, Md., and Alvin Wilbanks from Gwinnett County, Ga., about forming such a group. They had been meeting with EducationCounsel, the law, policy and advocacy firm that includes former Secretary of Education Richard Riley as a senior partner. At the superintendents’ request, we convened at EducationCounsel’s Washington, D.C., offices to discuss the formation of the Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium.”

    • LL!!!

      You found the proof. I just knew if Riley was involved in Knowledge Works, even though they are no longer hyping what they were involved in 3 years ago, and Education Counsel had acknowledged being involved with EdLeader 21 on 21st Century Skills, there just had to be a link to Riley.

      My local school district ‘s lawyer, who recruited the Gypsy Super and wrote that awful conversion charter EDWeek wants to tout is now connected to Education Counsel. He spoke at the breakfast meeting I was at last month after my comment about no standardized tests to allow ‘choice’ but requiring all schools of any type be accredited. It would mean both no objective ability to evaluate AND no genuine choice. He raised his hand to push the idea of the necessity of raising the graduation rates so students could continue on to post-secondary. It seemed like a way of constantly channeling taxpayer money to reliable change agent institutions to me.

      • I just realized we are having a conversation on multiple posts. The Consortium, according to the above link, was organized by the legal/advocacy group created by President Clinton’s Education Secretary. For those who have read the book, it means basically the overseer of Radical Ed Reform Try # 2 is pushing for the Consortium that is the topic of the next post about the reasons the Gypsy Supers are lobbying DC.

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