Second-Order Change, Why Reform is a Misnomer for the Real Common Core

This is the definition of Second-Order Change used at a January 2012 presentation by Peter Senge and the Waters Foundation to the Nevada Department of Education. Second-order change:

“is doing something significantly or fundamentally different from what we have done before. The process is irreversible: once you begin, it is impossible to return to the way you were doing things before.”

Irreversible Change. That sure does remind me of a 2000 book by Vicki Phillips and Michael Barber that was the bible of the UNESCO ed vision all over the world in the last attempt at radical ed “reform” in the US.   Fusion: How to Unleash Irreversible Change-Lessons for the Future of System-Wide School Reform would be a worrisome title if its authors were influential people. Let’s see. Barber was Tony Blair’s Ed Advisor when he was UK Prime Minister, then on to McKinsey where he pushed ed reform globally by telling governments what the world’s “Top” Systems were changing. Now the Pearson Conglomerate’s Chief Education Advisor as of May 2011. Don’t worry. It’s not like Pearson is involved with the curriculum or assessments coming to a classroom and school near you. And not just in the US.

I will let you search out Vicki Phillips’ busy history as an Education Change Agent before she got to her current position at the Gates Foundation which is funding so much of the Common Core curriculum in preparation for those singular Learning Progressions that are mostly missing from the PR campaigns. And that funded what will become formative assessments in the classroom. What makes me feel even more reassured that Common Core is not in fact a noble effort to make content comparable state to state is knowing the main business actors in the global 21st Century Skills push, ATC21S, thank Vicki Phillips by name for her help. Doesn’t it make you feel like we lost an invite to some spectacular parties in scenic global locations pursuing how to use education to profitably remake the world around the meme of Sustainability while the ignorant masses don’t even know what changed, when, or why?

Since we are paying attention, let’s get back to where the influential Professor Senge said was the vision for 21st Century Learning. And if your instinct is to say “I don’t live in Nevada,” remember that the regional ed lab in Aurora, Colorado pushed Second-Order Change as part of its 2007 vision for School Improvement in the recreated OBE template we have already talked about . And Nevada administrators have now moved on to places like Charlotte-Meck to spread this systems vision and 2nd Order Change. And districts like Winston-Salem, NC; Portland, Oregon; Tahoma, Wash; and Carlisle are all mentioned in Senge’s Systems Thinking work as being part of his coalition of implementers.

“An Exploration-Vision of 21st Century Learning-Systems Citizenship Made Real Through Innovation, Systems Thinking & Education for Sustainability” does not sound like something I will be pledging allegiance to via a national flag. I suppose that’s what all the references to a new way of thinking and high leverage mental models for students are all about. It is portable and travels unseen and perhaps undetected within each student influencing behavior and guiding perceptions of daily experiences. It seems quite intrusive and rather psychologically precarious to me but then I am not an MIT Lecturer. I am sure their computer models are much more revealing about real kids in real classrooms across America getting ready for a real future as an independent adult.

Oh, not to be independent? Not a future based on the past? That may explain the disconnect. Let’s take a look at what Peter’s colleague, Otto Scharmer, has written about this Systems Thinking vision for the future. When Peter mentions Blind Spots or Social Evolution as he speaks, that is where we need to look for the definitions that will impact the school vision or the state or district implementation. And if any of you are breathing a sigh of relief that your teachers and administrators are doing Daggett Model Schools Training or Spence Rogers PEAK training instead, William Spady himself saw his OBE work in the 80s as comparable to what Senge was doing at the time. Except Spady was annoyed because Senge was paid so much more and Spady thought he gave a better speech. Lots of well-paid egos have been cashing in for a long time on using education to create a different kind of future and changing the students mental mindset.

Let’s look further for more insights. And take a deep breath and put down your beverage. You might create a sticky keyboard otherwise. First, as I have said repeatedly, this is about creating a new post-capitalism, non-fossil fuel based economy. Even the Scandinavian social welfare state is not sufficient. Systems thinking is literally about reimagining a future with little connection to the past. A future where emotions are the paramount drivers in people and anything that fosters abstract thinking, like phonetic reading, sequential math or sciences, and actual factual knowledge, are rejected because they stand in the way of action thinking (Scharmer calls it analysis paralysis).

The mental models of students have to be changed, Senge and Scharmer maintain, to save Mother Earth and to transform the “relationship between business, government and civil society from manipulation and confrontation to dialogue and co-creation.” In case the extent of the US and global social transformation being sought is not yet clear, this systems thinking initiative involved so closely with Common Core is intended “to facilitate profound innovation at the scale of the whole ecosystem.” Boy, that does sound like the Belmont  Challenge and the Future Earth Alliance again. And to think Scharmer was explaining that Blind Spot at a 2010 Economic Forum in China.

Th Blind Spot is the hidden source of human behaviors. What OBE advocates always refer to as values, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings and target expressly through SEL. Systems Thinkers get to the same point of trying to dictate human responses and behaviors but their theory and rhetoric are slightly different. Both will have most of us with invisible mental serfs collars guiding our “free” choices.  Systems thinkers are concerned that “most people relate to the future by reflecting on the trends of the past.” Systems thinkers reject the past as inapt.

“They see the emerging future as an advent, a coming-into-being of something profoundly new. To connect with such a field of emerging future opportunity we have to open up, let go of the past, and tune in to what we feel is a field of future possibility, something that might be possible, something we could bring into reality, a future that would be very different from the past. . . I call this deeper learning from the emerging future presencing. . . Presencing means to sense an emerging future possibility and then to act from that state of awareness in the now.”

To get to a Presencing state requires a rejection of individualistic thinking that the systems thinkers call the egosystem and an embrace of the collective. “Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Will” is the motto. This systems theory that is to be the basis for children’s classroom experiences under Common Core, not just some Fortune 500 execs on a pastoral retreat, is based on the “assumption” that each human being and each human community is not one but two:

“one is the current self, the person who exists as the result of a past journey; the other is the Self, the self that we could become as the result of our future journey. Presencing is the process of the (current) self and the (emerging) Self listening to each other.”

Not in the school classroom. If the so-called Blind Spot is an aspiration for US educators pushing Systems Thinking, then nothing in the US is sacrosanct anymore. There is effectively no impediment to tyrannical intrusions and the US Constitution is just a historical document, not a living source of protection against statist predations.

And these predations are expensive to boot. Our money. Our debt.

20 thoughts on “Second-Order Change, Why Reform is a Misnomer for the Real Common Core

    • I am afraid I am only using a small portion of what I have.

      You might want to also look into the Data Quality Campaign. That is a tremendous amount of data being gathered and Barber is also connected to that. When he hired Kathy Cox, the then Ga State School Super, that’s when he came on my radar screen. The DQC was apparently what she was brought to DC to do. Having met her several times I assumed whoever hired her was looking for a Front person who would not ask questions as long as the checks cleared and people remained deferential to her. Anyway, that’s how I first started looking into Barber. Now he pops up regularly usually in connection with UNESCO.

      And Vicki was at Marc Tucker’s National Center for Education and the Economy at one point. They were among the primary pushers of the 90s version of national ed reform back when everyone referred to it as OBE.

      Someone asked me if I could prove for sure that systems thinking and Senge and Scharmer were connected to Eastern spirituality. I explained that the ashrams think so and they should know.

      The solutions are in understanding the nature of the problem and appreciating this is not about what to teach and how.

      As I said in the most recent post this is an internal insurrection attempt. And we are being asked to fund our own destruction to boot. Handsomely.

  1. The goal of common core seems to be to integrate economic, social and environmental policies while creating a system of re-education that is education without representation.

  2. One might wonder how almost all the citizens have been brainwashed. First we had the National Training Lab. in Bethel, Maine then the Community Organizers based on Saul Allinsky’s theory. In an old 1995 “Engaging the Public: One Way to Organize A concept Paper Produced by The Industrial Areas Foundation for The National Alliance for Restructuring Education”. is the step-by-step way of brainwashing citizens into restructure American schools. One need not look any further than this paper to fully understand how this “snake-oil” transformation happended.

    • Ann,

      I am not sure I have seen that report but then I have no questions really on how this happened. I did write about the Alliance Network in Texas which is part of IAF. is the post from August. It is also based on reading Jean Anyon’s work and recognizing that there have been considerable incentives to keep urban schools broken. Then the Equity argument focuses an non-academic orientation plus it takes down capitalism as necessarily unequal. So is the Predator State and much less flexible over time.

      IIRC Bethel was using Kurt Lewin’s Action Research mantra. Now it is being nationalized. Cannot tell you how many mentions of him I have seen in just the last month.

      Second Order Change and Michael Barber and Vicki Phillips’ Irreversible Change are synonymous. I have seen that acknowledgement. Also correlates with Gregory Bateson’s Learning III that Engestrom so aspires for.

      Carpool time.

      • I read Senge, Daggett and the OBE government plant Bill Spady. Actually I met Spady in Arizona. I was invited to attend a Legislative meeting when they were thinking of putting in OBE. Spady was there with a woman change-agent. I refused to join their table. I sat at a small table on the side, and when a break was called, and I returned Spady was reading my notes. I just gave him a dirty look and turned my notes over in his face. These people are really slick.

        One must read Who Shall Survive? Foundations of Sociometry, Group Psychotherapy and Sociodrama, by J. L. Moreno, M. D. Beacon House Inc. Beacon, N. Y. 1953.

        Moreno actually first did his research on women in a mental instituton. He then sold the idea to Franklin D Roosevelt, and Roosevelt introducted the theory into government, and we having been going “stark raving mad” no pun intended, ever since.

        Almost all the system theorists in the USA are off-shoots of Moreno’s work. Demming (TQM) Senge, Daggett, Spady and you name them………on and on. Of course, Saul Alinsky’s theory is based on the old USSR (Pavlov) system of conditioning and the more modern version S-R-S of B. F. Skinner both being used to condition children and teachers throughout the world. The National Training Lab. promoted the Delphi Technique and most people don’t have a clue what is happening to them. I actually think few have escaped this subtle brainwashing.

        Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation, and the Community Organizers were most effective, starting in the churches then moving to “leaders” in the communities across the USA. One could almost pity the “followers” except for the destruction.

        Keep up your great work! They can’t brainwash all of us.

        • Thanks Ann.

          There is a doctoral dissertation from 2010 that consists of the recipient having interviewed Spady and he is very whiny. What an ego.

          I also find it interesting he does not cite Bela Banathy when he is clearly using his work and Banathy worked under him. Perhaps because Bel was so graphic about wanting to change everything. Not just education.

          The date of that book you mentioned is about the time Tyler set up his Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences that so many of these change theorists have done multiple fellowships at.

          Thanks again for the kind words. Writing a blog can feel like launching into the darkness and hoping you are piercing through.

          • Senge describes the Second Order Change in the workshop he gave for the Nevada Dept. of Education in 2012 (along with the ever present Waters Foundation). I believe Robin referenced that document in a prior post. Irreversible indeed.

          • Hi Old School.

            This is the original Senge post written after a parent asked me if I was familiar with him. I was but it was before I strated reading his books to appreciate the link to the economic vision as well.

            I talk about the Waters Foundation and their admission this is all about controlling personal behavior here.

            And to think the newspaper in Winston-Salem wrote an editorial Sunday that no longer using Senge for teacher training was just paranoia and believing internet rumors.

            I especially liked the part of the editorial that said Senge could not be a Socialist because Business supported him. Like every established business does not crave the protection of being the official government designated vendor of a necessary service or product. Some sources on the Internet are less naive than hard copy apparently.

          • Old School,

            I think the post you are remembering is the original Donald Schon post when he laid out his Generative Metaphors theory that would then guide student’s future behaviors. Developed from concepts already put in student’s repertoire that then get pulled out and applied in unfamiliar situations even though an expert would know they are inapt. Those influential false beliefs.

   is the post and I agree we are looking at the same thing. Paul Ehrlich, Chris Argyris and Donald Schon all refer to what we are calling Second Order Change here as Double Loop learning. I remember having a discussion in the comments last summer with a German reader who recognized double loop with ICT as creating feedback that was designed to change the user. In this case a malleable student entrusted by parents.

            That’s why it’s irreversible. It is being used to create deep-seated )because tied to wishes and emotion) changes in values, attitudes, and beliefs. None of this is accidental. I just reviewed the February 21 post where a 2004 essay calls this change in the students and hopefully the teachers too “pedagogical Praxis.”

            That Rand document from the Global Cities Education Network really is tying together so many of our posts without realizing it. And Engestrom cited Schon and Argyris as well. Numerous times. If this was a hunt the dogs would be going nuts in the frenzy of that scent of the prey growing ever stronger. And definitely nearby.

  3. As I was deleting and trying to stay ahead of my e-mails today, I found my reytped and updated articles that were initially published in a small newspaper “The Wisconsin Report, November 3 and 10, 1994. These articles were titled “Politics of the Radical Center”. Many people were mentioned in the articles, but I wish to quote only two “profound intellectuals”, Lamar Alexander, former Secretary of the U. S. Department of Education, former Governor of Tennessee, and now U. S. Senator from Tennessee.

    Senator Lamar Alexander appeared with Dr. Shirley McCune, senior director of the federally funded Mid-Continent Regional Educational Laboratory, and the considered expert at the time in restructuring education in the U. S. They appeared at the Kansas Governor’s Summit on Education in 1989. Alexander speaking on “The New American Schools” said:

    “Such a school would probably start with babies and go through the eighth grade. It would be all year long. It would be open 6 A. M. to 6 P. M. Every child would have his or her own computer and work-station. Every child would have a team of teachers that would stay with that child until graduation. These schools would serve children from age three months old to age 18 and would serve as a one stop shopping center for welfare services ranging from family planning, health care, and other social services….”

    Dr. Shirley McCune made the following statements:

    “….what we are into is a total restructuring of the society. What is happening in America not simply a changed situation and the usual winds of change. What it amounts to is a total transformation of our society…The whole ball game is this particular information capitol that we can put together…Secondly, to produce Human Capital…we have to prepare students not for today’s society, but for a society that’s 20, 30, 40, 50 years down the road…That’s called Social Change Function of schools.”

    In a planning workshop in Millard, Nebraska, July 2, 1983, Dr. McCune presented a draft of change which includes projected changes of FROM—-TO:

    From an industrial society to an information society.
    From a centeralized society to a decentralized society.
    From a national economy to an integrated global economy.
    From representative democracy to issue politics.
    From party politics to politics of the radical center.
    From business as usual to greater accountability.

    I’m sure this will jog some memories on what is happening today in all areas of our society. Nothing has changed from the above except a few new names and more “Systems Management”. Take care America, and guard your “Human Capital”—our children are all worth everthing else that we could possibly leave on this Earth.
    Ann Herzer, M. A. Researcher

    • Thanks Ann for supplying those quotes. It puts what I am explaining now into perspective without it just being a matter of she says.

      I think Fordham’s positions on the Common Core now, beyond who provides them financial support, are even more grounded in the work going on in that first GHW Bush administration. I think neither now Senator Alexander or Chester Finn wants to admit they were snookered by the real intentions. I sure hope they did not appreciate what McCune was really saying.

      It’s funny you brought up those quotes because Marc Tucker and Ray Marshall’s 1992 book, written well in advance of that election, just came today. So I will be going back in time to those very moments tomorrow.

      Today I am reviewing some economics observations about the history of these ideas we are dealing with. It is truly a reminder that there is really NOT anything new under the sun apart from nomenclature.

      For those of you not making the connection, the acronym for where McCune worked is McREL in Aurora, Colorado. Ground Zero for Outcomes Based education in the 80s and 90s. My analysis is that it never stepped back. It simply broke what was controversial into pieces with new names. It views the Common Core as Second Order Change. Designed to change the student and the society.

  4. Pingback: Treasure of Social Comity Requires Sacrifices of Individual Sovereignty - Agenda 21 News

    • Hi Ann,

      I am still posting, but I have been mulling over the implications of some of what I heard in St Louis vs what I have documented. Should get something up tomorrow.

      I have a new acronym you should appreciate that is a reminder of why we are in the mess we are in and why advocating for the local is no panacea. TOGAs–Translocal Oragnizations of Government Actors–like the National Governors Association, CCSSO, National League of Cities, that are private organizations of government actors with political power.

      Now think of that with Sector Strategies thrown in. Plus two of my kids needed multiple errands today and the college kid has called three times to talk.

      This menains a first-rate post for delving into what is being pushed.

        • Hi Ann. I hear that from time to time from people. Just do the subscribe link on blog again.

          I miss the days when I was gone all summer. I also miss the children my kids used to be. My husband has pointed out I should be grateful they enjoy coming home. I am, but the college kid has informed me she is bringing several people for spring break. Yikes!!

    • Well you can get on this way because we are waving at each other by Internet. I have heard your story a few other times. Have you tried a different email account to use to subscribe with.

      Glad you find the book helpful. There is a great deal of psychic treasure there. I used to get so entranced as I was writing I would set the alarm on the oven to remember to pick up my youngest at carpool. The one I just got back from a college tour with. ECAA makes much more sense once we are aware of what constructivism is really up to as laid out in Chapters 2 and 3.

      This is an older, but still terrible relevant, post.

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