Stifling the Individuality of Thinking to Standardize WTPs–Ways of Thinking and Practices

Yes I do know it is summer, but the UN was busy last week putting out the global ed vision at a High Level Policy Forum we were not invited to (as usual). Plus my life seems to have calmed down from the multiple pots overflowing stage to just a slow simmer so let’s use this post as an opportunity to get out of the sun and heat and talk about these laid out plans for us so we will develop the desired skills and dispositions  , WTPs, “21st-century student outcomes” (iNACOL, July 10,2019),  or “the achievement of relevant and effective learning outcomes” from in the Beyond Commitments link. To really appreciate what all these references actually have in mind, let’s go back in time to 1967 when E.D. Hirsch was not yet writing about what every American needed to know. Instead, he was writing the following in his book on the topic of ‘Understanding’ called Validity in Interpretation. The passage really clarified for me just how learning standards or competency frameworks can quietly force ‘shared meaning making’ and prescribed ways of thinking.

The inadequacy of identifying textual meaning with ‘tradition’ or some other changing norm is seen first of all in the total impracticality of such a norm on the level of scholarly interpretation. Certainly, in scriptural questions, changes in interpretations can be institutionalized at any moment by an authoritative pronouncement about the ‘consensus ecclesiae’. Similarly, in legal questions, changed interpretations can be institutionalized by a pronouncement from the highest court. But in the domain of learning such pronouncements cannot carry authority. No one, for example, would hold that a law means “what the judges say the law means” if there were not a supreme tribunal to decide what, after all, the judges say. There could never be such arbitrary tribunals in the domain of knowledge and scholarship.

Now, when I read that passage, I immediately wrote “not true” in the margin since I have documented that Common Education Data Standards and UNESCO’s education standards classifications do, in fact, operate quietly as just such arbitrary tribunals. More fascinatingly, a few weeks after I read that passage and objected (with at least one cat as my witness), an Elements in Public Policy White Paper by Daniel Beland confirmed I was right in my analysis by laying out “How Ideas and Institutions Shape the Politics of Public Policy.” Once again I wrote in the margin of the paper that it’s no wonder think tanks of various purported visions keep misrepresenting how learning standards work or what Competency education really is. They are part of the process of quietly institutionalizing these ideas, just like legally mandated learning standards themselves.

Let’s go back to something else Hirsch wrote earlier in that same book where he pointed out that the “necessary requirement” for the “shareability of verbal meaning” is the “existence of shared conventions.” That’s precisely what learning standards specify, as well as prescribed DCIs-Disciplinary Core Ideas, Enduring Understandings, and other ways of stipulating the desired categories of thought students are to use. Here’s Hirsch:

An implication belongs to a meaning as a trait belongs to a type. For an implication to belong to verbal meaning, it is necessary that the type be shared, since otherwise the interpreter [aka each student in a standardized classroom] could not know how to generate implications; he would not know which traits belonged to the type and which did not. And there is only one way the interpreter can know the characteristics of the type; he must learn them. (For those characteristics are not usually ‘syncategorematic’ or absolutely necessary like color or extension. Even the Pythagorean Theorem is a learned characteristic of a right angle, no matter how ‘necessary’ it may seem once it is learned.) Implications are derived from a shared type that has been learned, and therefore the generation of implications depends on the learner’s previous experience of the shared type. The principle for generating implications is, ultimately and in the broadest sense, a learned convention.

I quoted that passage in its entirety because as soon as I read it I realized that everybody involved in education reform wants to control not just the meaning of words we decipher, but also the implications we draw from interacting with any text. It answered my question as to why suddenly so many states are pushing phonetic reading via regulation or statute after years of citing Marie Clay, Guided Reading, or a Balanced Approach. Because now we have conceptual frameworks in place to act as the circumscribing barrier of shared meaning that all students are to interpret with. That passage helped reaffirm my intuition that had been brewing this legislative season.

Even more confirming was this passage from a more recent book by Noel Entwistle called Teaching for Understanding at University which laid out the true purpose of the use of academic disciplines and what the ‘intended outcomes’ for the students would be. The acronym WTPs comes from that book complete with italics as the ways of thinking and practicing in the subject.

The great disciplines like physics or mathematics, or history, or dramatic forms in literature, were…less repositories of knowledge than of methods for the use of the mind. They provided the structure that gave meaning to the particulars…The object of education was to get as swiftly as possible to that structure–to penetrate the structure, not to cover it…[And] mastery of the fundamentals of a field involves not only the grasping of general principles, but also the development of an attitude toward learning and inquiry, toward guessing and hunches, toward the possibility of solving problems on one’s own…

Now let’s go to yet another source to confirm yet again what kind of desired mental structures and new ways of thinking, and the extent to which both will be politically imposed, from the related world of Classical Education and a book by Vigen Guroian called Tending the Heart of Virtue. It recognized the same point we have found behind the terms Guiding Fiction and Anticipatory Assumptions (related to UNESCO declaring last year ‘decision-making’ to be the new global purpose of education). As Guroain noted:

while not all seeing is believing, believing is still a form of ‘seeing’. Or putting the matter somewhat differently, one truly ‘sees’ when one believes. When one believes, then the scales fall from one’s eyes and one ‘sees’ into the deeper reality of things.

Or at least fervently believes that you do since this “way of knowing and experiencing the world is not the objective knowing normally associated with physical science; nor is it the subjectivity of solipsism. It is an intersubjective and relational way of experiencing and knowing. It is a way of interpreting the world that requires memory and a moral imagination; otherwise a moral self cannot come into being.”  Whether it is the so-called Right wanting to promote a moral transformation at an internalized level in the name of virtue necessary for a “Constitutional Republic,’ or an admitted progressive pushing the same transformation in the name of Democracy and Uncle Karl, the bullseye euphemised as Student Success or Achievement is the same in the individual human being. So is how it will be instilled.

Fairy tales and modern fantasy stories project fantastic other worlds; but they also pay attention to real moral ‘laws’ of character and virtue. These laws ought not to be high-handedly shoved down the throats of children (or anyone else). More accurately, they are norms of behavior that obtain in patterns of relation between agent, act, other, and world. Rational cognition is capable of grasping these norms. They become habit, however, only when they are lived, or, as in the case of fairy tales, experienced vicariously and imaginatively through the artful delineation of character and plot in a story.

See why we get so many euphemisms for what must be changed? Can any of us imagine the outcry if people understood that education globally is now about prescribing norms of behavior without that being readily apparent? Can we all see why standards of achievement and student success had to cease  to be about what is rationally known so that students had provide behavioral performances or tasks instead? Proves it is a habit and neurally hardwired to lock in that desired future decisionmaking and motivations to act.

Now that we have put what is aimed at into context and stripped away the deliberate vagueness of ‘outcomes,’ let me end with another, much shorter, vision UNESCO put out last week in the form of a comic book called ‘Let’s Work Together’ on the role education is to play in the UN meeting its Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. As GEM put it in a blog post on July 10, “every goal in the 2030 Agenda requires education to empower people with the knowledge, skills and values to live in dignity, build their lives and contribute to their societies.” If we wonder why implications of words must be shared and constrained, why knowing must become a matter of habit and grounded in emotion, and why our very categories of thought must now be prescribed in advance, it would be hard to put the reason more succinctly than this quote from the second page of that link since in order to “work together” apparently–

Education must teach people to think collectively and not individually.

Explains so much doesn’t it? I feel like I should end this post with a declaration of still being a defiantly individual thinker. Who would have thought that would become such an issue in the 21st century?

17 thoughts on “Stifling the Individuality of Thinking to Standardize WTPs–Ways of Thinking and Practices

    • ties boom to Derek Cabrera’s DSRP I covered in this mid-April post.

      Elsewhere in my comments on Entwistle’s book I noted he was essentially describing the function of Mastery Learning when seen as a cybernetic mental map to be applied to the interpretation of daily experiences. All of these aspirations go to turning the mind into a preplanned system without the presence of blueprints and those implications being appreciated.

    • Wanted to make sure you saw this.

      Starting next year, our students will earn credits and grades in Creative Know How (problem solving, creativity, collaboration) and Habits of Success (professionalism, project management, self-awareness) and Wayfinding (long-range planning, networking, negotiating college and career environments). This is both exciting and daunting. It’s what we’ve wanted for a long time, but it’s also forcing us to change and adapt quickly and to wrestle with our own shortcomings.

      You may remember I have warned about that MyWays Framework in previous posts.

      • I know you have a long standing interest in what is really going on in New Orleans’ schools.

        The Matt Candler mentioned in the article was the invited guest speaker at a Georgia Public Policy function several years ago before I fully understood the convergence being pushed by all the think tanks. In fact, he was one of the people that commenced the epiphany along with michael horn and a few others.

    • Did you see this?

      Calling this testing as today’s Atlanta paper does simply continues the deceit over what has changed and what it means.

      It also fits with the admissions in this link from UNESCO and its Transforming Education Conference for Humanity. Planetary Citizenship may be the agenda, but who is telling Georgia or NC parents?

      Pedagogically, digital technology in achieving these ideals can offer major advantages over other visualization media, because of the engaging, immersive and interactive (active rather than passive) nature of the learning experience they create (Balamuralithara & Woods, 20091).A key focus within digital pedagogies and building SEL competencies is the expanding possibilities of ‘gamifying learning’, making learning fun, interactive, self-paced and engaging (Griffiths, 20022). Digital games have the advantage of combining immersive technology with good pedagogical practice (Francis, 20063). Digital games are also helping educators answer ongoing assessment questions (Shute, & Ventura, 20134), develop kids’ intellectual and emotional intelligences (Farber & Schrier, 20175), and break down the boundaries between disciplines and cultures (Darvasi, 20166). Digital technologies offer a huge potential in transforming education that has yet to be fully explored.Building on the success of TECH 2017 and 2018, TECH 2019 aims at showcasing the role of digital technologies in enabling a shift from “transmissive pedagogies” to “transformative pedagogies” to create more peaceful and sustainable societies. TECH 2019 focuses at drawing a blueprint for harnessing pedagogical possibilities opened up by digital technologies to contribute to enabling a revolutionary shift in education from individual content acquisition to collaborative intelligence.

      • That’s nuts. If those bozos ever get in charge (and I know it’s a creeping thing behind the scenes) pull your kids out of that school! If they want their school to be only about equity, then they can have their own kids there and be equitable among themselves, but they don’t need my kids involved.

  1. Honestly, as to crude, intelligence-insulting ideological propaganda, this is about the worst I’ve ever seen. It actually reminds me of some of the old Captain Planet episodes I watched to get the gist of what was being done there. In form it actually has a number of parallels to the Mao-era propaganda films you can watch on Youtube (which do, indeed, have remarkable parallels to much of contemporary news and entertainment media).

    When environmentalists are called “watermelons,” this is exactly what one has in mind.

    Now, anyone who thinks “collectively” has already lost a significant part of their core humanity, and among these are those who become adept at sniffing out those who still dare to think as individuals and report them to

    • Consistent with what I linked in this post, take a look at the publications here and notice how often the paper authors are US education profs.

      Look especially at that Working Paper #7 on incorporating “Mindful Compassion Practices” into Digital Learning Platforms to “Cultivate Social and Emotional Learning”. Meanwhile, the parents are being led to believe these experiential, virtual reality platforms are merely “digitized textbooks”. Most have no idea the word “digital textbooks” are not, in fact, merely a textbook of information made available online.

      • This came out today from one of the think tanks affiliated with the global Atlas Network where Betsy DeVos was on the Board before becoming US Ed Sec. Remember her call to essentially push the IPEN global agenda? essentially ties the US and School Choice that AEI also pushes to MGIEP.

        And right on cue we also have this from yesterday.

        The institute’s games include:

        World Rescue: a narrative, research-based video-game inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Through fast-paced gameplay set in Kenya, Norway, Brazil, India, and China, you will meet and help five young heroes and help them solve global problems — such as displacement, disease, deforestation, drought, and pollution — at the community level.
        Cantor’s World: a game that educates people about the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) and how it complements other indices. In the game, players experiment with policy choices and experience first-hand the tug-of-war between short-term results and long-term sustainability. The participants play the role of the sole architect of the country and decide the specific targets for their respective countries.

          • Take a look at this

            At Living Cities, we are actively working to re-imagine a world without racial wealth and income gaps. We fundamentally believe that to truly change systems, we must envision an America where wealth is abundant and shared, where everyone has the resources and opportunity to realize their dreams, and where race is no longer a predictor of life outcomes.

            As a country, we find ourselves in a critical moment both socially and historically. To create an America without racial wealth and income gaps, we must imagine a society based on collaboration and interdependence. This approach demands that we reflect on our own personal accountability and our roles in the world. We are called to stretch, be uncomfortable, center humanity, and ultimately use our individual and collective abilities to build new, inclusive cultural norms.

            Those ‘new, inclusive cultural norms’ are what the most recent post was about in terms of the underlying connection. That popped out after I wrote it as I examined some of the additional connections, which actually makes sense since Living Cities came out of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations working together.

  2. “way of knowing and experiencing the world is not the objective knowing normally associated with physical science; nor is it the subjectivity of solipsism. It is an intersubjective and relational way of experiencing and knowing. It is a way of interpreting the world that requires memory and a moral imagination; otherwise a moral self cannot come into being.”

    This is pretty clear. We are not souls with a spark of divinity and inherent morality. No, without their guidance, we will be forever unethical brutes.

    They can go to hell. And they probably will.

    • Following up on the links to the False Narrative on the Common Core that commenced in earnest and what looks to be coordination in 2011 in light of its links to that F word paper I just responded to you with on another older post, I found this on the Neurobiology of Individuality . Notice Davidson’s bio leaves out is on the Board of CASEL or any of his forums with the Dalai Lama. Notice this conclusion:

      “…the very plasticity that can cause pathology is also the source of potential positive change. We can harness the potential of plasticity to shape the brain in more intentional ways to cultivate healthy habits of mind that can confer resilience. The prospects of having this perspective be widely recognized and adopted is personally very significant to me, for I believe that if we all took more responsibility for our minds and brains in these ways by intentionally cultivating healthy habits of mind, we can exercise the brain in ways that are similar to exercising the body and potentially promote positive behavioral changes that might increase resilience and well-being in a large fraction of the population

      If that isn’t clear enough, and its targeting fits with numerous other quotes I have now gathered from just the last few months, I get this invite to the UN HQ for an event on August 8, 2019 from 10-3 “for educators, students, ngo representatives, government representatives, and anybody wanting to create peace in the world.”

      How? “This conference will discuss how violence happens in the brain, and ways to work towards creating peace in our brains and project that peace onto society.”

      Good thing that even though I am distracted this summer by family matters, I am still paying attention and writing at least intermittently.

      Hope your summer is going well. Of all the things my autodidact mind did not want to become an expert on it would be Alzheimer’s.

      • Robin, congratulations on finally getting one of those invitations!

        It’s far from you but if I happen to be in the city that day (unlikely but not impossible) I will try to stop by. Should I tell them their old friend Robin sent me? 😉

        It seems the academic world might be able to make statements that relate to the topic of the conference, when “measures of emotional style” are ready to be reported, but they aren’t publishing them (yet):

        “Unfortunately, measures of emotional style were not obtained in this study, and so I prefer not to comment on the relationship between structural brain changes and emotional aspects of individuality.” The phrase “I prefer not to comment” is more like something I’d expect in a legal context, not biological research!

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