Straddling the Worlds of Action and Knowledge: Values as the Driving Force of History

Let’s go back to that aspiration for “Rethinking Patterns of Knowledge” from the last post since what has been admitted as being ‘controversial departures from the Western traditions’ is laid out in documents we were never supposed to see. We were to simply accept vague terms like ‘standards-based reforms’ being mandated for the classroom as within the unquestionable domain of anyone with an education degree. Even if the implementers and school and district leaders are totally unaware that there is an underlying controversy or that the real purpose of a required practice is that: “we are perhaps ready now to apply Marx’s dictum–that the point was not to understand history, but to change it–in a way quite different from what he intended.”

Now, shouldn’t that aim be accurately understood and not simply rolled into standards, pedagogy, and practices like Project-Based Learning or formative assessment via virtual reality gaming? Now the author of that quote, who also saw people as merely the steerable “individual elements of a complex system” went on to state a view of education and its new transformative aims at a neural level that we must pay attention to if we are to have any hope of avoiding the “leveling the playing field” plans for us. Seriously that is a quote from the Global Silicon Valley ed tech investment bankers and their 2020 Vision: A History of the Future publication that coincided with their well-attended summit in San Diego a few weeks ago. They even paid a stipend to make sure leaders from all the Congressionally sanctioned and White House favorite League  of Innovative Schools districts were all in attendance.

The conclusion laid out the vision of “initiatives to create equal access for all Americans to participate in the future.” I have covered the federal BRAIN Initiative before that began in 2013, but this document announced that the funding had been increased “from $100 million to $500 million per year, aiming to create a dynamic understanding of brain function in a decade–doing for neuroscience what the Human Genome Project did for genomics. Importantly, we narrowed the program’s focus to two key objectives; mapping the circuitry of the brain, and then applying this knowledge to improving the design of education models/product and curing cognitive disorders.”

We have to wonder if being insufficiently communitarian will become classified as a ‘cognitive disorder’ in the future given how that ethos has made it into everything from Career Ready Standards to what constitutes a Positive School Climate and unappareciated obligations now in Student Handbooks. Mapping the human genome though did not alter what had been mapped. The whole purpose of the BRAIN Initiative though is to develop education models, products, curriculum, and ed tech software to rewire that brain circuitry to create the citizens amenable to political planning of economies and societies in the name of Equity. I quoted equal access above as the intent. The document reiterated the point of the “Mapping of the Mind” yet again by pointing out that the point of “optimizing the way we learn” was “to level the playing field and create a more productive workforce.”

Productive to whose benefit is a fair question, but let’s go back to the “A New Logic of Human Studies” essay from 1988 that our title and the Marxian quote above came from where Frederick Turner said “our hardwiring–whose proper development we neglect in our education at great peril–is designed to make us infinitely inventive.” Inventive as in not bound by what has worked well in the past and with the “Rethinking of Patterns of Knowledge” emphasis, no likely knowledge of what has factually led to the great nightmares of history when political power had no check on what it could force people to do.

If that seems melodramatic, my tiptoeing through the cited footnotes regularly forces me to encounter passages like how transformative social and political theories always also need new concepts, ideas, and categories to mentally guide perception in desired ways. Then I see the shout out to someone notorious like a Marx or a Hegel and then I get to see the same concepts whitewashed and introduced as Understandings of Consequence that must have applications to the real world. The philosophers will write about the need to ‘control meaning’ so that ” a rational consensus on the part of citizens concerning the practical control of their destiny” can be ‘attained.’ The educators simply take the same aims and goals and enact it blindly and under coercion of job loss in the name of authentic learning and a New Civics.

We know that the National Institutes of Health is pushing a Science of Virtues with help from the Templeton Foundation because I covered that here
in March. We know Character is being added as a requisite component next fall for assessment in California. Now take that reality and tie it to this aspiration from Turner:

“The real forces at work on the stage of history are values. And values are uniquely qualified for a role both as tools to understand history and as forces at work in it. One qualification is just that: they straddle the worlds of action and knowledge, they admit candidly our involvement, our partisanship, our partiality and our power. Objectivity in a historian is an impossible goal in any case. Another qualification of values is that they give a kind of direction to history, the possibility of progress, which as we have seen is the logical precondition of any inquiry. [bolded because this is the entire focus of Project-Based Learning] Values are essentially dynamic, readjusting, contested, vigorous, as the word’s derivation from the Latin for ‘health,’ and its cognate ‘valor’ imply.”

So if we change values in students and the public at large we can change what motivates people to act to transform the world as it is. Transform the categories and prevailing concepts and ideas of thought and we can change people’s perceptions of the need to act. A powerful combination together in other words when both of those things become the focus of education, especially when locking in the changes at a neural biological level is the true goal. Now lets come back to the future and this terribly well connected report tied to Stanford and Linda Darling-Hammond and the call for “achieving an equitable school system that leads to meaningful, relevant, and engaging learning opportunities for all students.”

If that vision sounds like it has the makings for the very type of straddling called for in Rethinking Patterns of Knowledge, there’s more even beyond a conclusion calling for “evidence-based interventions that support deeper learning in contexts that further equity goals.” The report list three pillars for this new system states and local districts are to create and one of them is the undefined term–‘meaningful learning.’ Except it was not undefined to me because I knew it was a term tied to cognitive scientist Joseph Novak who helped develop all the theories of concept mapping and internalized mental models in the first place. Remember the useful partner to transformed values laid out above?

Meaningful Learning is actually a global phrase for Novak’s transformative theory of education he has been writing about since the 60s. This article from Brazil explains that “Meaningful Learning underlies the Constructive Integration of Thinking, Feeling, and Acting Leading to Empowerment for Commitment and Responsibility.” How’s that for the desired straddle? And conveniently locked into the legal obligation under federal and state laws as a new concept of accountability where no one is likely to notice the true nature of the required shift. Who would ever track this all back to being a Marxian Maker of History other than Robin who reads too much (and who notices even more) now that we are so fully on the right track.

How useful is this to seeing people as goal-seeking systems who can be redesigned at a neural level as needed for the hoped-for transformation? That paper was presented at Porto Allegre, which is known as the city that first developed the concept of ‘participatory budgeting.’ That’s the idea that the poor and various ethnic groups have a stake and the right to a say in determining how much, and for what, government budgets are to be spent. Just this morning one of my newsletters wrote about how participatory budgeting is catching on at the local levels of cities in the US as a means to promote Equity.

Use government spending to promote Equity and education to transform values and the internalized categories and conceptions of thought to “level the playing field” as the GSV report put it. Accountability needs ‘meaningful learning’ because insiders who create these policies and who wrote the Every Student Succeeds Act know quite well that “knowledge stored during meaningful learning is fundamentally organized differently than knowledge learned by rote, and affective associations are also different” as Novak put it in 2011. He also wrote that as “we learn new concepts and propositions, we are really learning the meanings of the concepts and the relationships between them. Through the process of meaningful learning, concepts and propositions are organized into the cognitive structure of our brains.”

That cognitive structure and what education can do to alter it is precisely what the US federal government admits it is now spending $500 million per year to map for the purposes of Equity and leveling the playing field via education.

In the next post I will cover the ‘affective’ component of meaningful learning using numerous examples from just the last few weeks. With a few trips back in time of course so we can have an accurate narrative of what is being attempted here instead of the Faux Narrative the Powers-that-Be had planned for us to simply accept.

36 thoughts on “Straddling the Worlds of Action and Knowledge: Values as the Driving Force of History

  1. Because the Judeo-Christian anchor is having its lines cut there has to be a state replacenent and that is Character. GAK! It is such a copy cat historical fail!
    At my kids k-6 school 10 years ago they had posters all over the walls saying ” CHARACTER COUNTS “. This was one of the red flags thst sent me down the rabbit hole.

  2. Speaking of controversial departures from Western Traditions. His United Nations, State Department funded Holiness, the Dalai Lama, that globalist poster boy for One Mindedness has developed a new ( for the new, New World ) digital “Atlas of Emotions”. In case none of us are quite sure what we are feeling from moment to moment as we stay “present” ( and Arational? ) we can refer to one of the 5 categories of emotions in order to interpret our ugly , messy, internal compass of feelings. We would’t want some errant, undirected emotion to get in the way of our goal seeking, meaning making lenses now would we?

  3. I know. I know. Simply stunning to find this is already in the NW.

    “So, what does a community wealth building approach to city economic development look like and how does it work in practice? Truth be told: we don’t yet know fully. As the Good Jobs First report demonstrates, city economic development today remains largely mired in a mindset that if applied to the sports world, would be akin to putting 90 percent of your resources into free agency and only 10 percent into developing existing players. But hints of a new approach are emerging in cities across the United States.

    For example, in Portland, Oregon, the Portland Development Commission has taken to using a participatory budgeting approach in which community members in targeted zones determine how best to budget city funds. Participatory budgeting has also emerged as a tool for spending CDBG funds in a number of other cities, including New York City, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.”

  4. Robin,

    The following quote from dear Willis Harman which I stumbled upon the other day at Jasun Horsely’s blog seems terrifyingly relevant to your post here. It was taken from Edgar Mitchell’s 1975 book ‘Psychic Research: Challenge to Science’

    ““But the postindustrial society will differ from that of Athens in important respects. Its slaves will be cybernetic, and the Faustian powers of its technology will introduce a new level of responsibility. It will have to be a learning-and-planning society. Helping to choose the future will be a primary responsibility of its citizens. . . Science, under the new transcendentalism, will be clearly understood to be a moral inquiry . . . it cannot be, as past science has tended to be, value-empty. . . . In this respect it will resemble the humanities and religion. . . Finally, the new science will become also a sort of ‘civil religion’”
    —Willis Harman, Psychic Research: Challenge to Science

    • Yes. Willis has made no bones about what was intended via the behavioral sciences and I have written about what he wrote about virtual reality in his 1987 book Global Mind Change.

      At this point all I can do is warn of the implications. Everything I described in such detail in my book remains the intended implementation and for the reasons I laid out. The addition now is the neural aspect and how that was the aim all along. One of the things I know but have not written about was that Daniel Bell, the creator of that “postindustrial society’ term, was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) in 1957. I have his writings from that period and he goes on and on about achieving Marx’s Human Development Society through education and the use of the behavioral and other social sciences and how they now understand what Marx hoped to achieve better because of Newly discovered writings that had now been translated than anything available to Lenin or Stalin.

      Five years later we have the global launch of the hybrid Marxist Humanism that we are still dealing with in earnest in 2016. It really is what FuturICT and Dignity for All by 2030 and all these ‘learning’ initiatives are really about. Also remember that Harman worked with Marina Gorbis who now heads Institute for the Future that works with KnowledgeWorks to develop scenarios of what ed should look like in the future. Gorbis grew up in the Soviet Union and emigrated to the US at 18 to study psychology at Berkley. All of her and Harman’s work can be seen like so many others as using education to make their political and social visions so. is where I covered Gorbis and her connection to Willis Harman.

      I have had time to get used to all this and know there is utterly no ambiguity to what is being attempted and how it all connects. Sooner or later anyone who wants to protect their children will have to be aware of what I have already laid out in Credentialed to Destroy. It is the rare book that is even more timely now than when it was written. It is also key to appreciating the rest of the story. Probably why the blog went nuts last weekend while I was out of town. I heard Diane Ravitch was angry someone cited my work. I am sure she never wanted this entire story to come out or have someone who really can translate what Lamar created with the Every Student Succeeds Act or where Opt Out actually leads if parents are unaware of formative assessment, especially via virtual reality.

      I can assure her or anyone else I know precisely why ETS created the Gordon Commission and what its members really have in common.

  5. Off topic but I want to report this. It is now clear that College Board wants to enable foreign students to cheat on the SAT (including the new SAT) and get higher scores than American students, so the colleges “with a clear conscience” can accept foreigners (full-pay) ahead of Americans. Otherwise they foreign testing dates would be within 24 hours of the US testing dates, instead of staggered weeks later.

      • Nothing specifically related to education, but lots of things that could apply to various possible models of an education environment — the same could probably be said of much of the field. I could spin out various proposals, but I don’t want to provide them any such free labor!

        The issue is not the existence of cybernetics, which is a perfectly respectable component of technology, but the ethics of applying its methods to children in school.

        • The ethics of applying it to the steering of society is how I would put it. No, it’s not about ed in particular but that’s a three day major conference that regards us as being in the golden age of cybernetics now.

          Some of the education stuff is explicit and others function the same without using the word. Much like I described in the book when Brameld was so proud of masquerading various Marxian theories without ever using the M word as a tip off.

          I am about to start on a book written in the mid-80s on the MIT Media Lab and its creation, which should be interesting. It was referenced in a footnote.

          • That does sound interesting.

            My own view is that as automation increases in society, cybernetics inevitably takes a larger role. Various actors in society will not be blind to it, and we can benefit from it as well as suffer for it.

            But I would put a boundary around the school. School kids, who are not presumed to have ability nor authority to make decisions for themselves, should have a more transparent environment where they are not forced to compete with aspects of compete with machine intelligence. Rather it seems they are being made a free-fire zone for it.

          • This is not news to any of us, but interesting nonetheless.

            The MIT book reminds me of the inadvertent confessions in The Harvard and the Unabomber book. Because the main topic is not education, the writers are very graphic about repeating what has been said to them about intended human manipulation. Same with that GSV e-book because its pitch was to tech companies so it is being explicit about the nature of the intended manipulation because the point is the effectiveness of the techniques. Nothing that would be said overtly to parents.

  6. John Hattie, writing for Pearson, explains how we must “overcome variability through collaborative expertise,” which is just a fancy way of saying all teachers must be in lock step. Collaboration here is a euphemism for conformity. Without it there is no such thing as equity for all. Too bad so few question the logic of these new pedagogies.

    • Remember Hattie is also involved with GELP–Global Educational Leaders Programme we have covered.

      This is the Transgender Dear Colleague Letter that came out today.

      This is the Emerging Practices list of guiding exemplars also released today.

      I do not think it is an accident that personal Perception is being allowed to trump biological reality here. That’s the theory on how to get change in existing social practices.

      • The world has gone insane. Really. Who wins the legal action after an attack happens? He had a right to be in the bathroom. What right does she have? Last I checked the minimum age for a concealed is 18 in some states. We will have some very upset daddy’s soon.
        You must share my views or I dictator in chief will make you with my phone and my pen.

        • Get this: Speaking to a friend the other day she related a story to me where her friend an attorney was in the process of defending a woman who had mistakenly ( while intoxicated ) walked into a mens bathroom in a nightclub and found herself in the middle of a drug deal going down.

          She is being accused of being party to the drug deal, the argument proceeding something like well you knew you could use any bathroom you wanted to( as can anyone ??) and so you knew fully well you were entering this mens room for this drug deal.

          Yep. This is happening.

          • What a load of *%$#.

            Digital natives designing, making, hacking. Puleese. More like Designing morphing muppet minds for deeply engaged doofus’.

            So sad. The turkeys have really got me down.

          • Get back up. The first ever World Humanitarian Summit starts today in Istanbul and they released this paper.

            It’s called “Building Data Responsibility into Humanitarian Action.” Fits with all the uses of it to get to the Equity and Inclusion edicts.

            Plus we have this admission today that the Smart City push is part of the vision of a cybernetic society of control.

            My morning reading is enough to make me want to go back to bed and pull the comforter over my head.

          • So this….

            ” Data and analysis are the starting point for putting people at the centre and moving from a supply-driven approach to one driven by addressing the risks of the most vulnerable.”

            …reads to me like a 21C version of From each according to his ability, To each according to his need.

            Data to make us all equal or Else. Equitable shares of nothing for everyone! So shall it be. Its the humanitarian way.

          • Which is precisely what the UN affiliates admitted to that I covered here in connection with FuturICT.

            Basically everything has now merged into a common template down to a 1977 conference in Denver where what I covered in the book as formative assessment was first laid out and termed a “cybernetic means of assessing children.” I have had Ken and Yetta Goodman explain what they were really up to with Whole Language and it was not what suburban parents or inner-city ones were told.

            I need to take a deep breath, but every parent wanting to protect their child should read Credentialed to Destroy over the summer. It really is the core in so many more ways than I understood at the time I finished it. I just knew it tracked with what was being legally mandated and the real reasons.

    • Under their program, if you get the gifted kids nobody will bother you, and if you have the slow class, there will be no end to the interventions visited on you until you are hounded out of the school.

      Maybe it’s too obvious to even merit study, but hasn’t someone shown that the main reason for student progress is the student’s ability, more than the teacher’s ability?

        • Yes and no. Less gifted students or students with challenges such as English language acquisition need more skillful teaching than highly intelligent students and those with rich cultural capital from home. The latter will “get it” even with mediocre teachers. But the former can be taught to levels beyond anything one could imagine if the teaching is done right. I have devoted going on a quarter of a century to demonstrating that this is true.

          • Deborah, like fine teachers everywhere, wants to continue to make transmission of knowledge the point of schools. The only way to do that is to gain widespread recognition, as my book laid out, that this is no longer the purpose of schools. Math, history, literature classes are not about teaching a subject, but about changing how students perceive the world and what can and should be done to transform it.

            That’s why trumping print for the visual image is so crucial to ‘standards-based reform’. Staley also wrote a book about that I have not yet written about in the crunch of getting my various graduates through their respective ceremonies. I am a little distracted today as my husband and last week’s graduate had just left the PDK “Good Neighbor’ air show about 20 minutes before that fatal crash of a Pitts aerobatic plane yesterday. Hubby had a pitts when the kids were young and I can remember getting him to promise he would never do low altitude stunts.

            David-the author of that MIT book, Stewart Brand, introduced Harlan Cleveland into his conclusion even though he minimized who he actually was. Yet he was talking about the need for a new economic theory to fit with all the changes to computers and communications technology. We know from my book that this is precisely what Cleveland was developing at the time although Brand doesn’t mention what he had to have actually known. He left out Cleveland’s Declaration of Interdependence work for the Aspen Institute as well from 1976. He did though provide a description of the link between Norbert Weiner’s work in the 50s on cybernetics and the MIT Media Lab. It goes through Jerome Weisner, the co-creator of the Media Lab with Negroponte. He had also worked with Weiner in the 50s. Knowing about MIT’s partnership with the UN on the Belmont Challenge and the Earth System Partnership from another book I own and the work on the 2035 global education vision with the OECD and Pavel Luksha of Russia on Re-inventing the Future makes a whole lot of research come together tightly as I can see all the networks that no one would likely admit to now.

  7. Intervention & Perfunctory Intervention

    Yes, Deborah, I believe you. There are a good number of stories of exceptional education successes with challenging students — take Helen Keller, for one. It’s the teacher who is the “miracle worker”.

    Furthermore, recent cognitive research supports your statement that advantaged students will likely “get it” despite quality of the teaching. BUT, it’s the novice learner, or the one who learns “differently”, or the one coming from an unenriched background, that needs the skillful teaching.

    You say that “levels beyond anything one could imagine . . . [happens] if the teaching is done right”.

    Seems like we need to get back to square one to get “skillful” teachers.

    Even while there is much attention to the notion of “intervention” too often, it seems to be more of a reluctant compromise than real, concrete help.

    With your vast experience can you suggest any literature (book or article) that can inspire us back on track again?

    I ask this question fully appreciating all that Robin has done to alert us to the system-wide agenda of moulding “the new man”, and her book is a real eye-opener and a spur to challenge these trends. But, meanwhile, kids need the tools to carry on and parents need to know they are making good decisions. In such a war as we’re in, several fronts are good strategy.

    • Tunya, Try Clear Teaching by Shepard Barbash for a description of the elements of skillful teaching. It isn’t a “how-to” but it does describe the principles.

      We have been working with a teacher who has an extremely low math group — ELLs, students repeating the grade, a very challenging group. The group has been falling farther and farther behind, and to my shame, it was a situation that fell through the cracks because the teacher did not ask for help and we were unaware how dire it was.
      There was one problem that required students to add two two-digit numbers plus an unknown, and with the sum given, calculate the unknown. It was a disaster. After I observed the lesson, I spent ten minutes writing a “script” for the teacher to use that applied the principles I referred to above, which included 1) consistent language of instruction; 2) no superfluous “teacher talk,” which confuses this kind of student; 3) unvarying process of attack, which students memorized and recited; 3) massed practice. I gave it to the teacher. Long story short, she reported that students were at 90% mastery on that type of problem after that lesson.
      Yes, it was mechanical. Yes, after a weekend, it may need reinforcement (these students need many, many repetitions. They generally don’t get as many as they need, so they never really nail anything.) But that kind of solid mastery of a particular math procedure lays a foundation for these students, and the next type of problem, if it again is presented using the principles I listed, comes easier. And the next type comes easier. And so on.
      I mention this because it is a real case that just came up and that illustrates the point I am making.

      • How Teachers Are Taught To Teach Is Another Issue

        Right, Deborah, makes perfect sense to me. For some students, not for all, there is a need by the teacher to pause the pace and structure rather mechanically and repetitively till the slower learner also “gets it”. Especially in Math, which does require sequences of understanding as building blocks. Feedback and reinforcement are what cognitive researchers say are some essential steps toward mastery and part of the move to switch from the “discovery” approaches. Explicit direct instruction has good research behind it. Especially for the primary years where skills are key to further learning.

        Unfortunately, it’s “attitude” that is a bit of a problem. Because of a kind of political correctness in the teaching business many teachers have been led to believe it’s “beneath them” to be scripted or told to patiently repeat procedures or have students practice.

        Right now in Ontario the whole province is to undergo wholesale crash courses and math camps for teachers — finally, because of public pressure — and there are resources and a mandate to do better. Of course, the attitude of both the teacher trainees AND trainers will be key to successes or otherwise.

        In the UK I’ve read that in the phonics retraining it wasn’t the subject so much as that the teachers felt diminished. They objected to how government initiatives were ‘done to’ teachers.

        Given that so many of our teacher training faculties slant more toward mindset than methods this is where a big part of the problem lies.

        • Tunya, there is no question that teacher attitude is a huge barrier. The method I describe in my earlier post “kills creativity,” don’t you know. Well, we saw what “creativity” did to those poor students until some order and system were introduced into the instruction. Scripting no more demeans a teacher than it demeans a Shakespearean actor — if the script is brilliantly put together and has already had all the ambiguities, incoherences, skipped steps, or muddy language excised. Teachers who think like this need to get over themselves and remember they are there for the students, not vice versa.

  8. Interesting that this is a current book from Brookings. Didn’t Etzioni and Boyte express the desire to reinvent or reimagine as well?
    “At its best, participatory budgeting leads citizens to ‘reimagine what is possible’ in how they are governed and govern themselves. Democracy Reinvented pushes past the hype that so often surrounds civic technology and participatory democracy to describe experiments that have actually worked and to give us a larger framework and vocabulary for civic engagement in the digital age. This is a book for political scientists and political campaigners alike.
    — Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America”

    • Yes to both, but all that fits with the Rockefeller Foundation support of Brookings that they acknowledge regularly.

      I have pointed out that Daniel Bell was at CASBS when he wrote The End of Ideology and Etzioni for The Active Society and John Rawls for his A Theory of Justice. In what I was working on this week from what was supposed to be a variety of disciplines but pulling in the same direction over the decades there kept being references to Thomas Kuhn as the support for this new theory of knowledge. Would anyone like to guess where he had a fellowship just before his ‘paradigm=shifting” Structure of Scientific Revolutions?

    • If I’m not mistaken, Slaughter is a great admirer of that Georgia futurist, Newt Gingrich. Or maybe it’s Gingrich who is a great admirer of Slaughter. Makes no odds.

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