Years ago, back when I was a college student, I spent a summer studying at Oxford University in England. I got to pull books and work in the reading room of the Radcliffe Camera and cut through worn stone paths in medieval colleges. For me, historical people and ideas are not something anyone supplied as a useful perspective on how to see the world. These are frequently people I almost feel like I could carry on a conversation with. I certainly have been known to carry on conversations about them. I suppose that is what makes it far easier for me to see when Ideas or people are being misportrayed. If someone has transformational plans for society, our economy, and our political systems and does not want opposition, what better tool than K-12 education? And if you want history to be at the core of a drastically revised curriculum so that “we can leave it to our students to apply their knowledge, values, and experiences to the world they must create,” what better reason can there be to manipulate those values and experiences and the Ideas that are now to substitute for knowledge?
The latter quote was taken from the 1987 “Education for Democracy: A Statement of Principles: Guidelines for Strengthening the Teaching of American Values” that those new Massachusetts standards we met in the last post said was the impetus for all the standards-based education pushes since, including the Common Core. The Ideas come from domain-specific literacy, which Reading Like a Historian said in italics just like that had been created by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices. As I discovered yesterday when I was at an Emory Law program that sought to interpret the Parkland mass murders through the ‘lenses’ of Domestic Violence and the Legacy of the Lost Cause, the offered Ideas and concepts to guide perception and the interpretation of people and events may have little connection to actual facts on the ground.
Likewise, at a legal program last fall that turned out to be very Idea-centric in what I was supposed to accept with ‘facts’ used merely to illustrate the point, it was very clear to me that the presenter hoped that his audience knew nothing about Henry VIII other than his much-hyped six wives. Likewise, when I read Larry Arnn’s book The Founders’ Key because of Hillsdale’s heavy involvement now in K-12 reform I discovered erroneous examples to illustrate his Ideas from first, Thomas More, and then poor Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart monarchs. My point is that in all these instances it was extensive, preexisting knowledge of the type that is now disallowed unless someone is a voracious, independent reader that led me to recognize that the offered Ideas or illustrating points were inapt.
The Ideas are generally offered up to appeal to emotions and to create motivation to push for transformative change. If, like me, cathected is a new word for you, I found it in the vision of this author https://nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/democracy-and-its-discontents which had common financing via the Bradley Foundation with the same new history standards called for in 1987 and the communitarian-oriented Council on Civil Society funded in the late 90s and then the 2003 Hardwired to Connect. Weigel’s call for ‘cathected individuals’ who would reject the ‘imperious autonomous Self’ reminded me a great deal of the Tranzi OBE remake of the students pushed in the 90s until it became notorious after Columbine and the Portraits of a Graduate or Learner profiles we are seeing now. It was all originally called for back in 1987 with clear ties to the Rockefeller Foundation, the NEH, and even Martin Luther King’s actual vision via his close friend, Bayard Rustin, who signed.
My dictionary defined cathexis as the “concentration of emotional energy on an object or idea,” which certainly sounds like this new Idea/Conceptual Framework: “we aim at nothing less than helping the student to comprehend what is important, not merely to memorize fact and formula.” “Notions and sentiments” was how the 1987 Education for Democracy also put it. At its core is always the Marxist Humanist vision where “we recommend that a central theme in the study of history be the dramatic struggles of people around the globe and across the centuries to win, preserve, and extend their freedom.” Cathected also fits with this MLK vision released just before his murder, which was cited this week because of its 50th anniversary. https://poorpeoplescampaign.org/index.php/poor-peoples-campaign-1968/ laid out the Bayard Rustin-inspired shift from civil rights to ‘human rights’ with its essential ingredient of economic justice for all. Dr King:
“knew that for the load of poverty to be lifted, the thinking and behavior of a critical mass of the American people would have to be changed.To accomplish this change of consciousness…the poor would have to organize to take action together around our immediate and basic needs. In doing, we could become a powerful social and political force capable of changing the terms of how poverty is understood and dispelling the myths and stereotypes that uphold the mass complacency and leave the root causes of poverty intact.”
That was MLK and ultimately number 1 of those Fundamental Principles is that “We are rooted in a moral analysis based on our deepest religious and constitutional values that demand justice for all. Moral revival is necessary to save the heart and soul of our democracy.” Those new Ideas and values need to be embedded neurally as practiced Habits of Mind. It may only be Catholic educators referring to the ‘cathected’ student, but the concept of cathexis, even if stated through euphemisms, is at the core of all these curriculum reforms throughout every type of education alternative I have reviewed. Having poked around on the Left and recognizing names like Diana Ravitch, Chester Finn, and Bill Bennett on the 1987 document lets look likewise to the supposed Right and what the Charles Koch Institute and other members of the State Policy Network are pushing that gets to the same place.
Back in March I saw an article from the Independence Institute with a title “How to Restore the Founder’s Vision of Liberty for America?”, which sounded rather Idea-centric and contrary to where my personal store of facts would take me. I did notice though that the broad Ideas would fit with the Marxist Humanist vision I keep encountering in my education research (without looking). At its core, it is where both that 1968 MLK position and the 1987 Education for Democracy, and thus the 2018 Massachusetts standards, all intend to go. The article was by a William Watkins so I looked up his background and saw he had been a fellow at the Center for Humane Studies at George Mason. That got my attention with their push of History Matters (covered in last post) and ties to Neuroeconomics. Looking into IHS further pulled up more ties to the insights and individuals we have covered at ISC and in my book Credentialed to Destroy.
Too extensive to lay out here, but every reason to look at their Learn Liberty initiative launched in 2011 to “Explore the ideas of a free society.” Me, I just want to go back to Oxford and get away from that now ubiquitous ‘I’ word, but my knee is still not ready for that much walking. So I settled in with a cup of Lapsang Souchong tea to watch the videos where “we tackle big questions about what makes society free or prosperous and how we can improve the world we live in.” http://www.learnliberty.org/blog/learn-liberty-turns-7/ gets you to what I watched. In case the word ‘Heuristics’ is missing from your vocabulary as it once was in mine, you can substitute other words–Ideas, Concepts, Lenses, or Guiding Principles. If there is a desire to get a ‘change in consciousness’ and a broad segment of the public is to have ‘shared meanings’, few things work better than common learning standards that get at How to Think and Ideas we should use in our decision-making.
I took notes on all three provided videos there and then saw one by economist Deirdre McCloskey (whose book Bourgeois Equality we quoted in the last post) offering up “Marxism in Two Minutes”. She omitted the part about Marx’s Idea of the Human Development Society where a remake of prevailing Ideas and values would be so crucial and just covered that Marx was wrong about the class struggle creating the desired consciousness. McCloskey believes Ideas create consciousness and I think her book title, like the euphemistic Learn Liberty phrase, is really an excellent way to hide the Marxist Humanist template. But like one of those old-fashioned holiday commercials from Ronco I can say “Wait! There’s more!”
Learn Liberty posted a January 8, 2018 video from a professor Howard Baetjer called “What is Communism?” that appears designed to mislead away from the Marxist Humanist visions that are so in play in 2018. The vision MLK wanted, what Education for Democracy sought to create, and what learning standards and competency frameworks also impose, no matter what level of government is pushing them. For anyone without Wolfgang Leonhard’s Three Faces of Marxism: The Political Concepts of Soviet Ideology, Maoism, and Humanist Marxism or Leszek Kolakowski’s Main Currents of Marxism: The Breakdown not just on hand, but read and marked up, I am not calling names or making allegations here. There is a template for little ‘c’ communism and when everyone is using euphemisms and Idea-centric K-12 education to impose that vision without scrutiny, we have every right to notice if we still can.
I think all these videos, but especially that Baetjer one want us to see communism only as “common ownership of the means of production” and never “private ownership”. Meanwhile, the K-12 programs being offered online, in public schools, in parochial schools, in independent schools, and frequently now what gets pushed on homeschoolers via what is eligible for Educational Savings Account reimbursement are ALL Idea-centric and value-oriented.
Have you noticed that all these pushes about Ideas do not seem to want us to strip away from the Idea As Supplied that veneer that it still means what we all traditionally associate with any of these terms? I thought we better start talking about all this while the Internet still remains somewhat free.
I really don’t want my generation to be among the last to have had the liberty to have a genuinely free mind.