Surfing the Contrived Sluice to a Citizen Fit for Constitutional Democracy So that Marx Quietly Prevails

I want you to think of the kind of sluice you knew from the log ride at an amusement park with two sides that force all water down the same pathway. That’s how learning standards and competency-based frameworks actually work. Think of my explanation of that as equivalent to teaching a neophyte how to use the surfboard. My explanation of the term ‘constitutional democracy’ will show how Harvard prof Danielle Allen’s explanation of it as a compromise phrase in her appearances pushing the Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy is rather disingenuous. The exact term actually tracks back to a curriculum created for US K-12 in 1972 (with help from the California Bar) called Law in a Free Society [LFS} to promote ‘Justice’ and “What can be done to make the reality [of Justice} closer to the Ideal and What May be the Results of Failing to Narrow the Gap.” Readers of my book Credentialed to Destroy may remember my discussion of competency-based education and Freeman Butts’ vision for it. Butts’ work turns out to be tied to the LFS Initiative.

The ties of the term ‘Constitutional Democracy’ to substantive duties of Justice to be enacted politically then tie to John Rawls and his work and Allen’s statements in other interviews such as this make it clear she actually sees the term consistently with these prior initiatives and Rawls’ work. She is the one who brings up Amartya Sen in that recent interview and since he already has an ISC tag and I have his book The Idea of Justice that turns out to be dedicated to “The Memory of John Rawls” we can use that book to get at the real vision sought in the name of ‘constitutional democracy.” Helpfully Sen is quite explicit that his vision of Justice requires targeting “what individuals think, choose, and do,”  and also “individual valuation,” which just happen to be the goal of learning standards. What a coincidence! That Roadmap to EAD will come in awfully handy for creating the needed “level of conformity of ‘man-in-the mass’ or collective man.”

What all these initiatives call Justice is a ‘substantive democracy’ that needs to be enacted in the world. Sen actually quotes Marx by name on the need to change the world not simply accept it as is, but, to me, more fascinatingly, Sen quotes Antonio Gramsci and his infamous Prison Notebooks on the use of abstract concepts to invisibly force radical change. Gramsci wanted everyone to be a spontaneous philosopher, which certainly sounds a lot like “what every student should know and be able to do”. This will require targeting “language itself, which is a totality of determined notions and concepts” [just like competency-based frameworks] and not just words grammatically devoid of context.”

Sounds a bit like why Language had to be Whole and Literacy Balanced, doesn’t it? Sen goes on to note that:

As a political radical, Gramsci wanted to change people’s thinking and priorities, but this also required an engagement with the shared mode of thinking and acting…This is kind of a dual task, using language and imagery that communicate efficiently and through the use of conformist rules, while trying to make this language express non-conformist proposals. The object was to formulate and discuss ideas that are significantly new but which would nevertheless be readily understood in terms of old rules of expression.

Bingo! Exactly what Allen was doing with the term Constitutional Democracy and what we saw with the National Constitution Center redefining Liberty and Freedom towards communitarian ideals as the new functional definitions. When I came across a very expansive view of the Law and its purpose so that it “converts human intentions and values into legible directives” and it then went on to say this view of the law agreed with John Rawls that “In a constitutional democracy, …the public conception of justice is to be political, not metaphysical,” I was a bit floored by the implications of the Roadmap, Sen’s work, Rawls mentioning the term as well so I went looking for connections among Allen, Sen, and Rawls. Those were too extensive to document here, but I also came across the supposedly conservative think tank– the Acton Institute–promoting a 2016 book on Rawls’ theory of justice using rhetoric on the Founding Fathers’ ideals. Thank Gramsci for this accordion use of “concepts, notions, and principles.”

In late June, the Civics Alliance issued its version of Social Studies Standards for K-12 that also makes the focus conceptual more than factual and on changing the student in a way not dissimilar to what Sen and Gramsci want. Wilfred McClay wrote an essay in August on seeing the purpose of education as creating a desired narrative and

the formation of a particular kind of person, and thus a particular kind of citizen, who embodies the virtues of both inquiry and membership, and therefore is equipped for the truth-seeking, deliberation, and responsible action that a republican form of government requires. We are talking here about moral formation, in the fullest sense of the term.

Again as I read it my reaction was that everyone seemed to be headed toward the same vision of education and wanting the Common Core and competency-based education generally to be wrongly understood so that the psychological techniques embedded in learning standards and conceptual frameworks could continue to be used in ALL schools–public, private, on-line, and any vehicle available to outraged parents seeking an alternative. If all public policy and think tanks now is dedicated to getting Marx’s Human Development Society implemented via education globally without admitting it, it’s hard to imagine a more effective way. Since the only way to Surf the Sluice in my metaphor and not go under in the churning wave action is to know how these initiatives all function the same I need to lay that out. After all, most of the time we have to draw connections via function or footnotes. Every once in a while though we get something explicit like the recent EAD Newsletter that says:

RealClear Education has launched a new, free online resource for K-12 civic education at RealClear American Civics. Developed using the Roadmap to Educating for American Democracy and carefully curated by veteran civics teacher Enrico Pucci, the website includes essential articles, primary and secondary resources, lesson plans, interactive games, and visual and audio resources to aid civics educators and inform students.

This is that embedded link and that is tied to numerous think tanks and involved with the Civics Alliance above which might well explain why American Birthright, to me,  functions as it does and all the ties between the 1776 curriculum and competency-based educators I have noticed. Use education to drive the “evolving will of the people” by using learning standards to mandate what students are to believe and value. To force the very idea of knowledge to be more a matter of concepts and notions than a body of facts. In fact, the think tank AEI released this equating a fact oriented curriculum with Indoctrinating.

If the law is now to be seen as “no longer a static set of rules but a means of engineering goals among a system of actors aligned with the state” and education learning standards can be legally mandated we end up with civics education and ‘history instruction’ designed to get at “the decision-making capacity” of the student. That was from a fall 2022 Facing History program with Allen and Tufts’ Peter Levine. Both are involved with the EAD Roadmap. If legal standards now generally, and learning standards in particular:

standards allow humans to develop shared understandings and adapt them to novel situations, i.e. to generalize expectations regarding actions taken to unspecified states of the world…[They] facilitate communicating what a human wants an agent to do…[and create] a shared ontology of abstract concepts…{They can be] a consensus social choice mechanism to aggregate preferences and values across humans or time. Eliciting and synthesizing human values systematically is an unsolved problem that philosophers and economists have labored on for a millenia.

Not anymore! I wrote in the margin when I read that. If the problem of the ages is an inability to get alignment around “one ethical theory (or ensemble of underlying theories) being ‘correct,’ we simply embed the desired theory into learning standards. Suddenly, we have an invisible enforceable mechanism “to align humans around that theory (or meta-theory).” No need to bemoan any longer that “there is no endogenous society-wide process for this.” Nope learning standards, civics education, and the Roadmap all become the mechanism to enact Sen’s Idea of Justice. Education becomes the “consensus update mechanism to that chosen ethical theory” with few pointing out it comes directly from Uncle Karl and Gramsci too.

In this ambiguous concept of Constitutional Democracy we get that theory that Uncle Karl called Marxist Humanism that would require a Moral Revolution. Now though the Moral Revolution gets imposed as Civics and History education that is personalized, data-driven, and fits with the desired Portrait of a Graduate. No need to sell it to the populace, in it comes at the level of the mind, heart, and soul and suddenly we have shifted what the guiding ethical philosophy is about away from the individual without discussion and mandated an authoritarian vision where (quoting Sen)

the understanding of democracy has broadened vastly, so that democracy is no longer seen just in terms of the demands for public balloting, but much more capaciously, in terms of what John Rawls calls ‘the exercise of public reason.’ …the idea of deliberation itself…

I am going to end this installment of discussing how mandating Principles and Practices into education  can get us everything political radicals have ever wanted while it hides as Civic Education, Founding Fathers’ philosophy, or Constitutional Democracy with a poem Sen finished his Introduction with. Tell me if this vision doesn’t seem to enshrine Man as a Maker of History.

History says Don’t hope

On this side of the grave,

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme.

26 thoughts on “Surfing the Contrived Sluice to a Citizen Fit for Constitutional Democracy So that Marx Quietly Prevails

  1. Welcome back! I missed you!
    Hope you are doing well, and your kids too!
    Well this is pretty clear, so how do you package this antichristology to prove it to the masses? These people are religious about their ideas, they are so full of themselves, his poem, paleeeze!

    • This is the poet

      This may be pertinent:

      he does share with all of them the fate of having be en born into a society deeply divided along religious and political lines, one which was doomed moreover to suffer a quarter-century of violence, polarization and inner distrust. This had the effect not only of darkening the mood of Heaney’s work in the 1970s, but also of giving him a deep preoccupation with the question of poetry’s responsibilities and prerogatives in the world, since poetry is poised between a need for creative freedom within itself and a pressure to express the sense of social obligation felt by the poet as citizen.

    • I was reading portions of a very good, very wonky book written in 1987 I believe about Narcissistic personality disorder . The section I was focused on addressed how this type of personality disordered individual lies pathologically and WHY they lie. It turns out the Lie(s) is not as important as the Process of lying.

      The act and process of lying is a way for the narcissist to self regulate and defend against reality to “ create the world as it should be”. They do this unconsciously and fundamentally because at some point in early childhood they were traumatized via grossly insecure attachment to a parent(s).

      How is this relevant ? I believe it is for a couple of reasons. 1. The purveyors in the past and present of all of the garbage we are dealing with now I believe are narcissistic, anti-social, sociopaths . Big claim I know and I stand by it. They are calculating and they are evil. They have methodically studied over the last almost 100 years via their “ anthropological” research how to create mass insecure attachment in the traditional nuclear family which creates fertile grounds for sociopathy en masse within culture , which is then exploited even further via the technology of media in all forms.

      These people are expert gaslighters. Im not sure what the solution is to dealing with them as a group. Individually ignoring them is the only way to beat them. Its a very dangerous time .

      • I think this view of law is hugely dangerous, especially as coupled to education to implement a dangerous political theory and philosophy. It was a paper I quoted from here called Law Informs Code on incorporating these principles into AI software. The footnote goes to a 2017 book by Harvard U Press by Richard H Adams called The Expressive Powers of Law

        Law is perhaps society’s most general purpose tool for creating focal points and achieving coordination. Coordinated behavior requires concordant expectations, and the law creates those expectations by the dictates it expresses.

        That’s how learning standards work too and why we are seeing competency-based frameworks rolled out now for higher ed and legal and med schools. It’s more about getting at the belief and value systems and motivations to act than a body of knowledge. We are going to end up with a generation of doctors and lawyers who don’t know much but are credentialed to implement theories to change the existing world. The problem is that intentions do not dictate consequences and with so little factual knowledge we have pulled away the failsafe to predict likely consequences.

        On October 22 another one of those global pacts was released called the Daejon Declaration that fits right in with this post and the aims laid out as CD.

        A well-informed, critical and empowered citizenship will be the essential partner in navigating the significant changes to daily life that are so urgent and essential, challenging many assumptions in
        favour of reimagining our common future and realigning local and global relationships. In summary, we need a complete revision of our value systems. Commit to genuinely seek equity and opportunity for all and to foster a new
        narrative that reflects these values. This means forging new development paradigms that protect the local and global commons, measuring progress through the lives of the poor, excluded and vulnerable populations, and
        not the rich and privileged. It also means changing our systems – from degenerative to regenerative, and from divisive to distributive – by design…We acknowledge that this will require transformational policies at all levels to deliver a new paradigm shift on care where collective actions and knowledge are made equally and universally available to all citizens and that respect the rights of humankind and the health of our only planet…

        Our Pact is universal and seeks to deliver equal opportunity, fairness and justice for everyone and for every place. We will seek to replace the quest for individual advancement on the back of fellow citizens with the ethos
        of public service through reciprocal caring and sharing. The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of resizing contemporary life, and has proven how border-centred approaches to human mobility have repeatedly proved both ineffective and unfair. Free citizens will be the main engine of the social, political and economic changes that are essential in realising this Pact – therefore we will continue to stress the importance of a well-informed and empowered citizenship. The bedrock of this citizenship is ensuring that all citizens are empowered to achieve their potential, delivered through universal access to education, culture, and policies informed by a new feminism driven by people. The global feminist municipal movement will be central to ensuring that women and girls are not left behind and for fostering a new way of going about politics. Environments that are healthy, accessible, and institutions that serve all impartially will restore trust and boost hope, solidarity and optimism, liberating our collective imaginations, and instilling a new sense of what is possible at home and for the world. Human development and emancipation, the enrichment of everyone’s social capital, are our pole stars in leading the age of transition we are in towards a just and sustainable tomorrow.

        See how crucial changing the person from the inside-out is to all these transformative vision. No wonder Tranzi OBE was the original culmination of this competency-based education vision.

      • Check out the “Disaffected Podcast” series by Joshua Slocum. He really nails that/how the LEFT is an expression of Cluster “B” personality traits.

      • Mc, you are right on in your assessment.

        Some years ago, I sought the help of a therapist in understanding what I had assessed as a ‘corporate cult’, my first experience of these kind of leaders and this dynamic.

        She made very few comments…just handed me a copy of M. Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie”. Peck was one of the first to focus on Dark Triad types as possessing traits, engaging in behaviors that he could only characterize as ‘evil’. I reread POTL, recently, and it rang truer today than when I read it.

  2. Glad to have you back Robin!!!
    I have two screen shots of a NJ math curriculum “handout” that went home with a child to their parents which I found on twitter last week. Its so instructive with regard to what you are addressing here. Is there a way for me to post it? Could I send it to you?

    • Can you turn it into a jpeg?

      I will have to ask my kids since I lost my in-house tech guru.

      I got the link to a new NAS paper on Structural Racism and you gotta love all this angst about using metaphor, narratives, and concepts instead of facts now. Look at these keypoints:

      Key Points Highlighted by Presenters
      • The use of narrative and metaphor is important for better understanding the
      complexities of race and lived experiences of racism. (Stephanie Li)
      • The study of structural racism is complex given that race is continually being made
      and remade over time by custom, law, and scholarship. (Evelynn Hammonds)
      • Thinking about racism only as a form of prejudice makes it impossible to under-
      stand the drivers of structural racism; instead, a theoretical understanding of the
      racialized social system would be beneficial. (Eduardo Bonilla-Silva)
      • The key path forward in structural racism research centers on building inter-
      disciplinary frameworks that integrate scholarship from the arts, humanities,
      social sciences, and population health. (Margaret Hicken)

      This is the name of the chapter. “Setting the Foundation: Studying Race and Structural Racism Responsibly”

      No, we would never want to apply Marxist analysis irresponsibly.

  3. Social Studies was always the red-headed stepchild in the school curriculum. Back in the late 60’s in elementary school, I remember it largely as an annoying time of having to learn some hypothetical ideas that didn’t fit reality, then spit them back on the test. It was my introduction to role-playing.

    My fifth and sixth grade teachers probably suspected I didn’t really believe. They hated me.

    “Social Studies”, isn’t that “Socialist Studies”? Now they’re getting even more retarded and trying to teach obviously fake stuff to high school students as history, literature, even math is tinged with it. It’s dystopian, but also a sign of their desperation. The sheep aren’t being as obedient as they expected.

    • I hope you are right. I majored in History in college . I regularly deprogrammed my kids from their Marxian instruction when they were in school . I was successful with the older two now 27 and 25. But the youngest now 21? Not so much . Born in 2001 she is part of the first fully captured generation imho. She has this curious ( and indoctrinated ) pov that all of history began about 1945. She will consume all manner of “ facts” as related to Nazi -ism but sees no point in studying virtually anything in history prior to that time.
      She is not alone .
      It’s frightening to me to be perfectly honest . She is not a stupid young women and she is not even completely brainwashed however she is captured and ripe for opportunistic skewing of reality .

  4. Howdy…!

    Have you ever heard of Alison McDowell ? Her work overlaps yours quite a bit. Basically, in a nutshell she is exposing attempts by tptb to digitize life as we know it. Reduce everything to a binary dashboard that allows certain ones total control over society.

    In other news, I was wondering if anyone sees a connection between the failure of Bahamas based crypto FTX with the the situation in Poland. My theory is that an attempt to broaden the conflict in Ukraine was thwarted in the 11th hour in a back room backstabbing.
    In any case, if a billion dollars can vanish into thin air, I don’t feel so bad about owning nothing and being happy.

    • Your thesis is interesting. What intrigues me is that it is my understanding that the Bahamanian government is attempting to charge this guy/entity with an 8 billion dollar fraud claim, while the U.S. has yet to issue an arrest warrant. (Correct me if I am wrong.)

      I guess this beggars the question: “Who is the bigger banana republic?”

        • Yes, I had seen that article (excellent), which I think captures the tip of the iceberg. Attorney Robert Barnes called FTX “a cross between Theranos and Epstein”. I construed this to mean that it encompassed pharma fraud, investment scams AND sexual blackmail. If memory serves, Epstein had invested (pre-Covid) in sundry DNA research and had also financed Martin Novak’s studies related to the behavior of human populations during pandemics.

          All this said, though, SBF strikes me as a sort of central casting geek and not really the ‘genius’ behind this mess.

          I wonder, too, if it is possible to legally challenge the results of elections that were financed by a ponzi scheme???

      • OMG.

        Today, NBCUniversal News Group, debuted Changing The Narrative, a 14-part digital series sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), on the subject of advancing racial equity through the experience of racial healing. The series, available now on, explores the central themes of racial healing, including the progress individuals and communities can make by sharing stories and recognizing past and present-day racism, acknowledging everyday biases, and repairing our society by building inclusive relationships and transforming systems and structures.

        This was last night at Harvard’s Ash Center with nary a mention that Singleton has been doing this training with teachers and administrators of school districts for years. Very pricy too.

        What models are effective at advancing racial justice and sparking organizational change? Wednesday, November 30th, join the Institute of Politics and Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation for a conversation with two pioneering architects of racial equity tools for the workplace, higher education and non-profits. 

        Gail Christopher, Executive Director, National Collaborative for Health Equity and creator of the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) framework; and Glenn Singleton, Founder and President of Courageous Conversation® and author of Courageous Conversations About Race, will delve into the models they’ve developed and implemented with communities and organizations over several decades. Kim Janey, President and CEO of Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath), and former Mayor of Boston, will moderate the conversation. 

        Christopher used to be at WKKF, which is also the creator of what evidence-based means in education–the Logic Model Guidebook. I have successfully gotten released from a jury when case settled right before trial and was on a long webinar today. NBC News is certainly in a position to drive “Narrative Change” while pretending it provides ‘news’. AS I will show in next post Christopher is a major advocate of the vision that education can be used to “generate new will” by getting new thinking that is grounded in emotion. The Roadmap will work out well for her vision to create “a concerted or comprehensive strategy to generate public sentiment and will for a united and healed national consciousness”.

        Oh. Joy. Comrade. Her goals reminded me a lot of how Csik’s Excellence actually works–to get at what is thought, felt, and desired. Equity was also heavily featured in today’s webinar, which turned out to be funded by an entity also tied to neuroscience. All roads are leading to Rome again.

        • How do you think the Twitter revelations — apparently Musk handed over 1,000 plus pages to Matt Taibbi will impact CRT and related agendas?

          • Depends on whether those revelations get covered or not. We live in a world now where knowledge is being cultivated deliberately to be a matter of emotional beliefs rather than Facts. One of the competencies that arose last week to be deliberately cultivated via education is Critical Ignoring. So what if the Hunter Laptop story is an example of a contrary fact in the way of the Desired Narrative? Actual facts are not relevant to the 1619 Project because the point is to create the desired Mass Consciousness that both compels and justifies transformations at the structural and system level because of images in stilled in individual hearts and minds.

            This fits in with some of the discussions you and I have had in the past and your interests in general.

            Would you believe the current director of CASBS was also the Editor of the 1991 2 Volume definitive set on Marxism? That discovery is what can happen when you analyze someone’s aspirations for the social sciences by function. No wonder she tends to use the terms ‘citizens’ and ‘subjects’ as if they are interchangeable synonyms.

            Hopefully this week will be less eventful than the last one and I can write all this up.

  5. Robin,


    Think the author’s take on addiction as being a primary driver in Covid-19 related “mass formation’ is an interesting one, though I don’t think Desmet was all that wedded to the construct of group hypnosis. Seems to me that the authors agree that in the last stages of Covidianism, true believers will do just about anything to perpetuate associated rituals,

    I know that Desmet has been taken to task for not identifying any ‘first mover’ in the phenomenon and instead ascribed it to a quirk of human psychology.

    As a person living in another context and who had not imbibed Western media for many years, I just couldn’t ‘get’ why Covid-19 was any more dangerous than a gaggle of influenza outbreaks; the response did not follow from the FACTS. Returning to the U.S., and mingling with a citizenry that has been mascerated in Big Pharma propaganda, it made more sense. I could see, too, that in the absence of meaningful work and social connections ‘fighting the pandemic’ created a perverse social glue.

    • Well, a Lifelong Learning MIndset will probably not be a means to figure out just how bad Big Pharma is.

      Or this

      To bolster this more holistic approach to education and the term “global,” teachers should focus on helping students understand their place in the world and how their actions impact others. “We want to make sure our learners have a support system so that we can give them positive support when they’re in difficult circumstances, so that they can feel confident and secure in their own space as their own self,” Magiera says. “That then allows them to have empathy with one another and with their neighbors, both local and global.” 

      • Thing is, each of those educational agendas is very good…but, again, they twist/invert the language.

        Back to the coof ‘hypnosis, psychosis, addiction’ thing…IT destroyed family bonds and friendships. IT tore economies/societies apart, globally. To me, and in retrospect, it looked more like a form of ‘possession’.

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