Epiphany has long been one of my favorite words because it captures that moment of mental illumination when everything suddenly clicks into place in terms of connections. The sudden manifestation of the meaning of something though is a private affair and the connections I see, while real, may be inconvenient to those hoping for “shared meaning” as so many classroom mandates now require. It is also inherently “old brain thinking” instead of the desired “new brain thinking” that will be widely shared and politically approved. Even though most people are unaware of how learning standards like the Common Core or a Competency Framework really work, we are going back in time to a world where religious bodies and political authorities literally had an ability to rule “the activities and beliefs of its citizens.” That real effect gets hidden by what K-12 schools pretend they are really pushing. Meanwhile, school administrators, especially district supers, lie to parents and the public about it.
Since “New Brain Thinking ” is the true aim, let’s look into what is being eliminated. “Old brain thinking is characterized by the limited capacity to contemplate only those innovations that might logically evolve out of the current system. The old brain seems incapable of considering a radical change in the system itself–that is, the possibility of operating under a different set of rules.” No one is going to talk that explicitly in public of course. I only found that quote following the thread of Fostering Communities of Learners in schools to its US beginning, a book called The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace. Parents, of course, would become rightfully alarmed if they traced the required obligations of collaboration and shared meaning back to a forthright statement of a required “psychological death” of their child.
See why there is such a fondness for euphemisms? Sometimes when I write I do mull over what would be a catchy metaphor to illustrate my point, but that is not where the phrase Cannibals of the Mind came from. Remember the famous phrase about being able to see the soul of certain people through the anger, joy, or flashes of brilliance firing through their eyes? Last week three different area School District Supers appeared on local TV. The first two, from the City of Atlanta, famous for its cheating scandal, and Fulton County, proud to be a national exemplar of competency-based learning, were in a local court fighting to be able to begin collecting property taxes, however confused or in error, the underlying tax digest was. They were very angry, not about the children, but about the ability to pay their loyal apparatchiks pushing these lied about visions.
If that seems cruel, so is area supers insisting they will use Kurt Lewin (by name)’s famous Freeze, Unfreeze, Refreeze social psych techniques on any teacher wanting to continue to make the transmission of a body of knowledge the point of school. Suddenly seeing the highly emotional anger in those eyes and hearing about their loyalist employees “right to be paid” and knowing what is actually being pushed and what it really intends to do, that phrase “Cannibals of the Mind” just came to me. Boy, does it fit. The other Super on area TV had issued a district ruling that none of the sports coaches in the districts could participate in any player-initiated prayers. I don’t think that is a valid interpretation of what Con Law requires, but what I noticed in this super’s eyes was not anger. Instead, he talked and his eyes simply looked vacant as if there was no synaptic firing.
Given what these Supers and their admins want to be paid and how they typically move from district to district pushing neural rewiring for ever increasing amounts of money (hence my phrase Gypsy Supers) as well as my personal experiences with what drives them, I think we have Greed, Chips on the Shoulder, and Downright Ignorance driving these Cannibals of the Mind. Since they will not truthfully tell us what they are doing, let’s dig into what is really being put in place and why. Otherwise, we are about to get a society inhabited by highly emotional people whose “New Brain Thinking” is not thinking in the traditional sense at all.
Scott Peck admitted in his book calling for “New Brain Thinking” and required practices that now “our individualism must be counterbalanced by commitment”. He was writing in the 80s when nuclear war with the USSR was still a real threat, but his required practices that would be “the only way that human evolution will be able to proceed” survived the USSR and the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Now they are inserted in learning standards or characteristics of each Learner or future Graduate. Peck knew, and now educators globally are using, the fact that “the most salient feature of human nature lies in its capacity to be molded by culture and experience.” This is what the Cannibals of the Mind and their Loyalists rely on to drive another revolution 100 Years after Lenin and the Bolsheviks commenced the last one on November 7, 1917. They are using psychological techniques and learning theories that were initially hatched in the USSR and this time they hope the revolution will take.
This time the revolution is at the neural level of the mind and personality with educators relying on what Peck called the “capacity for transformation. It is the capacity for transformation that is the most essential characteristic of human nature. And again paradoxically, this capacity is both the basic cause of war and the basic cure for war.” As I have noted, this real target and the reason for targeting it and methods used are all the source of a great deal of organized deceit. Teachers aren’t assigned Peck’s book and any references to the Soviet psych origins of classroom mandates are usually in a footnote. Fortunately, I have typically read the books being footnoted and can recognize the same or equivalent theories even when there are no footnotes at all.
In another book, The Personal Intelligences, promoting that teachers use social and emotional learning in their classrooms, we get an open admission in italics that Experiences wire the brain. And those Gypsy Supers and their loyalist employees can be wiring “New Brain Thinking” while parents still erroneously believe their child is learning science, history, or reading Shakespeare. As the book’s author put it in a chapter ironically called “Nurturing Independence” (the illusion of it would be more apt):
“I teach reading. I teach math. But I don’t think of myself as a reading/math teacher. I like the title ‘specialist in developing children.’ I help brains grow. I nurture new dendrite connections in all students.”
These teachers do help brains grow and these learning standards lay out and then use assessments to check for how those brains are growing and which dendrites are developing in what areas of the brain. There is no desire for a logical, fact-filled, independent mind capable of the kind of epiphany described above. Think of it now as prescribed epiphanies delivered via virtual reality and ed tech experiences that can be manipulated as desired to create “New Brain Thinking” and imagining new human systems like cities with new sets of rules. Remember how we keep coming across the phrase “self- regulation” or its cousins self-government or self-discipline instilled in all students? Is it about knowledge of the world as it exists and what got us here and what didn’t work? No, here is an example from that same book. This is what Student Success, Growth, or Achievement now mean:
“She’s thinking about herself rather than simply going through the motions. Self-regulating learners make plans, they watch their progress, ask for help when appropriate, and relate new learning to what they already know. This makes active inner speech.”
It also makes fully controlled inner speech, especially as teachers are advised to help students learn the vocabulary of the desired emotions they are to develop through school. The author wants “self reflection to guide their lives, supporting their growth toward positive goals.” Essentially education decides what goals and characteristics it wants students to internalize and then activities and experiences are developed until these traits become internalized Habits of Mind, neurally instilled. And lied about constantly. Does Cannibals of the Mind still seem harsh?
In thinking about the actual effects on students minds and similar attempts through the centuries to control what the individual mind may know, I pulled a book called The Passion of the Western Mind. It described the four “technical inventions” that played such a vital role in the birth of a respect for Individualism at the time of the Renaissance and the launch of Science as a means for understanding the natural world. It seems to me that learning standards in general and social and emotional learning in particular, under its variety of names, is an attempt to undo the emancipatory effects of these inventions by using a new vision of education as transfomation. Best we know what these inventions were:
“the magnetic compass, which permitted the navigational feats that opened the globe to European exploration; gunpowder, which contributed to the demise of the old feudal order and the ascent of nationalism; the mechanical clock, which brought about a decisive change in the human relationship to time, nature, and work, separating and freeing the structure of human activities from the dominance of nature’s rhythms; and the printing press, which produced a tremendous increase in learning, made available both ancient classics and modern works to an ever-broadening public, and eroded the monopoly on learning long held by the clergy.”
These kind of aspirations should not be implemented in the proverbial dark of night by Cannibals of the Mind overpaid to direct activities to rewire our children’s brains. These go to some of the most fundamental questions any civilization ever addresses.
See how dangerous it is to put school board members through psychological team training of the type Peck advocated so they will come to believe that what the Supers tell them is true? They also seem to be trained to believe that no one without an education degree is allowed to know comment on what educators can do in the classroom.
How convenient for the Cannibals of the Mind and the politicians, institutions, and theories they are installing and reenforcing. No scrutiny, no effective protest. No recognition that this was how dire times began in the past.