Dwelling in a Void of Unknowing Within a Sculpted Narrative Designed to Manipulate

Credit for the first part of our title goes to British author Peter Hitchens describing how little young people knew of his country’s recent past and that most were “dwelling in a void of unknowing.” Great phrasing for a reality we are now seeing all over the world as we wonder with him: “What is it about our past that has led it to be reformed out of existence?” Well, truthfully, I am not wondering as I have repeatedly laid out the desires for transformational change, first in my book, and now on the blog, as the calls just get more urgent. Dovetailing with that UN call for Dignity for All globally by 2030 we saw in the last post turns out to be a Rockefeller-funded report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity released https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/IPC-PDF-full.pdf   last month that also includes the related vision for “world-class” education.

That IP report would be the sculpted narrative designed to manipulate. Believing in what it asserts requires either being a beneficiary of the vision or being quite ignorant of either history or economics. The usefulness of people not knowing much, while being blissfully ignorant of the acute absence, was really brought home this week as an advocate of Competency-based learning excitedly mentioned that students are told that they “command the helm” of their own learning. I remembered the number of times we have encountered a psychologist or education professor speaking to fellow insiders about creating an internal “keel” within the student’s mind and personality that makes future behavior quite predictable. It seems a bit ironic to brag on one hand about the levels of behavioral control being fostered by Competency and its related “high-quality learning” and then to sell the manipulated student on how autonomous they are.

“Dwelling in a void of unknowing” and thus quite ready to be conned while governments steer. Looking for a way to explain the dangers of all this, I went back to a 1958 book called Theory and History by an economist, Ludwig Von Mises, who had the good sense to escape Europe in the mid-30s as Hitler was gaining power. He made the terribly pertinent point that “It is ideas that are responsible for the fact that the interests of people are disparate.” If we use education to control the prevailing ideas and, especially to limit them, it becomes much easier to sell visions of solidarity and the need for wholesale transformation.

Apparently the UN report on the 2030 Dignity For All vision or the Inclusive Prosperity report above follow a great tradition of not stressing over the pesky details since Von Mises also noted that “instead of dealing with all these problems Marx contented himself with the dogma that socialism will be an earthly paradise in which everybody will get all he needs.” It’s much easier, of course, to accept and act on dogma (and never even notice it is not grounded in reality) if students are now trained from an early age to dwell in a void of unknowing, while remaining blissfully unaware of that crucial fact. If Von Mises was correct when he stated:

“it is ideas that determine what people consider as their interests. Free men do not act in accordance with their interests. They act in accordance with what they believe furthers their interests.” (my bolding)

Should we be surprised at all that the year after the publication of that book, American educators and psychologists, whose work would evolve into what we now call Competency-based education, began their global push to take an emphasis on facts, textbooks, and lectures out of the classroom? Whoever controls the prevailing ideas also controls what people will believe their interests to be. Something we all need to be aware of now.

In case anyone thinks I am name calling by linking that IP report and Uncle Karl’s vision, the report keeps making statements like “While the economic mission of progressives is unchanging, the means of achievement change from generation to generation as the economy evolves.” That’s darn blunt even before we get to the statement that “we need new social and political institutions to make 21st century capitalism work for the many and not the few.” Anyone else see a problem with a goal that “nations need to ensure both that economic growth takes place and that it is broadly shared”? In order to get widespread acquiescence to that transformative vision education is devoting itself to extinguishing and controlling prevailing ideas. Throughout history, widespread prosperity can either come from plunder a la Ancient Rome (or a pirate ship with a talented crew) or it has to rely on a few hardworking people who have unique ideas–The Vital Few–as a book on the history of entrepreneurship called them.

Mind arson and manipulating what people believe makes widespread prosperity impossible. There is a revealing adjective on page 8 of the IP report that really gives away the whole game in the reference to a “managed global economy.” That’s a wish by a few, not a fact, and of course yet another reason to limit prevailing ideas and make education about specified knowledge, broad vocational skills, and lots of social and emotional training to create the desired dispositions. Oh, and since all desired transformations need a good crisis, we get to hear yet again that “employers are increasingly worried about their ability to find skilled labor.” They are more worried about better ideas and service swiping existing customers, but who needs to admit that fact when the skills gap sounds more noble? Plus the advocated alliance of “government, educational institutions, and businesses must work together” actually takes care of the long-term, keeping customers happy, problem. Governments become the real customer and stabilizer of revenue in this vision.

The IP report’s authors apparently did not have an adult in their lives when they were children telling them that “wishing will not make it so” because they simply proclaim a desire for “renewing the growth of living standards for everyone.” Well, don’t tell the high-falutin’ members of that IP Commission but Mind Arson makes that plan much harder as does the intention that “children from low-and moderate-income backgrounds need the same opportunities to fully develop their talents that wealthy children have.” Since I do not think the plan is Camps in Maine for All at 12 or Grand Tours of Europe using a voucher, school itself becomes the point of levelling and parents of kids perceived as being wealthy need to recognize they are in the line of fire.

In what may be my all time favorite confession of what will make for a “world-class school,” we are told that “education is empowering and allows individuals to become actors rather than passive bystanders in the role of the state.” In other words, we get to participate in this progressive world where governments hold the final say over everyone and everything. No wonder, “world-class schools are essential for achieving inclusive prosperity, fostering community cohesion [more reason to control prevailing ideas], encouraging a genuine stake in society, and participating in democratic structures.” People with a sense of their own unique individuality and the validity of what they know and believe are in the way. Schools are to become the “hub of these experiences” that are required to “deliver on society’s needs for social and economic development, political participation, environmental responsibility, and international solidarity.”

More reason to limit the prevailing ideas and availability of knowledge. Here’s the vision for “a broad and balanced curriculum [that] is vital for the development of inclusive prosperity.” Students in these world-class schools get to “gain the core skills needed for the world of work.” The pitch line, in other words, may be about getting each of our needs met, but the operating reality is that we exist to meet the needs of others and we are to have little input. Oh, but students also get “space and time to develop.” I guess that’s when they can be told they are actually masters of their own ‘helms’. In their voids of unknowing, most will believe it, at least for a while. Plus school “enhances the so-called soft skills–including team working, people management, civic and school engagement, and diversity awareness–to ensure that children are allowed to be fully engaged members of society in preparation for adult life.”

Control the excitement. I am sure the world-class schools all come with t-shirts that say “we are all comrades” since “I am a comrade” would basically negate all this solidarity seeking. Finally, “any curriculum must allow for economic and political literacy,” which is more than a little ironic in a report bereft of anything but the aspirational. Now, I know someone out there is saying that the IP report does not mention the Common Core or even competency by name so where’s the link? The report does call for “globally competitive standards developed through consensus, not ideology,” which is kind of funny in a document calling for education for Inclusive Capitalism to finally fulfill the progressive dream.

Now I have known for a while that the Common Core is designed to produce the data and desired changes in the students called for by a global program called the Achievement Standards Network (ASN). Financed as usual by Bill & Melinda. Yesterday I was poking around on this site http://www.imsglobal.org/iipe.html where (yesterday at least) we could still find a paper by Rob Abel called “Creating a Shared Vision for Assessment Reform: Building on the Common Core” that stated expressly that the Common Core was created to constitute the US’s participation in ASN and the Dublin Core and Metadata Applications.

The ‘globally competitive standards’ then and the ability to get to the Inclusive Prosperity vision are all about the data to be thrown off by digital learning, formative assessments, and “high-quality” learning experiences.

If you are like me, none of this vision sounds inviting. No chance whatsoever of it generating broad prosperity, inclusive or not. That’s precisely why we all need to know about these plans now.

I personally want to have the discussion of why a plane cannot fly before it takes off, not after it crashes.

If none of this is stoppable, no one can accuse me of not trying my best to sound the alarm.