Now I considered making that title a bit longer with the addition of the phrase ‘as a State of Mind.’ People grasping the essence of what I have been describing in my book or this blog will frequently insist that certain reforms would be mind control. I usually respond by pointing out that plenty of advocates readily acknowledge that as their intention if we know where to look. We are not having a conversation actually about possible effects of these theories that want to come into your local schools and classrooms, including the privates, parochial, and charters. There is meant to be no escape.
I frequently now read radicals who want to use the law as simply another form of policy advocacy for social transformation. It’s not though. That’s not what the public thinks it is paying for from lawyers who represent school districts. The law is not just another tool either. It has an ability to make itself binding on those who would reject its coercion if they were aware of it. The law then, be it regulation, the language in a Charter or Student Code of Conduct, or a statute with mischievous obligations no one defined, is the perfect tool for anyone wanting to force change away from the West’s historic emphasis on the primacy of the individual.
Now I have been hearing reports from around the country over the last year about parents objecting to a school’s sudden psychological emphasis or mindfulness training and being told they gave their consent at the beginning of the year when they said they had read and would abide by the Student Code of Conduct. It’s not about agreeing not to misbehave anymore. It’s about language that actually imposes obligations on how you must treat and feel about others and what they say and do into the Student Code of Conduct. Think of it as imposing an obligation to behave and think like a Communitarian instead of an individual into what is now to be required behavior at school. We already know that Sir Michael Barber of Pearson and the Gates Foundation’s Vicki Phillips wrote a book on getting Irreversible Change that emphasized if people are forced to do, believing comes along.
In May I noticed that just such an Affirmative Obligation Code of Conduct was on the agenda for the next Board meeting of Fulton County, the large, diverse Metro Atlanta district that has a conversion charter that guts academics through its wording. Binding unappreciated language that made me wonder what had shifted so radically within the legal profession since I went to law school. The answer is that the law quietly became a tool for forcing normative change on an unwitting public. We all need to appreciate that shift has occurred and not treat ‘the law’ as still a set of established, agreed upon rules. When I saw the language in that Code of Conduct I had the same reaction. It was an attempt to coerce compliance with a classroom vision shifting to psychological manipulation. Most parents would never notice.
The lawyer who had drafted the Student Code of Conduct was listed so I noticed she worked for President Clinton’s Education Secretary, Richard Riley’s, law firm. http://www.waldenu.edu/colleges-schools/riley-college-of-education/about/richard-w-riley Ties then to Outcomes-Based Education in the 90s, the Carnegie Corporation and its views that (per Moises Naim) we are now to be the Governed, and the Knowledge Works Foundation with its views of Competency and ownership of the High Tech High concept. As a factual matter we are dealing with a view both of law and education as tools for transformative social change; however nice the actual lawyers involved may be as individuals. It simply is what it is and we ought to recognize this as a different view of legal advocacy and education policy than what they were historically.
Not recognizing these shifts so we can talk about it in the sunlight is what is so dangerous. That Student Code of Conduct came back on my radar last week when the school district picked the quiet holiday week to ask for parent comments on it. If a parent had an objection, the survey software insisted the parent explain their objections. It was tempting to want to write “but I fully support students being allowed to be dishonest” as the sarcastic explanation.
What I really had a problem with was recognizing where a required obligation to show empathy and never be disrespectful to any classmate could go on top of Positive School Climate obligations. I have read enough participatory materials to know there is a real desire not to be allowed to point out that stupid comments or poorly-informed opinions are just that. Only a very mediocre mind or a disingenuous radical transformationalist really believes that all opinions are equally valid and entitled to comparable deference.
You don’t have to be mean and ask someone if they are an intellectual eunuch to their face or just laugh hysterically, but a requirement in a Student Code of Conduct to treat all opinions as valid was a reminder of just how often I have now seen this to-be-required classroom consensus. Yet it was showing up in that Code of Conduct. It would be a reason for the Common Core English Language Arts Standards specifically carving out ‘speaking’ and ‘listening’ like they do. We have already noted that Study Circles Resource Center’s alliance with the Southern Poverty Law Center and its Teaching Tolerance Project and its odd sudden name change to Everyday Democracy (the name of community organizer Harry Boyte’s 2004 book). That Student Code of Conduct would go a long way toward making classrooms function like either the Swedish or Baha’i Study Circles. It would also enshrine that Rockefeller Process of Communication For Social Change in the classroom to force everyone into accepting a common understanding.
So I went back to that 1971 book on what these same ed reforms sought to do in Sweden that I wrote a troubling post about. The New Totalitarians said this about the use of Study Circles and the psychological conditioning they promote (italics in original):
“the A B F study circles promote the supremacy of the collective. Participants are taught that, once a decision has been made, then all further discussion is necessarily at an end and that, whatever their feelings might be, it is their duty to submit to the will of the group. But, as the study circle is designed to give received opinions the appearance of conclusions personally achieved, so is the individual persuaded to accept the will of the group as his own. Even if a person begins by opposing a majority opinion, he will purge himself of previous objections and adopt that opinion as his own as soon as it has been formally established. By a kind of conditioned reflex, this form of submissiveness is evoked beyond the study circle by this phrase: ‘The decision has been made in a democratic manner, and accepted by the majority.’ Quoted always in the identical wording, it has the force of the liturgical chants of the Buddhists’ O Mane Padme Hum; it need not necessarily be understood to produce a certain state of mind.”
We could call that result Irreversible Change mandated via legal coercion. We could also call it fastening a yoke to a student’s mind and personality or maybe attaching an invisible serfs collar through required classroom experiences. We don’t really have to speculate about the kind of education experiences that created a belief that Student Codes of Conduct of this ilk are an effective policy tool in 21st century American schools because it turned out the drafting lawyer had been a previous member of the Education Policy Fellowship Program in DC. Legal training with non-lawyers to effect policy change. This normative use of the law just gets more interesting
http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/epfp.iel.org/resource/resmgr/50th_anniversary/iel_epfp@50_booklet.pdf explains EPFP from its creation in 1964 with Ford Foundation backing. It is how policy changes get invisibly shifted via education with few the wiser. That booklet lays out the entities in the various states and the mixture of public sector and private involvement. The website shows that the Lumina Foundation (determined to radically alter higher ed) and ETS (same to K-12 with its Gordon Commission) were the national sponsors of the most recent EPFP class.
It’s worth checking out. You may discover as I did that a moderator of the Common Core Listening Tour in your state is involved with EPFP and that the designated advocates of the Common Core serve on the Board of the state sponsor or its Advisory Council. Oh what a tangled web we weave… I would never finish this post if I laid out all the interconnections in my state of Georgia. I suspect each reader will find comparable interesting webs in your own state now that we know this entity exists and who the state players are.
I want to end this post with Reflections on “The Power of the Collective” from a member of the most recent local class. I have never met the writer, but I do recognize the ties between her employer and the world’s largest education accreditor, AdvancED; the State Professional Standards Board for teachers; and the recent Metro Atlanta regional economic development plan that also bound all school districts to ‘innovative learning’ without asking their individual school boards. A tangled web indeed.
http://www.gpee.org/fileadmin/files/PDFs/Brinkley_s_EPFP_speech_FINAL.pdf is the link to the May 21, 2014 speech. The author mentions that “at the end of our monthly colloquiums, Dana [Rickman, previously with the Annie E Casey Foundation] always asks us to reflect upon what we’ve learned [bolding in original] by completing a statement: I used to think … and now I think.”
That’s a confession that the technique known as Delphi or study circles or now the Rockefeller Process of Communication for Social Change is a big part of creating the desired mindsets of education policy makers. Adults who have been through this process without recognizing it for what it is are unlikely to have a problem with now imposing it on students.
Just imagine using this technique created for use with adults on malleable minds captive in K-12 classrooms.