What if Higher Order Thinking=Deliberate Confusion?

Raise your hand if you were surprised by that definition of rigor in the previous post. No the challenge does not come from applying previously taught content in difficult ways. And higher order thinking is not synonymous with deep understanding in the fact-based, solid rational analysis, way we traditionally associate with school or university sanctioned understanding. The “deep understanding” being pursued by Common Core’s developers lives “beyond the realm of control and rationality.” It is based in psychological research of “how learners can be moved by things beyond their own intentions and goals.” I think this is a very troubling area for a government or an untaxed “charitable” foundation to be pushing and financing on behalf of citizens and future voters. But then I created the metaphor Invisible Serfs Collar for a multitude of reasons just like this.

ASCD, which used to be the NEA’s curriculum development arm, has an entire approach centered around making Common Core applicable to the Whole Child. If you have not yet had a principal or other administrator use the term “holistic” to describe what makes the Common Core initiative so different you will (or would have before I wrote this post). If you have missed the ‘Must be Engaging to the Child” aspect to Common Core, you probably should have a quiet little chat with your child’s teacher about how she will be evaluated as an Effective Teacher to keep her job.

Western civilization may have been built on the rise and valuing of  human reason as a driving and organizing force, but educators going back to John Dewey have sought to marry reason back into the passionate, instinctive, intuitive aspect that it also an element of the human personality. This is the same goal we discussed back on June 3   http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/why-quality-learning-may-be-the-last-thing-you-want-for-your-child/

And you thought that was what education was supposed to be all about? Moving beyond the caveman approach to interacting with his environment? I am afraid you, dear reader, would never make it through many of these education or sociology or psychology programs credentialing today’s educators, especially at the administrator levels. It can be hard to read this stuff and not wonder if ignorance or greed or a genuine desire for social revolution is the driving force behind these profs and some of the principals, supers, and other administrators they are now credentialing. Whatever guides them, they have our money, our children, and a completely reenvisioned future economy in their hands. At least for the moment.

Higher order thinking and rigor in education in 2012 are trying  to access that beyond reason realm of human consciousness. Actually so is the current emphasis on creativity and critical thinking. That’s why the pushed “problems, uncertainties, questions, or dilemmas” must be “unfamiliar” or “novel.” They are designed to “elicit answers that have not been learned already.” These are the “life skills” that misleading district or school charter authorizes.

The teachers will be encouraged to teach strategies for coping with this type of open-ended problem solving, but not provide either answers or the kind of factual information from history or great literature that allowed earlier generations to successfully plot around life’s uncertainties. We may know that history repeats itself in terms of the broad themes that drive human action. The Outcomes Based Education/ Common Core generation apparently is to get to revisit everything anew without much knowledge from the past for guidance. Hard to imagine how this can possibly work out well.

Why? Well one of the profs most involved with pushing these “flow” marriages of affect and cognition, was a co-author of a book, Good Work:When Excellence and Ethics Meet (2001). His co-authors are Howard Gardner of Multiple Intelligences fame and William Damon who is on the Stanford faculty with Nel Noddings from our previous 2 posts. Like her, he is involved with Moral Education and Character Education. Damon is also mentioned in a recent Psychology Today piece pushing for new Civics Values for American students.  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moment-youth/201205/no-joking-our-kids-are-failing-democracy-101

That book states unabashedly (pages 51-52 if you want to locate a copy) that all this education reform is “trying to direct the course of the future.”  The alternative, they believe, would unwisely be:

To trust in the benevolent gods or a ubiquitous Gaia, or in an economic system that will miraculously turn waste into well-being.”

Well at least we are getting towards the driving impetus behind all those explanations for Outcomes Based Education that never made much sense given our own everyday reality. That was to be rejected. In fact, in these gentlemen’s view of how the future will unfold, the three critical elements are genes (outside their domain for the moment), the “informational codes of our culture”, and the “code of consciousness” made up by “ideas and ideals invented by individuals and then shared by communities.”

I think we have finally come up with a working definition of radical education reform of the type sought in the 90s and being implemented now in the US as the Common Core. It is targeting the non-genetic means of influencing the future  and modifying, rejecting, or “improving” them.

I think the Ancient Greeks called this kind of undisclosed world altering aspiration: hubris. And it never went well.