The language from the ESEA Rewrite on closing the achievement gaps between groups that objectively have had very different life experiences basically limits what can now go on in a K-12 classroom in any state or locality. Some local control, huh? Interestingly the only kind of education that will now suffice is precisely the same as what political and social transformationalists intent on social justice also want. It’s the same kind of K-12 education that members of the Chamber of Commerce also endorse since it makes genuine, shift the paradigm invention and technology far less likely.
To illustrate how once again all roads lead to the same place and how it does not benefit ordinary, non-politically connected, people at all, let me turn to an essay “Educating the Rainbow: Authentic Assessment and Authentic Practice for Diverse Classrooms” from a 1997 UK book Assessment for Equity and Inclusion: Embracing All Our Children. What that paper calls authentic assessment that is activity-based, group-oriented, real world problem-based, and designed to get at the motivating emotions, values, and attitudes that get hidden now in the phrase “high-quality” are called formative assessment or assessment for learning most often in 2015. Whatever the name, what’s the real purpose? That would be to create shared beliefs among all the participants in the classroom and eventually the school so that the students can also embrace shared meanings from interpreting their experiences and ultimately develop shared language to describe them.
Now won’t those things come in handy if the goal of K-12 education globally has shifted to “Introducing a new way to think, talk, and act”? http://www.thersa.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/1550609/The-Seven-Dimensions-of-Climate-Change.pdf came out last week on basically the same day that the President of the Rockefeller Foundation went to the RSA to speak about building Better, More Resilient Cities. Hmm, wouldn’t authentic or formative assessment then be helpful to the Rockefeller-funded Communication for Social Change they are pushing all charities to guide their funding by? Talk about tethering. That paper seeks to skip over the entire debate over whether 2014 was the hottest year on record and whether we are warming, cooling, or the physical climate is simply behaving like a ‘climate’. “Changing climate” must become what “social scientists call ‘a social fact’.”
The great thing about ‘social facts’ in sociology theory (which is after all a huge component of education theory and pedagogy in degree programs) is that they are designed to ultimately change us, from the inside-out. Hmm, just like authentic or formative assessments? Why yes and won’t those be so useful if people now need to have a “new sense of collective purpose that embraces the diverse elements of human experience–without new vocabulary and cultural currency that allows us to overcome climate fatigue, a social silence, and stealth denial.” Not to mention actual documentable facts about the reality of scientific principles that must now be excluded because such abstractions are not equally accessible to all people. Equity excludes what builds up the analytical and intellectually-oriented Left Hemisphere of the brain from acceptable classroom practices. Equity does, however, provide education with a means for developing shared beliefs, meanings, and language.
How convenient, huh? Especially with the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) that is part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University (where so many of the authors listed in the above book are profs at the Teacher’s College) creating reports on how to frame climate communication so that it can “Speak to the Two Parts of the Brain.” http://guide.cred.columbia.edu/pdfs/CREDguide_full-res.pdf That’s, first of all, the Analytic Processing System that concerns about Equity, social justice, and civil rights now insists must be starved of everything but pre-approved, politically useful ‘concepts’, Enduring Understandings [see tag], or disciplinary core ideas and cross-cutting issues. The second side, what Marshall McLuhan called the visual-aural, holistic Right Hemisphere, is referred to as the “Experiential Processing System.” Fascinating, huh, since “learning experiences” are now to be the focus of K-12 classrooms since only they meet the Equity Gateway that allows Success for All.
That “Psychology of Climate Change Communication” paper helpfully tells us what a Mental Model is. Since that’s precisely what Rigor and authentic or formative assessment is designed to shape and alter and what concerns over Equity and Opting Out of ‘tests’ are forcing on all students, lets quote the report:
“A mental model represents a person’s thought process for how something works (i.e., a person’s understanding of the surrounding world). Mental models, which are based on often-incomplete facts [especially in a K-12 world where lectures and textbooks are treated as inequitable], past experiences [which will now include experiences of virtual reality created as gaming for the very purpose of manipulating mental models. See Jane McGonigal tag], and even intuitive perceptions, help shape actions and behavior, influence what people pay attention to in complicated situations, and define how people approach and solve problems. Perhaps most important to climate change communicators, mental models serve as the framework into which people fit new information.”
That very mental model is precisely what so much of the K-12 classroom implementation described in my book Credentialed to Destroy is designed to influence and control. It’s also the focus of so much of the required emphasis on digital learning. Everything being pushed in K-12 education now tethers that Analytic Processing System and forces and then manipulates the Experiential Processing part of the student’s physical brain. Gives new meaning to “brain-based curriculum”, doesn’t it? To be effective on any issue targeted for transformational change or political control, communication (one of the 4Cs of 21st Century Learning) needs to “make use of the following experiential tools”:
“Vivid imagery, in the form of film footage, metaphors, personal accounts, real-world analogies, and concrete comparisons;
Messages designed to create, recall, and highlight relevant personal experience and to elicit an emotional response.”
We see the latter tool in the omnipresent journaling that seems to be a part of every class now, including math. The former tool is not just brought in through computer gaming and the Common Core’s media literacy and relevancy requirements, but also group-based Problem-Based Learning and the Maker Movement. After all that CRED paper explains “How to Tap into Group Identity to Create a Sense of Affiliation and Increase Cooperation.” Very useful if a New Way to Think, Talk, and Act has become the entire point of education and much of the focus of media outlets of all kinds.
In the last post I mentioned Antonio Gramsci’s famous March Through the Institutions as a way to describe the actual effect of what Congress seems prepared to mandate, but RSA actually came right out and called for new societal institutions. All the more reason then to have the law mandate the Orwellian “high-quality education” we covered in the last post. After all, RSA (like the Club of Rome and ValuesQuest in the January 11 post) views “democracy” as a “mechanism for making collective decisions” and the “web of legislation” and the the “comprehensive system of law” as methods for “meaningfully constraining …the global economic engine.” Boy, that was not on the Bar Exam back when I took it.
These new societal institutions created then by a web of legislation like that ESEA Rewrite or your local city council’s edicts will “not be designed to make an economic case, communicate scientific facts or win an argument.” I guess that explains why the Analytical Processing part of the human brain that can do those things well is being tethered and starved of the kind of facts K-12 education traditionally provided. Instead, the experiential, social and emotional learning focus fits with the desire for new societal institutions that “allow people to express and discuss their concerns, fears, dreams, and hopes for the future. They would embed scientific inquiry into the nature of the problem and how it could be solved, in more complex debates about how we should live in a climate-changed world. And in that way, they would likely offer fertile place to explore the links between Science and the other six dimensions of climate change.”
That’s the vision of the future the authentic assessment, student engagement, digital learning shifts in K-12 education are all preparing students for, without anyone trying to tether students to the actually existing physical reality or what works or never has. Students who have a craving for unicorn rides in this socially just future will have nothing to prompt them this is not a realistic goal. Those seven dimensions, by the way, that plan to alter the present reality, like it or not, are:
1. Science: Forging a new social contract
2. Law: Constraining extraction
3. Economy: Investing in the Future
4. Technology: Scaling up deep decarbonisation
5. Democracy: Escaping the governance trap
6. Culture: Breaking stealth denial
7. Behaviour: Overcoming stealth denial
How binding in every way that matters would be one way to describe that list. Now, as a well-read adult in my 50s I can tell that paper is a fantasy. Nothing, however, in the planned K-12 implementation would create that kind of “Danger, Will Robinson!!” prompt. In fact, K-12 education is deliberately priming the mind and personality to prompt just such an urge to plan and act as the Seven Dimensions paper laid out. CRED even came up with an additional paper called “Connecting to Climate” in December that appears both tied to the planned transformations of mental models from K-12 education as well as a cronyistic politically planned economy being sold as ecoAmerica.
Once again this post is a heads up about what social, economic, and political visions are tied to the K-12 transformations everyone with any power is forcing on our children. This is not just about education, but education as a means for broader transformations. It is intended to affect all of us, whether we have children or not, and whatever our ages.
It needs to be on everyone’s radar screen where ever we live. Because no one in education administration is being honest in my experience and we are not likely to be among the cronies invited to an RSA program or an ecoAmerica annual invitation-only summit.
Thank goodness we can still read and our Analytic Processing Systems remain tethered to facts and likely actual consequences.