Digital Promise and 21st Century Skills as the Long-Sought Rapid Change of Minds for the Future

When I was looking for a way to explain what the effects would be from seeking new kinds of minds and personalities through ICT and tracking affective responses, I remembered the 1989 book New World New Mind: Moving Towards Conscious Evolution. Now I do occasionally pull books off the shelf to help illustrate a point vividly but the link of that book to the Digital Promise and 21st Century Skills initiatives is actually quite direct.

http://www.digitalpromise.org/how-practitioners-and-policymakers-can-work-together-to-innovate/ is a July 31, 2013 story on the meeting of League of Innovative Schools Supers and Admins with reps from the federal DoEd, the White House Domestic Policy Council (this push is a high priority for this Administration), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. John Holdren heads OSTP and his long-time mentor and associate Paul Ehrlich of hyping various global catastrophes fame (with his own tag) co-wrote the New World New Mind book. Ehrlich mentioned and thanked Holdren for his help on the Acknowledgments page.

Chapter 8, “The Beginnings of Real Change,” makes it clear this is a global program to use education to change “the nature of our minds and the training we give them.” According to Ehrlich and Robert Ornstein: “although the problems that humanity now faces are immense, at least they are of our own making. The mismatch of our brains with our environments has been produced by millenia of effort, by the skill, ingenuity, and drive of our species–by the very minds that are now out of step with the world they live in.”

Ornstein and Ehrlich wanted to extinguish that independent ingenuity and drive some people have through “a revolution in the way we bring up children and in the way we teach and what we teach.” They recognized, as all of us now need to, that traditional “schooling also changes the structures of children’s minds significantly [they mean at a physiological level]. Reading, writing, and arithmetic, so commonly taught, are not [emphasis in original] natural acts of the mind, but are radical transformations of the way the nervous system operates. The mind’s default positions are for talking and listening…”

Which is precisely why talking and listening as the purpose of the Discourse classroom, and required projects and group collaboration and communities of learners, is such a huge focus of the actual Common Core implementation. It is why print literacy is minimized and media and digital literacy are held to be just as important. It’s not a better way to learn. It’s an active pursuit using ICT of these New Kinds of Minds. After all Joel Klein, head of Rupert Murdoch’s tech-focused ed subsidiary, Amplify, actually said that was the goal to my face at a luncheon last fall. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/ridiculing-the-1860s-mind-as-unsuitable-for-the-21st-century-cui-bono/

So New Kinds of Minds remains the pursuit almost 25 years later and the other Ehrlich/Ornstein goal then becomes changing prevailing attitudes on politically useful topics. Cultural-historical activity theory or CHAT is a learning theory imported from the USSR created to change  the course of the future by changing the dominant culture itself. Through school specifically but also education generally. I’ll put it this way CHAT theorists also care about what stories get pitched on the nightly news and what the headlines read. What themes will the typical person come to believe are an issue as they go through busy lives? One of the CHAT theorists, a Finnish prof who also works in the US. Yrgo Engestrom (also tagged), kindly put his Learning by Expansion’s theory’s purpose into explicit published words in 2010. http://www.helsinki.fi/cradle/documents/Engestrom%20Publ/Studies%20on%20expansive%20learning.pdf

The article acknowledges a reality that the Supers and ed profs and principals do not bother to tell parents, politicians, and taxpayers so I will: “there are two basic metaphors competing for dominance today: the acquisition metaphor and the participation metaphor.” Now I will stop quoting Yrjo for a minute to point out that the entire actual Common Core classroom implementation this blog has been describing is dedicated to requiring the participation vision. Using misleading terms like equity and excellence and Quality Learning to get there. As I have been explaining, every entity that has a legal ability to regulate or mandate what goes on in the classroom is insisting that participation now win this competition. And it gets hidden in the insistence on group projects and collaboration. But Yrjo was even more graphic about what his and other CHAT learning theories are designed to do and change.

The key dimension underlying the acquisition vs participation “dichotomy is derived from the question: Is the learner to be understood primarily as an individual or as a community?” The participation purpose comes down on the community side of that question in direct contradiction to the West’s historic belief in the primacy of the individual. That is the question at stake in all these ed reforms. Pushing for this new answer behind our backs and without our consent is precisely what Digital Promise and 21st Century Skills are really about.

Yrgo again kindly says there are three more dimensions at stake with all these learning theories like his that are designed to push participation as the new radical vision of education to create “new activity structures for society.” Think workplace, neighborhoods, political processes. These ed profs and administrators have great ambitions while they are living at taxpayer expense. In each of these questions, it is the part I bolded after the “or” that is what is stealthily coming at us like a high-speed freight train whatever our state says it is doing on the Common Core. And in other countries too. Oh, and the ICT focus is a huge tool for gaining this shift.

*Is learning primarily a process that transmits and preserves culture or a process that transforms and creates culture?

*Is learning primarily a process of vertical improvement along some uniform scales of competence or horizontal movement, exchange and hybridization between different cultural contexts and standards of competence? [Think of this as hip hop being as valid a means of communication as a well-written insightful factual paper]

*Is learning primarily a process for acquiring and creating empirical knowledge and concepts [reflects reality in other words] or a process that leads to the formation of theoretical knowledge and concepts?

Now theoretical knowledge and concepts is of course another term for ideology but what do you expect from a theory designed to achieve massive social change as a direct successor to Uncle Karl’s now infamous theorizing? Yrjo leaves no doubt where we are all going with this quote: “While traditional schooling is essentially a subject-producing activity and traditional science is essentially an instrument-producing activity, [expansive] learning is an activity producing activity.” [his italics]

Now that kind of graphic lay out of intent to create transformative action in students is what is coming to our classrooms but the graphic warning is nowhere in sight. Instead we get far more innocuous sounding initiatives being paid for by the National Science Foundation such as Janet Kolodner’s “Learning by Design’s Framework for Promoting Learning of 21st Century Skills.” Janet is also the listed PI for the troubling and related NSF Cyberlearning push that I described here  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/the-need-to-know-as-we-understand-it-today-may-be-a-lethal-cultural-sport/ Now Janet’s CV is simply too solid for me to believe that she really thinks that a case-based method that is suitable for adult med students, who have a well-stocked brain of knowledge and analytical skills to be where they are, is somehow suitable for middle schoolers who generally have neither.

The truth is the whole Next Generation Science and Learning By Design and Case-Based Learning is just a rejection of science as an “instrument-producing activity” as in sharp ingenious minds or new unapproved technology without saying so. What Ehrlich and Ornstein sought in their book so long ago. It’s the excuse for a classroom centered around social interaction and designed to limit the cultural transmission of knowledge built up over generations that makes humans a very special species and some people downright extraordinary in their impact on all of us and the direction of civilization.

Kolodner sees people as “goal processors who make our way through the world trying to achieve our goals” which strikes me as a horrifically hobbling vision for the future. Like so many other reformers she wants to shift our daily perceptions going forward and limit us to our previous experiences coupled to theoretical framing school will provide. Yrjo would approve. The end result of these classroom activities are students who are adaptable to uncertain, new, and rapidly changing conditions. Which of course the ed reforms intend to drive. Students who are capable of complex communication and social interaction. The world trembles at the thought of a superpower preparing ALL students to be in the habit of listening and asking questions of each other and making presentations. We also get students capable of non-routine problem solving and self-management which is starting to sound a great deal like David Conley’s definition of College and Career Ready  created for the Gates Foundation.

Finally, students learn to be good systems thinkers and to see themselves as embedded in systems. Even if it is not true in reality, it is such a useful metaphor to get students to see themselves as part of a community instead of an independent individual.

No wonder Paul Ehrlich is running around giving UN presentations that humanity is more than 5 years into a global program to radically change human behavior.

Yes indeed, driven by education reforms that are poorly understood and collectivist political theories masquerading as learning theories.

 

Avenue for Achieving the Broader Social Vision of Equity, Full Participation and Collective Contribution

On December 19, 1969 Time magazine did a special issue in preparation of the upcoming new decade. In an article called “The Next Decade: A Search for Goals” Time began to set the framework for a hoped-for “profound change” in people’s way of thinking and acting. Here’s the aspect that is important to anyone, like a David Christian with his Big History or Paul Ehrlich with his catastrophe hype, who hopes for a conscious cultural evolution. By basically using education to remove the imagination ignition power of a store of facts coupled to reason. Here’s Time in 1969:

“The veneration of rationality was the special myth of modern man. The worldview created by the enthronement of reason included a universal belief in individualism and competition; now that myth is dying. Faith in science and technology has given way to fear of their consequences.”

Author Ayn Rand looked at such passages and the student riots of the 60s and what she saw in California’s universities and she remembered the deliberate Bolshevik assault on cultural traditions in her home country of Russia in the 1920s. Like me, she wrote to try to alert others of the urgency of what she saw and read. In 1970 she published an essay “The Left: Old and New” where she wrote this astute observation that is even more under assault today. Let’s listen to her informed voice because we will need these insights:

“reason leads to (and is the foundation of) individualism and competition, i.e., capitalism. Capitalism’s enemies know it. Its alleged friends are still twisting themselves into double-jointed pretzels in the struggle to evade that knowledge.

Let us also remind you that reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses–i.e., that reason is man’s only means of grasping reality and of acquiring knowledge–and, therefore, the rejection of reason means that men should act regardless of and/or in contradiction of the facts of reality.”

Handy, huh, if you are trying to use potential climate catastrophes to shift people globally into a Mindset to be Governed as we have also recently talked about? I have written before that James Burke’s book The Axemaker’s Gift made it clear that the assaults on how to teach reading and math that set off the so-called wars were really about diminishing the power of those abilities to nurture reason. To ignite an individual’s Axemaker Mind. That remains the goal now decades later in education reforms. That Bayard Rustin essay from the last post was not something that could be quoted by the mainstream press without jeopardizing the social, political, and economic goals themselves. Most of us are simply not going to be still or lay down if we know we and the traditions that created unprecedented overall national success and global prosperity are being attacked. So education becomes the means and the individual mind the target of an invisible, taxpayer-funded attack.

The MacArthur Foundation’s January 2013 report is simply the latest push to fulfill Bayard Rustin’s dream   http://dmlhub.net/sites/default/files/ConnectedLearning_report.pdf except with the treasure chest of untaxed gains from past innovative breakthroughs. Waiting I suppose to be called on by US Presidents frustrated that they are not getting their way with Congress on Climate Change legislation. ” I will call on philanthropies and college presidents” was in this week’s speech. And, oh, will they ever listen. Hard to find any group coordinating so actively to set in motion revolutionary transformations.

Connected Learning is all about using education as an avenue to a “broader reform and equity agenda” that will “serve the interests and needs of non-dominant young people and their communities.” And if all the report’s angry references to what “privileged families” do with their own children was not a dead giveaway on where this is all going, the report early on says it uses the term non-dominant (which it bolds for emphasis like these other terms) “instead of the more common descriptors of minority, diverse, or of color, as non-dominant explicitly calls attention to issues of power and power relations than do traditional terms to describe members of differing cultural groups.”

OK, well, we have known for a while, haven’t we, that the Common Core and 21st Century Skills were just a PR gambit in a much broader, hidden struggle? And I would agree. Education reform really is about power and intentions over future power relations. As in the public sector and its connected cronies want to call the shots in the future globally and have too few of us to matter in a position to object. So in part 1 to Connected Learning, MacArthur cites quotes from the heads of two other foundations, Spencer and Russell Sage, known for funding behavioral science research. That’s us folks and we behave more like the models if schools and the universities snuff out the Axemaker Minds of students and substitute politically useful concepts and ideas to be the guiding lenses of future behavior. Brought to us by people who prove in Part 1 they have no understanding of the economy because they don’t have to. The paychecks roll in regardless of knowledge. Fidelity and fealty to theory is all that matters now in too many places surrounding education.

Part 2’s lead-in cannot even get the name of John Dewey’s 1916 book right but this is all brought to us by foundations where the heart is pure, the intentions are noble, and the treasure chest is vast. Who cares then if the report is careless on facts or regularly uses the terms “our emerging hypothesis” or “we posit” in discussing what they plan to impose and set in motion. On students. In schools. And the rest of us given these express aspirations to remake society and gain a new economy. Car sharing and bike sharing and non-proprietary forms of business to get a more participatory economic future? Really?

Connected learning then is defined “by a set of values, an orientation to social change and a philosophy of learning.” Isn’t it good to know they are partnering with the federal DoEd on all this?   http://reimaginingeducation.org/speakers/ Connected learning is explicitly about achieving “progressive and equity-centered reform efforts in school and policy areas.” As Rustin and Harry Boyte noted this is about marching through and changing far more than schools and universities. All the social institutions are targeted. But it starts this time with all the new media and digital and computer gadgets. “Today’s technologies offer us the ability to pursue these progressive goals in new ways through purposeful integration of tools for social connection, creation, and linking the classroom, community and home.”

Connected learning “takes a networked approach to social change that aligns with our ecological perspective.” I will stop the quote for a moment to tell you the previous page absolutely referenced our old friend Urie Bronfenbrenner by name which means in comes his Ecological Systems Theory “metaphor” that classroom teachers and students never get told is just a metaphor. And long time readers know this also brings in Soviet psychologist Leontiev’s plans on how to conduct a behavioral and social change experiment in the West. As I say, fiction writers have nothing on education and political schemers in the ongoing struggle over power. Quickly the report disdains the individual unless he or she is contributing to the officially-endorsed vision of the common good and wants to put the emphasis on collective and societal goals. It sees digital and blended learning as means to achieve broader social, cultural, and economic visions.

And the second part of the quote I interrupted tells us again how offshoots like Agenda 21 and Clean Energy and Green Technology are in fact related through the broader overall social vision of change. “We believe that systemic shift requires linked efforts across different sites of learning, and that our best hope for educational change lies in connecting like-minded reform efforts.” It looks conspiratorial because it is intentionally coordinated. Especially through the foundations and federal agencies funding all these “like-minded” efforts at overall transformation.

All the Gaming posts I have written and GlassLab as assessments in the future come in as Institute of Play and its Quest to Learn school are one of the exemplary case studies. Those links and the Urie ones are easy to locate if you have not seen them via the tags. I am going to close with a link to an old post that readers of the report are not likely to recognize as related. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/we-are-at-the-historical-stage-for-the-emergence-of-one-particular-new-kind-of-person/

Do you remember that shocking James Paul Gee quote of the future aspiration that “There are no discrete individuals. Only ensembles of skills stored in a person, assembled for a particular project, to be reassembled for other projects, and shared with others within ‘communities of practice?”

The report’s Acknowledgments page thanks network advisor James Paul Gee for his thoughtful reviews and comments.

Not just a “networked” vision then but one with chilling implications that have been put to paper now and in the past once we know where to look.

Once Again the Official Target is Scrambling Rational Thinking, Do Pro-Social Purposes Make It OK?

What should horrify us more–the intention? Or the fact that numerous editors at Ed Week must have read the language and merely nodded. Because after all the idea that now “Teachers design spaces and experiences that rearrange the neurons in young people’s brains for pro-social purposes” is not news to readers of this blog. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edtechresearcher/2013/06 /change_the_frame_two_ways_to_rethink_education_for_reform.html?cmp=ENL-EU-VIEWS2 is the link from last week. It is the lead-in to paragraph 4. And the author is the educator who first led me to focus on gaming after a conference he hosted at MIT.

Ramping up for the 90s version of these same “reshape the personality and values” reforms, which became infamous as Outcomes Based Education, there was a flurry of books on creating new kinds of minds. Willis Harman’s Global Mind Change from the previous post was one. Paul Ehrlich wrote New World New Mind and we also had The Axemaker’s Gift that gave us the useful Axemaker’s Mind metaphor to explain what is being targeted. Well, the sought goal has never gone away. Apparently the era of Positive Humanism (aka little c you-know-what) can only commence if the rational “ego-mind” that promotes individuality has been anesthetized. Put into deep sleep via K-12 education. To be reenforced periodically through lifelong learning and today’s new term–media education.

This time around we again have more illuminating books to guide us toward the future others want for us. First we have Ecomind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want published in 2011. Ecologist Frances Moore Lappe, who also serves on a new global entity http://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/ (with Riane Eisler if you have ever read the Caring Economics post)  wants to reframe the “largely unconscious mental map made up of big ideas orienting our lives.” She points out a very useful phrase to keep in mind as we keep reading about Enduring Understandings and systems theory “lenses” and Understandings of Consequence that are to be provided in the Common Core classroom to help organize every student’s beliefs about the world and the past. “Can we remake our mental map?” Lappe asks. Because she points out that “while we often hear that ‘seeing is believing,’ actually believing is seeing.

Which will of course come in quite handy in an education now to be focused on the visual and modeling future scenarios on the computer.  Because the tech companies and their broadcasting allies globally have been quietly sponsoring (as in literally funding the conferences) the idea that “society has evolved from a literacy culture to a media culture. To be able to function in this new culture, people need to develop sufficient proficiency in media literacy in much the same way as people in a literacy culture need to be able to read and write.”

And if this is news to you the Common Core literacy standards do mention media literacy but no one seems to be focusing on the implications yet. Probably because they have not been reading the programs of the Media & Learning Conferences that started in Brussels in 2010 and noted the significance of the statement that “different media provide access to different parts of the brain.” And, yes, games are an important component of this new view of K-12 education as digital and media-based.

As the 2011 “Harnessing the power of Media to support Learning” Conference put it so succinctly, games are “tools to support training in soft skills and understanding of complex situations.” Of course this is all in the context of an assumption that globally we are moving toward a “more participatory,” equitable society. And to get there as a speaker noted, the role of education needs to be seen as the “physiological and psychological growth of the child.”

Why that sounds just like Student Growth in the US! What the feds are now requiring as the measure of an effective teacher. Just coincidental I am sure. Actually you have probably already noticed the shift to integrating media creation into the classroom. You just did not know it was part of an organized, ideological shift. Or that a conference would be organized to push “the underlying principle was that video production includes a whole process of skills which, once acquired, can be transferred to solve other complex tasks.” Oh good. What IB and UNESCO call homo faber–man the maker.

By the 2012 Conference called “Media as an Agent for Change in Education and Training,” a keynote speaker, Andrew Keen, was warning the audience that digital learning was a “form of ideology that is shifting us to a flatter global societal structure” with a “disappearing middle class.” We could heed his points that “such widespread democratisation in education is already leading to the radicalisation of education” if only anyone in the US or anywhere outside of Europe were being honest with the general public on what is really going on with these ed reforms.

If you think this is just a European problem, then you are unaware that the New Media Consortium and this new view of education actually originated in the US. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, it just had its 15th anniversary conference. http://www.nmc.org/ And I listened to Karen Cator’s Keynote speech on “Participatory Learning-Powered by Technology”. And then I found the federal reports she mentioned. Which told me precisely how important ICT is to the new assessments. It allows a move away from “covering subject matter” to a “concern with cognitive skills, including those that have been identified as 21st-century skills.” The “subject matter content emphasis” of traditional schooling led schools to “neglect the higher order or complex cognitive components such as inquiry, problem solving, and explanation.”

The new assessments via ICT are “designed to handle the interdependencies among a learner’s actions in dealing with complex, multistep problems or inquiries.” Now remember from our previous posts that these complex problems are deliberately “ill-structured” or “Indeterminate Situations” for which there is no fixed answer. And the computer is obtaining a tremendous amount of data generated by students at an unconscious level as they try to come up with an answer. And we also know that part of the intended aim of this confusing structure is to force the students to rely on creative, deep intuition to apply existing concepts or big ideas to new situations. Then the computer can adapt to give students immediate feedback to get the students back on whatever the pathway the game or software designers programmed into the instructions.

Don’t worry. It’s not like game designers have said they intended to use these programs to target student’s belief systems. It’s not like the designers are using positive psychology principles to make the visual as compelling as possible. Book Number 2 this time around came out in 2010. Marina Gorbis from the last post mentioned The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction by Rebecca Costa. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyYrSw26jNQ is her as the keynoter at last October’s Bioneers Conference. Costa is a well-connected sociobiologist who considers Capitalism to be an example of “Extreme Economics.” She views widespread public skepticism over Global Warming and whether climate changes are manmade to be an example of the kind of irrational beliefs that have led to catastrophic civilizational collapse in the past.

She says the answer lies in turning to Insight and the unconscious mind as the solution to the increasing complexity of the modern world. The insight she describes sounds much like Harman’s deep intuition or Alice Bailey’s creativity if you want to go even further back to the same pursuit in the 30s and the 50s. It’s once again the nonrational mind that is to be given free rein except for one big difference this time. Rebecca admits she wants to abandon the norm of analytical problem-solving or right-brain synthesis of facts. Rebecca also points out the part of the brain that thinks inspirationally is now known. It can be found in a fold in the brain called the anterior Superior Temporal Gyrus (aSTG).

Functional brain imaging can now show that when someone is using insight or intuition or creativity to solve a problem, this “little-known fold ‘lights up like a Christmas tree.” So radicals have targeted this nonrational, unconscious capacity as part of their Transformation to Utopia plans for decades. All of a sudden numerous commentators are talking about reorganizing the brain’s neurons. Literally. And in early March President Obama announced a brain-imaging initiative.

Costa wants people to make “novel connections rather than continue to rely on reductionist thinking.” The actual implementations in the K-12 classroom globally appear designed to give the aSTG a workout. That’s what all those references to Higher Order Thinking Skills are about. The part of the brain that thinks logically and sequentially is under concentrated, coordinated attack.

And all this desired New Minds for a New Future can be physically measured now.

And we could address the implications of all this for personal freedom and the legitimacy of the individual in the future. If only these reports and conferences and expressed intentions were better known.

 

Muzzling Minds All Over the Globe While Trumpeting Higher Order Skills

One of the hardest aspects for those of us who have grown up in free countries, especially the United States, is to grasp what it is like to live in a society committed to having its citizens think ideologically. Through the prisms of political theory. With the lens of  models supplied and practiced with until the filtering becomes quite unconscious. Reflexive. Habits of mind common to almost everyone that are at the core of perceptions and daily behavior.

I should have had this insight last Christmas when a friend who had grown up behind the Iron Curtain began to tear up at hearing some of my stories on what was being targeted and why. She knew ideological thinking from her childhood. Maybe it was reading that 1988 KEEP book I wrote about a week ago on creating the “dialectical growth of concepts” to be interpretive and integrative filters in each child’s mind. I was ready to really grapple with this painful aspect of the real implementation template of these global education reforms.

But I think the epiphany started with reading The Devil in History by Rumanian emigrant, now Maryland poli sci professor Vladimir Tismaneanu, and phrases like “their [the Communist regimes in the USSR and Eastern Europe] main weakness was a failure to muzzle the human mind.” Oh. Just imagine importing their theories and this time trying on an unsuspecting West via unappreciated education reforms. Describing from his experience, you can imagine my shock at reading descriptions of “conceptual frameworks” that “acted to make sense of general experience for all: all real phenomena could be judged against it and were ascribed value, form and essence in its light.” Do you know how often I have encountered conceptual frameworks in tracking the real Common Core? CRESST itself even told the Hewlett Foundation reassuringly that the actual assessments would be built around those, not the content standards.

Tismaneanu in describing the “continual assault on the mind” he associated with building new values and beliefs and a new Identity (and yes those terms do get used interchangeably in Ideological societies along with Worldview) reminds us pointedly that:

“However socially conditioned the individual’s thinking may be, however necessarily it may relate to social questions, to political action, it remains the thought of the individual which is not just the effect of collective processes but can also take them as its object.”

I have never lived in a society where it is considered “seditious” to maintain your individuality but plenty of people have and they have written about it. When I first wrote this alarming post on Yrjo Engestrom and where I saw the Global Cities Education Network taking us http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/treating-western-society-and-its-economy-as-a-train-in-need-of-rebuilding-and-central-direction/ , I grasped that he did not sound like he was describing a dead philosophy or theories. But I did not yet know that in 1991 he wrote an essay called “Activity theory and individual and social transformation.” Gulp. That sounds just like the aspirations we have been encountering. And it took some searching but this weekend I located a copy. On the servers at Harvard Graduate School of Education as an assigned reading. Maybe to go with the 10 Cs I first described here?

http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/making-race-and-class-oppression-the-locomotives-driving-the-positive-school-climate-mandate/ And if you are not sure yet we are dealing with ideology notice how often trains get used as the desired metaphor. I am just repeating all the uses. Which begins to make more sense once we know that (from the essay):

“Activity theory has its threefold historical origins in classical German philosophy (from Kant to Hegel), in the writings of Marx and Engels, and in the Soviet Russian cultural-historical psychology of Vygotsky, Leont’ev, and Luria.”

OK then. That also brings in Urie Bronfenbrenner and his Ecological Systems Theory that is at the center of the Common Core Social Studies Conceptual Framework. And Activity Theory is now centered at UC-San Diego and Michael Cole’s CHAT research which I have mentioned several times. But the very First International Congress on Activity Theory took place in Berlin in 1986 with Cole and Engestrom participating. That’s about the same time that Cole was thanking the Carnegie Corporation for financing the importation of psychology theories from “our Soviet colleagues.” Following up on the links between the term “Authentic Pedagogy” and Vygotsky and Cole’s work pulled up a 1987 seminal document I had never seen before. Published by the National Academies of Science and written by Lauren Resnick (who would co-chair the New Standards alternative assessment project in the 90s version of these ed reforms before serving on the Common Core creation panel) the document is called “Education and Learning to Think.”

That report, which I found on a server listed as a Common Core Precursor Document, is the source for the now ubiquitous term–Higher Order Thinking. And that document also thanks Cole and his Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition for related work that Carnegie also was financing. Thanks a lot Andrew. Might have been better to let your heirs dissipate the fortune with too many mansions and gaudy vehicles. Since Higher Order Thinking is such an important term to today’s actual classroom emphasis under the Common Core and Texas version but also the ancestry of these ideas, let me quote Lauren’s definition with her italics intact. And remember this is for all children. Concepts and expansionary thinking for all you might say.

–Higher order thinking is nonalgorithmic. That is, the path of action is not fully specified in advance.

–Higher order thinking tends to be complex. The total path is not “visible” (mentally speaking) from any vantage point.

–Higher order thinking often yields multiple solutions, each with costs and benefits, rather than unique solutions.

–Higher order thinking involves nuanced judgment and interpretation.

–Higher order thinking involves the application of multiple criteria, which sometimes conflict with one another. [We have discussed in other posts how this type of mental dissonance can force the need for new mindsets and models.]

–Higher order thinking often involves uncertainty. Not everything that bears on the task at hand is known.

–Higher order thinking involves self-regulation of the thinking process. We do not recognize higher order thinking in an individual when someone else “calls the plays” at every step. [Here Lauren seems to be alluding to sequential, linear mathematics or science where you learn theories that someone else developed and proved. AKA traditional math and science]

–Higher order thinking involves imposing meaning, finding structure in apparent disorder. [If that reminds you of RECAST, David Perkins of Project Zero is listed as involved with this report].

–Higher order thinking is effortful. There is considerable mental work involved in the kinds of elaborations and judgments involved.”

Well, it is my belief that all those are euphemisms for saying higher order thinking is ideological. It is training students to think in terms of assigned categories and imagine different futures for everyone one involved. Planning. Imagining a different economic structure. Other ways to organize societies. Solutions for alleged catastrophes. Creativity that is not impeded by knowledge of what worked or led to catastrophe in the past. Not your own conceptual understandings as gifted students have developed them through the ages but supplied concepts and models and definitions.

There were more congresses on Activity Theory and they were absolutely chock full of Russian psychologists. Which actually makes sense as I will show you in the next post that CHAT and what is now called ISCAR–International Society for Cultural and Activity Theory–are related to the so-called New Thinking that Mikhail Gorbachev transitioned to in the mid-80s as part of perestroika. And why it appears that the restructurings were not just physical but also altered mindsets, values and beliefs, and new interpretive theories. Global this time.

Remember Davydov and his Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete as the new mode of ideologically oriented systems thinking was called? He died in 1998 and was revered at that year’s ISCAR Congress in Copenhagen where his planned address was read instead. The most recent Congress was in 2011 in Rome, Italy. Guess which names showed up as part of the International Scientific Committee for that ISCAR conference? Why that would be Michael Cole, Yrjo Engestrom, and Lauren Resnick. Just in time to make sure the US Common Core implementation and assessments align with ISCAR philosophy and those higher order skills criteria from so long ago.

In case you are too busy to check, the described foundations of ISCAR fit perfectly with what Engestrom described above in 1991 as the source of Activity Theory. Which is also the current basis for most education degrees in the US. Especially the Masters and Doctorates.

Now I am just getting started on all the links involved. And I have read too much history not to have a perspective on what we are looking at here.

But I want you to get used to an idea that I have known for a while but this time approached through a new direction.

The Cold War simply did not end quite in the manner we believed. And the potentials of Activity Theory and a stealth noetic assault on Western values and beliefs appear to be the reasons we were played.

It was a good strategy but unfortunately the answers of why lie in history and political theory books I have now read.

Digest the above revelations and then we will talk some more. And no I am not speculating here. This is way too serious for conjecture. But it is fascinating too because it also makes perfect sense. Actually more sense than the spun stories once you get used to the idea.

As Powerful as a Religious Conversion: Bestowing Deep Understandings for their Revolutionary Effects

In one of those obvious statements that really deserves a sarcastic “Really Sherlock?” response, did you know that people differ in their ability to come up with explanations and structures to organize their thoughts? Which is of course unfair. So in the interests of fairness and equity and without any mention of the political usefulness, schools and effective teaching should now be about providing those so-called Cognitive Structures. That enable thinking and motivate acting in the future. Thinking Tools. How nice. Then there need not be any “cognitive consequences of cultural opportunity.” Single parents, second language, learning disabilities. School will provide the Enduring or Deep Understandings that “serves to organize perception in new ways.” That conceptual lens that may not be true and is not spontaneously generated by All children will now fortuitously be Provided to All children.

Then All Children Can Learn and coincidentally will believe the same things that can have very nice side effects for anyone looking for Fundamental Transformation. Here’s a quote from a 1988 book reprinted regularly through the 90s about the research done with Native Hawaiians as part of the Kamehameha Elementary Education Program (KEEP). It had Ford and Carnegie Foundation funding as well as the National Science Foundation. KEEP was part of a restructuring template to make schools places providing assistance so Each Student can Learn. In the unadvertised sense of behavioral or belief system changes. Much more lasting than mere factual knowledge you see. Only someone working at someone else’s expense would dare say:

“We do not yet know under what circumstances cognitive structuring is to be preferred over questioning, or vice versa. The potential power of cognitive structuring is not in doubt. As in instances of religious conversion, the acceptance of a cognitive structure can have the most revolutionary effects on human behavior and experience. How and why this occurs remain largely mysteries, although our understanding of these remarkable processes is increasing.”

Now it would be possible to provide Concepts and Generalizations and Understandings that are politically neutral but once we get beyond fractions that does not appear to be what anyone has in mind. Old Timers in the Ed Wars will be quaking in their boots when they read that Lynn Erickson was citing Hilda Taba as a model to be emulated in this area of Conceptual Understanding. I will let you look Hilda up. But the idea that human development in school takes the “individual child in whatever form and guides and nurtures the mind, body, and self-concept” should give us all pause. Let’s put that in the context of World Bank economist Kaushik Basu writing in concluding Beyond the Invisible Hand:

“We can come to have norms where behaving otherwise is met with so much social disdain or self-loathing that no one does so. And in the long run, the norms can become so much a part of us that we end up following them not for any reason but rather because that is our instinctive behavioral response.”

And there’s nothing quite like providing “accepted explanatory belief systems” that are practiced with daily over years to transform those norms to instinctive responses. So nice from someone who also wrote that the “demise of the USSR is thus an indictment of a perverse brand of capitalism, not of socialism.” Gulp. Lots of political value in providing the concepts that guide everyday life. And don’t think the radical educators and political schemers (who are sometimes the same person) do not know it. They have been gloating over this for decades beyond our sight but not unrecorded for posterity.

We have covered Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky and his Cognitive Tools repeatedly as well as the related Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) beehive at UC-San Diego.  It would probably surprise you then to know that in June 2007 the American Education Research Association (yes it was about the time AERA elected Bill Ayers as one of their guiding light execs) published  “Vygotsky’s Neglected Legacy: Cultural-Historical Activity Theory.”

Now neither CHAT nor Vygotsky strikes me as neglected in the least. I am practically feeling crushed by the frequency at which they pop up without looking. I think that essay though was intended to mainstream these theories in preparation for offense and implementation in more classrooms. The fact that the paper received funding from the Canadian government and had a co-author from Singapore further suggests we are dealing with a coordinated psychological assault against the individual mind anywhere that ever upheld Anglo-Saxon common law. This is a little long but important. Concepts matter and Concepts aimed at Reorganizing Thought matter most of all.

“Because CHAT addresses the troubling divides [not to me. I prefer the division thank you very much] between individual and collective, material and mental, biography and history, and praxis and theory, we believe that it is deserving of wider currency in the educational community. . . In part, the vigorous dialectical materialist grounding of psychology in Marxism that A.N. Leont’ev pursued may have slowed the reception of CHAT in the West. Yet we emphasize that these powerful analytic tools, existing even in Vygotsky’s works, have little to do with totalitarian regimes that have falsely masqueraded under the banner of Marxism, socialism, or communism.”

I believe that translates as nasty dictators misappropriated those lovely intentions of Uncle Karl and needlessly besmirched this lovely tool for future human development. This time we will get it right and will only manipulate people’s driving belief systems and values in beneficial ways. For their own good. For the Common Good. For the Planet. And you and I may find Dialectics to be an off-putting word we could do without but that is because we fail to appreciate “the dialectical nature of consciousness, which includes cognition, memory, and personality, among others.”

Well, I guess the dialectical part comes from wanting to fundamentally transform it and CHAT is apparently a PRIMO tool. Did you know that “dialectics is ‘possibly the most appropriate frame of reference for the study of human development, and indeed was actually developed as an explanation for human development?” Well, actually I did point that out   http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/who-knew-karl-marx-had-a-human-development-model-or-that-it-fit-our-facts-so-well/ but now we know once again why it fits our Common Core and global reform realities so well.

I am not going to belabor the number of times those coauthors used that D word in that essay. I will, however, mention that the result of all those contradictions and synthesis of Concepts results in a Deep Understanding. Which is exactly the phraseology the Hewlett Foundation keeps using to describe where it sees the Common Core going. And it dovetails with the Education for Life and Work report from last summer. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/so-now-common-core-rejects-individual-thinking-to-embrace-soviet-psychology-ecology/ .

Boy it sure does look like Leont’ev is getting his transformative experiment in the West that he told Urie Bronfenbrenner he aspired to back in the 60s. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/imitating-the-ussr-in-striving-to-discover-how-the-child-can-become-what-he-not-yet-is/ is the post where I explained that ginormous discovery. That is even more important now as we think about all those false conceptual lenses in Urie’s Ecological Systems Thinking Theory. Which is all through the new C3 Social Studies Framework.

One way to think of the to-be-supplied Concepts and Cognitive Structures and Mental Maps is to see them as “schooled concepts.” The Russians so got the importance of the difference between what can be understood only as a result of formal instruction and everyday practices that the 1988 book mentioned above includes the Russian term nauchnoe ponyatie along with the cite to Vygotsky. These Abstract Concepts are learned at school and then applied “downward” from “generalization to palpable example.” All our mentions of Real World problems and Relevance seem to be based on the recognition from Vygotsky and his followers that “Everyday concepts stand between schooled concepts and the experienced world. Schooled concepts, in Jovian detachment, can connect with the world below only through the everyday concepts that have risen through practical activity. …The constant relating of schooled with everyday concepts enriches and saves schooling from aridity, but this relating also profoundly changes the nature of the everyday concepts that are touched, making them ever more systemic, autonomous, and tool-like.”

These research observations could be used to help teach students to better understand reality as it exists but that would not be transformative. Or perhaps as Engaging. Instead the weaving of schooled concepts with the everyday is to be used to create activities and projects and learning tasks with the purpose of “a fundamental restructuring in which all are transformed: actions, relationships, and thinking.” The cite is to another Soviet psychologist. This time El’konin.

I am not looking for Boogie Men (or women) here but we clearly have a constant refrain of Transformation. And I am getting an increasingly uncomfortable feeling that many influential people at the helm or employed by influential institutions or foundations believe that the Human Development aspects of Uncle Karl’s writings make a good Overlord theory for the 21st Century. And they do intend to give it a try in real time on a massive scale all over the West. But especially against the World’s only Superpower and its  economy.

And the US for the most part is completely unaware that this most subjugating of theories against the primacy of the individual is coming in under an “How All Children Can Learn” banner.

 

 

Viewing a CORE Decree, Cognitive Reorganization for All Students, As Modern Day Spoliation

In October 1997 the lead professors in what became the Understandings of Consequence (UoC) Project and RECAST work on restructuring students’ assumptions on causation wrote a very interesting piece called “Teaching Intelligence.” Published in the American Psychologist, it laid out the CORE vision of what precisely needs to be reorganized. I am going to show how the reorganization goals dovetail with aspects of the Common Core implementation I have already mentioned. And the CORE Cognitive Reorganization is Transdisciplinary. It is not the content of the disciplines to be learned anymore but the opportunities disciplines like history or science provide to create dissonance and mediation. CORE recognizes that “reorganization is most likely when learners become aware of the strengths and problems of their current beliefs, understandings, and thinking patterns.” Just what we all send children to school to have go on.

And then barely six months later the first of the listed UoC NSF funded projects began. Called “The Challenge of Developing Systems Thinkers: How Misconceptions About Complex Causality Contribute to Fundamental Problems in Scientific Learning,” it was headed up by Perkins and Grotzer. It leads to the current UoC work described in the previous post. Now for all of you who are finding this damning so far but wondering what this has to do with leaving food out of the refrigerator, I did not mean that kind of spoliation. I am using the term as what the Italians called spogliazione. But then European countries that remember feudalism and absolutist rulers like Napoleon have understood state directed plundering of the productive classes for centuries. And they call it Spoliation. And talking about it for a minute using quotes from across the Atlantic and across the centuries should go a long way towards answering that Number 1 most asked question when reading my posts: “But why? What a waste.” Indeed. Spoliation and with lots of precedent.

All these economic philosophers understood well the tendency of “the immortal state, the state that does not fulfill its primordial duties [the protection of personal liberty and property] but makes itself the center of intrigues, of favors, of transfers of wealth.” And what do Digital Literacy and all those Green Growth schemes have in common with what concerned the 19th century so much? They all understood the need for some type of bulwark or governments will be ever-expanding since:

“the beneficial effect of State intervention, especially in the form of legislation, is direct, immediate, and, so to speak, visible, whilst its evil effects are gradual and indirect, and lie out of sight.”

For that reason, there has always been a battle throughout history between “privilege, secret interest, political advantage, everything that is capable of coveting”–what we today call rent-seekers and the great mass of consumers and taxpayers who pay the bills and have no lobbyists in DC or the state capitol. That’s not an anti-government rant but a historical observation. And quite relevant to what is being sought now in the 21st century in the name of education. Thinking is being reorganized and false beliefs are being fostered precisely to gain people who either will not notice manipulation or who will regard it as necessary in pursuit of a greater goal or averting a supposed catastrophe.

It is in that light I want to give you a heads up that RECAST and CORE are very much a part of an organized effort to supposedly shift humanity away from a selfish philosophy of knowledge to a so-called altruistic philosophy of wisdom. No of course nobody told us since we might have objected. Laid out by UK professor, Nicholas Maxwell, in his 1984 book From Knowledge to Wisdom: A Revolution in the Aims & Methods of Science the philosophy of wisdom stance can be clearly seen in Common Core’s push that curricula and assessments be about solving real world problems. It is very much in line with what we saw in the Appreciative Inquiry posts.

Under the philosophy of wisdom, education must “give absolute intellectual priority to our life and its problems, to the mystery of what is of value, actually and potentially, in existence, and to the problems of how what is of value is to be realized.” Which of course, individuals cannot accomplish alone. They will need public policy to aid them in “cooperatively solving” the “common problems of living.” It’s no accident that in the back of the book Maxwell cites groups interested in the social responsibility of science as supporting the philosophy of wisdom. And the environmentalists. And something called Science in a Social Context. And UNESCO. This is a rent-seekers dream and very much consistent with one of Uncle Karl’s best known quotes which Maxwell cites approvingly: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” The philosophy of wisdom does that even when it is going by other names.

Which gets us back to CORE and RECAST. I don’t think it is coincidental that Maxwell cites John Dewey as a major devotee of pushing the synthesis he called the philosophy of wisdom. Nor do I think it is coincidental that what CORE and RECAST are getting at is  what the 1971 book Inquiring Man called a radical new idea. Where “educational growth is not the accumulation of more and more pieces of information, but the development of an increasingly complex structure for organizing and inter-relating ideas.” Doesn’t that sound familiar? Like being a Systems Thinker? Or seeing race and class oppression as causes of any dissimilarity in life circumstances?

What Thinking Intelligence described as “helping learners reorganize their thinking around a more powerful pattern.” Pre-supplied by the ever helpful teacher seeking “transfer” through “thorough practice with deliberately diverse cases.” In other words, nothing really in common except being told there is a causal relationship. Find one. Make it up. Negotiate with the rest of the class for possibilities. Learn to think through abstractions NOT grounded in facts. Ascend from the Abstract to the Concrete of everyday life.

Learning to think ideologically until it becomes a habit of mind and hiding that desired widespread practice as “higher-order thinking.” Teaching Intelligence explicitly mentioned five areas of “cognitive reorganization (CORE categories): strategies, metacognition, dispositions, distributed intelligence, and transfer. We have already talked about transfer today and in that Yrjo Engestrom post. For metacognition it is intimately bound up in the real definition of college and career ready. It also explains why CCR architect, David Conley, sought to rename noncognitive skills as Metacognition. Laid out here  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/now-more-than-five-years-into-an-attempt-to-help-organize-a-near-total-revision-of-human-behavior/

Strategies “reorganize thinking by providing patterns to follow that work against the defaults.” Like complex causation and systems thinking in general. Dispositions “emanate in part from underlying beliefs.” Well luckily there has been no organized attempts to foster any false beliefs. The paper then cites Vygotskyian scholar Carol Dweck without pointing out whose work she is so fond of. Today she is better known for her work on Growth Mindsets and Fixed Mindsets. Her books and passages are not only being assigned to teachers but I know for a fact they have been assigned in Honors English classes this school year. Of course the Chair of that English Department had a newly minted Masters from a Vygotskyian-oriented program so that may explain the determination to move fast.

Thinking dispositions “consist of both sensitivity and inclination.” They are what John Dewey called “habits of thought” and they reorganize thinking “through the sensitivity to detect occasions that call for a particular pattern of thinking and the inclination to follow through.” Again all this in an environment where teachers are not to teach factual content. And being told you have a fixed mindset at a tender age seems like such an insult. Must change.

Distributed cognition gets at “team thinking” and the use of cultural tools like computers. It also stresses “teleconferencing [to] allow the pooling of expertise and collaborative brainstorming.” Have you heard about mental mapping? This is where it comes in– “extensive use of graphic organizers-diagrammatic ways of representing evidential and other relationships that provide both physical and symbolic support.”

All of this is designed to force students to see the world not as it is. But as people with a political agenda for education, who actively seek to transform society to cause a shift to a centrally planned economy premised in a welfare state/ social citizenship structure, wish the students and future voters to see the world. All going on at the same time Europe is coming to grips with the perverse incentives and financial Unsustainability of so many of the programs this type of education was intended to promote. None of which is part of the sales pitch for the Common Core or its continuing propaganda campaign.

I guess everyone is hoping that the Cognitive Reorganization in enough voters will be a  done deal before enough people grasp what has happened. And by then it will be too late.

I can just hear it now. “What do you mean the Common Core assessments were not actually tests and were not monitoring knowledge of facts?”

A West that couples low information voters to voters who live at the expense of the State and then adds voters who have undergone years of this ideological reorganizing of thought patterns will be dysfunctional at virtually every level.

And every bit as toxic as the spoliation that occurs without refrigeration.

Treating Western Society and its Economy as a Train in Need of Rebuilding and Central Direction

When you get down deep into the aspirations on using education to shift the West away from its historic focus on individuals and economic freedom to considering new, untried forms of organizing societies and economies, you quickly come upon the desire that “learning” NOT reenforce currently existing “systems.” The fact that what is being called systems are actually people, like me and you, who are supposed to have legally protected rights to autonomy and private decision-making gets conveniently left out. That the countries to be reorganized have a history of success in the unprecedented opportunities available to their people gets left out. That free markets where they exist have delivered unprecedented prosperity to even the poorest among us also gets left out as inconvenient facts. Systems. Just systems that can be rebuilt with enough Big Data and supercomputers into a smarter planet. No one stops to ask whose vision of “smart” is being imposed.

Our friend, psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner of Ecological Systems Theory and transforming the West as an experiment fame  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/imitating-the-ussr-in-striving-to-discover-how-the-child-can-become-what-he-not-yet-is/ understood well that the theories he and others were creating were not based on some type of hypothesis about factual reality. They were and are aspirational. If implemented, these psychological and political theories become a means to “transcend the contexts given to you to produce societal change and personal developmental change.” That would be personal change in Uncle Karl’s sense of the word.  http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/who-knew-karl-marx-had-a-human-development-model-or-that-it-fit-our-facts-so-well/ . Or now hiding so well under the real definition of Student Growth. With lots of personal affective data being collected and shared to see how the developmental Learning is progressing.

We have a new global Change Agent to talk about. A professor who split his time between Finland and the University of California at San Diego, Yrjo Engestrom. His writing is important to our global story because of his Theory of Expansion and the influence of his book Learning by Expanding. Exciting for him and concerning to us, his Activity Theory is clearly the influence behind what are now being called euphemistically the Learning Sciences. As in the April 2012 Rand Corporation report for that Global Cities Education Network discussed here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/misportraying-the-conspiracy-covers-up-the-broader-plans-of-political-and-economic-transformation/ . The report is called Teaching and Learning 21st Century Skills: Lessons from the Learning Sciences and it again shows why making poorly understood and defined goals like 21st Century Skills the new purpose of education has so much potential for anyone with aspirations for stealth cultural transformation.

Hidden at least in the West except at conferences of the like-minded. We know Urie was downright confessional on his aspirations in print. So quite frankly is Engestrom in his books and articles if you take the time to read them. What a fun weekend I had! The train metaphor in our title comes from Engestrom but he is quoting a frustration that Urie had with education in the US and the West generally. That human development in the West “takes place like in a moving train. One can walk forward and backward through the cars, but what really matters is where the train is going.”

I personally am hoping if I am being likened to a train car that I get to be a sleek luxury bullet train car and not something Amtrak has operating. But I digress. Engestrom then went on to say that Urie’s train metaphor “exemplifies the central problem embedded in most of the available societally and ecologically oriented analysis of development” [those originally Marxian or Soviet theories get to hide now by just being referred to authoritatively as the Learning Sciences. See above].

Here is the money quote that could have come from a myriad of social and behavioral scientists and education professors. Think of Engestrom as their voice too.

“The environments or societal contexts are seen as historically changing, but not as being constructed and reconstructed by the people living in these contexts. Contexts are imposed upon, not produced by humans. Nobody seems to be driving the train.”

Luckily as my regular readers now know the videogaming vision attached to the actual Common Core implementation will give students plenty of practice in constructing and reconstructing worlds. Even embedding them in strategies of what to do after a Zombie Apocalypse. How exciting and engaging! Engestrom’s sentiments on wanting a driver of a collective train are not the least bit unusual for someone who grew up with Uncle Karl’s theories of historical progression. In fact author Arthur Koestler who was so disillusioned by the turn Stalinism took that he wrote one of the great novels of the 20th Century, Darkness at Noon, could never quite shake his dislike of spontaneous, undirected processes where ever they occur naturally. Like in biology or chemistry. He still wanted direction. Central direction.

The kind that comes from cultural evolution if you can make education about transforming personal and prevailing values, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. What became notorious as Outcomes Based Education but now hides quietly as unappreciated definitions of Student Growth and Learning. Still there but unlikely to be detected except maybe by hyperactive due diligence attorneys who read too much. Now Engestrom’s globally influential work made no attempt to hide just how much it was grounded in Soviet theories of dialectical materialism and how to try to push “a historically new form of activity into emergence.”

He certainly did not write in 1987 or again in 1999, when his book was translated into German and Japanese and he wrote a new Introduction, like someone who saw Uncle Karl’s or Soviet theories generally as assigned to the ash heap of history. For supposedly comatose or dead theories they appear in his pen to be full of vim and vigor and still existing hopes for transformation. I suppose it helps that our guard was down because “We won!”

In 1991 Engestrom wrote an article, published in Great Britain, that is clearly the blueprint for the reimagining of high school we are seeing globally and in the US as a component of Common Core. The article was called “Non Scolae Sed Vitae Discimus: Toward Overcoming the Encapsulation of School Learning.”  Now if that title was not pompous enough sounding, the actual article goes on to lay out “The Formation of Theoretical Concepts by Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete in Instruction.” Developed by V V Davydov based on Uncle Karl’s theory of finding defining relationships that can then filter everyone’s everyday analysis of reality, that theory was the subject of a great deal of research for decades in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. And it does not seem to have gone gently into that dark night either.

And neither ‘abstract’ or ‘concrete’ in Davydov’s theory have the meaning we commonly associate with them. ‘Concrete’ is NOT seen as “something sensually palpable.” Abstract does NOT mean “something conceptual or mentally constructed.” No, in this Davydov/Engestrom theory ‘concrete’ means the “holistic quality of systemic interconnectedness.” Which means that all of our encounters with Systems Thinking and Peter Senge and Appreciative Inquiry that push to teach students to see the world as interconnected and interdependent and full of relationships are back to Davydov’s theories.

Which in turn are explicitly supposed to be an updated, supercharged version of Dialectics. That’s not me alleging that. It’s me quoting those statements and then recognizing where else they are now being used. It also means that dialectical view of ‘concrete’ absolutely saturates that C3 CCSSO Social Studies framework I wrote alarmingly about here. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/tearing-up-the-fabric-of-a-free-society-the-new-college-career-and-civic-life-c3-framework/

It is behind the 21st Century definition of ‘transferable learning’ in that Rand Global Cities Education Network report mentioned above. It is why we should be alarmed by that report asking “students to make analogies between a topic and something different, such as between ecosystems and financial markets.” Which are actually not analogous but neither the teacher nor the students are likely to recognize that. And if they all believe there is a connection and they act on those beliefs, we are back to our consequential false beliefs problem. Donald Schon’s Generative Metaphor who is absolutely cited by Engestrom by name.

The same guiding but false belief problem comes in when that Rand report “asks students to generalize broad principles from a specific piece of information.” Oh yes, that’s a good thing to practice. Practice creating and relying on dogma without anyone pointing out that is what is being practiced. No wonder students are being asked to computer model the discredited Limits to Growth scenarios from the 70s as part of Common Core science. It may not be factually true but it can now still be influential on future behavior. Plus bolstering that perceived need for transformation.

Some of you may have noticed that Common Core makes lots of references to student conceptual understanding for an approach that is so hostile to factual information. That is entirely possible if we are back to dialectical view of what concrete means as the real operating definition of conceptual understanding. Davydov’s ‘kernel’ becomes Common Core’s ‘lens’.

Which means that all of Davydov’s or Engestom’s or Uncle Karl’s aspirations for these theories come in too. Unannounced and so unopposed. No wonder the Chinese government thinks the Learning Sciences views in that Rand report are suitable in Shanghai and Hong Kong as well as the West.

They were subjugation theories against individuals and economies when they were written and they remain so now. Even if only a few of us appreciate those facts now.

Or should I say yet? And be more optimistic?

What Happens When the Hidden Goal of Education Is Interrupting Pre-existing Social Stratifications?

What if you were a hungry pioneer in a new town in the middle of nowhere in the 19th century and it was a long, cruel winter? Inexperienced you did not appreciate the danger of eating the seed corn that would be needed if there were to be plants for the following years. So you and your family and maybe other starving townspeople consumed it all to get through the winter. Unaware just how precious it might turn out to be in hindsight. But by then it is gone.

That failure to appreciate the precariousness of how we stay where we are culturally and economically, and the preciousness of what it actually took to get to this point in history, is exactly what I worry about when I read statements about “suspending the contributions of inborn capacities” or the “extent to which people expend great effort.” Jettisoning those important things is supposedly necessary to “adequately interrupt the reproduction of pre-existing social stratification.” And I am once again NOT playing Fish Around for Horrific Quotes to Get People Riled Up About the Common Core. Or C-Scope. Or even those preparing for a new type of capitalism 21st Century Skills.

Initially the quotes I am using are from another one of those Gordon Commission reports I have been writing about in recent posts. This one called “Democracy, Meritocracy and the Uses of Education” is by Aundra Saa Meroe. It helps frame the very dangerous mindsets being created in graduate higher ed programs to credential adults to impose what are actually political or sociology theories on students in K-12 institutions. And soon to be preschool.

I am going to detour for a second to reiterate a point Nobel Economist Friedrich Hayek made in his classic 1944 bestseller The Road to Serfdom. It is something to keep in mind as we explore today and generally in this blog the determination to use educational institutions to transform the prevailing worldviews. In the US and all over the world especially anywhere that ever cherished individual liberty and freedom to create and trade and set rules by private contract. Schools and colleges and universities really are being used to alter individual feelings, values, attitudes, and beliefs to embrace, or at least tolerate or not notice, a radically different political, economic, and social structure than what has ever brought mass prosperity. Hayek with his background in prewar Europe and then among the Fabian social planners in London knew what was, and still is being sought.

“The important point is that the political ideals of a people and its attitude toward authority are as much an effect as the cause of the political institutions under which it lives. This means, among other things, that even a strong tradition of political liberty is no safeguard if the danger is precisely that the new institutions and policies will gradually undermine and destroy that spirit.”   (HT to Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek for that timely Quote)

That destruction is absolutely the hidden intent of the Common Core’s actual planned implementation and its new assessments and the Lumina Diploma Qualifications Profile in higher ed and all the social and emotional emphasis coming to the classrooms. To understand why anyone would contemplate such a wholesale attack I want to quote from a part of this report that sets up the anger and actual hatred for what currently exists:

“The history of nascent democracy and nation-building in the United States among voluntary immigrant populations obscures how the broadening horizons for some were in part realized through the brutal eclipses of basic human freedoms, for many others through land seizure, warfare, the persecution and containment of indigenous populations, the enslavement of African people and the subordination of women. These forms of oppression and subjugated labor underlie the advances made in the nation’s formative forays into farming, commerce and industry.”

In this view everything that exists in our 21st Century America is seen as irrevocably tainted by the past and illegitimate. The remedy? “Absent the larger society’s commitment to an equal distribution of resources, academic institutions are held to be central sites for the distribution of resources.” Hence the Equity in Credentials even if they no longer designate meaningful knowledge or skills. Those unfulfillable expectations merely become more fuel for the desired radical transformation. That’s why all these education reforms are always coupled to a Social Citizenship vision in a Welfare State vision. We first saw it here http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/morphing-the-common-core-into-a-new-rewritten-us-constitution-by-mandating-false-beliefs/.

Meroe then follows up her vision of tainted America with a description of Robert Dahl’s vision for democracy to become “an evolving, progressive social enterprise.” This time “all people must have equal opportunities to realize” their “mutual interests and valued goods.” Of course history has shown that that kind of equality can only exist with an overarching government constantly administering “fairness and justice.” And government involved to that extent will ALWAYS be captured by politically connected rent-seekers wanting favors at our expense. And thus be even less fair or just in the long run. But, hey, let’s not let reality intrude quite yet on all these pie-in-the-sky decrees.

One more pivot to the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard that philanthropist Eli Broad set up in 2008 with a $6 million contribution. Best known in education for his creation of the Broad Prize for Urban School Districts and training administrators in a Superintendents Academy, I am going to use the description of the purpose of the Ed Labs found on the website of the WEB Du Bois Institute at Harvard. It says the project is “devoted to understanding the causes and consequences of inequality in American society. .. The broader objective of the lab is to employ scientific methods–rather than anecdotal or ideological reasoning–to improve public decision making and policy around issues related to inequality in the US.”

Fair enough although with all the behaviorist economists, psychologists, and sociologists involved in the effort you do have to wonder if the “scientific methods” are not BF Skinner’s vision for a science of education using operant conditioning. It sure would fit our known facts and is something to keep an eye on.

Meroe’s report goes on to announce that the “ubiquity of substandard public education among students of lower-SES ethnic minority groups . . . also reveals the malevolence of meritocratic rationalization.” She is on her way to lay the ground work for “mass-scale capacity for cooperative productivity in the workplace” that we have seen before. She advocates for what she calls “these collectivist goals of ‘democratic equality’ and ‘social efficiency’ [that] can conflict with a view of education as a private good for the purposes of education.”

Meroe is not unique in her angst about the urban areas and seeing the solution as Social Citizenship. We saw it with the Building One America conference and the Regional Equity and Metropolitanism movement I have written about. I read Professor Michael Katz’s The Price of Citizenship: Redefining the American Welfare State this week and got treated to yet more of the Social Citizenship as necessary to give our inner cities a remedy for their devastation argument. Likewise, the involvement of a number of the listed Ed Lab contributors with the Russell Sage Foundation led me to the future vision laid out in 1995 in their Poverty, Inequality and the Future of Social Policy: Western States in the New World Order.

So I actually do see where all this is going and it is an unworkable remedy. But I want to go back to the rationales. In particular that the low achievement in the urban districts is a result of “malevolence.” Whose? After all it is the urban districts that readily embraced the Vygotskyian “sociocultural” approaches first. Why? Because as we saw in the goals of the last post and as Leontiev and Bronfenbrenner apparently discussed in the 60s in talking about the Western countries and economies, many decision-makers do not want education theories or practices that preserve or reenforce the prevailing capitalist/individualist systems. They want urban students primed for transformation. This was also why Saul Alinsky’s IAF saw urban schools as great places for community organizing. The Alliance Network in Texas and other states now show it still is viewed that way.

I have written about Professor Michael Cole before. In a chapter to a 1985 book called Culture, communication, and cognition: Vygotskyian perspectives, Cole writes “In circumstances where we do not want to take the cultural context as given. . . [sociocultural theory] offers a very fruitful framework because of its militant insistence on linking individual and social activity.” So what was a militant linkage in 1985 is now to be the required classroom practices under the definitions of Effective Teaching under the Common Core. Moreover, that physical and social activity approach had toxic effects in urban areas. Especially when normed or even criterion tests are used against suburban schools which still had an academic focus and parents who could remediate at the proverbial kitchen table or hire a tutor.

That’s not malevolence and the resulting gaps in performance are certainly no reason to wreck everything as we are doing. And it’s not like the sociocultural/Soviet emphasis in the Urban schools was a secret. Professor Cole goes on to thank the Carnegie Corporation for the funding to import the psychology theories from “our Soviet colleagues.”

This went longer than I wanted so I will stop. The dysfunction of the inner cities and the achievement gaps have causes that are not being discussed. They have become excuses for wholesale transformation of all our institutions and even us. From the inside-out.

And when we trace backwards we find either false beliefs or political theories with a tragic past. All being pushed by tax free foundations intent on social change and without any willingness to do the cleanup work from the effects of previous theories.

Equality-the chimera that threatens to ruin the futures of anyone without political connections.

 

Targeting How Students See the World So They Will Feel An Irresistible Compulsion For Change

As I have charted through the economic or political or ecological visions of the future that underlie all these ed reforms,  I keep mentioning the lack of knowledge. The insistence that being able to search for information with a search engine is enough. That it no longer needs to be either in a student’s brain or a conceptual remnant, developed by the student from facts that passed through of how the world worked. What had led to tragedies in the past. What character traits worked well. What acceleration towards a personal abyss always felt like and what tends to provoke it.

The fact that education at all levels, K-12 and higher ed, plans to largely take that away under accreditation mandates or visions of equity that require only curricula ALL can engage in (even if it’s as a member of the group with project or problem-based learning) is so counter-intuitive to each of our experiences of what works. And what will not. So I wanted to spend some time today quoting these no knowledge aspirations. I am really not kidding. Or exaggerating. Or going to great trouble to locate a juicy nugget to get you outraged to take action. Every once in a while only a nerdy, 10 dollar word will do and here comes one—omnipresent. This essential component of the vision of the future is everywhere in these sources. It goes back decades. And it is integral to the vision.

As my readers who read the Climate Skeptics sites like Jo Nova or Watts Up With That or Bishop Hill  all know, yesterday the remainder of the ClimateGate emails as well as the password were released,. As we await those revelations of additional coordination to prevent reality from intruding on lucrative grants and false models intended to guide public policy, let’s think about the determination to shut down unapproved knowledge itself. This post was already outlined when that wonderful news came out yesterday. But the facts in this post just became more important.

Because paradigm shifts away from anything other than experiential education are being sold as supposedly necessary to prevent ecological calamity. This quote is from a Pew financed book published in the US by two Australian professors ready to accept a global authoritarian government to force compliance with this Climate catastrophe vision of the future. The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy, published in 2007, put it this way in describing universities in the future:

“The freedom to pursue knowledge as the individual sees fit is a mistake, for freedom must be considered in the context of the needs of society as a whole. . . The Real University will have an agenda, which includes priorities for those tasks to be pursued that are essential to the future well-being of humanity.”

And you can bet it will be Paul Ehrlich’s and UN or OECD bureaucrats, with their tax-free salaries, deciding what will be in humanity’s interests and what will constitute well-being. I will get to that in a minute. Once again reminding you that Agenda 21 is no legend. It’s the mandate for action repeatedly cited in everything from the definition of Global Citizenship to Education for Sustainability degree programs. In fact, here’s a cite to a 2008 publication in case I run out of room in this post  http://www.developmenteducationreview.com/print/issue6-focus3?page=show . You can read about how education for knowledge is akin to “colonization of the mind” and thus unacceptable or how Education for Sustainability needs a systems or relational approach to be taught in the schools and universities. That way students will be trained to always look for “contexts and connections in order to build up whole pictures of phenomena rather than breaking things into individual parts. It is a way of seeing which focuses on processes, patterns and dynamics…”

And it will likely create ways of seeing that are factually untrue but they will be politically powerful and likely to compel action to create change. Why? Because as Oberlin Professor David Orr describes it as Biophilia and the Next Generation Science Standards just call “hands-on science,” the new preferred method based on experience:

“links sensory knowledge with the emotions that make us love and sometimes fight.”

In fact, Orr wants students to redefine what is patriotic and unpatriotic in terms of the environment and also fair shares of natural resources. Patriotism “should in the future also come to mean the use made of land, forests, air, water, and wildlife. To abuse natural resources, to erode soils, to destroy natural diversity, to waste, to take more than one’s fair share, or to fail to replenish what has been used, must someday come to be regarded as unpatriotic. And ‘politics’ once again must come to mean, in Vaclav Havel’s words, ‘serving the community and serving those who will come after us.”

http://exacteditions.theecologist.org/read/resurgence/vol-29-no-3-may-june-1999-6536/85/3?dps= is a link to the full 1999 Orr essay on “Rethinking Education.” As you will see it is a paradigm shift and it looks just like the implementation we now have coming to classrooms near us soon. Or already there. All actually based on the disputable premise that “the skills, aptitudes, and attitudes that were necessary to industrialize the Earth are not the same as those that are needed now to heal the Earth, or to build durable economies and good communities.”

And if that durable economy sounds like a needs economy as Scharmer and Zuboff envision in that earlier post or Harry Boyte’s concept of community, they do seem to have read each other’s work even if they do not actually talk. Who knows? They all, including that Pew book above, keep talking about wisdom and usually italicizing it just like that. Before we talk about that “approved deep understanding that compels approved action, ” I want to mention a crucial point on all this Harry Boyte lays out in his Chapter on “Spreading Everyday Politics.” He recognizes that in the information age, “those who do the conceptual organizing are in a particularly powerful position.”

That’s true of Hollywood and the nightly news but it is especially true in an education world both trying to deemphasize factual knowledge AND come up with the filtering metaphors that students will come to see the world through without appreciating they are metaphors and not reality itself. We know Don Schon saw this and loved its possibilities for social change with just the right Generative Metaphors. We have seen it with Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory now being taught as fact to both teachers and students. Harvard Professor AN Whitehead even came up with a name for it–“the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.” Now instead of a warning, that fallacy is being deliberately cultivated as a key, politically useful component of desired 21st century thinking.

Wisdom in the vision ( I am using the Pew book again) being pushed for education in the future is all about “a desire and an active striving for values.” New ones. And just like Milton Rokeach figured out so long ago, it’s because values drive future behavior. This philosophy of wisdom treats the purpose of education as being to “help us develop wiser ways of living, institutions, customs and social relations-a wiser world.” But one not based on book learning from the past. One based on feelings and hopes and what David Orr (cited by name in the book) calls “slow knowledge.” It involves how to do practical things in the belief that book knowledge “may allow people to become greater and greater destroyers of ecological services.”

But which is more likely to lead to actual destruction in the 21st century? Jettisoning the accumulated knowledge of the past for political theories of what might work? Psychological theories of how human nature might change if education becomes more visual and group-oriented and grounded in social and emotional learning of new values daily in the classroom?

And virtually none of these underlying assumptions driving ed reforms globally are on anyone’s radar. Except mine and now yours.

I feel a bit like Mr FOIA of ClimateGate. This is too grave to be allowed to stand without at least trying to stop it by bringing it to your attention.

Done. Time for breakfast and the carpool line.

Does Community of Learners Sound Warm, Fuzzy and Harmless? It’s Not

Community of Learners (CoL) is a phrase that first came on my radar when a new high school principal who prided himself on being a Change Agent kept mentioning it. Sandwiched in between troubling references to the teachers “may no longer teach or lecture” and “students should construct their own learning.” So the term was on my radar screen as probable trouble in a way that most parents or community leaders or politicians are unlikely to pick up on. My guess is the first time any of you or the political decision makers hear of  a CoL or its earlier name, Collaborative Classroom, will be something along the lines of the way Lee S Shulman, the President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and another Stanford prof, described it. He called it a “pedagogic reform”–“Fostering a Community of Learners.” My comments are in brackets.

“The essence of FCL is the creation of learning experiences in which students who are working on big ideas [now frequently called essential questions as in McTighe/Wiggins Understanding by Design] become interdependent in their investigations and their collaborations around new tasks. [remember CCSSI is student-centered and all the mentions are to activities, tasks, and projects. Virtually all group]… FCL rests heavily on the deep understanding [emotional; affective; grounded in feelings and beliefs based on experiences]. [FCL] is primarily concerned with achieving changes in the social relations among students [paging John Dewey to the 21st Century classroom!!]. Moreover, we argue that this form of task division and distribution is not merely a pedagogical tactic; it mirrors the ways in which complex problems are addressed in both academic and entrepreneurial contexts in the modern world.”

Now, minus my snarkiness or inserted explanations prompting a recall of earlier points in previous posts, this explanation of a reform might sound pretty convincing. Especially if sold as a means to decrease the drop-out rate by increasing student engagement. You can bet this would come with all the university presidents and business people who think it is a wonderful idea. Left out of course would be the fact that the higher ed accreditation agencies required the change in the classroom and probably pushed the “independent” endorsement of FCL to boot. Or that virtually all the businesses being cited for support have some undisclosed conflict or are looking forward to being a designated vendor of a NEED in a hoped-for new kind of Capitalism as we have talked about.

So I see things differently because I understand more pertinent facts than what is typically supplied by the sales campaign for these education or economic reforms. And those of you who are hearing horror stories (finally!!) about the new Common Core Science Standards and its emphasis on consensus science, remember Carnegie financed those standards. So the real point of FCL is pertinent to the real point of those Science Standards. Which is to replace objective, experimental Science as a body of disprovable  knowledge. Instead we are to get experience knowledge grounded in personal perspectives. As you can appreciate Experience Science is much more susceptible to influence from political power. Very convenient in a hoped for government-led economy of the future.

Now what Shulman and others advocating CoLs as a key component now of Effective Teaching and Classrooms and Positive School Climates and Cultures are likely to leave out is that this is yet another export from the Soviet Union from the time of the Cold War. Professor Bronfenbrenner was not the only American prof dropping in on Soviet psychologist Leon’tiev for some advice on how to teach American students in the future. Then Harvard Ed Prof Courtney Cazden just happens to mention in her book Classroom Discourse: The Language of Art and Teaching that FCL came from observations of a mid-70s trip to the USSR she and Professor Ann Brown and Professor Michael Cole took.

The late Ann Brown is considered to be the creator of the US version of FCL along with her husband Joe Campione. She grounded it explicitly in the theories of Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky who we have talked about before. He was trying to come up with a way to create the perfect Soviet personality for the future. The FCL Project is described as a “system of interactive activities designed to create a self-consciously active and reflective learning environment.”  Which sounds ever so much like the actual intentions for the Common Core classroom all over the globe now when you read the documents the insiders send to each other on what they wish to achieve.

If you are wondering why now after the USSR went poof, let’s remember all the cited political theorists and business professors and systems thinkers I have described as seeking economic democracy globally in the 21st century. Scharmer, Zuboff, Harry Boyte, Benjamin Barber, and John Dewey himself. Cazden herself said that these types of social interactions in the classroom are “essential for students’ development toward active citizenship in a pluralistic democratic society.”  Professor Michael Cole cited John Dewey for this reason:

“the social environment … is truly educative in the degree to which an individual shares or participates in some conjoint activity. [a nerdy way to say group learning]. By doing his share in the associated activity, the individual appropriates the purpose that actuates it [don’t be surprised if it’s about global warming or overpopulation], becomes familiar with its methods and subject matters, acquires needed skill, and is saturated with emotional spirit.”

That last part really got my attention as another one of the books being cited to push for a different kind of economic system to go with these ed reforms is called The Spirit Society imported from the UK. Plus Zuboff described her distributed capitalism in terms of using education to infuse the desired spirit. We seem to have a consistent theme and desire going here.

Cazden described the importance of FCL and its emphasis on social relationships like this: “Now each student becomes a significant part of the official learning environment for all the others, and teachers depend on students’ contributions to other students’ learning, both in discussions and for the diffusion of individual expertise through the class.”

Yes that is the real reason Gifted programs and tracking are being discontinued. Those fine minds and excellent vocabularies and outside school experiences become common property of the classroom. To be accessible to everyone instead of the talented students moving on in the subject-based, abstract world they are capable of and may prefer. That would be selfish in our hoped for economic democracy where everyone’s needs come first and individualism is no longer a concept to be cherished or even accepted. See Cazden’s colleague James Paul Gee’s rejection of even the concept in an earlier post.

Professor Cole likewise said the Community of Learners concept is grounded in Vygotskyian “cultural-historical activity theory” or CHAT for short. His acronym, not mine.  Like Dewey, Professor Cole sees these learning theories where “humans are [supposedly I add] created in joint mediated activity” as about changing the prevailing society and its customs, feelings, values, attitudes, and beliefs. In fact, Cole said the “acid test of CHAT” would be its “success in guiding the construction of new, more humane forms of activity.”

Like Boyte’s Cooperative Commonwealth or Zuboff’s distributed capitalism or Otto Scharmer’s Capitalism 3.0? Every time we peel away the cover of the rhetoric intended to be the sales campaign about the US Common Core and its related education reforms globally, we find these radical Transformative intentions. Cole says “Culture is exteriorized mind; mind is interiorized culture.” So if you make the classroom about social interaction and the use of a visually-oriented external thinking devices like Smartphone or tablets like an IPad, the hoped-for change is the student’s mind from the inside out. Hopefully largely empty of accurate facts. Do that to enough students, especially making the activities about emotionally provocative or insoluble complex world problems, and you can change the prevailing culture.

Implementing these ed theories may also though destroy everything that works without gaining viable substitutes in its place. Except the strong arm of government coercion. I have not made too heavy of an emphasis on how the Communitarian aspects of all these reforms harkens back to what was going on in 19th century German education reforms. I will simply add that the Germanic term Gemeinschaft keeps being cited in these related reports for internal consumption. One such report from December 2000 went on with the definition of a desired school community “where the value of individuals working together for the common good is upheld and respected.” It also referred reverentially to Amitai Etzioni by name as well as his anti-individualism “social movement.”

Can you see why I see the reality of the Common Core so much differently? It is all there once you treat education reform like an onion and peel away the rhetoric. And track back to the actual creators of these implementation practices.