Accomplishing One of the Biggest Transformations in Human History Largely Out of Sight

The problem with having an experienced Due Diligence lawyer figuring out what is really going on in an industry is we do tend to blow through ordinary barriers. It is just reflex to figure out who really owns what and where the funding is coming from and who else is connected. Which may make me a pain sometimes in casual conversation but it was darn useful to clients. Now since I have chosen to use writing to explain the connections and why they matter in education and how it relates to planned social, political, and economic transformations globally, let’s get going again. Because with this story, the real question becomes who isn’t affected, not who is.

A book that is probably not on your radar screen that should be came out in 2009 in the UK and 2010 in the US. Called The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger it lays out a vision to “inspire us to create a better society.” It argues that the developed rich countries have “material success and social failure” and that “the broken society and broken economy resulted from the growth of inequality.” Now I would argue that what has broken the rich countries is too much government intervention, like in the mortgage markets, that creates perverse incentives and loads of unintended consequences.

We have discussed before that many economists like Joseph Schumpeter realized that if you keep blaming the ill effects of interventionism on capitalism instead of the reality of cronyism coupled to government coercion, you will steadily get socialism quietly and invisibly. That is precisely what appears to be happening and The Spirit Level is intended to be a key component in creating the desired mindsets and political will for change. Blind, ignorant, but effective change.

Because of its thesis on what is broken and why, the book wants to “shift attention from material standards and economic growth to ways of improving the psychological and social wellbeing of whole societies.” Now that dovetails perfectly with both the UN and OECD’s current global emphasis even though the authors do not say so. As we will see though the dovetailing does have a lot to do with who gets published and why these days and who gets a fat nonfiction advance. And with the merger of Penguin and Random House as of July 1, 2013 that will become even more true. That one entity controls fully a quarter of the world book publishing business and the two previous competitors were frequently the sole bidders on major nonfiction.

Now Penguin is wholly-owned by the largest ed company in the world, Pearson PLC, which is a lot of influence in virtually every area of the information that gets out. If you remember, Pearson’s Chief Ed Advisor is Sir Michael  “Irreversible Change” Barber who thought Global Citizenship would make a nice substitute ideology to guide daily behavior since, he said basically, the Christian religion was no longer compelling and Marx had a bad rep in the 90s. He has his own tag detailing some of these pushes and his links via public meetings to Irina Bokova, head of UNESCO, who currently wants to use Media Education, including digital learning, to drive the planet to Marxist Humanism in the 21st century. Yes, she has said so. See those tags as well. Does she have any connections then to media? Yes, I would say so especially as German media conglomerate Bertelsmann controls 53% of the new publishing company to Penguin’s 47%.

If we quit thinking of socialism and the rest of Uncle Karl’s visions as being about the Kremlin or Mao and begin thinking of it as government led control by connected insiders of the economy and everyone else, what is really going on makes a whole lot more sense. Accurate perception also means we can strategize over both effective defense and offense in the coming years. At the end of the Spirit Level book, the authors remark that “creating the political will to make society more equal is more important than pinning our colours to a particular set of policies to reduce inequality. Political will is dependent on the development of a vision of a better society which is both achievable and inspiring.”

Now creating such political will and vision is Oh So Much easier if the largest ed company in the world owns Penguin which can simply publish such a book and many more.  Then that ed company can have its employees write reports and Forewords like this one just released that push to have digital learning “irresistably engage” students. Software and gaming and assessments “personalized with the goal of unlocking the passion of the learner.” We have discussed before that digital learning can provide expert systems that teach but that is NOT the vision of digital learning actually being pushed. This is to be about behavioral change and the role of the teacher is to be a change agent “trained to focus on the personal experience of the individual student and to help uncover values and motivations.” Which again is darn useful since everyone involved about two levels up from the classroom, if not less, is intent on using education to obtain that political will and impose that social vision and create new values.

So the development of modern technology according to the book “will help us rein in consumerism and ease the introduction of policies to tackle global warming.” It believes “profit-making institutions” will “appear increasingly anti-social” which is highly likely given such media control over education and what gets published as nonfiction in the future. Who needs censorship when so few control so much of what will make it to most human minds as available information? We will likely get more of types of documentaries. Notice that just came out too and is classified as an educational material. Also  notice Equality Trust is preparing curriculum materials for 16-19 year olds and has a June 17, 2013 blog post explaining that we all have a flawed understanding of liberty.

The graduate student writer seems to have the life comprehension skills of someone who has always been supported by someone else as as he wants to define “liberty as the absence of relations of domination and dependence between persons” so “equality and liberty are not in conflict, but are in fact compatible and self-reinforcing concepts.” Honestly, if the government and connected insiders are in charge of making equality for all a fact as they are under all these visions, there will be a whole lot of domination and dependence and it will be hard to escape from. All in the Gutter Together with no ladder up or out. We will be back in the kind of status society referred to previously as feudalism. And we are not being assigned to the Castle with Moat class either. Someone has spent too much time in poli sci and cultural studies classes or reading the Howard Zinn view of history.

The authors are now turning The Spirit Level into a documentary for a planned release in Summer 2014 which will give emotionally compelling visuals for students going into US midterm elections. . The Foreword of the US version of the book was written by former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and the co-sponsor of that Nesta Digital Learning Innovations report is the hugely influential and connected California-based New Schools Venture Fund in case anyone thinks this is only a UK invisible coup. I explained the Marxist Humanist theory of changing attitudes and values here and that post fits with what is being explained in this post as well.

The Spirit Level ends with this rephrasing of Uncle Karl’s vision, still being sought so many years later:

“To sustain the necessary political will, we must remember that it falls to our generation to make one of the biggest transformations in human history. We have seen the rich countries have got to the end of the really important contributions which economic growth can make to the quality of life [they have gone through the requisite technology stage to supposedly make redistribution possible believed Uncle Karl] and also that our future lies in improving the quality of the social environment in our societies.[me again, that’s why there is so much emphasis in ed reform on the common good and community] The role of this book is to point out that greater equality is the material foundation on which better social relations are built.”

That certainly is the role of that book and isn’t it helpful Pearson is in a position to publish that book and use digital learning and its role as provider of so much of the curriculum and so many of the assessments to be used with the Common Core and for Texas’ STAAR? In a unique global position to prepare tasks and projects and questions that push that vision and create that political will? That it has a foundation pushing Global Learning in the US with the Asia Society mostly out of sight?

And is there any question whose vision we are about to use education to experiment as to whether better social relations can be built if nobody knows much and education becomes about engaging the passions through activity and visual stimulation?

Should we start a pool on how these transformations are really likely to turn out?

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 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? 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.

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.