Remaking, Remodeling, Redesigning, Reprogramming the Mind and Heart for Transformational Change By Fiat

One of the striking things in the last violent week here in the US and in the city I call home is how the sought remedies for the supposed Pandemic are also being touted as the remedies for the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. To get back to my specialty, the real agenda in education, those remedies require “Teaching to Transcend the Here-and-Now” where “whole-learner approaches…with explicit commitments to cultural responsiveness, trauma-informed practices, and restorative justice” can supposedly “support youth in reworking the kinds, of abstract narratives they create to affirm their lives, experiences, identities, values, decisions, and possible futures.” Those kind of ambitions give a great deal of impetus for the media and politicians to mischaracterize legitimate protests over a heinous act with organized rioting and looting, as well as concerns in certain states over continued lockdowns.

First, we have this statement from the Kellogg Foundation whose seminal work of what constitutes Evidence-Based Policymaking controls much of what gets required as the so-called Logic Model for desired changes in the student, how they think and feel, and what is likely to motivate them to take particular actions in the future. https://wkkf.org/news-and-media/article/2020/05/standing-together-for-racial-equity-and-community assigned the “resulting fury” to seeing the Floyd video to “the structural racism behind inequities” in every system. Then we get a link to the 100,000 deaths of COVID-19 where “the effects of structural racism are exposed on every screen” causing a need for “leaders in every circle, large or small, to raise their voices on behalf of our common humanity.” The remedy? “Commit to building the equitable systems that will safeguard children, their families and communities everywhere.”

So the phrase “structural racism” is definitely one of the Big Ideas that Teaching to Transcend the Here-and-Now would have students use:

As adolescents deliberate on big ideas, they come to recognize the salience of concrete problems and tasks that help flesh out these ideas [Think of all those images of burning covered by the media while the looting is more ignored]. As this happens, students’ concrete tasks take on a new urgency. Because students are invested in understanding the big idea or problem, they return to the concrete tasks with a new determination…[This lets students] begin shifting their dispositions of mind to see the allure and personal relevance of academic knowledge.

Let’s see what the well-connected Frameworks Institute, whose leadership also wrote this story recently https://ssir.org/articles/entry/advocating_for_age_in_an_age_of_uncertainty wanted to push as “Topic #11: Framing the post-pandemic economy.” Think of the economy as one of those systems Kellogg and other large foundations want changed fundamentally to create “equitable systems.” Frameworks stated:

The pandemic has created an opening to change the public’s perspective on what it means to have a good economy–and what role government must play in getting there…we need to lead a conversation about how to create an economy that serves everyone’s needs. We need ways to engage people in thinking about arranging our society and its resources in a just, inclusive way. The pandemic is a moment when change is inevitable–for better or for worse. We can and should use our communications power to shape this change.

I boldfaced the phrase ‘communications power’ because social scientists and politicians globally, with transformational change as their goal, view Communication as having two Equal Legs to dictate desired messages–Education is one and the Media is the other. Either has the power to create the prevailing concepts, images, and categories of thought that prevail among a majority of people. So when one wants to have students concentrate on Big Ideas, or the other to Highlight the impact of Policy choices, the words chosen matter. After all, as Frameworks noted, if we are to get to “a redesigned future”:

Talk about past, present, and future in equal measure–and connect them tightly. Show how past economic policy decisions are creating problems now, leaving more people more susceptible to harm than if our set-up had been different. Link economic decisions firmly to people’s lives and experiences. Explain, in clear, step-by-step fashion, how policies being considered now would help create an economic system that better meets people’s needs going forward…

Avoid language that suggests that the economy is a force that operates on its own. Natural metaphors like cliffs, waves, and aftershocks are likely to reinforce the idea that what’s happening in the economy is wholly beyond our control.

Take care, too, when translating economic date visualizations into language. Most people can’t picture–or don’t understand–graphs that advocates take for granted. For the public, talk of spikes and plunges bring a roller-coaster to mind. This undermines the idea that we can actively manage the economy.

Instead of highlighting the unpredictability of the system, emphasize the power of our response. Talk about what we can do, through policy, to manage disruptions to economic activity and to meet people’s needs. Explain how government decisions about the economy affect people.

I quoted that at some link not only to highlight the BIG IDEA that the Economy is a System that can be redesigned to equitably meet everyone’s needs, but also to show generally the power of big ideas and what words should and should not be used to instill the desired narrative in people’s minds. Here the Big Idea of a Pandemic, much like Structural Racism (another abstract big idea), “has pushed many people over the edge into hardship and harm. It doesn’t have to be this way. We face tough choices as we move through the COVID-19 crisis. But as we rebuild, we do get to choose. We can reprogram our economy to create secure employment, reduce poverty, and expand prosperity.”

See what I mean about same destination with different rationales and slightly different rhetoric? It fits too with what Reinventing Schools for Meaning-Making said was the “new research on connections between adolescents’ narrative building and brain development” that noted that “Adolescent learners thrive when provided an environment conducive to building strong, personal narratives that leverage the emotional power of big ideas and abstract meaning-making in the service of motivated work on concrete tasks and skills.”

When I was researching all those calls for Parrhesia practices to create the desired type of citizen for the future that requires a certain kind of thinking heavily linked to emotion I discovered that its author had also come up with another big idea phrase–Governmentality. That phrase combines the transformationalists’ need for strong governments at every level to force the desired changes with its need to also get at the prevailing mentality of each and every citizen. Sound familiar? It turns out visions like Portraits of a Graduate or Learner Profiles, as well as learning standards for desired big ideas and desired practices of behaviors and requisite new values, have been part of the plans for as long as there has been a widespread pursuit of equitable systems that will meet everyone’s needs.

Each individual’s (or at least most) mentality needs to be controlled to create “a specific understanding of the problems to be solved.” See how useful, although personally tragic for some, big ideas like White Privilege, Structural Racism, or a Pandemic can be for supposedly necessitating long desired changes? The specific understanding inculcated at the level of the mind and tied via emotion to the heart then works “in tandem with this, emphasis was placed on the understandings and constructions of the world that give rise to efforts to change it.” Now we have a view of government that shifts away from command and control, except apparently in Michigan and New York State at present, to get at the “optimal harnessing of these [human] self-governing capacities.”

For people, that means targeting their Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions of Mind and Heart–an individual’s “capacities and potentials likewise had to be taken into account and optimised.” See what the civil rights call for Equity can do? The call for it in education simply mirrors the sought changes in “other systems” as Governmentality “also had to consider the relations between regulation of organic collective entities and the ‘microphysics’ of selves: the government of ‘each and all’ was to be one of its trademarks.” Isn’t framing or required conceptual lenses required via learning standards for all students just another way to get at a new vision of government that seeks to control mentality unobserved?

Central to the Foucaultian idea of mentality is indeed analysis of the ways of thinking about government — how problems and people are thought about, what solutions to problems are dreamed up, what ends are imagined as desired outcomes…The analytic of governmentality in this sense is concerned with surfaces–the words used to describe problems, the discourses in terms of which subjects are characterised, the categories that are used to explain policies…

Governmental mentalities are governmental precisely in the sense that they seek to shape the conduct of those things, events and subjects they wish to govern. They are in this sense intensely practical — they imagine the world as governable: problems are construed in ways that make them subject to practicable solutions.

Like Shelter in Place? A Redesigned Economy? Students Habituated to act in pursuit of desired instilled goals grounded in cultivated emotions to act as their motivation?

At least we no longer need to be mystified as to precisely why Knowledge came to be redefined as Concepts or a Narrative instead of a body of facts. Which gets us to a redesigned future with governments steering us all at every level?

Did I mention the quotes on Governmentality from the last part of this post were taken from a Research Paper published by an Australian Law School?

Gives new meaning to the phrase “Rule of Law,’ doesn’t it?

 

Parrhesia, Bill Ayers, Reinventing Schools for Meaning-Making, and Rewiring Teens’ Brains

Does that title seem a bit like a Jeopardy Question that starts with an unusual word and then leads to a notorious name for click bait? I wish, but Parrhesia is a Greek word that was in the last post’s paper on how John Dewey’s Ethics of Moral Principles and Deliberation were to be incorporated per IEEE Standards (no one was to tell us about) into the ‘adaptive instructional systems’ being touted as the answer for the Pandemic’s need to social distance. Until a Vaccine!! The systems of ethical deliberation becomes a component via required practices adaptive instructional systems incorporate into supplied student experiences. These are to “allow participants to safely engage in parrhesia.” No mention of “Guilty as *, Free as a Bird” Ayers yet, as the definition is a democratic mode of being, that is “an ancient Greek concept…[of] telling truth as one sees it with honesty and integrity…parrhesia qualities include engaging in dialogue, questioning, having a passion for public affairs and human equality. Parrhesia requires intellectual courage and risk-taking in truth telling and pursuits of inquiry.”

Ok, then the footnote goes to a paper by Kerry Burch on “Parrhesia as a Principle of Democratic Pedagogy” helpfully placed on US education websites with the heading “Social Justice: A Language Re/Considered”, which seems to be something we should know about before assuming digital learning is the answer to all our problems. It starts with quotes from Cornel West (whose self-professed ties to the Marxist Humanist vision we have covered here at ISC) and Paulo Freire, whose name is associated with rejecting the so-called Banking Theory of Education. Bill shows up later in the paper, but not by his nickname or standing on a flag in a New York Times article published just before 9/11/2001. No, here’s the passage:

Few educational thinkers describe the kind of democratic personality traits [Dispositions or Attributes of cybernetic citizenship or Character Education?] that need to be cultivated today as elegantly as William Ayers. These traits cannot easily be brought about by relying on the mechanistic knowledge ordained in conventional approaches to ‘learning’ about ”democracy’. Ayers’ charts a different course: ‘We want to teach them to take initiative, to be creative, to be imaginative, to take risks, to question authority, to wonder about the world. This means fundamentally, in a school system based on democratic values, we really believe that the full development of all is a condition for the full development of each.’

Ayers said that and the footnote goes to a Winter 2009 published interview, but Ayers is in turn quoting from Uncle Karl and his Human Development Society vision of the premise for his little ‘c’ communism ideal. No wonder the Chinese and the UN love this vision of cybernetic citizenship, but what a mandate for ‘adaptive instructional systems’ to be cultivating in students to prepare them for parrheistic modes of being. Sounds a bit like the call for an Arational mind that we have discovered lies at the foundation of what is really student proficiency in a competency-based system. When we think of ‘adaptive instructional systems” for K-12, who thinks it is something that would please Bill Ayers and fulfill Uncle Karl’s plans? Who will be looking for “how the buoyant sociality of parrhesia would promote the creation of critically awake democratic personalities”?

Another paper I located called “The Ethics of Critical Inquiry: Educational Research Informed by Parrhesia” attributed this push to notorious French philosopher Michel Foucault, who in turn talked about Aristotle. Which one gets cited later for a similar vision with differing sales pitches and rhetoric does not seem to be about any disagreement on what is being sought through education. Instead, I believe, the different approaches stem from which name the audience, including people being solicited for donations, are likely to revere. Parrhesia here is an attempt to “contribute to social good and bring about positive change” by fostering educational practices that will create “an ethos of disrupting human subjectivities from within”. That sounds a bit disruptive to the student’s personality, doesn’t it? The

early meaning was to open one’s heart and mind completely to other people through his or her discourse…Parrhesia … became associated with transforming the soul of an individual. Most importantly the concept developed political dimensions indispensable to democracy. Parrhesia meant to engage socially and politically as a consequence of integrity of the heart. It required one to courageously say truthful things that are useful for all to hear…It’s not a ‘body of knowledge’ but a ‘body pf practices’ without reference to an external order…It allows for mediation between the ethos of an individual and the well-being of society. In short, it is through parrhesia that an individual constitutes him/herself as a moral subject in relation to others.

Just the thing if a moral revolution is sought at the level of the human mind, heart, and soul as Uncle Karl envisioned. If you don’t want resistance create a need for digital learning because of something like a Pandemic and then mandate ‘parrheistic practices’ into the programming the learning experiences provided by ‘adaptive instructional systems’ offer up. Now before we turn to the latter part of this post’s title I want to link to this article https://behavioralscientist.org/behavioral-public-policy-faces-a-crisis/ on the failure to properly respond to COVID-19 which calls for cultivating minds that can “understand complex systems in crisis”. Since we keep coming across the behavioral sciences and their desire to create a new kind of educational template going back to the 1950s at least, I thought that article’s confession that:

Behavioral public policy is rooted in the idea that biases, heuristics, and mental models determine behavior. If you reframe or alter individuals’ decision making context, you change their behavior.

We now know that is precisely what learning standards like the Common Core in the US or any tied to UNESCO’s ISCED globally and competency-based education frameworks are designed to do. The Pandemic simply makes this desire for “shared frames of reference” for meaning-making supposedly necessary. It’s to be perceived as a crisis, like climate change, that necessitates common ways of looking at the world and what must be changed to meet the demands of the crisis. Individual deviations are not allowed. Yes, tell that to Shelly Luther in Texas or that barber in Michigan.

Timely too is that the May 2020 issue of Educational Leadership published by ASCD, which is now independent of the NEA, unlike in 1985 when it first introduced an internalized common core as I covered in Credentialed to Destroy. The issue is devoted to “Learning and the BRAIN” and one of its articles called “Building Meaning Builds Teens’ Brains” lays out how “Connecting adolescents’ concrete work to big ideas may help shape their neural networks over time.” Research for the article was provided by the National Science Foundation, which certainly explains why they also funded the math and science constructivism covered in Chapter 3 of CtD, and the Templeton Foundation. It would explain the latter’s funding of the Jubilee Centre in the UK and its Virtues curriculum, which we have since tied to the Pope’s new Humanity 2.0 initiative and its new vision for education. Templeton also funded Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology and Positive Neuroscience work, among other things we have covered.

Remember so long ago here at ISC when I mentioned a new vision of Dialectical Materialism, a mouthful term, created in the USSR by Evald Ilyenkov called Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete? We have now over time here at ISC tied to cybernetic designs, conceptual frameworks, and the now federally required assessment annually of Higher Order Thinking in virtually all US students. Now we have this new article informing us of the need for “Reinventing Schools for Meaning-Making”. What it bills as ‘narrative building’ by students certainly sounds like what the others described above suggested as parrheistic modes of being.

These curricular practices turn out to be expressly designed to rewire what the neural networks in teenage brains look like and what the students can do. In fact, by going to motivation, these practices act as an accelerant of future likely behavior. All of these intended interventions are probably helped by the co-authors connections that I have encountered in my research over time. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang shows up at both UNESCO conferences and Aspen’s NCSEAD on the need for social and emotional learning, as well as the NSF’s Brain Initiative. Perfect places to push a vision of education globally grounded in DiaMat that asks “How can we know when young people are building [brain networks]…predictive of success in school, self-actualization, relationship satisfaction, and other positive indicators in early adulthood?”

Think of the parrhesia invisible focus of ‘adaptive instructional systems’ and then ask the article’s question of “What kind of learning experiences strengthen connectivity across these networks?” Remember Bill Ayers’ mention of democratic traits above, which is why I bolded it? The ASCD article focuses on a similar target it italicized as dispositions of mind, which it goes on to say is not a new goal of education, citing to John Dewey among others. These are the stories or narratives the students tell themselves:

their inclinations to engage reflectively with issues and ideas, their tendencies to be curious and compassionate, and their proclivities to use what they learn to inform their emerging values…the patterns of thinking and feeling associated with these dispositions appeared to be influencing the growth of the networks of their brains.

Sounds like Parrhesia’s vision too, doesn’t it? That’s what education for meaning-making and tied to Big Ideas is targeting and it is what grounding adaptive instructional systems in John Dewey’s work also seeks to reengineer. No question about it anymore. This is not a peripheral aim and it’s not really about education per se. It’s education as a tool to reengineer at a neural level the citizens available for the global future. At the service of governments and their cronies.

As I will cover in the next post, it turns out that the stories we tell ourselves, and the concepts and categories of abstractions we use to interpret our daily experiences, are key to how we see the world and plan to act in it. Let me close with another quote from the EL article and just imagine the effect of the Pandemic on “The Stories Teens Tell” or at least what they will tell in the future.

…tying these dispositions to neural development, life success, and mental health gives this effort new urgency, and points us due north in an attempt to reimagine adolescents’ schooling. Evidence suggests that educators can learn to recognize, model, and support the development of these dispositions if they know what kinds of narratives to listen for and what kind of learning experiences lead to these patterns of thinking?

Now imagine the utility of standardizing ‘adaptive instructional systems’ in John Dewey’s work and Parrhesia will do for controlling the needed learning experiences to produce the desired ‘patterns of thinking’ and feeling for the new type of future citizen.

Gives new meaning to calls of May Day, May Day, doesn’t it?

 

 

Stealthily Weaving Cybernetic Citizenship at the Requisite Neural Level in the Name of Universal Well Being

Getting back to our theme of how useful this Pandemic Hype and the mandated shutdowns of schools, colleges and universities, and many businesses has been to the already announced global agenda for transformation, in March IEEE issued an edict that ‘adaptive instructional systems’–you know like the digital learning so many closed school systems have resorted to–needed to modified to add John Dewey’s Ethics of Moral Principles and Deliberation. Anyone who has read my book Credentialed to Destroy understands precisely the transformation Dewey hoped for with his reimagining of K-12 education, but the IEEE paper began with this epigraph from his book Ethics

Especially in times like the present, when industrial, political, and scientific transformations are rapidly in process, a revision of old appraisals is especially needed.

Italicized just like that so that these ‘online’ or ‘digital’ systems will be designed to incorporate “Moral principles or standards that provide a consistent point of view to be taken in ethical deliberation.” Now each student can practice the Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions that they will need “for analyzing novel situations.” Like a Global Pandemic with a previously unknown deadly virus? Well, this high school English teacher certainly thinks so https://www.educationdive.com/news/coronavirus-the-definition-of-global-and-climate-curriculum/576322/ as he hopes for “a curriculum that leads to action and solidarity…as students see how true ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ really is.”

Nothing like these past two months of food insecurity and financial concerns to have a lasting impact on the children as they face a vision of education that wants to focus on:

the methods through which we seek to continuously determine what is good, what is of value, what should define our moral principles…As a pragmatist, Dewey’s interest was rooted in the importance of employing reflective, reflective, discriminate intelligence to revise our judgments as a result of acting upon them–what Dewey termed deliberation. Deliberation, Dewey asserts, includes the ‘reflections when directed to practical matters to determination of what to do.’ Through deliberation, our judgments are formed to redirect actions when habits fall short — particularly in the context of solving novel problems. Essentially, Dewey’s meta-ethics of value judgments derived from moral principles, and his notion of deliberation functioned as an iterative expression between thoughts and behaviors…

Dewey’s Deliberation then functions just like what Classical Education touts as the Good, True, and Beautiful or what is also termed Higher Order Thinking skills. Domain learning objectives, instead of actually being about history, science, math, or literature, become merely the avenue for “a continuous process of reconstructing experience that involves lasting adaptation of the learner.” Classes and online curriculum become, in this vision of education few are even aware of:

organs of initiation into social values. As mere school studies, their acquisition has only a technical worth. Acquired under conditions where there social significance is realized, they feed moral interest and develop moral insight.

Again, what could be of greater ‘social significance’ or involve more ‘practical matters’ that will “impact our perception of the world and how we interact with it,” than this pandemic, how it has been portrayed, and the shutdowns and their continuing, likely long term, consequences? Let’s pivot though from the changed function of adaptive instructional systems to be grounded in Dewey to another document with global aspirations (tied, in part, to Russian Pavel Luksha who we have covered numerous times here at ISC) to be found here https://weavinglab.org/ . We can all read that site and contemplate how the Pandemic impacts education to cultivate a need for Universal Well Being or what the constant refrains of “We are All in This Together” will do for the typical student being constantly exhorted to view themselves as Interdependent with the Collective.

Whereas, IEEE wants to make the focus practicing analyzing a novel situation where old habits fail, the Weaving Lab wants education to focus on how to “align people to shared notions of quality in daily practice (seeing that values are manifest in daily practice) [aka Action] and Helping your community agree principles that everyone will adhere to.” Hard not to think of the people descending on state capitols in still totally lockdowned states in the US or trying to get to a beach on a sunny day, while being told they will be punished for their defiance of official mandates with another month of lockdowns, and not think of this open admission of where education globally now wants to go. Honor political authority and its edicts. Respect the collective.

The Weaving Lab wants to make the focus what will this individual student and the adult they will become do in VUCA situations — Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Again like the Pandemic, where algorithmic answers will supposedly not suffice and Old Habits Fail. The Weaving Lab wants to create the mental conditions that support ‘collective action’ for ‘co-creating the future’. Nothing like the Pandemic and its shutdowns to fuel the kind of uncertainty to make students feel there is a need to co-create a different kind of future and imagine the “new ecosystems you want to bring about.” The Weaving Lab again was created before the Pandemic, but the Pandemic hype creates the incentives for transformation Luksha had already laid out in numerous papers I have written about. It reenforces at a turbocharged, visual, emotional level, the need for the New System being sought.

Just imagine how the Pandemic hype functions if students are to be “developing yourself through intentional inner-work” and the remedy curriculum for the stress of the Pandemic is Mindfulness Practices? The effect of a One World broadcast with lots of celebrities when there is a desire to have students “seeing the interconnectedness of the system and seeing yourself as part of the system.” Creating students who are “willing to change your mind, behaviours and approach” and shift their emphasis in schoolwork to “developing and paying attention to your inner compass to navigate your way in the world.” That ‘inner compass’ reference, like the North Star emphasis we saw with Valor Collegiate Academy that the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative funded, covered here  http://invisibleserfscollar.com/lucrative-deceit-managing-consciousness-by-conjoining-social-media-charter-schools/ is a cybernetic concept.

So is the Learning to Train Ethical Thinking that IEEE seeks to have incorporated invisibly into adaptive instructional systems. It’s why this paper I saw last week on “How to Make the Perfect Citizen? Lessons from China’s Model of Social Credit System” really caught my eye as it laid out a model of ‘cybernetic citizenship’. Precisely the purpose of how learning standards and competency frameworks really work under my analysis. In looking for the described paper, which was revised in April in light of the fact that the “Covid 19 crisis has triggered a new wave of digitalization of the lives of citizens,” I located this January presentation in Berlin http://global-citizenship.eui.eu/event/how-to-make-the-perfect-citizen-redefining-civic-virtue-in-chinas-social-credit-system/ that makes it clear that this vision is tied to a reimagining of governance globally and the areas for control over individual citizens using education and cybernetic principles. The Berlin presentation’s funding also usefully tied to the creation of PISA and the DeSeCo Framework that I covered in my book.

In other words, once again, we find education being used as a tool for the kind of internalized transformation of morals and ethics Uncle Karl said would be necessary for his Human Development Society (Universal Well Being seems like a good euphemism for the same vision) and John Dewey helped flesh out the blueprints for. We also have a great deal of attempts to mislead us about what is going on. I appreciated that paper’s authors being upfront that the Social Credit System China wishes to enact (with more precision than they were able to control bat virus research) is actually a cybernetic vision that “blurs the distinction between law, economics, and morality.” Just like education grounded in learning standards mandates these days, when those ‘standards’ are properly understood.

If a state-mandated Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Profile, like China’s Social Credit System, lays out a vision that “citizens ought to have certain qualities to sustain social order and harmony” or to drive desired future transformation to a New System as we saw above, these visions of what the student should be are also grounded in a cybernetic vision and an entirely new understanding of what citizenship is in the 21st century. China is being upfront about this aim (if about nothing else). Education systems elsewhere in the world, especially in the West, are using a new vision of education, cybernetic methods,  an emphasis on the collective, and a reenvisioning of the individual without being upfront about it. We are also subject to “new possibilities to reconceptualize citizenship” that the Pandemic is being used to shift into high gear.

What is student-centered learning grounded in social values but an attempt to assess and then change each student’s Purpose? Why does that matter to so many school or district mission statements these days? It gets at what is necessary to create Cybernetic Citizenship, which is less visible than a serf’s collar but every bit as constraining to future choices. Here’s the definition from the How to Make the Perfect Citizen paper.

In general, the field of cybernetics is concerned with understanding systems of control and communication–how humans and machines communicate with one another. It is premised on the idea that goal-directed entities such as animals, humans, and machines cannot only be understood in mechanical terms but should also be comprehended in teleological terms, that is, explaining behavior in terms of ‘purpose’. These entities are conceptualized as ‘systems’ in the sense that they are assemblages of parts (e.g., databases, surveillance cameras) in greater wholes. and have relatively stable boundaries. Cybernetic systems have an internal, corrective feedback mechanism, which makes use of sensory inputs to change a behavioral output; governing is perceived as a purposive action, a goal-directed behavior.

Do you know what another word for goals is? Standards. Learning standards properly understood prescribe how to turn students into the desired cybernetic systems that they are capable of becoming with the right kind of prescribed learning experiences. They become the desired citizen of the future with few parents or taxpayers recognizing the wholesale shift. They certainly don’t grasp it is the same principles the Chinese are using with their Social Credit System or the same methods admittedly totalitarian governments use on their citizens.

We need to understand how all these aims work together now that the Pandemic has acted as an accelerant. Only knowledge lets us see how to get control over these levers of change that are being used. Only accurate knowledge, not prescribed frames, conceptual lenses, or approved narratives, can intervene in this scheme to get children, and plenty of adults as well, to think the world must now be transformed into a new system to control the risks of a VUCA future.

 

Pandemic’s Utility as a Massive Shared Meaning Making Tool to Force Widespread Systems Thinking

How many of us recognize the current widespread school and higher ed cancellations and switch to online and virtual learning as fitting with the education template various global institutions are pushing called the Libre process of digital pedagogies we covered in the last post? Never let a crisis go to waste, indeed. If you read as many global plans and conference materials for using education to force change as I do, it is hard not to notice that the word ‘pandemic,’ like man-made climate change, has long been considered a tool to force the desired sense of interdependence and communitarianism. Here’s a quote from a 2019 paper https://www.wise-qatar.org/2019-wise-research-learning-ecosystems-innovation-unit/  that makes the desired shift explicit:

The starting point must be around the holistic development of living in a better world–to be changemakers. I am convinced that ecosystemic approaches are necessary to move from mechanistic education systems to learner centric ones…It is clear that education needs to become an avenue through which global society will overcome the challenges, gaps and barriers we have created: the digital divide, the growing economic and social inequality, religious, ethnic, and cultural divides, and the extreme ecological pressures we are placing upon the Earth…An active search is underway for new ways of learning and new organizational forms for education that will be consistent with the emergent social and economic reality. In such a context, perhaps it is unsurprising that inspiration for change is sought from biological, as opposed to mechanical, analogues.

A biological lens is certainly easier to practice with during and after a global hype of deadly pandemics, isn’t it? Here’s another quote from that same paper that again fits where we are all suddenly being forced to go:

Across the globe there is a growing consensus that education demands a radical transformation if we want all citizens to become future-ready in the face of a more digitally enabled, uncertain and fast changing world…As learning frameworks outlining ambitious global agendas for inclusive education and lifelong learning begin to emerge, and as societies become more connected and intertwined, it is becoming clear that society has a collective role to play in equipping people to create meaningful futures, through lifelong learning.

Deriving from the field of evolutionary biology, an ‘ecosystem’ is a community of interdependent organisms acting in conjunction with the natural environment…This type of ecosystem comprises complex, evolving networks of organizations including think tanks, foundations, governmental and global agencies and others who are consciously connecting to facilitate the sharing of new knowledge about education and learning, innovation, funding opportunities and more. It is largely concerned with building the global shared knowledge base, scaling innovation and enabling the better use of resources and opportunities to tackle shared global learning challenges, not only within but between networks.

What is meant by a ‘global shared knowledge base’ we might ask and how does that tie to ‘shared meaning-making’ via common global learning standards? It reminded me of the requisite ‘systems thinking’ push over the decades that I first covered in my book Credentialed to Destroy and have since found in recent federal statutes and a new vision of Regulatory Governance pushed by a New Zealand professor, Jeroen van der Heijden, that has made its way here   https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3531381 for broader dissemination. It helpfully (with italics) pointed out  the need for a shift from:

thinking of systems as something ‘out there’ –an ontological approach –and systems thinking as a tool that helps us to think about reality–an epistemological approach.

The kind of conceptual learning frameworks I have covered repeatedly on this blog that require a common understanding to become widespread (that the Soviets also pushed as Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete) fits right in with what that paper above covers as “Regulation and Soft Systems Methodology (SSM)”.

SSM requires a careful understanding and defining of the system at hand–known as ‘root definition’. Defining the system and the problem it seeks to address is best done by a variety of individuals and organizations from within the system. In short, the definition includes the basic transformation a system seeks to achieve (T), the worldview that provides meaning to this transformation (W), system ownership (O), system operators (A), the customer or target of the system (C), and the environmental constraints of the system (E)…After establishing the root definition–again, done in a deliberative process with a variety of individuals and organisations from within the system–conceptual models are developed to actualize the stated aims (C). These conceptual models then must be compared with the real-time, real-world situation to define possible and feasible changes.

In late February in the US a paper came out called “Changing Expectations for the K-12 Teacher Workforce” that laid out such Conceptual Models as the new kind of knowledge all teachers are to develop–Deeper Learning. Reading the paper it is impossible not to recognize that without a deep and broad knowledge base that comes from being well read with an Axemaker Mind, the typical student, and the adult they will become, is not in a position to know whether the required Conceptual Models fit with reality or not. What a useful means of covert regulatory governance by governments at all levels and the institutions that serve as their cronies and proxies. It all fits perfectly with this SSM, 21st century global vision, of “regulation as a (cybernetic) system of control” where people and the organisations they are a part of can be:

configured in relation to each of the three components of a cybernetic system: that is, at the level of standard-setting (whether behavioural standards are ‘simple’ /fixed or ‘complex’ /adaptive) [Common Core/Competencies!], information gathering and monitoring (reactive or pre-emptive) [formative assessment and continuous improvement], and behaviour modification (automated or recommender systems) [aka Learning!]…

A call for applying systems thinking to a regulatory problem is a call to focus on the emergent behaviour of a collection of parts and their interactions as they ostensible relate to that regulatory problem…systems thinking sets boundaries to delineate what is relevant and what is not–such boundaries are often operational rather than spatial. Systems thinking introduces a set of concepts that help to map, explore, interrogate and give meaning to a complex problem at hand.

Finally, let’s quote from yet another paper being linked to globally on what learning standards and a transformed vision of education is really intended to do. It is by Ervin Laszlo’s son Alexander from 2014 and came out of ISSS’s 57th meeting on the meta-theme of Curating the Conditions for a Thrivable Planet. Called “Connecting the DOTS: The Design of Thrivable Systems Through the Power of Collective Intelligence,” it sought (with italics in original) systemic leverage points for emerging a global eco-civilization. Number one leverage point? The

centrality of meaning-making to human activity systems–at both individual and collective levels…This meaning-making drive brings us together…[it creates] a community of interest–around systems perspectives and approaches; a community of practice–around the application of systemic ways of thinking/ doing/ being; and a community of place–that sees and appreciates the interdependence of a globally interconnected world.

As we self-isolate in the coming days and weeks, let’s remember that creating a common vision and vocabulary for meaning-making is a prerequisite for the desired transformational change–first, at the level of each individual, but then also in broader political, social, and economic spheres. Notice how often the rhetoric is looking to foster, at both a visual and emotional level,  those very communities of interest, practice, and place needed for transformational change for a different type of collective future. Notice how the release of a new virus from Wuhan China somehow gets used to reenforce the desired changes at an internalized, personal, level that global education conferences have been laying out graphically and with explicit transformational rationales for about a decade.

What a fortuitous kickstart as long as we remain in the vast majority of this planet that will probably not get seriously ill or even know someone who has.

Timely, isn’t it, with only a decade left to the declared finish line of 2030.

Ubiquitous Coincidence or Deliberate Targeting? The New Science of Mind, Brain, and Education

Let’s start with a quote from November 2018 and an international adult leadership seminar tied to one of the creators of the K-12 MBE model referred to in the title and then tie it to the use of learning standards from the last post as ‘self-regulation’ and exactly what is being targeted as the missing elements in the Iceberg Problem. Sorry for the delay in writing, but I needed to be sure of how everything fit and one of my sources was a more than 700 page book. This is from a man called Werner Erhard who came up quite often when I was researching Esalen and Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory and its ties to the K-12 actual template.

We can choose to be audacious enough to take responsibility for the entire human family. We can choose to make our love for the world to be what are lives are really about.

Each of us now has the opportunity, the privilege, to make a difference in creating a world that works for all of us. It will require courage, audacity, and heart. It is much more radical than a revolution–it is the beginning of a transformation in the quality of life on our planet. What we create together is a relationship in which our work can show up as making a difference in people’s lives. I welcome the unprecedented opportunity for us to work globally on that which concerns us as human beings.

Those aspirations fit well with that Blueprint from the last post, don’t they? The quote came from the materials found here https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1263835&download=yes and it is a co-author, Michael Jensen, whose personal bio ties him to the creation of the MBE program at Harvard in the 1990s. By Autumn 2011, we can find an article by Michael Ferrari and Hazel McBride called “Mind, Brain, and Education: The Birth of a New Science” on “the benefits as well as the difficulties involved in integrating neuroscience into education policy and practice.” We parents and taxpayers have every right to be properly informed as to what is meant by the following terms and also the real links between this vision and Mr Erhard’s quote above. After all, as the article’s conclusion stated:

Educators and school boards are increasingly coming under media scrutiny and increased pressure to improve educational outcomes at a time when educators, policy makers, and the public have become fascinated with ‘brain research’. At the same time, governments and policymakers are promoting and supporting Evidence-Based Decision Making and Knowledge Transformation. These are ideal conditions for the Growth of Mind, Brain, and Education.

Do Tell. Notice the reference in that quote to Knowledge Transformation because it goes to the mouthful distinction between what those course materials call “An Ontological/Phenomenological Model.” Before I quote what that transformation means, let me remind everyone that Mihaly Csiksentmihaly [see tag] describes himself as a phenomenologist and it is his model of Excellence being mandated now in the US under civil rights calls for Equity and Excellence. It matters greatly that his model was pushed globally at the 2017 World Government Summit in Dubai as I covered here http://invisibleserfscollar.com/radio-silence-and-the-dog-that-did-not-bark-positioning-positive-education-globally/ . According to those course materials, an “ontological exercise…is about a transformation in who you ‘wound up being'”.

Since the course materials were created for adults, a comparable ontological/phenomenological exercise in children and teenagers through deliberately created learning experiences also goes to who they are at a neural level. Let me go to that 700 page book, Humans as Self-Constructing Living Systems, and what it referred to as ‘person-based self-regulation.’ That New Science article hypes the role of the OECD in pushing the MBE model and, like Professor Clabough from the last post, the OECD has said ‘self-regulation’ is the purpose of K-12 education in the 21st century. Let’s quote what that really means:

Humans have developed two interrelated social-regulatory methods: (a) to impose and enforce regulatory rules on social components through power and physical arrangements external to the organization’s components, whether social groups or individuals (e.g., through laws and punishment, police action, imprisonment); (b) to make the regulatory rules and processes properties of the components themselves so they become self-regulating in relationship to the social organizations of which they are a part.

I bolded that particular phrase because it is actually what George Will called Soulcraft and the rightful domain of governments, what Erin Clabough pushed as neural and second nature, and what we keep encountering as personalized, student-centered, competency-based learning. In the Karoly paper on the “Mechanisms of Self-Regulation: A Systems View” from the last post under “The Activation and Use of Standards” think of it as why the Iceberg Problem created an Appendix III on the role of learning standards to change the nature of K-12 education.

Having a goal (or a specific performance level to which one aspires) and being able systematically to surveil goal-relevant activities do not alone provide the impetus to self-regulated modulation of thought, affect, or behavior. Before the all-important comparison of the feedforward and the feedback signals can occur in human control systems, the goal or standard must be triggered, activated, or called up from long-term memory.

The adult leadership course materials spend a great deal of time undoing what is in long-term memory that is judged to be an impediment to the desired way of being. The materials lament that the neural wiring of the adult brain is too tied to the “realization of that past-derived predicted future“. The slideshare bolded that phrase as neural wiring is viewed as in the way of the Creating a Desired Future and “What Happens in the Brain with Such a ‘Created Future'”. K-12 grounded in phenomenology can go directly to shaping who a student will “wound up being” by pushing transformational learning that goes directly to controlling “who you are as a product of the beliefs you assimilated concerning yourself and the world, and the socialization and roles you learned.”

The MBE/ontological/phenomenological emphasis with adults has to “explore our worldview and frames of reference themselves–their genealogy, internal logic, uses–as well as assess the costs and benefits, and advantages and disadvantages…[in order to provide] the opportunity to discover and eliminate the constraints and shaping imposed by your worldview.” K-12, with the same emphasis, gets to head directly to ‘Go’ in most students and simply impose the desired worldview and frames of reference and then have the federal government (in the US) mandate all students have those assessed at least annually as Higher Order Thinking Skills. HOTS then has always been more about what will guide students ways’ of being, goal setting, and decision-making in the world than about what used to be known as epistemological or information learning.

No wonder lectures are passe and textbooks must be electronic and experiential. I want to end with an abstract from a May 2019 essay from World Futures that ties to the Global Education Futures Forum 2030 that uses language that also ties to that 1968 Bellagio conference at the Rockefeller Foundation villa. The Erhard/Jensen materials used similar language seeking to make the present about the future to be created, not the past. Alexander Laszlo stated his intention “to bring into being a world and future where all of us can thrive has been shared by numerous people. Yet despite these intentions, we have not yet been able to effectuate the deeper transformational change required for bringing this forth at the pace and scale now required.”

If that gain sounds remarkably like the Blueprint, both authors have fathers who have been at this Social Sciences Altering Consciousness to Change Social Systems vision for decades. Let’s finish with what Alexander (the son) described in January 2008 about how this transformation could occur in “The Making of a New Culture Learning Conversations and Design Conversations in Social Evolution.” You would need to target the “confluence of values, beliefs, ideas, and forms of expression characteristic of interpersonally aligned individual cognitive maps.” Alexander Laszlo said those arose “from a community,” but we have met them recently as Collective Cognition and it is what learning standards tied to competency-based frameworks and the Common Core create. They target the needed “psycho-personal and socio-cultural to bio-physical and process-structural” all at once.

If all the authors cited in this and recent posts are writing and speaking about the “importance of learning for the purposeful design of the future,” don’t we have the right to know about this hijacking of purpose? That suddenly classes labelled as reading, math, history, or science are more about a physiological change at the level of the mind and brain than they are about information transmission? When schools or even higher ed regard themselves as “learning communities to foment doing the right things” at a neural level in their students in order to effectuate a transformation to act to create “changes that will approximate their visions of the future,” we need to understand this deliberate targeting.

Especially since it turns out that actual factual knowledge and an Axemaker Mind in the student are the ultimate bulwarks against this neural and psychological manipulation.

Collective Cognition: Stipulating Right Thinking and Prescribing Prevailing Ideas to Defeat Polarization

Never heard the phrase ‘collective cognition’ before? Wouldn’t creating required learning standards and then assessing for their presence in guiding a student’s thoughts and actions amount to learning How to Think as a Community? After I wrote last week’s post, but knowing we were about to pivot next to something called the Hidden Tribes Project, I was fascinated to read the bio of the co-author of this recent article https://behavioralscientist.org/the-cognitive-science-of-political-thought-practical-takeaways-for-political-discourse/ where Professor Sloman admits that the cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences can be used to create Collective Cognition. If only some ultra-rich person would bequeath mega-millions to his employer, Brown University, to set up a Center to create models for K-12 education reforms.

Think of the Hidden Tribes Project as what to do about the adults whose minds and values got away when earlier versions of K-12 education reforms, like outcomes-based education, failed to shift as desired away from subject-content to changing:

the ideas that give your life direction. And the answers fit together into a larger picture–what we call a ‘worldview,’ a way of understanding and making sense of our world. Your worldview determines (consciously or unconsciously) how you interpret and respond to everything in life. This is why it is so important to begin thinking about your worldview and the ideas you believe to be true…develop a worldview that influences everything you do.

That is a really useful definition of worldview and why, I believe, we have found it as the aim of what my book laid out as Tranzi OBE from the 90s, and what we are seeing as Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Profiles now. It’s why learning standards globally carefully lay out the desired elements and seek to prescribe the ‘learning experiences’ that will create the characteristics at an internalized, physiological level. The Hidden Tribes Project, clearly related to the same aim but geared to adults and located at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, stated that its “focus is to better understand the forces that drive political polarization and tribalism in the United States today, and to galvanize efforts to address them.” I found the Project after it was hyped here in July https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_are_the_solutions_to_political_polarization and I recognized the links to both Seedbed of Virtues and the 1997 “A Call to Civil Society”.

George Will, in his Soulcraft book, kept using the same term “Better Angels of Our Nature” so let’s look and see how ‘our nature’ can be reengineered with education reforms and other social science projects. After all, one of the co-authors of the June 2019 More in Common report “The Perception Gap: How False Impressions are Pulling Americans Apart” is tied to the Templeton-funded Positive Neuroscience initiative at U-Penn that is also tied to the World Happiness Reports the UN has taken to publishing. If he states that “in coming years I plan on continuing to use the tools of social science to improve human interaction and society. Through teaching, speaking, researching, and writing, I hope to do my part to help humanity realize the best possible version of itself,” we would be wise to listen.

Humanity is so grateful, I reply with my usual sarcasm. Hopefully such aspirations and scholarship in “studying how social context in various populations can impact people’s moral judgment and behavior…” will get Mr Yudkin tenure somewhere. According to the 2018 “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” the “work of rebuilding our fractured society needs to start now” and it needs to occur at the level of each person’s values, attitudes, and beliefs. This will allow “re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to building a renewed sense of national identity: A bigger story of us.” More in Common believes that “a healthy democracy…requires a sense of shared values and commitments, and a willingness to find common ground”. That desired answer to polarization and tribalism, a desired standardization at the level of “mind, heart, and soul” for all citizens, young and old, requires deliberately targeting:

At the root of America’s polarization are divergent sets of values and worldviews, or ‘core beliefs’. These core beliefs shape the ways that individuals interpret the world around them at the most fundamental level. Our study shows how political opinions stem from these deeply held core beliefs. This study examines five dimensions of individuals’ core beliefs:

  •  Tribalism and group identification
  •   Fear and perception of threat
  •   Parenting style and authoritarian disposition
  •   Moral foundations
  •   Personal agency and responsibility

This study finds that the hidden architecture of beliefs, worldview and group attachments can predict an individual’s views on social and political issues with greater accuracy than demographic factors like race, gender, or income.

So education at every level and the media, whether broadcast, print, or websites of various supposed spectrums, need to get at and change that hidden architecture. To uncover and understand core beliefs, and “explore how this understanding can be used, not to deepen polarization but to bring people together.” Does the coordinated effort to pretend that the Common Core was about workforce preparation or a database of personally identifiable information about students instead of an effort to change those prevailing values, attitudes, and beliefs suddenly make more sense? What if I told you that the initial indented quote on worldview came from something called the Lightbearers Curriculum from Summit Ministries that I found after a Daily Caller article this summer made a reference to something called a Blue Sky Worldview and a camp to create it? What if the same article simultaneously misrepresented socialism and asserted that Marxism is only what was found in the past in Communist countries or is what Bernie Sanders pushes?

Let’s just say our False Narrative purveyors were well-represented among the advocates for this curriculum that also seeks to control “what ideas will rule the world” and provide “guidelines for shaping society for everyone’s benefit”. It is a curriculum intended for “endowing [the student] with the responsibility for shaping the future of the world.” Theoretical Marxism, the non-historical kind that is a theory of Man as a Maker of History seeking to drive a transformational process in the real world, would recognize that aspiration as bringing about what Uncle Karl called the Human Development Society. It is still the same theory even when the M word is not used and the sales pitch is the need to “redeem culture as part of God’s creation.” Worthy aspirations and a theological emphasis do not change the nature of this theory or who created the idea of how to get such a theory into practice (Praxis?).

Calling it “faith in action” instead of praxis, or opining that “without action, students may relegate what they are hearing to dry academic philosophies and not realize that these ideas should become part of their lives on a daily basis,” doesn’t distinguish aims that function the same with comparable purposes. So religious based or classical schools want ideas embodied into action as an integral part of the curriculum to create Desired Habits and Behaviors and so do public schools now as part of learning standards and what is called High Quality Project-Based Learning. See what I mean about going to the same place and targeting the same normative realm in each student?

Tranzi OBE, in function even if now euphemized into a myriad of new names, still is in play if the curriculum actively seeks to tell students they should be change agents and

stop being conformed by the ‘water’ around them, the culture they were in. Rather, they should be transformed by renewing their minds. The idea behind the word ‘transformed’ is that of metamorphosis–changing into something different. While conformity to the world is something that happens passively, being transformed is something that happens actively. Conformity just happens, but transformation requires effort. Transformation only happens through mind renewal, changing the way you think.

I bolded that last part from the Lightbearers Curriculum to call attention to a discussion in the comments from the last post when I said that the predecessor to the Common Core was something in the 90s called the New Standards Project. Before Professor Lauren Resnick helped create that initiative, she called her curriculum a Thinking Curriculum to be grounded in HOTS–Higher Order Thinking Skills. Stipulated Ideas would dominate so that the real world perceptions would be controlled by Desired Ideas and Theories of What Could Be. The Soviets in 1962 called this a new kind of Dialectic Materialism that would allow a transformation of the existing world via a theory they called Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete.

Its ideals still work the same today whether pushed on adults to supposedly bridge a Perception Gap and create a Convergence to defeat Polarization, or on children via mischaracterized learning standards and Thinking Curricula.

All of these advocates recognize that changing how we think leads to “transforming our behavior” in predictable ways. If anyone wants to prescribe “the basis of our decisions and actions,” as these various NGOs like UNESCO or the OECD, faith-based institutions, think tanks, or any other institution have explicitly said they wish to do if we know where to look, we should all be aware that has become the new purpose of education and the goal of much of what is broadcast or published by the media.

I suppose I should be grateful my book and then this blog set off such an orchestration of False Narratives. The deceit left the crumbs that enable us to see the common vision. Everyone seems to want to get at what we believe and feel in order to control how we will behave.

And it has nothing to do with training pigeons except that once installed in our neural circuits via cognitive psychology, we will be programmed indeed.

 

 

Evolutionary Epistemology: A Mouthful Term that Euphemizes a Wholesale Education Shift

In the last post we looked at Professor Cabrera’s DSRP template. I laid out its connections to current curriculum practices that get euphemized as ‘rigor’ or ‘high-quality instructional materials’, but left out a curious quote about targeting the human conceptual system via learning standards so that DSRP “provides a mechanism for the memetic behavior that must exist in order for evolutionary epistemology to be a viable proposal. For these reasons, DSRP should be considered a more robust alternative to logic where complex cognitive systems are concerned.” I am rather fond of logic myself, but apparently that’s no way to get a theory of how things might be different in the future into practice. Recognizing that the mouthful term obscures the reality that seeks to change prevailing culture by systematically prescribing new values and beliefs via poorly understood ‘standards’ in K-12 and higher ed, I looked up the term.

It turned up this 2018 Abstract https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29199093 from the same US government agency funding Science of Virtues and the BRAIN Initiative to create a Research Programme for Distributed Biological Intelligence. No wonder logic needs to be jettisoned. Suddenly the reading, math, and science wars and the focus on ‘close reading’  and ‘conceptual frameworks’ click into the appropriate context when we read:

The concept of ‘information’ acquires a new meaning because information processing is at the heart of biological intelligence. All biological systems, from bacteria to Gaia, are intelligent, open thermodynamic systems that exchange information, matter and energy with the environment. (v) The organism-environment interaction is cybernetic. As much as the organism changes due to the influence of the environment, the organism’s responses to induced changes affect the environment and subsequent organism-environment interactions. Based on the above principles a new research agenda can be formulated to explore different forms of biological intelligence.

I bolded those references to changes because they too get euphemized as student learning, even though the desired changes are not really about passing on a body of knowledge as in the historic conception of education. EE, as I am going to abbreviate it, “aims at understanding the complex relations between biological evolution, especially the biological evolution of human cognition, and the cultural evolution of scientific knowledge.” Because federal laws, mandated learning standards, accreditation criteria, and curricular materials and online activities are all aiming to change the nature of that cognition and then prescribe it for the masses, this is not a matter of speculation. Let me read a passage from a Norbert Wiener biography called Dark Hero of the Information Age that should make what is being stealthily targeted and why more clear:

As he made clear from the outset, the universal processes and principles of cybernetics–information, communication, feedback, ‘circular causality’ or reciprocal influence, and ‘teleology’ or purposeful, goal-directed action–apply equally to technology, biology, and all the complex systems of society. The biological and social dimensions of cybernetics were widely overlooked in Wiener’s day and in the decades since his death, as technology loomed ever larger. Yet those neglected aspects of Wiener’s science hold some of the most powerful insights cybernetics has to offer, and they are as important as any technical tool for understanding the complex forces that shape and influence all our lives.

The conceptual tools of cybernetics can help people think in more effective and productive ways, to create, innovate, and perhaps even begin to envision at the levels to which Wiener raised his most talented disciples to ‘see over the fence,‘ as he did, and down the road to the end result of any effort. Cybernetics, its sister sciences of information theory and systems theory, and their descendants in the new sciences of complexity and human communication offer scientists and nonscientists alike new ways to think systematically and strategically, to solve problems, paint scenarios, and identify potential trouble spots before disaster strikes…[It is] the next step on the learning curve of the global society.

Wiener and his colleagues could ‘see over the fence’ because they had huge stores of factual knowledge that allowed their brilliant minds to make connections that could then be proved in experiments. Prescribing the methods of seeing over the fence to evaluate the future for all without any ‘vast stores of knowledge,’ or even much in the pantry beyond the prescribed conceptual frameworks, means there is no safety catch between what is factual and what is a politically useful fiction. Now before I get to the curriculum I mentioned from Developing Minds in the Digital Age, I want to mention one more book, from 2015, called The Cybernetics Moment or Why We Call Our Age the Information Age that was funded by the National Science Foundation. That matters because that Developing Minds comes from the NSF Science of Learning Centers, as have so many of the curricula involved with the reading, math, and science wars (covered in my book Credentialed to Destroy).

The book’s author, Ronald R. Kline, who is a Professor of History and Ethics of Engineering at Cornell, where Derek Cabrera and his DSRP work is also based, has the Cybernetics Moment as ending in the 1970s despite its promise. I maintain that is not true since it migrated to education ‘reforms’. It thoroughly saturates the actual Common Core implementation and now what is known as competency-based education, correctly construed (which so few do these days). See if this sounds familiar from the discussion above.The NSF/OECD conception of a “Science of Learning for 21st Century Education…encompasses complex changes in the learner from his/her dynamic engagement with an equally ever-changing environment.”

Now I promised last time we could recognize the DiaMat/cybernetic intentions in the OECD/NSF DJEM–Designed Joint Engagement with Media. Since I initially read that report I also learned that some of the cited researchers are involved with the now 20-year old Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition that is a joint project of Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. That matters because Carnegie Mellon gets NSF funding to create a great deal of immersive online learning curricula. U-Pittsburgh was involved with the New Standards Project, which is the forebear of the Common Core from back in the 90s. Both are in a position then to implement DJEM as:

purposefully created, shared experiences where individuals interact with one another while simultaneously attending to a media. DJEM can take many forms, including viewing a video, playing a game on a mobile device or reading a digital book together. DJEM grows out of the idea that joint attention or the coordinated focus of all interacting individuals on the same phenomena, is a necessary condition for joint engagement and is fundamental to human learning from an early age.

Now, if you have a goal of fundamental transformation in social, economic, and political systems, which the OECD and its affiliates in the UN make no bones about as in Leave No One Behind by 2030 and Equity for All, the Number One prerequisite is to get people to “common forms of sensemaking”. Precisely, what DJEM is designed to do so that:

Both the speaker and the listener play an important role in establishing, monitoring and sustaining joint attention during interactions, drawing both on non-verbal communication (e.g.-pointing, moving to share visual perspective, etc) and on meta-communicative verbal comments. The use of such strategies helps create a ‘between-person state of engagement‘ that draws on both the cognitive and the social dimensions of communication and helps partners develop a shared conceptual structure in which they collaborate and learn as they engage in media together…These shared conversations-joint social engagements–serve as sites for knowledge construction and meaning making.

So the purpose of these  prescribed learning experiences is not to learn math, science, history, or to become a better reader. It is to instill a common internalized conceptual structure about some real-life phenomena in each of the interacting students. And the NSF is simultaneously financing books saying the Cybernetic Moment is over, while funding online curricula and activities that use cyberneticist Gordon Pask’s conversation theory. No, they didn’t cite him in their Science of Learning push, but they did describe and use his Conversation Theory. We do get to recognize by function, not assigned labels, since I am still driven by logic and a vast storehouse of facts instead of an assigned conceptual framework. Anyway, the Center for Curriculum Reform’s recent book on Artificial Intelligence in Education happened to mention that the desired AI platforms to be used with students were based on Pask’s theories.

Cybernetics is not dead as all these links show. The new Science of Learning wants us to accept that “Expertise lies not so much in the number of facts an individual can state but in the way in which that knowledge is organized and the ability to apply it flexibly and appropriately in new situations.” My book and this blog exist because I have a highly organized understanding of where education is going, how it intends to get there, what the likely impacts are, and how the theories of cybernetics matter to all these efforts. It does not represent an Approved Conceptual Framework though, which sometimes makes me a persona non grata to discussions. Imagine instead that your child is in this Sid the Science Kid animated programme for preschool children from the Jim Henson Company that “explores everyday phenomena and provides models of science practices and science talks…to deepen and reenforce target concepts.” Tell me this doesn’t sound to you like Code the Kid at the Level of the Mind and Start Early to create Binding Habits of Mind.

To test the feasibility and promise of the DJEM theory, we developed and refined a curriculum supplement…[that] comprised an eight-week experience on change and transformation, foundational concepts across science content areas. Modules were two weeks long and included two to three days of instruction each week that integrated video episodes, classroom discussions, teacher guided book readings, and hands-on investigations. The curriculum supplements four modules targeted types of change that children likely observed in their daily lives: decay, growth, reversible change, and irreversible change.

Learning as creating common conceptual frameworks tied into emotion and the visual to guide perception and the interpretation of experiences in predictable ways at the level of a preschoolers mind. That is a vastly different realm to be standardizing than measuring weight or distance. Cybernetics requires common goals and learning standards are a means of dictating goals without that shift being readily apparent to the typical parent or student. It is up to those of us with Unapproved Conceptual Frameworks to grasp where these learning standards really seek to go. This is not a discussion on the metric system vs miles. There the chosen standard has no impact on the distance being described. Here, the purpose of the learning standard is to reimagine the mind and then turn it from the open system it can be to the closed system that will behave predictably. Which will change the environment, which will impact the mind and personality, which will then change the now altered Environment. Etc. Etc. Etc.

We need to wake up to how many of our young people are to be in this EE Research Programme. Anyone think it is coincidental preschoolers are being instructed on transformation and change? Me neither.

Regard the Past, Perceive the Present, Imagine the Future, and Then Act for Transformation

Ironically, the first part of that title came to me while I was taking a break from research because one of my favorite historical series had published a new novel. Set in Tudor times, the author’s desire to have past events interpreted in a way that altered how the reader would regard similar efforts now was unmistakable. The story had taken on a normative purpose that reminded me of current pushes around the ‘cooperative commonwealth’ or Morality-as-Cooperation. In other words, the author was trying to manipulate adults in much the same way as learning standards and required conceptual progressions intend to manipulate our children, while their brains and personalities are largely still malleable. Both purposes go to creating (or rearranging) what is called the ‘sociological imagination’.

Both fit with what C. Wright Mills called ‘The Social Scientist’s Task’, exemplified by this quote I found when discovering that in 1995 the news media was asked by philanthropic foundations to rethink its role and begin to consciously impact public opinion and policy to advance social change objectives.

Men and women in a mass society are gripped by personal troubles which they are not able to turn into social issues. They do not understand the interplay of these personal troubles with the problems of social structure.The knowledgeable person [College, Career, and Citizenship Ready!] in a genuine public, on the other hand, is able to do just that. He understands that what he thinks and feels to be personal troubles are often also problems shared by others, and more importantly, not capable of solution by any one individual but only by modifications of the structure of the entire society. Men in masses have troubles, but they are not aware of their true meaning and source; men in public confront issues, and they usually come to be aware of their public terms.

Very useful then for anyone desiring transformational social change so we had the media going to Brandeis https://www.frameworksinstitute.org/assets/files/PDF/open_letter_foundation_community.pdf where they “joined public interest advocates and service providers in examining the power that media holds to set the public agenda. By choosing which public problems demand our collective agenda, the media shape the public agenda which, in turn, shapes the policy agenda.” Just as we saw with think tanks  in the last post, and as we can see in higher ed (MIT specifically) recently in this series https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2019-ethics-computing-and-ai-perspectives-mit , all these institutions regard their 21st century mission to be the “reengagement of American citizens in common ground problem solving.”

That mission requires common goals and shared meanings, which is precisely what competency-based education creates. Adults get the news or as this document from last week http://frameworksinstitute.org/assets/files/unleashingthepowerofhow-anexplanationdeclaration.pdf states:

It is imperative that, as a field, we examine the way we define and use narrative to ensure that it delivers the social change we seek…For a communication to act as a story, some one or some thing must act, or be acted upon, and thereby propelled towards an ultimate result…human interest stories are insufficient to drive change. While the human brain is attracted to tales of episodes in other people’s lives, the civic body is distracted by them. In contemplating close-up portraits of affected individuals, the broader landscape of systems and structures is readily ignored…when considering the plight of an individual, the human mind exaggerates the protagonist’s agency, focuses on individual choices, and blames outcomes on individual frailties rather than broader factors. In this way, human interest stories reinforce dominant paradigms of individualism and dampen attention to policy issues or other collective actions.

Reenforcing my belief that there is a common blueprint across all these institutions that acts as the rudder for the desired change starting at the neural level of each individual, we have MIT literature prof, Mary Fuller, at the link above telling us that Stories now can serve as “Conceptual meeting spaces for thinking together.” She must be able to identify with the need for media, educators, and think tanks to supply explanations, narratives, and stories to build up ‘shared understanding’ and ‘explanatory chains to make implicit assumptions explicit’ to avoid the apparently horrific alternative that the “public might otherwise fill in with their own thinking” as the Frameworks Institute put it above (p.10).

No wonder federal law now insists students must be assessed at least annually to ensure they are using prescribed concepts and categories of thought when presented with unfamiliar situations or problems that have no single, algorithmic answer. As Fuller put it:

Stories allow us to model interpretive, affective, ethical choices; they also become common ground, conceptual meeting places that can serve to gather very different kinds of interlocutors around a common object, We need these. Computer science alone can’t shoulder the task of modeling the future, understanding social and global impacts, and making ethical decisions.

Computer science comes in because those MIT profs are asserting what Uncle Karl would have recognized as his Human Development Society vision in the name of Artificial Intelligence and the new morality and collective action it supposedly compels. As “The Tools of Moral Philosophy” essay makes clear, AI will create problems that, like Climate Change, cannot and should not be “solved by individual action.” No, instead we need:

systemic change [where]…it will be vital to put in place social and institutional structures that support, encourage, and guide ethical behavior. One responsibility that falls on us as individuals is to work toward political conditions in which it is possible for us to live and work more ethically.

Bonus points to everyone that recognizes that those new political conditions require a rejection by both students and enough voting age adults of the status quo. For that it is helpful to have think tanks, the media, and education institutions, from preschool to the Ivies, asserting that education be about values and character, with content that is largely conceptual and designed to create what Wright called a ‘genuine public.’ As that 1995 Strategic Communication for media paper put it when they quoted then Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, all these institutions have now been told that:

the core responsibility of those who deal in policy…is to provide the public with alternative visions of what is desirable and possible, to stimulate deliberation about them, provoke a reexamination of premises and values, and thus broaden the range of potential responses and deepen society’s understanding of itself.

For students, that examination may be occurring in a school or higher ed institution being forthright about its desire to foster a mindset for deep social change and the motivation to act to bring it about. Other parents thinking the have exercised choice in rejecting ‘progressive change’ and John Dewey may seek out religious schools, charters, or Classical Education without an awareness that most also seek transformative change. That really struck home to me when I read the “Safeguarding Our Humanity” essay from a Chemical Engineering prof at MIT who wanted to redirect education so it “would guide our lives in a direction that truly makes us better” by “Redirecting our thinking from an education focused on a particular discipline to an education that liberates our minds and allows us to investigate our true situation with the whole.”

In his view in the age of AI with its (purported) potential to be ‘the greatest existential threat,’ we should completely change our approach to education and “start to think carefully about what is important about human life. This means redirecting our thinking from what is merely advantageous to what is genuinely good, from a blind belief in efficiency to a considered understanding of what is the best in human life.”

Education, the media, think tanks, and philanthropy have united with politicians of both parties to use all the arrows in their quivers to control what determines “what comes to mind” and then what the human mind believes will be the problems and solutions to what it perceives. As one journalist put it with a great deal of arrogance: “we have some obligation to ensure that the citizenry has a clue of what’s going on.” In education we get prescribed what is called Whole Person Learning (WPL) with a similar goal where education is to be transformed so it is “not only a process to know more or better, but as an exercise to be better.” By whatever name, this transformative, outcome-oriented vision wants to be student-centered and personalized to create “an effective stimulation of imagination (to escape from the prison of their current definitions of problems), while inducing a genuine internalization of responsibility (avoiding passing the buck to one or several other stakeholders) and enhancing the obligation of action.”

I will close with a link from a paper cited by Frameworks in its Explanation of How paper to this https://haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/changing-our-narrative-about-narrative which seeks to create what it calls Narrative Power by immersing “people in a sustained series of narrative experiences required to enduringly change hearts, minds, behaviors, and relationships.” That’s what prescribed learning experiences to fit with the CEDS–Common Education Data Standards–also seek to do for students. It fits with the moral compass and social pillars we keep encountering from schools being hyped by school choice advocates.

Think of something like CEDS or its international peer–the ISCED–as creating what Rashad Robinson called narrative infrastructure. It has to be in place at a level like the human mind so the shift is both inevitable and invisible. We keep encountering the same underlying template of internalized affective, cognitive, and conative (what is sought or willed) change because all these institutions, whatever their sales pitch to parents, seek to “change the rules of society–our society’s operating system–and shape society in the image of our values.”

It seems that these shifts are everywhere because we are dealing with goals for transformation that are “just as much about changing the rules of cultural production..as they are about capturing normativity.” That can only happen if the desired changes in values, attitudes, and beliefs are prescribed by law (if you know where to look) and imposed “through social and personal spaces that aren’t explicitly political or focused on issues, but are nonetheless the experiences and venues through which people shape their most heart-held values.”

The March through the Institutions meant ALL institutions and, as Credentialed to Destroy laid out in great detail, the reading and math wars were never actually about how to teach reading or math.

It’s about controlling what comes to mind, heart, and ‘moving feet’ for social change.

 

Snuffing Out the Old World That is Dying to Hatch a New One Via Public Policy

Building on the last post’s explanation of the importance of targeting people’s internalized mental maps to effect external change, let me cite this recent article https://www.alliancemagazine.org/feature/systems-change-and-philanthropy/ on how crucial it is for foundations to support “reframing the narratives people hold” because of the necessity that people be “mirroring internally what is sought externally.” Did you also know that the National Science Foundation is pushing something it calls CHANS–Coupled Human and Natural Systems–research as part of its Social and Behavioral Science work currently? That research wants to model and control human decision-making, just like UNESCO as we saw in a 2018 post on creating desired Anticipatory Assumptions that the Rockefeller Foundation was funding. It turns out that “fuzzy concept maps (FCM) are potentially very useful in modeling human decisions and behavior in CHANS.”

So the NSF and UNESCO want to target what is internalized to control decision-making and say so. No one who looks at their work and funding would disagree that it aims at a transformative vision to a human well-being centric future. Let’s skip over to Classical Ed or religiously oriented schools, since they are often asserted as the alternative to the Godless and Progressive public schools. https://members.classicalconversations.com/article/book-review-norms-nobility makes it clear that education is all about the “person education should produce (norms) and the way this person should act (nobility)… education [is] preparation for virtuous thought and action,” but the instilled virtues that guide who the person is, what he values, how he perceives, and what motivates him to act are not up to the individual. The community supposedly decides what will be instilled and practiced until it is an unconscious habit.

My point is that there is a convergence in the vision for education in the 21st century between Left and Right that is rarely being shared accurately with the public. If something called Agile Governance globally is all about controlling each individual’s knowledge and beliefs in order to aid declared public policy goals and we have “State Capability, Policymaking and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Do Knowledge Systems Matter?” laying out the need to “change the nature and meaning of knowledge production and use in policy decisions” using think tanks across the globe, all of a sudden we have the best explanation yet of why there has been so much deceit and False Narrative coordination coming out of think tanks when it comes to what is really going on in education.

If we envision think tanks in the 21st century as both the executioners of the old vision via their White Papers or testimony that create a certain perception of what is currently wrong, and the midwives guiding the birth of a new vision, things start to make far more sense. Then aspirationally quoting Antonio Gramsci, without pointing out he wrote from prison in the 1920s for being an admitted Communist, and noting he “has described a situation like this as a ‘solstice’ and an ‘interregnum,’ where the ‘old world is dying, [but] the new one has not yet been born'” fits the Midwife role. It also turns out there is something else at U-Penn beyond AISP, Positive Neuroscience, prospective psychology, and the other transformative social systems research we keep encountering. It is called the Think Tank and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) and it publishes a Global Go To Think Tank Index Report on the “role policy institutes play in governments and civil societies around the world.”

Sure enough, we find so many of the think tanks that pretend to be ‘conservative’ while misrepresenting competency-based education, social and emotional learning, data initiatives, or deceiving readers about what Marxism is being celebrated by the Index for their effectiveness as think tanks or having one of the Best Advocacy Campaigns of 2018. If the new purpose of education globally is to create a planned citizen with the characteristics of altruism and motivations governments and connected corporations desire, it makes sense to be targeting what they clearly are:

all aspects of what it means to be human: feelings, intuition, connection to others and the cosmos, as well as the more familiar ground of the mind and intellect. Whole Person Learning is intimately linked with how the individual sees themselves and, supremely, how they view others.

That is what has now become a matter of ‘public policy’ to change. That’s what it means to declare that in the 21st Century Knowledge and Education are “global public goods” and that think tanks are to act as the “intermediaries” between legislators and bureaucrats and ‘advocates’. Anyone motivated to act must be guided in what they believe and value. In this new paradigm for education grounded in public policy:

Instead of focusing on the improvement of students, Education must start focusing on the improvement of the world, enabling each individual to be an active part of that process…Indeed, learning is not the ultimate goal of Education, seeing that individuals learn in order to attain/create useful, desired goals. Specially in a time of relentless possibilities created by technology, which creates the scenario for people to learn, work, and exist in a close yet heterogeneous network, individuals may now be empowered to learn and attain great goals with local/national/world impact.

That would certainly explain the convergence of visions around controlling what a student’s Identity is and what they value, believe, and what principles motivate them to act. How many people appreciate that these skills of active participation in a project of transformation in the human and natural worlds is what it means to be a Critical Thinker in the 21st Century?

Sure enough, if students are being educated to become critical thinkers, it is aimed at serving a higher purpose still: that these individuals become equipped to devolve into active, participatory agents in the world–of work, surely, but also of their surrounding (and our global) community. This is possible since critical thinkers are prone to approaching common public challenges with a hands on conduct ignited by an ethical and committed attitude.

That vision of education creates the needed ‘citizens’ to fit with a global vision for the 21st Century that “with effective multi-stakeholder cooperation…the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to address–and possibly solve–the major challenges that the world currently faces.” What is necessary to this vision of the future? –“a population that can think critically and in interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary ways.” Precisely what the Disciplinary Core Ideas, Cross-Cutting Concepts and Topics of those instilled Fuzzy Cognitive Maps are creating. No wonder US federal law requires Higher Order Thinking Skills to be assessed annually on at least 95% of each state’s students. It’s a necessary component of this global transformative vision of what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century where Knowledge Systems must evolve so that “Governments have the opportunity to design policies to prepare the knowledge systems of the future to make better decisions for the wellbeing of all.

I bolded that last part because it is what Uncle Karl called his Human Development Society vision where little ‘c’ communism would be enabled by a certain level of technology. It is also called Marxist Humanism, which I have documented is another area where certain colleges, publications, and think tanks have made a concerted effort to mislead. Few can recognize what no one has accurately explained to us, Plus, creating False Narratives to guide human decision-making apparently gets a think tank recognized as Effective. That State Capability paper tells us that “Both citizen and professional knowledge are important to successful implementation [of the 4IR/Human Development/Wellbeing of All vision]; ignoring them weakens the potential for success.”

Well, neither is being ignored, but the targeting of both is not being accurately explained either except here at ISC. Going back to all the misinformation out there now from think tanks makes it clear that the disinformation is being manufactured in what appears to be a coordinated manner in order to “influence or change the system’s purpose, which is the level of intervention capable of instituting the most profound change in the system.” Student-centered, personalized learning that is brain-based and evidence-centered sounds so much better than that long quote and works the same way, doesn’t it? No need to get parents all upset by referring to students as ‘systems’ that need a new form of Governance at an internalized level in order to get the desired transformation in the external, material world.

Do you remember my research on the Global Education Futures Forum and GEFF’s ties to the World Economic Forum? GEFF’s true focus makes more sense when we are familiar with the January 2018 White Paper “Agile Governance: Reimagining Policymaking in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The need to transform education globally goes hand in hand with a need for “positioning values that promote societal benefit and well-being as priorities for governance.” And what precisely does governance now mean if that’s the new vision of education in the 4IR?

In its simplest form, governance refers to making decisions and exercising authority to guide the behavior of individuals and organizations…The concept of agile governance aims to shift the manner in which policies are generated, deliberated, enacted and enforced in the [4IR]…to enable policy-making that is more inclusive and ‘human-centred’ by involving more stakeholders in the process and allowing for rapid iteration to meet the needs of the governed.

References to the Governed are straight out of a 1971 Soviet book called The Scientific Management of Society that I covered back in 2016 when I introduced my readers to the term they used for such comprehensive management at the level of the mind and personality–Upravleniye. Hello again old friend with a new name and sales pitch.

No wonder that WEF White Paper pitches what looks like what governments in the West are now calling evidence-based policymaking (while certain think tanks mislead about its true nature) where:

The combination of systems and design thinking provides an iterative and cumulative learning process by exploring a complex and fast-moving ecosystem, sensemaking [using FCMs?] of observed variables, and shaping of possible outcomes, while analysing the influence of those outcomes on the status quo…Adopting system and design-thinking approaches fosters a shift from planning and controlling to piloting and implementing policies to get rapid feedback and iteration…Feedback loops allow policies to be evaluated against the backdrop to determine if they are still meeting citizens’ values and needs.

Those would be the deliberately instilled values and needs created by a new singular vision of education in play under the Common Core in public schools in the US and in charter language or school mission statements for those parents opting for School Choice. The deceit makes more sense now, as well as the very term–School Choice–in a vision of education designed to get at the internalized basis for human decision-making as an invisible lever for social control.

All this to enable, without scrutiny or effective challenge, a vision of the 21st Century where think tanks and governments get to specify “the outcomes we should be striving for as a collective endeavour.”

No wonder all these visions push the community as the determining source of what the individual must now be.

Unified Human Sciences of the Mind: Learning Standards Prescribe Desired Neural Patterns

Nothing like being at a journey’s end, when all of a sudden fireworks explode that remind us why it’s a good thing we have made it here. We will talk about the fireworks shortly, but what I saw in that “Developing Resilient Agency in Learning” paper from the last post made me sit back down with my copy of Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind/Brain from 1986. I wanted to rethink the manipulative potential of prescribing student goals or ‘performance expectations’ (PE) that go to ‘standardizing’ the fact that we humans are the “lucky organisms fitted out with cells coordinating representations of the world with movement in the world” as Patricia Churchland put it in italics. Churchland went on to quote Dominick Purpura from 1975 in a Chapter Epigraph to her book’s Conclusion stating that: “What we require now are approaches that can unite basic neurobiology and behavioral sciences into a single operational framework.”

Learning standards tied to CEDS in the US, or UNESCO’s ISCED framework globally, are creating that long-sought operational framework. Key to those aspirations is prescribing those internalized representations of the world. Sense-making was one of the perimeter nodes of that Learner Profile spider web we met in the last post per the Mindful Agency paper. It used the term ‘sense-making’ to combine two factors: “(i) making meaning and (ii) making connections” and stated:

Sense-making is a core part of learning, and…learning takes place through making connections in several ways: neurological, social, cognitive and experiential. People understand the world through schemata–‘a cognitive structure that consists of facts, ideas and associations organised into a meaningful system of relationships.’ It is through constantly comparing existing schema with new information and understanding that we develop through our encounter with the world, that we  adapt or stretch our existing understanding to accumulate richer and deeper knowledge…our understanding of the world and relationships is not just through storing information as an ‘objective’ entity. We do not passively receive information from our environment–rather we translate information into internal representations whose value is significant.’ They [human beings] actively participate in the generation of meaning in what matters to them: they enact a world’. Sense-making is, for them, a relational and affect-laden process grounded in biological organisation.

That was a long quote so we could go back to what was simply as aspiration and a theory decades ago and then forward to real time classroom instructions now. Then we get the fireworks in the form of last week’s release of http://fabbs.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/BRAIN-Initiative-FABBS-presentation-FINAL.pdf called the “Opportunities for the BRAIN Initiative 2.0.” Phase II or 2.0 turns out to be “Transforming dynamic neural patterns into understanding cognition, emotion, perception and action.” How does that happen? Here’s one current example from http://learndbir.org/resources/A-Phenomenon-based-Assessment-System-for-Three-dimensional-Science-Standards.pdf  It explains that the desired student “Performance Expectations are endpoints. To successfully prepare students to meet these goals, instructional materials must provide learning materials at the nexus of these three dimensions” of Science and Engineering Practices [the outside action], Core Disciplinary Ideas, and Cross-Cutting Concepts.

Those latter two strands go to creating the desired internalized ‘schemata’ for students’ sensemaking. ALL students. Suddenly science becomes a sociocultural “enterprise organized around asking questions in the natural world and seeking to build theories and models to develop answers to those questions.” Engineering becomes a matter of design “beginning with problems, needs, or desires of human beings that need to be addressed.” We would recognize three-dimensional learning as cultural activity theory, even if it did not admit it openly in all these papers. Its focus is on “Learning what is not yet there” because its purpose is on transformative learning that will create a different future via reimagined human activities. Recognizing that Professor Churchland taught in the 80s hotbed of cultural-historical activity theory–San Diego–complete with translations from Soviet psychology works I checked to see what ISCAR was currently pushing and pulled up Roberta Patalano publishing “From the Cradle to Society: ‘As-If’ Thinking as a Matrix of Creativity.”

Remember all the ‘uncertainty’ pushing from the last post, and now the Performance Expectations, that somehow get at coordinating Professor Churchland’s inside and out dimensions? It’s all what Soviet research stipulated would be necessary to create new kinds of minds that would act in new ways in the world. Let’s look at one more current exercise http://stemteachingtools.org/brief/46 from March 2017 called “How to define meaningful daily learning objectives for science investigations.” Uncertainty creates affect-laden ‘understanding’ just as I bolded above in that block quote. It warns teachers that “displaying the target concept to be learned–the disciplinary core idea that is to be the focus of instruction–‘gives away’ what students should actually be figuring out as they make sense of phenomena by engaging in the science and engineering practices.”

In case anyone thinks I am exaggerating on wanting to affect future action, let me quote that “Investigations should help students construct understanding. The framework vision [remember that Purpura quote] is about students seeing that science and engineering practices are ways that can help them make sense of and change the world. Students should be deciding together what they need to investigate each day, based on what they’ve already figured out and what they need to learn to explain or design. They shouldn’t know the outcome of an investigation ahead of time.” Explicit instruction as in a lecture or textbook would “short-circuit deep learning.” PEs require that “Students should be able to say what they are trying to figure out in their own words–and come to use formal science terminology once they have gotten a feeling for it after multiple investigations.”

That would explain why those of us with solid factual knowledge in an area see misapplied concepts, or Inapt Metaphors, as students use terminology they “have a feeling for,” instead of a solid foundation grounded in facts. Such a body of knowledge might interfere with an aspiration to change the world. What these prescribed concepts and learning experiences are doing though is creating internalized schema in the student’s mind. Precisely where all these learning and cognitive scientists and education researchers are trying “to invent and perfect new concepts suitable to nervous system function, and they all have their sights set on explaining macro phenomena in terms of micro phenomena.” We get a new kind of education breaking out in earnest in the 1980s when Patricia Churchland wrote, and Lauren Resnick began pushing the now required Higher Order Thinking Skills, where the traditional logical, sequential representations that had traditionally been the purpose of instruction get replaced by a neural network combining ‘patterns of activity’ with provided categories of thought.

The three-dimensional learning required now and laid out as Mindful Agency are grounded in what psychologists theorized would be necessary to create New Kinds of Minds as Paul Ehrlich put it in a 1989 book I have warned about. Now to the fireworks as that BRAIN Initiative link had a header that said “NSF SBE Grand Challenge Ideas.” What’s that I ask? I remember the NSF funded all the controversial, ‘discovery’ math and science curricula? SBE turned out to be Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences and the SBE 2020 vision was launched in August 2010 https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2010/08/challenges when a Paul Ehrlich colleague, John Holdren, (whom he mentioned in thanks in his book, New World, New Mind) headed the White House office that oversaw the NSF. That’s one way to fulfill that book’s goal of Conscious Evolution, isn’t it?

I started reading those SBE 2020 papers over the weekend and found the link to the Krasnow Institute and its Neuroeconomics we stumbled across pursuing Thinking and Reading like a Historian in a paper called “Understanding the Mechanisms of the Mind through an Integrated Science of the Mind Initiative.” Whereas, Professor Churchland simply hoped a neural network that functioned like Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP) in computers could become the end result of a new kind of transformation education, another co-author of that paper, James McClelland turns out to be a PDP expert. https://fabbs.org/our_scientists/james-l-mcclelland-phd/ . Another co-author at MIT, Aude Oliva, is working “to understand how humans encode, process, retain, predict, and imagine.” No wonder we get ‘bottom-up’ New Foundations for Readiness as we saw in the last post.

Another paper “Twenty-First Century Challenges and Opportunities for the Human Sciences” wanted to “develop a scientific understanding of the social processes that now shape [the natural world].” This would require the United States to finance a “significant and targeted investment in an integrated science of social and behavioral dynamics, or ‘human sciences’.” And the next year, 2011, the federal Department of Education held its first competency-based education summit to do just that and implement the developed “theory for human social action” using student-centered learning to create the needed personalized neural networks in each student. Coordinating the inside categories of thought and motivation to act with the external activity in any given environment.

It’s a good plan if transformative change in the ‘macro phenomena’ of society, economies, and political structures in largely invisible ways is the goal of education in the 21st century globally. I stumbled across this more than ten years ago now trying to figure out why the NSF had paid the State of Georgia and its University System tens of millions of dollars in grants to implement constructivist Integrated Math. None of the offered explanations held up to scrutiny. Now I know it was about creating New Kinds of Minds. Let’s close our Trilogy of Bottom-Up, Inside-Out, Neural Change in each student by quoting an SBE 2020 abstract that had no linked document, just this aspiration:

One of the most critical challenges facing next-generation social, behavioral and economic research is to understand the dynamics and consequences of interactions between human systems [that’s US!] and the natural world. To accelerate scientific progress, significant and systematic efforts must be made to identify and collect data across time and space that enable evidence on perceptions, attitudes, social institutions, situation-behavior relationships, and decision-making to be linked comprehensively to measurements of the natural environment. These data will lay the foundation for a science of sustainability.

Rereading that quote would explain why the same think tank employees or their affiliates misrepresenting how learning standards like the Common Core really work also envisioned misrepresenting the purpose of all the data gathering from the beginning.

It appears that education researchers aren’t the only ones aspiring to control our internalized ‘schemata’ that guide how we interpret the world around us.