Can you imagine what your teenage and early 20s would have been like if you got a Get Out of Jail Free card for your 15th birthday? And were then told it could be used 5 times or, better yet, unlimited usage. OK, stop dwelling on the mischief that would have ensued or already happened but without punishment this time. Bet you learned your lesson. With that card you wouldn’t have had to.
What I am about to point out is that the Common Core has become the all-purpose excuse that generates access to loads of taxpayer money to implement theories that may have never been tried before. Or tried with a tragic history. Or have been created by political theorists and professors and even Soviet psychologists as we keep seeing to create wholesale noetic personal changes to gain transformative system changes. Shifting away from an ethos grounded in the primacy of individuals and the choices they make to groups and collectivism and enforced responsibilities as the hallmark of citizenship. All at our expense. Created by people who do not have to pay a personal price if this is a disaster and have much to benefit from in terms of promotions, new jobs, or locked in revenue streams for the requisite 4G wireless contract that will go with all those tablets for every student after you hire a former urban school super to be your Head of Sales.
Nothing but cronyism where politically connected individuals meet public money but it’s the name of the game now in this Digital Literacy push. And at the end of all those dollar transfers will be muddled, weakened minds waiting for a visual prompt and life to be one big engaging game. What a disappointment being an adult will likely be. You get the picture. Anything and everything gets a pass if Transformation is the actual or potential goal. It’s a free-for-all of change and mostly under the radar for the average taxpayer or parent. If they do notice something is wrong, they simply get told “This is the new Common Core State Standards Initiative so ALL our students will be college and career ready for the 21st century. This will allow us to be internationally competitive.”
Now that’s not the real story as we know well but it buys time and your dollars while the real moral and ethical and affective orientation instead of knowledge continues apace in our schools and higher ed. Called student-centered learning or individualized learning. With potential wakeup calls like “Student Loan Write-offs hit $3 Billion in first two months of Year” being off most people’s radars. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-rt-us-usa-studentloans-delinquencybre92o11k-20130325,0,6746534.story . Also likely off your radar screen is the related story of the National Science Foundation doing Neuroscience and Cognitive Science research to see how these new forms of instruction and assessment and classroom practices physically impact the brain. http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2013/nsf13067/nsf13067.jsp?WT.mc_id=USNSF_25&WT.mc_ev=click .
Now that’s not quite the wording of that Dear Colleague letter although “how the brain regulates the individual’s biology…and allows organisms to behave in and adapt to changing environments” is awfully close. Especially when we add in NSF’s involvement in the globally transformative in every respect starting at the level of the human mind, Belmont Challenge, or its decision to use education to squelch climate skepticism as part of the USGCRP 2012-2021 initiative. Or the fact that NSF reports to John Holdren whose colleague of many years, Paul Ehrlich, is seeking new kinds of minds that do not fall back easily on rational thought.
I have not mentioned the Axemaker Mind metaphor recently but destroying it is very much part of this ed reform vision plus the accompanying systems transformation for Equity and Equality. Many of you may not know if you use dynamic MRI imaging of a brain that reads phonetically and fluently and compare it with the brain of a teenager or adult of limited literacy you visually see the firing throughout one but not the other. Let’s think about that picture of Korea from space at night with the North in black and the South all lit up. If you are a school or classroom producing brains that still light up like South Korea in five or 10 years, you have not been following the sociocultural model of collective emotional understanding. And it will be physically apparent. The effective classroom at producing new kinds of minds with cyberlearning (also a big NSF initiative) and collaboration and no more lectures may well produce brains that image like North Korea. Some Equity, huh?
Equity and Equality also come into play in the reforming the high school initiatives that are shifting everyone toward what the Soviets called the polytech model (although they did pull out their finest minds and send them to academic boarding schools to retain their abilities). That’s not going to be on your radar either probably even though President Obama did mention P Tech in his State of the Union. Just to point out though that this dramatic overhaul is not really about the Common Core I came up with some links that precede CCSSI. Remember Jeannie Oakes of the Participatory Social Inquiry post? http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/throwing-an-invisibility-cloak-over-the-classroom-to-get-to-deweys-participatory-social-inquiry/ She was involved in this transformation in California before leaving for the Ford Foundation and was kind enough to tie this high school initiative to its real source–John Dewey’s 1915 Democracy and Education and his idea of education by occupations. http://www.connectedcalifornia.org/downloads/LL_Expanding_Pathways.pdf . SREB has also been on this bandwagon for a long time as the high school vision for ALL students as are other groups.
The Common Core excuse and the College and Career-Ready slogan then mask a whole lot of huge philosophical, politically transformational changes that are mostly unknown. Being implemented without much discussion to avoid the previous controversies or pesky arguments about constitutionality. Especially when you think through a government with police and coercive power collecting and sharing data with vendors on all aspects of students’ developing personalities and interests and attitudes and values. A marketing and political consulting dream come true.
Now that I have pointed out how you get transformative change at the level of the individual student in place without really being seen and also revealed that there will be means of monitoring compliance other than data collection of Student “Growth” (another concept that tracks to Dewey) and those Effective Teacher evals. I want to take the accompanying social, economic, and political vision out of the 21st century or the 1990s. Back to the mid-80s while the Cold War was still simmering if not raging. Because when sociologist Robert Bellah and others wrote the 1985 book Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (reissued usefully in 1996) they were describing the communitarian vision for the future we now associate with Amitai Etzioni and that Positive School Climate Executive Order (another off the radar screen initiative). He was describing the workplace vision we have tracked now to Peter Senge’s Fieldbook and Otto Scharmer and Shoshana Zuboff’s similar visions of the future of capitalism.
And he too saw education as the key to getting there. Especially for getting there without a popular outcry that might prevent the stealth revolution. Here’s the vision from the 1996 edition (page 286):
“The transformation of our culture and our society would have to happen at a number of levels…Personal transformation among large numbers is essential, and it must not only be a transformation of consciousness but must also involve individual action…out of existing groups and organizations, there would also have to develop a social movement dedicated to the idea of such transformation… If the Civil Rights movement failed fundamentally to transform the position of black people in our society, it was because to do that would have required just the change in our social ecology that we are now discussing. [See now why urban schools had to remain dysfunctional whatever the resulting chaos?] So a movement to transform our social ecology would, among other things, be a successor and fulfillment of the Civil Rights movement.
Finally, such a social movement would lead to changes between our government and our economy. This would not necessarily mean more direct control of the economy, certainly not nationalization [which by the 80s was known to harm revenue to state coffers. The USSR was telling African dictators much the same]. It would mean changing the climate in which business operates so as to encourage new initiatives in economic democracy and social responsibility…”
Sound familiar? Do you have any idea how many publicly employed administrators and professors and degree holders insisting on being called “Doctor” have credentials designed primarily to get this vision into effect?
Lots. And now they have the perfect cover, in their mind, to finally finish the Civil Rights Movement.
Except to get there they are stripping away the veneers that brought modern civilization and the prosperity of the West like the division of labor and contract instead of status. And all we get are the bills and promises and utopian political theories that this time human nature will change.