Since the last post I have really dug in to figure out why Classical Education as described by the books I have quoted in the previous two posts functioned so similarly to the educational vision I shorthand as cybernetic. I have those answers now, but before we get to that discussion I want to quote something from another book in the same series called Freedom, Justice, and Hope: Toward a Strategy for the Poor and Oppressed:
“Pulling a utopian vision into practice does little harm if the people involved participate voluntarily in the experiment and always have the right to opt out.”
I bolded that because I am not picking on Classical Education, Christian education, or those with a worldview that “Biblical categories of thought” should provide the framework for understanding all of Life and transforming culture. My problem is when this change in emphasis in education is not accurately explained and parents or taxpayers remain unaware. That’s why we are talking about this. To borrow one more quote from that book: “Ignorance is not harmless; in the real world our illusions can have awful consequences.” Consider me to be the Illusion Disperser. I am not disparaging anyone wishing that “Christians should use their God-given intellects to structure society along Biblical lines.” I am insisting though that if that’s the aim, say so when you are pitching your new view of school, education, and the learning philosophy.
Do not hide an aim to circumscribe mental activity and create action guided by religious faith so that a person’s thoughts are bound by the “use of reason within revelation” by pitching such actual goals as some kind of Classical education, the Trivium, or a return to the Medieval Mind. I cover both John Dewey’s real goals via education as well as what were called the Social Reconstructionists in depth in my book Credentialed to Destroy. Recognizing the essential template made perfect sense then when I get to the last chapter of Herbert Schlossberg’s Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture and it laid out a “strategy for action” whereby “we must consider further how to move toward bringing political, economic, and social life into conformity with the gospel.”
I bolded the latter because the basis for the vision varies from the Social Reconstructionists laid out in my book or any of the Marxist Humanists or humanist psychologists we have covered on this blog, but the institutional aims are the same. So is the belief that the place to start with societal transformation in reality is by targeting what the individual has internalized as his or her values and belief system. Again, the visions vary but every time I track these new philosophies of education that are currently hyped as Common Core or competency-based education, invariably I find someone wanting to provide a normative vision that will guide and motivate future behavior.
That vision again is to serve as the source from which each targeted student will “draw the understanding of the nature of humanity, the meaning of history, the legitimate values of society, and the place of biological creatures in the creation.” That was not the only Schlossberg book I read. I also read Turning Point: A Christian Worldview Declaration that he wrote with Marvin Olasky so there is a consistency as to what is being asserted that has nothing to do with me inferring anything or taking quotes out of context. What is so fascinating to me is the consistent misstatements of what has actually been going on in educational psychology. In both books education is stuck on Behaviorism and Marxism on materialism, even though factually that was absolutely no longer true when any of these books was written.
It is simply not true that Marxism still failed to emphasize that “what people desire and purpose will have any bearing on the future.” Neither was it true that “We are part of an intellectual world that has judged there to be an unbridgeable gulf between matter and spirit.” Fusing those without consent so that “faith and action” become combined and targeting mental models has absolutely been a major occupation of researchers in educational psychology from the 70s forward as Schlossberg could have easily found out instead of erecting these False Narratives. My concerns over what the goals of Classical Education actually were when it hypes Ideas first, instead of facts, makes far more sense as an alluring sales pitch for School Choice dollars instead of confessing:
“anyone wanting to systematize knowledge on the basis of revelation will have to do it within a framework completely different from the common ones that have come to dominate Western philosophy…We must not accept any formulation that erects an impermeable barrier between the sensible and rational, object and subject, matter and mind.”
Dewey could have said that, except pithy expression was never his forte. Sounds precisely like all our so-called systems thinkers as well. Norbert Weiner, who created the term cybernetics back in the 40s, thought so highly of its potential to neurologically unite mind and matter that he equated it to breathing life into a clay Golem in a 1964 book. He also wanted to expand cybernetic controls using data and control via communication in remaking those very same economic and social institutions Schlossberg intended to target for transformation. First though Weiner wanted to start applying the theories in engineering and biology. Biologically–that’s us folks.
Same aim but with a different description might sound like this if you were writing a book you only expected fellow acolytes to read. “For the disciple of Christ is to bring every thought and every action in obedience to Christ.” Substitute Marx for Christ and you will see why we have a problem. If that sounds blasphemous, it is simply the reverse of a point made regularly in these books. Systems thinking exists though because even mentioning Uncle Karl is risky to any PR or sales campaign. Much better to describe such aims to control thought and action in terms about ‘interdependence and systems and mutuality” as both Schlossberg and the Marxist Humanists who call themselves systems thinkers do. “Brain-based learning” sounds better as well.
Here is how another proponent of Classical Education describes its ‘philosophy of education’ to “enable us to make progress in the life-long endeavor of self-rule.” The euphemism the OECD uses now for cybernetic control over what a student has internalized to guide thought and motivate action is “self-regulation.” Awfully close to self-rule, isn’t it? How about curricula that “is conducive to liberating the mind and heart” so that the student can make the ‘vital connection’ between “acknowledging the truth with one’s mind and choosing the good through the exercise of one’s will. Knowing the truth, willing the good, and apprehending the beautiful lead to true human happiness.”
I am not saying parents or adult students may not choose such neurological, normative, and emotional emphases in education as helpful to living one’s life. My problem is when anyone buys into this programming vision without understanding they or their children are being programmed. Too often now ‘classical education’ is simply a euphemism for cybernetic programming. People need to appreciate what is in that breath and that their child is being treated as a Golem. Best to fully understand what ‘spirit’ is being biologically fused. If the goal of these Christian Worldview Reconstructionists is to create a worldview that will guide all of life and change culture then that’s the same goal again of Dewey and the Social Reconstructionists.
What does differ is how it will work, not what is targeted or how via education. Here is the Turning Point again: “There is nothing really secular, out of reach of God’s dominion. Therefore, everything is of legitimate interest to God’s people. Biblically, we are charged with making disciples of all nations and with working toward bringing all things into conformity with God’s revealed will.” I bolded that again because I have been reading Alexander Christakis’ plans for Structured Design Dialogue and the new concept of ‘planning’ hatched in Bellagio in 1968 and the belief that a normative vision of What Ought to Be can be laid out and then willed into being. How? By changing prevailing values, attitudes, and beliefs at an internalized level. Let’s substitute the ‘Vision of Society and the Economy as It Ought to Be’ for what I bolded. See the reason for the interchangeability of aims and reasons?
In all these cases it’s not a matter of individual control anymore. Idols for Destruction tells us why. “Calls for the reformation of society that do not insist upon both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, therefore, are futile.” Must target both what is thought, believed, and valued as well as action in other words. Something all reconstructionists apparently recognize. It also fits with the definition of the kind of standards states must adopt under the Every Student Succeeds Act, what they must assess for, and why everyone must adhere to Universal Design for Learning.
We have noted the rampant Communitarianism required as part of the actual Common Core/Positive School Climate edicts. Schlossberg too was officially hostile to the ‘outdated’ Enlightenment ideal of individual autonomy. It is a vision he believed provides an “amazing answer in the sphere of human relations to the ancient conundrum of the One and the Many. It shows why we are not required to be either the isolated atoms of individualism, nor links in the great collectivist chain that is enslaving the world.” I will interrupt this quote to ask that it also be read as consistent with being a part of a system and a member of an interdependent society. Here we go again where I stopped:
“If each of us is related to the whole of the community as, say, the eyes to the body, then the reason we cannot exist alone is clear; our needs, purposes, and functions must be related to those of the other members of the body. At the same time, the eye performs a vital function for the body and cannot be written off as unimportant or peripheral.”
This autonomous individual with non-circumscribed reason says yuck to that vision whether it is put out in the name of Christianity, Buddhism, or by an acknowledged systems thinker. I have no patience for any of these desires to insist we individuals can only find our meaning “within the context of a larger society.”
Anyone else getting the idea that a whole lot of people want to be the Oligarchs in charge of us? If all these people want to apply for that job they can be forthright about it and quit hiding behind euphemistic terms of education and definitions too few understand.