Schools that Break Down Obstacles to the Formation of Revolutionary Personalities

No, David Christian, the Professor pushing the new Big History course has said and written some doozies as we will see but today’s title was not one of them. I borrowed it from aspirations for Italian schools in 1972 since David so clearly wants today’s students to learn to think as idealogues instead of factually. And with Bill Gates’ backing and his Foundation’s funding and McGraw Hill debuting the textbook Big History: Between Nothing and Everything in August, this may be nonsense to those of us who prefer facts and knowledge but it is about to be influential nonsense. And in more places that the “enlightened” high schools already on board. There’s a reason for connections too between Big History–BH for now– and those NSF-funded Understandings of Consequence that are also frequently false. You see, BH combines natural sciences and humanities within a single framework to emphasize the interconnections. Here’s the international newsletter http://ibhanet.org/Resources/Documents/newsletters/Newsletter_III_05.pdf  for April so you can mull over why this is now called Convergence Education in Korea.

Now in case you have always thought of ideology as an insult, let’s use the working definitions of some experts who knew it well and spent a lifetime pointing them out and refuting them. Here’s the great Kenneth Minogue again, this time from his 1963 classic The Liberal Mind: [my snark in brackets]

“An ideology may therefore be defined as a set of ideas whose primary coherence results not from their truth and consistency, as in science and philosophy, but from some external cause; most immediately, this external cause will be some mood, vision, or emotion. [Wouldn’t an emphasis on values, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings be oh so useful?] The psychological mark of ideological entrapment is the feeling of despair which accompanies the prospect of defeat in argument. [usually resulting in an irrelevant but nasty personal attack] Ideologies seek to avoid such painful experiences by framing their key utterances in a vague or tautological form, in order to make these propositions impregnable. The intellectual mark of ideology is the presence of dogma, beliefs which have been dug into the ground and surrounded by semantic barbed wire. [Think Climate Change models that ignore actual temps and omit key influences]. Ideologies incorporate some kind of general instructions about behavior–ideals or value-judgments, as they would commonly be called.”

Now since we learned in the last post for sure that we have a modern class of international nomenklatura who wish to govern us whether we like it or not, what better tool than schools that dispense Mindsets of Ideology instead of facts. No more making your own concepts, remember? Those will now be assigned as the acceptable Big Ideas to guide 21st Century student thinking. No parent need ever know. Who are they compared to a Social Studies Education major anyway. Now the typical ed major or doctorate that gets to be in charge of such a change in curricula may be blissfully unaware of the dangerous, even murderous, past of ideologies, but we are not. Especially after this post. Let’s borrow a few more key components from Jean-Francois Revel’s 1988 (1991 translation into English) book, The Flight from Truth: The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information. Our title came from one of his stories.

Ideology is

–“concerned with a view to action. It transforms reality, indeed far more powerfully than exact knowledge does.”

–“refuse to heed displeasing arguments and facts–something that is the very negation of the scientific spirit.”

–“One can only begin to talk of an ideology with respect to collective beliefs.”

–“always active…a mixture of strong emotions and simple ideas, linked to a certain mode of behavior.”

Now I am going through this at some link because truthfully a push to have K-12 and higher ed be active dispensers of ideologies is exactly what we are dealing with in so many areas. And it is especially what the ed degree programs are all about. The District Central Office and the college deans and maybe your principal have all been trained to think ideologically without really knowing it. So we have to know ideology better than they do so we can always recognize both the poison and its advocates. Yes, this is about far more than BH.

Revel has one more vital insight we need to keep in mind. Many people prefer to think ideologically if they must think at all. As he notes:

“Human beings experience all sorts of needs for intellectual activity other than the need to know. The libido sciendi is not, contrary to what Pascal said, the principal motor of the human mind. It is only an accessory inspirer, and only among a small number of us. [See why TAG and Honors classes must go?] The average human being seeks the truth only after having exhausted all other possibilities.”

Well, not on this info-filled blog but Revel raises an important point for us to remember. Now I am going to start with a link to 1991 since David started pushing this project before the broken glass had been cleaned up at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. http://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/journals/jwh/jwh022p223.pdf And David’s specialty was not just history but Sovietology. So I want you to remember this desire for “large-scale maps” that “reestablish {history’s} centrality as a discussion about what it means to be human” in light of a certain ideology that had come into disrepute at the time he was writing whenever it was upfront with its name. Beyond usurping the roles of philosophy and religion, BH wants to delve into “human impact on the environment” so ecology comes in too. In fact, BH is to play “as significant a role in modern industrial society as traditional creation myths have played in nonindustrial societies.” By that I guess he means “who are we and why are we here?” Boy, will BH get along well with contemplative education.

Christian is far more graphic on his intentions in the 91 article than he is now. He pointed out there “that growth, far from being the normal condition of humanity, is an aberration.” Trust me with these education policies and practices, that aberration is about to cease if it hasn’t already. Somehow if BH referred to how “the ‘bacillus’ man is taking over the world”, I am wondering if it might slow down textbook sales and funding. Probably not but someone who writes about the “sudden breakdown in an ancient equilibrium between a large mammal species and the environment it inhabits” will certainly be on board with the No More Axemaker Minds campaign Paul Ehrlich and the UN are mounting.

Honestly if BH “blurs the borderline between history and the natural sciences” then none of these subjects are in a form we would recognize. http://www.thegreatstory.org/universal-history.pdf is that troubling “History and Theory: The Next 50 Years.” Christian makes his intention that history “will have a powerful impact on public thinking about the past” quite clear. He thinks this “shared history” suitable for China or the US, Russia or South Africa will “help educators generate a sense of global citizenship.” Gag. That phrase again. Since Christian is fairly deceitful in marveling over where have all the Universal Histories gone, he is avoiding saying that was the role played by Uncle Karl’s theories. He clearly does NOT want to point that out. So I will and cite to Robert Heilbroner in his 1980 Marxism For and Against for pointing out that “No other study of history is so consciously oriented to mastering history, as is Marxism. For that reason alone it warrants our respect.” You didn’t think I would quote a Tea Party historian to refute Christian did you?

Here’s Heilbroner again: “Marxism is intended to provide more than an understanding of history. It is intended to serve as a guide for making history.” Why, how active. See above under Ideology.  So a “history that looks to the future” as Christian claims for BH is a history that functions just like what Uncle Karl envisioned. Something to think about as it becomes mainstreamed.

http://worldhistoryconnected.press.illinois.edu/6.3/christian.html makes it clear that David is quite aware that it is the power of symbolic language and the storehouse of cultural info across generations that has driven the human ability to adapt. To change our environment. He and others involved with global education reform know it is unique to our species and they are not too happy about its potential. You can take a look yourself to see if you think BH, like Whole Language, is an attempt to diminish that human ability to adapt and innovate.  http://usm.maine.edu/sites/default/files/The%20Collaborative%20of%20Global%20and%20Big%20History/christian%20historically%20speaking%20big%20history.pdf is one more link for you to see if you share my belief that this type of “underlying unity of modern knowledge” is because it fits Minogue and Revel’s definitions of ideology.

Because if it does, this is just another tool in that giving more power to Governments and the Public Sector vision. Which is precisely where ideology is the most entrenched.

Who knew it was going to be such a ferocious struggle to maintain the legitimacy of the individual in the 21st century?

Igniting an Entire Generation of Dedicated Social Change Agents via Education Compelled to Act Now

The great Political Theorist Kenneth Minogue’s tragic death yesterday gave me a good reason to go back and reread the highlights of his fine 2010 book The Servile Mind. Turns out to be just the kind of insights we need to grasp precisely what is being attempted globally in education. And why. I had been fuming since Friday that we have basically three tracks going on right now in education. Track 1, the vast majority, really have no idea that there are to be dramatic changes in the nature of K-12 and higher education. Track 2 is aware of the Common Core and is concerned that it is a usurpation by the feds of local control over the curriculum.

I observe and write about Track 3–the real implementation  intended to fundamentally change attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors in order to gain a desired political, social, and moral transformation. Track 3 is so anti-content that it calls for substituting emotional engagement instead (this past week’s Partnership for Global Learning annual conference in NYC). Or as this influential group advocates  http://p21.org/tools-and-resources/p21blog/1151-how-can-technology-empower-deeper-learning-in-a-21st-century-school “deriving the curriculum from the lived experience of the student” rather than “a collection of fixed texts.”

Minogue recognized in The Servile Mind that something fundamental was shifting all over the world “as governments take over the tasks individuals used to do for themselves.” That our very conception of society is changing and much of the attitudes driving those changes are being first nurtured, and then required, by education “reforms.” He rightfully worried about what happens in countries where a majority of voters come to see themselves as “an association of vulnerable people whose needs and sufferings must be remedied by the power of the state.”

Minogue recognized that the power and unprecedented prosperity achieved by countries in the West grew from a foundational vision of “self-conscious individuals guiding their destinies according to whatever moral sentiments they entertain.” Now, all over the world, a competing vision seeks stealth enactment and education is the preferred means of avoiding detection as the rulers sculpt the citizens to be malleable. And behaviorally predictable if only the right buttons are pushed. Yes, that would be another job for the compliant media if Minogue had only had a copy of all those UNESCO reports. Minogue does nail the new vision though. A future society “in which individuals find their identifying essence in supporting public policies that are both morally obligatory and politically imperative.”

That future vision now can quietly come in the front door of the school to coerce compliance from an early age. Via lots of psychological student data and a very poorly understood definition of Student Growth. Which will make it much more difficult for us to protect the next generation from being manipulated into a “gullible acquiescence to the projects of government.” Minogue wrote about the Romans and how they “had learned the moral practices needed for a sycophantic submission” during the long reign of Augustus. And when the atrocious Tiberius came along they had been mentally and emotionally disarmed from coping with overt tyranny. The usefulness of deliberately targeting “hearts and minds” has been clear from time immemorial and we should honor Professor Minogue’s admonition that “we should never forget that moral change takes place below, and often deeply below, the surface of a culture.”

Back to track 3 to discuss what is off most radars. It has explicit intentions to create those very moral changes we were just warned about. In an entire generation of learners. Hoping to, in the words of one speaker, create “habits of head, heart, and hand that together will hopefully cause students to take meaningful action. And engage in volunteerism and service. Standing up against injustices and improving conditions and making changes in the world around them.” I have warned about media education and the primacy of the 21st Century Skills push and also the Global Competence portion of the Common Core that guides the classroom vision even though it is usually unmentioned in the PR push. On June 4, 2013, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (which had deceitfully claimed to be shutting down a few years ago) put on a Congressionally Sponsored Global Awareness Event at the Capitol Hill Visitors Center. To push Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy. We had the Pearson Foundation as a sponsor and a Disney executive (as in Mickey Mouse and lots of Media pull) as the moderator.

If you have 40 minutes to spare, here’s the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Us7qvshjhw&feature=c4-overview&list=UUK7RYYXF4XqP_mIDu28ZtuQ . I am going to assume you are busy though and give you the highlights. Or what I consider the troubling implications of a vision of education that regards the whole point now as getting students to “become passionate about global issues.” Issues selected and fostered because they will be useful to growing the tendency of the government to intervene, or at least guide, in all matters in the future. I was quoting Scott Hirschfield of the US Fund for UNICEF earlier so let’s continue with what knowledge and values and skills he wants to see K-12 schools cultivate. He said UNICEF defines global citizen as someone who “understands interconnectedness and appreciates global diversity. Someone who challenges inequities and takes meaningful action in their communities at the global level.”

Hirschfield went on the say that “head–heart–hand is how we shorthand this.” I am going to interrupt my quoting to point out that genuinely free market economies provide people with what they want to buy but they are drivers of economic inequality. It’s just that the least successful still are better off financially than has ever been the case in a state-directed economy. With Statism what gets equalized has generally been misery unless you are politically connected. Everyone else gets misery without much recourse apart from physical escape. On rafts. Over Berlin Walls. Tunneling. A human drive to be free.

So when content is pooh-poohed and emotions are pushed and equity becomes the driver we need to beware of knowledge as officially described as “economic and political literacy and an understanding of human rights.” Hand is the “skills we want” like “conflict resolution and a willingness to negotiate and compromise.” Then we get heart as “the values and dispositions we want young people to internalize” like “compassion and toleration of others.”

I will interrupt this troubling confession of the new purpose of education to once again borrow Professor Minogue’s insight that “the ideological frenzies of the twentieth century” like Nazism and Communism “have largely disappeared, except in universities, but the basic impulse in our civilization toward collective salvation has not.” And the way an elite go about obtaining that collective salvation and servitude is through a “change in the hearts and minds of human beings.” So we recognize the impulse but what happens to a society where the next generation knows little but feels the need to jettison what exists and try to design anew?

I will shift and end with Kathleen Welling’s vision since she too sees the new purpose of education as “changing lives.” She hyped the first Global Student Leaders Summit in March in Costa Rica with Al Gore as the keynoter. Next April the Summit is going to China and the emphasis is on “how do we change this world?”

I think the term “playing with fire” is too mild to describe the dangers of this new, to be mandated, view of education. Welling also mentioned that she believed that the Asia Society was doing fine work in promoting this new view of Global Education which is why I led off this post with a mention of its PGL13 conference last week. http://sites.asiasociety.org/pgl2013/about/ She also mentioned the work of Fernando Reimers at Harvard as guiding this new vision of global education for all in the future.

He’s probably not on your radar yet but he’s been on mine for a while. At the beginning of this week that celebrates genuine freedom, what type of meaning would freedom have in a country where K-12 education becomes devoted to “all children” must “develop their own understanding about how we all share responsibility for the well being of humanity?”

Not just that understanding mind you, but also “develop that compassion” so that students will learn to act as desired. And on the political issues desired.