Circumscribing Knowledge: Part 2 of Imposing Mindsets to Fit a New Political Philosophy

Back in the 1960s during the era of both the Cold War and the Vietnam War and thus dramatically different circumstances, we still find the foundations of the sought social, political, and economic changes being imposed through education “reforms” now. Off our collective radar screens but no longer off mine, we can find the reports of the Carnegie-funded Commission on the Year 2000. It sought to shift the US away from “hackneyed notions about decaying capitalism or creeping socialism” so that the US could transition to a “national society committed to some form of directed social change.” And none of us were consulted about who would be steering that wheel or holding the compass and issuing directions. I guess we can assume though Carnegie officials believed they had ringside seats from financing the plans.

Systems Thinking creator Kenneth Boulding’s writing about the Great Transition and what was needed to achieve it from the last post was cited by Commission members. Just like Lester Milbrath in the 1980s and UNESCO and the OECD now, there was a call for “some sort of computing and planning agency outside the legislative process” that would be in charge of “weighing of interrelationships within the society and within the technological processes.” In fact, Harvard psych prof George A. Miller wrote of “large, centralized, integrated data bases in the social sciences. Without them, the planners in the year 2000 will be scarcely better off than we are today.” Gulp. Gulp.

And how will such intrusive databases be created? Why computer systems used as part of education of course. In fact, Miller writes of a concern that there will be a “temptation for government to keep complete dossiers on all its citizens, and particularly on those who are intellectually most active.” Should we all just wave now? Hi NSA. Just fulfilling an old dream of the “application of computers to the study of man”? Seriously. Ponder this MIller quote as Common Core and blended learning launch us into the era of personalized learning and adaptive software and mandated Statewide Longitudinal student databases:

“The computerization of psychology is already well advanced, and the other behavioral and social sciences are not lagging far behind. Larger data bases and more ambitious data analysis are only part of the story. The machines can be programmed to simulate complex psychological and social systems, to conduct experiments, and to provide communication among scientists. The computer could become as important to the behavioral sciences as the microscope is to the biological.”

Harvard was not alone in being the Cambridge representative on this push. Perhaps getting ready for all its Limits to Growth social systems computer modelling work and urban planning and Peter Senge’s version of systems thinking, MIT Neuroscience prof Gardner Quarton wrote that “one can safely predict that techniques for controlling behavior and modifying personality will grow more efficient by the year 2000.” Maybe this post should come with a warning about reading on an empty stomach. But I want to put the shocking shifts in the nature of what is now being imposed on classrooms and what must be shunned to avoid teacher demerits, if not downright dismissal, within the context of what is REALLY being sought.

The SRI Rethinking Education link from the last post and the related “Naturalizing Assessment” article need to be seen through the Lens of the declared social science aims. That’s why we find statements  about how “the conception of knowledge shifts from ‘in the head’ facts, procedures, and professed attitudes, to participants’ abilities to participate meaningfully in valued activities while bringing to bear personal, material and social resources.” In other words just showing up and being ‘engaged’ will do.

This shift in the classroom is not a dispute about how students best learn. It is about what kind of education can best propel the sought sociocultural shift. And to do it at the level of the student’s mind and personality.That emphasis will alter the future even if the actual consequences are not as planned. It’s also how you “manipulate the public” as the Commission admitted it sought to do. As SRI has sought to do as well over the decades.

Social psychologist Lawrence Frank helpfully lets us know that “the need for a political theory for this emerging ‘Service State’ is, therefore, especially urgent.” And what’s a Service State we ask? Why it sounds just like the OECD’s current focus on citizen subjective well-being as the purpose of 21st century governments. The Service State is to be “oriented to the enhanced ‘wellbeing’ of everyone.” And explaining so much behind the inexorable growth of US governments at all levels since the 60s, the Service State:

“marks the acceptance of human conservation as the basic democratic task; each year sees the enlargement and extension of services furnished directly or financed by the Federal Government and reinforced by state and local agencies. These services embrace medical and health care, improved housing and urban rehabilitation, educational facilities and programs from early childhood into adult years, plus the improved care and support of the indigent, the handicapped, the impaired, and all others incapable of fending for themselves in our money economy.”

Sound familiar? Nothing wrong that the social sciences and policies to “revise anachronistic and obsolete institutions” can’t fix. Just keep minds empty of facts that might pick up on the flaws in these plans so students will design away for better societies in the future. And if the parallels to what is being pushed today are still not apparent enough, how about Frank suggesting that “a promising model for a political theory is that of a communications network, with many different channels for transmitting a variety of messages.” Just like the background on the slides at that Atlanta (co)lab summit? Or as former SRI employee Marina Gorbis laid out in her recent book, including a visual on its cover, as I described alarmingly here?

Interdependence, holistic thinking, and a systems approach were touted as a means to “unify now separate social sciences” to reframe “what we believe, value, and aspire to” so we will have a different political philosophy impacting the “choices and decisions that guide our individual and group living.” If all of this was about a new planned social order in 1965, the same ideas and intentions remain about that in 2013. Even if those pushing these ideas have never heard of the Commission on the Year 2000.

And all of this gets accomplished now by (quoting SRI in 2010 again) “adjusting one’s conception of knowledge or the nature of valued outcomes” as well as the nature of “participant assessment.” And as SRI put it, to accomplish the sought Mindset and personality changes “these shifts need to occur in tandem.” All these think tanks like SRI, Rand, Gorbis’ Institute for the Future, or Willis Harman’s Institute for the Noetic Sciences are all fascinated by a hoped-for ability for the “intervention of man into the evolutionary process.” Yet such manipulation is the lied about and hidden push by a self-appointed elite over masses of people just trying to make their lives work and erroneously assuming K-12 schooling remains about the transmission of knowledge.

A more accurate Image (to use Boulding’s term) for where the sought preschool, the K-12 Common Core and digital learning reforms, and the massive changes in the nature of higher ed should be filtered through one more Daniel Bell quote as he concluded where the Year 2000 Commission sought to go:

“The formulation of social policy that seeks to reknit underlying social networks and solidarities as it works toward manifest solutions is, therefore, one of the important intellectual tasks for the social sciences if our goal of ‘understanding’ the future and making meaningful choices is to be realized.”

Education in 2013 has become all about imposing such social science theories on real people and schools and then seeing what happens. Only a background devoid of solid knowledge or polluted by a desire for radical change or driven by acute greed could fail to see we have a disastrous future building up if these plans continue their march toward full implementation.






Reimaging the Nature of the World in the Minds of Students Alters Future Behavior and Social Events

When I read something troubling and manipulative about change in the nature of education for the 21st century or in a recent book like America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, I have recourse to comparable pushes from previous decades to help me examine what is really going on. And what the likely consequences will be. Professor Lester Milbrath, who we met in the last post, also had a 1989 book Envisioning a Sustainable Society: Learning Our Way Out where he laid out the vision for the to-be-sought wholesale transformation that remains current today. Key of course is what Milbrath called social learning-new values and beliefs of cooperation that would guide perception and thus learning itself. Milbrath especially wanted “systemic and futures thinking modes” to be developed first in students and then applied by a variety of institutions until “the public could learn to demand this kind of thinking in the planning and decisionmaking of their governments and other social institutions. This mode of thinking would be a key component of a society programmed to learn.”

Now society is NOT demanding that kind of thinking nor that governments take on that kind of decision-making Overlordship but federal agencies have usefully (to themselves) seized this kind of coercive authority anyway. Either by Executive Order or regulation or overly broad readings of court cases. And now of course the public sector wants Mindsets in citizens amenable to someone having such sovereign power. Over the decisions that history shows are best made by private individuals who have to bear the consequences of lousy decisions. In unlikely to be accidental timing, the Obama Administration in the US and the OECD and UNESCO globally are currently pushing wholesale transformation of K-12 and higher ed. They can thus try to cultivate worldviews that either embrace, or ignore, wholesale changes in governance of society and citizens.

We have already encountered the Humanist Psychologists like Maslow and Carl Rogers whose theories for change are so useful to turn to. Let’s go back to one of the main creators of systems thinking, Kenneth Boulding, and a book published in 1964, The Meaning of the Twentieth Century: The Great Transition, to examine the importance of what a person thinks the world is like. So we can understand why this is the bullseye in the middle of the noetic transformation template and has been for decades. Before I lay out Boulding’s quote, let’s follow it up with his next concession that what people “think need not of course be true.” As he says “It is sufficient to note that the presence of any image will affect a system in a certain way.”

So those seeking transformation first need to create beliefs about the nature of the system they want to change and then plant beliefs about why it is unsatisfactory, and then prime for what should be changed. Education has always been useful for this goal but the advent of computer gaming and immersion of students in virtual, deliberately created worlds, takes the possibilities of implanting the desired images to a whole new level. A fact quite apparent here for reasons that seem to have everything to do with what SRI has always pushed in education (more in a moment). Here’s the crucial point that schemers who want the world to now be guided by social science theories have long known. It’s time we all did too.

“the social systems of ants and bees are essentially static in nature and do not exhibit adaptation to the environment beyond what biological mutation can provide. With man, however, comes self-awareness and awareness of a whole system in which the self is embedded. This can produce conscious effort toward  a change in the system of the world whether biological, physical, or social.

In any human social system, therefore, the image of the world possessed by its human participants is a vital element in the over-all dynamics of the system. We cannot tell what the system will do unless we know what the people in it think of it, for what they think affects their behavior and their behavior affects the system.”

And that Crucial psychological fact with a capital C is what has guided higher ed for at least two decades now. Common Core and 21st century learning are designed to bring it to K-12, public and private, globally, in any country with a tradition of individual liberty. especially the US. Think of it as cultivating Milbrath’s needed Social Learning component. But also have no doubt about what is going on via education and its close ally, the media, that insist dangerously that we should “stop dichotomizing the world and develop a pragmatic, indeed a social scientific approach to the problem.” As when Boulding wrote that in 1964 and now, there remain groups that wish us harm just waiting for us to naively simply begin to “see mankind as a whole.”

Last week MIT announced a new videogame to teach students empathy called Quandary. Players “win the most points by accurately predicting each character’s reaction.” Helpfully the game is said to address multiple Common Core standards and be appropriate for grades 3-8. Now since the characters are not real people, the game is also a highly useful technique for fostering false beliefs about people and their values and what drives them. Unlike the real world or even an accurate history textbook, the Quandary characters will be driven by what the game designers want students to believe about the world. Those desires become the guiding images for students during their most pliable, personality formation, years. And in that post I linked above, game designer Jane McGonnigle was quite forthright in the intentions to use games to create images of a desired future and the need for change.

Both Jane’s boss, Marina Gorbis (see tag for her) and Willis Harman (discussed in linked post) worked during the 80s at SRI. Now I first became familiar with what used to be known as the Stanford Research Institute when SRI kept coming up as the grant evaluator for university partnerships aggressively pushing constructivist math and science on K-12 in return for multimilliondollar grants from the National Science Foundation. Just imagine how much better I would have understood the dynamic of why aggressive implementation (whatever the outcry or results) brought renewals for a new term if I had better understood SRI as a hive of Humanist Psychology. But better late than never as we evaluate this interview with SRI’s Director of Research in Informal Learning Environments being pushed by the MacArthur Foundation as part of their Reimagining Education digital learning initiative. is a good basic short overview of the belief about learning now being pushed by the foundations and the federal DoED. It asserts without proof based on desires for cultural change that “learning is not about knowledge accumulation and test performance, but about participating in activities that are well designed or that naturally provide an opportunity to become better at something.” Now if that sounds to you like a shift to Milbrath’s Social Learning without saying so, here’s a bit more of this new vision of 21st century mandated education. In these new school environments:

“it’s much more about kids trying, maybe failing, and maybe succeeding, all the while engaging with the materials and each other and doing so in ways that show they are attending to the resources and the possibility for building skills in that environment that help them solve a problem, accomplish a goal, or succeed at a game.”

Maybe Quandary? This is education that assumes a Great Transition is to finally be eminent. Seeking to create the Mindsets to make it so all while misrepresenting to parents, taxpayers, and teachers what is really going on. Lest we all rebel and tell the Malevolent Marshmallow Brain Superintendent or Consultant to quit trying to blow up the society and economy that produces the taxes that overpay them for their willingness to push such nonsense without scrutiny and usually with deceit.

That link mentions another April 2010 paper “Naturalizing Assessment” that I managed to secure with some appreciated help. In case you cannot get a copy, it graphically explained the whole point of such reimagining and new theories of learning and the nature of the classroom as being this newsworthy goal–Redefining Learning to Focus on How Well Prepared Individuals Will Be for Adaptive Behavior in New Situations.

Now the New Situations are of course the sought Great Transition wholesale social, political, and economic transformations being masked under euphemisms like Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community or Harry Boyte’s cooperative commonwealth or just the term ‘democracy’ as Gar Alperowitz likes to now use.

Let’s take a hard look in the next post on the erroneous assumptions in the required classroom implementations to get us to a new “sustainable” public sector centric collectivist society.

That no one tells us about unless we start with the Great Transition and trace backwards to the how.