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? http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/weak-humanscomputersexpert-modelling-of-captured-data-is-this-your-approved-vision-of-the-21st/
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.