Building the Sentiment, Forging the Real Feeling that Goes Deep: Rigor does Not Mean What You Think

Do you believe in coincidences? Of course they happen, but not about some things, especially when little known professors are suddenly brought back to be the quote of the day in a daily education newsletter. The day after the last post where I mentioned the 1948 push for a World Constitution at meetings held at the University of Chicago, the EdTech SmartBrief cited ‘Italian Writer Giuseppe Antonio Borgese’ for an inspiring vision about Change not only being possible, but necessary. How apropos when fundamental change is the daily meme. Borgese of course is more than an Italian writer. He was one of the prime participants in those meetings, a prof there, and the draftsman. He also wrote the 1953 book Foundations of the World Republic laying out the vision.

You don’t really think I grasp how all this fits just from Abstracts or the Cliff Notes versions, do you? No, I had read that book and get the connection to ed. So does someone apparently at Smart Brief and they are fully aware of the pertinence of today’s K-12 juggernaut of changes too. Few terms though come up more often these days or are used so consistently to mislead parents and taxpayers  on the true nature of the intended changes as ‘rigor.’ There’s a reason education consultant, Willard Daggett, with a ridiculously lucrative national professional development business (for someone who used to be in Vo-Tech. I have a few of those mediocre textbooks) says that “relevance makes rigor possible.” Rigor is always grounded in emotion and personal experiences.

When a District Super tells concerned parents that Rigor is about higher standards and provides the metaphor that you cannot turn up the temperature suddenly on an oven from 350 to 550 without burning the turkey and leaving it frozen on the inside, I think that explanation deserves a Pinocchio award. That example of rigor may make parents feel better about upcoming higher than average failure rates on the new state Common Core math assessments, but it does not accurately reflect the nature of the problem. Rigor is about what a student feels, perceives, and does when there is no single correct answer or there are insufficient facts stated to reach a definitive conclusion or the asked about material has never been taught. It provides superb behavioral science data on likely future actions and it primes students to be willing to act in the face of uncertainty. Just what people with visions of transforming and then redesigning societies and societies around Big Data need from a compliant, malleable citizenry.

Facing History and Ourselves, which we met again in the last post, keeps being cited as the perfect example of a curriculum offering ‘rigorous engagement’ and ‘deeper learning.’ Deeper Learning is being trumpeted, formally assessed, and funded generously as the cornerstone of the Common Core and the OECD’s global vision for education by the Hewlett Foundation. Building on the previous post’s revelations and the return of Life Adjustment before that, why is FHAO so crucial for an international bureaucracy pushing for fundamental transformations in the economy, society, and political structures and institutions? Let’s look.

http://trustnet.learningtrust.co.uk/partners/Community%20Cohesion/Case%20Study_Facing_History_and_Ourselves_at_Skinners.pdf advocates that teaching materials force students (their bolding) through the process of Text to Self (this reminds me of a time when… so that personal experiences become involved), Text to Text (building those links to previous school activities or discussions and the concepts involved so that a predictable mental web is being woven by schoolwork), and Text to World (students connect the ideas to things happening in the world today). Did you realize that’s what ‘personalizing learning’ meant? Constantly reenforcing schoolwork to a student’s life experiences and then creating life experiences in school and elsewhere to reenforce the desired concepts and attitudes? As the link says, FHAO allows students to have Mindsets that allow “better questioning of the world and what goes on it. But most importantly, students become more engaged in their own communities and apply the knowledge they learn to their own lives.” (my bolding this time).

Knowledge grounded again more in emotions and instincts than facts, but all the more likely to compel future action for that very reason. Remember Harlan Cleveland from my book? Well, about 10 years before his 80s vision I explain there he did a report in 1976 for UN Leaders meeting in Philadelphia. It laid out his vision on what the significance of the US Bicentennial was for the future. He saw it as igniting the Next Great World Movement: the Global Fairness Revolution. Like the odd sudden citing this week of Borgese, these visions do not go away. They simply keep looking for new sales jobs to have education finally bring them to fruition. That’s precisely what FHAO and PBS intended to do when they created Choosing to Participate to be used as part of what it would mean to be Literate under the Common Core. http://web.uri.edu/nonviolence/files/ChoosingToParticipate.pdf

When the “challenge for educators” now is announced to be creating “settings that can help young people develop as thoughtful, caring, compassionate, and responsible citizens,” the vision of citizenry is to be Change Agents for Transformation. That is also blatantly a view of education that is primarily focused on Psychosocial Development, not knowledge as academic content. Students are to be deliberately primed, at a deep level, to be unwilling to accept the world as it now exists. They are also to be intentionally manipulated to misperceive the current nature of that world. Ignorance and grievance may be one of the most volatile combinations in the universe. Unlike nitroglycerin though, these Students with carefully cultivated and shaped Mindsets and emotional Push Buttons will not have warning labels. Not yet anyway. I am working on that one.

FHAO does not mince words when it states its intention to have Choosing to Participate:

“be a catalyst for conversation about how we treat each other, how we should live together, and what our choices mean. The key challenge is to think deeply [emotions again!] about what democracy really means, and what it asks of each of us. Democracy is a fragile enterprise and can only remain vital through the active, thoughtful, and responsible participation of its people. Education for citizenship means encouraging each of us to recognize that our participation matters.”

Jumping to the punch line, FHAO intentionally uses the horrors of the Holocaust and Legal Segregation by race in the US to justify a belief that economic, redistributive, justice, if desired by a majority of current voters, is a perfectly legitimate demand binding everyone. Resistance then becomes akin to the racism that surrounded the Little Rock 9 trying to integrate Arkansas schools in the 50s. FHAO is the perfect accompaniment to the communitarian focus we have already located in the required Positive School Climate for all K-12 schools and lurking oddly in the definition of what it means to be Career Ready under the Common Core. FHAO early on specifically instructs students:

“communities are not built of friends, or groups of friends, or of people with similar styles and tastes, or even of people who like and understand each other. They are built of people who feel they are part of something that is bigger than themselves: a shared goal or enterprise [hence all the hype on collaboration now]…To build a community requires only the ability to see value in others; to look at them and see a potential partner in one’s enterprise…community can also be defined in terms of a ‘universe of obligation’–a group of individuals or groups ‘toward whom obligations are owed, to whom rules apply, and whose injuries call for amends.”

Amends are owed. I am going to end with that quote because clearly this intention is where we should put all these sudden mentions of allegations of White Privilege and conferences centered around preparing teachers to make that and race generally a focus of the K-12 curriculum. Everybody seems to like trilogies so this post is the Human Rights Trilogy’s second part.

I want to come back with considering the implications of targeting values, attitudes, and beliefs about how societies and economies should be structured as just another antiquated area that can, and should be, legitimately targeted by K-12 for change. Comparable in the minds of many educators and certainly the FHAO curriculum to the shifts rightfully needed previously to move beyond legal segregation.

We are going to continue to confront history all right. Especially the implications of requiring that students “prove their humanity” in ways to be mandated by political authority.

Should students be taught that “Built into each individual’s experience must be an occasion for giving, a task of humanity, an act of sharing and sacrifice”?

Is that really Student Achievement? Growth? Should taxpayer-funded education administrators and profs really be making these decisions in a free society?

Or is the disputed nature of freedom itself in the 21st Century the real question?

Masking the New Integral Human Rights Focus: Education Becomes a Tool of the Sought Cohesive, Caring Society

The Great War, as World War I was called in the 20s, had the effect of forcing many Europeans to begin imagining a world where there would never again be such a violent convulsion. HG Wells’ The Open Conspiracy came out of just that kind of search to fundamentally change all the rules for the future. The essential part of Wells’ vision was to use education to remove the “outworn ideas and attitudes” and substitute concepts and values conducive to world reconstruction. To Wells, there could be “no half measures. You have not yet completed your escape to the Open Conspiracy from the cities of the plain while it is still possible for you to take a single backward glance.”

The NEA’s Life Adjustment Model we encountered in the last post came out of America’s reaction to the convulsions of World War II. Then, and in its current iterations stressing school as the source of a psycho-social catharsis of New Communitarian-oriented values, attitudes, feelings, skills, and beliefs, this change in the focus of the curriculum and the classroom should be seen through a recognition that “whatever we retain [of the ancient ideas and order] will come back to life and grow again.”

What I have been calling Mind Arson is actually just the deliberate pruning of educators working as gardeners of the Mind and Personality in pursuit of Wholesale Change. Because,as Wells once again recognized: “the more thoroughly we seek to release our minds and the minds of those about us from them and cut off all thoughts of a return,” the greater the possibility of the desired fundamental transformations in how people act and societies, economies, and countries organize their daily lives.

Wells even had a beguiling phrase for this intent–‘mental sanitation,’ which would certainly explain why it looks like mind arson and psychological manipulation to us. It is. An aspect we have been dealing with all along in the US and also the West generally is the idea of ‘myth’ hatched at the University of Chicago in 1948 (the year after the NEA began its revolutionary push in ed to make human relations its focus) where the ‘myth’ ceased to be a story that had never happened. Instead, a myth would become a vision of the world as it might be and ought to be. Education then quietly became a means of changing the student to make him or her ready to take action to fulfill that vision. Like the role of today’s similar terms-‘relevance’ and ‘real world problems’–the idea was that “constructive change of the world” would become the “guiding form of all human activities.”

Today we call those Learning Tasks as my book lays out. Consider this post further filling in around the edges of these long term pursuits at social reconstruction on a global basis, like it or not. Aware or not. I don’t know about you but I think we can attribute Ralph Tyler’s creation of the term ‘behavioral sciences’ in 1948 to the other activities going on at that Chicago campus on how to move the US and the West towards a World Republic grounded in distributive justice as a human award, not a reward for merit or a pick-up after bad luck. Likewise, Tyler’s 1949 book shifting the curriculum focus of school to Learning Objectives and away from knowledge. Those Learning Objectives remain the basis for the very outcomes-based education we dealt with in the 90s version of these reforms and what goes by the name Competency today. It always comes back because …

Following up on what I heard in year end meetings in a local school district that combines suburban affluence and urban poverty with a racially and ethnically diverse student body, with that 2011 NEA CARE Guide we have talked about, turned up once again the behavior modification and character manipulation curriculum hiding under the deceitful phrase Facing History and Ourselves. I have written about it before (see tag), which is why I was so alarmed to see it going international as the UK used it as part of its Journey to Justice, which also seeks distributive economic justice for all as a matter of human rights. Since I was already dismayed about this related upcoming conference in Boston  http://commonbound.org/page/about-commonbound, it is hard not to feel that revolutionary change is coming from every direction to go along with these ed reforms in preschool, K-12, and higher ed.

FHAO turned out to be everywhere now with its proclaimed goal of pushing “policies and practices that prevent violence and promote peace.” Working with PBS, for example, to create a Choosing to Participate curriculum to “think deeply about what democracy really means, and what it asks of us.” Pretty sure that will not be the democracy as the tyranny of the mob that so concerned the US Founding Fathers since knowledge of that history might result in the forbidden backward glance. No, it will be democracy as a vision of what might be. Another reason to be concerned when FHAO representatives are listed on the program of this recent Immigration Day program that also talked about A New American Majority: Political and Personal Perspectives. http://www.kbcc.cuny.edu/nac/Documents/ImmigDay_2014.pdf

The US-based Human Rights Education Associates, as part of its Citizenship Education, Globalization, and Democratization push used FHAO to create a curriculum for South Africa called Facing the Past. http://www.hrea.org/pubs/tibbitts-prospects-sep06.pdf Instead of a focus on facts the point is to “infuse the question of values in the learning of content.” Teachers were told they must “‘unlearn’ any ‘official narrative’ of apartheid.” Instead the students and teachers would use “interactive, participatory methods of learning” to explore each other’s perspectives. They would role play and examine “human behavior and universal themes such as identity, group membership, obedience, and taking action.” Through “working with personal experiences and choice in these histories, links were intended to be made to issues and moral dilemmas facing young people today.”

First, have the students explore if “hate is innately a part of human behavior and experience? If so, how can we change that within ourselves?” Note to radicals, this amounts to the child who would never think about bullying others on the playground being asked to wear a T-shirt that says “Violence never works” and then wondering why he gets picked on. This type of emotional curriculum consciously milks stories to produce a sense of grievance, or guilt, depending on where in life one was born. There’s no knowledge being instilled of what actions might make the situation worse for everyone. This is a curriculum that actually cites that “[DM] was particularly moved by the video. He was crying afterwards. He wanted to know what the youth today can do to make up for the wrongs of the past–that their ‘white’ parents had committed and/or benefitted from.”

I am going to go into the US versions of FHAO more in the next post, but this New York Times ad from a week ago on the need for Equitable Implementation of the Common Core Standards in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Brown segregation decision should give us pause on the real intended purpose of the standards. http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/NYT-CCSS.pdf The listed Leadership Conference changed its name formally in 2010 to add “human rights” to its title and purpose of pushing “for progressive change in the United States.” Using the same concepts of distributive economic justice those World Republic dreamers in 1948 or Wells’ Open Conspirators in the 30s wanted to pursue.

Also pertinent to where all these reforms are really going is this recent Communique, a term always intended to announce revolutionary intent, from National Civil Rights and Education Groups http://nul.iamempowered.com/content/communique%CC%81-joint-statement-support-common-core-state-standards-and-equitable-implementation . Trust me on this as someone with a mother lode of implementation materials from my book and this blog, no one is planning on teaching that inner-city kid how to read properly. The equity comes from changing values in a manner that emboldens the belief in the need for fundamental transformations in how we live and what we all believe.

I am going to close by showing what such equitable education aimed at personal and social change actually looks like to a participant in programs like FHAO. “For the first time during my education, I was feeling and experiencing what I was learning. I was doing an inherently human thing, and my education was coming alive. [her bolding].

“Learning is felt.”

“that feeling that I can’t quite name, the one that gets my head all hot and my insides queasy and my muscles just aching to get up and go out and do something. Learning is experiencing what someone teaches me, letting it soak through and change me.”

Change me. Guided Inquiry. Planned activities and role playing “infusing the use of narrative, interactive methods and multi-media sources.”

No danger of a backward glance from these programs aimed at creating a “new collective memory.”

The danger comes from the internal redesign of what is clearly intended to be programmed future behavior.

In the name of democracy. Social Justice. Fairness. Globalization. Engagement.

Constantly Casting Aside Those Things that Become Useless in this Caravan of Civilization: Who Decides?

No wonder a well-stocked individual mind is becoming forbidden. I had hardly finished the previous post before an insight as I read that day’s materials sent me after the global human rights/human behavioral curriculum clearly intended to come into the US as the Common Core and elsewhere as 21st Century Learning. Every day now seems like a game of Bingo as the real implementation rolls forward in education to finally put into place what HG Wells actually called The Open Conspiracy back in 1928 in a work that was intended to be a blueprint, not the fiction that earned him fame. Then again he and Julian Huxley were old friends and actually wrote a book together–The Science of Life. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised then that so much of the focus is on using education for social experimentation to gain political transformations. So many of the people we run across over time had similar ideas because they all seem to have known each other.

We have been the ones without the knowledge of all these connections and revealing resources. So getting ready to go down the Human Rights road, I read this quote this morning while I steeled myself to write (my bolding):

“At Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy, history teacher Matt Baird called his high school’s 1-to-1 program ‘radically democratic.’ Information ‘doesn’t necessarily flow from the teacher to the student in the form of a test. Information is something that can be gathered, used and utilized by students in the way it is in the real world,’ he explained, adding, ‘It’s not an awful lot of people who take standardized tests for a living. We don’t really want school to be a proxy for real life. We want school to look like real life as much as possible.”

The education historian in me immediately recognized that real life focus and the way Baird so obnoxiously preaches its superiority to an academic knowledge focus as what was called Life Adjustment back in the 40s and 50s. Nothing indeed new under the sun of Radical Ed Reform once you have the template I laid out in my book. Life Adjustment had been on my mind this week as well as it fits so well with what are now being called “Authentic Learning Opportunities” in connection to the Common Core. When I went off to find my notes on Life Adjustment, guess what came out that aligns perfectly with the NEA’s 2011 CARE Guide we have looked at in the last 2 posts?

It was the NEA that pushed what was then called Life Adjustment as the new purpose for ed in its 1947 Organizing the Elementary School for Living and Learning. In anticipation of today’s New 3 Rs of Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships the NEA wanted schools to put “human relationships first.” Now that declaration is why the human rights post got bumped behind this one since Why explanations should always precede the How. Does this sound familiar in the current era of Whole Child Codes of Conduct and Positive School Mandates? In 1947, apparently in recognition that an America rich enough to provide one side’s armaments and rebuild Europe afterwards, was rich enough to transition to a Human Needs focused Development Society, suddenly there must be education with “a school environment where the satisfactory adjustment of all pupils is a primary consideration…This ‘R’ is of even greater importance than the 3 ‘Rs’ yet it has received little time or attention in the school’s organization.”

Do Colleges of Education or the accreditation agencies today get to decide the answer to the question the NEA asked back in 1947 as part of its post-war, Let’s Transform the US intentions and make the impending Cold War a moot point, philosophy? “Is it more important for Dick to excel everyone in his class and bring home a report card of all A’s or learn how to live with all the other boys and girls in his neighborhood?” Today’s Collaboration mandate is Educators and Business Interests declaring that they get to decide the answer to that question and none of us are to have any ability to veto that transformation of the historic purpose of education.

Me? I went back to the words that John Keats wrote so well back in 1958 in his Schools Without Scholars that was also a tirade against a Life Adjustment focus. He noted that the difference between making the child’s interests the focus [today’s Relevance and Engagement] and making a body of knowledge the focus is about more than just “the nature of learning” and “the nature of things learned” although I will note that today’s Common Core rhetoric tries to ignore that both of those are being turned upside down. If we knew we might refuse to defer to the professional educators’ insistence they now get to decide. No, most importantly, as Keats also recognized, Life Adjustment under whatever name it uses in a particular decade is about “the true role of the individual in society.”

Now it seems with all the requisite communitarian focus and the “Universe of Obligation” required inquiry I will explain in the next post, Keats could not have been more prescient to our current dilemma being imposed via education. Are we going to allow schools to shift to required practices so that a teacher must now “conduct her class from the point of view that the individual has only a functional significance in society?” That is after all the view of the Career Pathways for All that the federal Departments of Ed, Labor, and HHS are now soliciting proposals for as School to Work is back. http://www.jff.org/news-media/long-sought-compromise-unites-parties-improve-us-workforce-development-system

I would be what Keats called a traditionalist: “dedicated to the proposition that society is merely a function of individuals.” As I put it in my book, do not use the word society as a noun unless we are talking about Mrs Astor’s Ballroom size. The title quote also comes from the 1947 NEA push and the same question still applies. What if the taxpayers paying the bill KNOW what is still useful much better than politicians or cronies or educators who live as parasites off the bounty produced by others? What right does a District Administrator or Principal dedicated to Mind Arson, the political transformation of the US, and active deceit to parents have to decide what is useful for the future and what is to be cast aside? Should a union like the NEA have the right to decide that either? Accreditors? Every one of these people or entities survives off of taxpayer funds and most of the adults leading these entities have no clue what actually produced the financial bounty they take for granted. And they have the veto power over what is needed for the future?

Or what is ‘useful?. This 1947 quote mirrors the School districts touting now that they no longer have a ‘deficit’ focus. Teachers are to “cease thinking of marking children and will start thinking how much the child is growing day after day, week after week, how much progress he’s making toward the kind of boy or girl which our town, our America, and our world finds useful.”

Useful for what? Useful to whom? If that decision is no longer in the realm of the individual student or parents, but has been outsourced to others who benefit from Mind Arson, what kind of society are we becoming?

Instead of town, today’s language is community. What functions does the community want each individual to have? Ask yourself who benefits from making the focus of the school the use of a device like a computer coupled to Non-Cognitive factors. Now that I have refreshed my recollection and augmented yours on Life Adjustment, we can contemplate what that focus has always intended to do. We can now examine the implications of what Columbia prof, Jacques Barzun, wrote in 1961 was an inversion of the entire purpose of education as students are all assumed to have “the supremely gifted mind, which must not be tampered with, and the defective personality which the school must remodel.”

That’s today’s assumption as well. What shall we do about these current unabashed intentions? Most of the barriers that have delayed this desire for wholesale transformation for so long in the purpose of education have fallen or died.

It’s up to us now to become those barriers again. Protect the children. Protect ourselves most of all. There are few things as dangerous as a parasite that has no idea where it actually gets its sustenance.