Laundering Notorious Ideas in Degree Programs to Gain Radical Social and Political Change

Can you imagine if your new District Super or a School Principal or the head of your state’s Workforce Development Panel announced that they were basing their mandates for the classroom on psychotherapy techniques developed at the Tavistock Institute?  Insights from a man best known for his work “stemming from his psychoanalysis of patients in psychotic states.” Now I know Psychanalysis is a change of pace from all those theories and philosophies pretending to be a better way to teach or learn while leaving out their ancestry in the Soviet Union or 19th Century Germany or aspirations of how to gain a Model for a new collectivist World Order as our last post openly touted.

Well kind of openly. It was open in the book and conferences. By the time these ideas make it to coursework for a Masters in Public Policy or a Doctorate in Educational Leadership or Curriculum or School Improvement, we might get more euphemisms. Laundering Ideas to Gain Committed Implementation with Fidelity relies on a large helping of Ignorance with those Degrees.

But maybe the Degree Holders should know something is wrong. I first encountered the name Wilfred Bion in a Masters paper for the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs called “Eleven Distinctions” and written by a Bryan F Lindsley. Now I am not picking on Bryan as his paper popped up as I was researching innovation and my idea that it is actually being touted so much now to create the conditions to make it much less likely in the future. But since 2009 Bryan has been the Executive Director of the Minnesota Governor’s Workforce Development Council. So his ideas on what constitutes thinking and the purpose of education are relevant and Common Core related education reforms have been a big part of his job.

His paper contemplated creating Learning Work Communities which would go hand in hand with the high school reform model we are quietly seeing in the states. Plus it fits with what we saw being pushed in the Twin Cities in their Living Cities and Regional Equity involvement. Not to mention that Minnesota is where community organizing visionary Harry Boyte lives and works with his aspirations that the US become a “cooperative commonwealth” in the 21st Century. And Minnesota was where the Asia Society went recently to trumpet Global Learning and a Metropolitan Business Plan centered on the new economy. You know the one centered around Green Energy and Sustainable Planned Development involving public and private groups?

So Lindsley is quite influential in a state interested in being cutting edge on shifting to a planned Regional Economy centered on Sustainable Development. And his mentors in his Masters program have been quite busy in getting him to focus on how students supposedly Learn How to Think so they can develop self-efficacy (20 points to the first reader who thinks of psychologist Albert Bandura or the California 2010 Equity Frameworks) and an ability to overcome frustration (another 20 points to remembering Carol Dweck and Fostering Growth Mindsets instead of Fixed Ones).

I am joking, kind of, because Lindsley actually did not mention either Bandura or Dweck but he used their ideas that we have discussed previously. Those ideas have a history and a purpose that come with them even if the Degree Holder like your School Principal or Learning Community Assistant Super are ignorant of it. Lindsley then went on to say:

“In an influential essay entitled “A Theory of Thinking,” pioneering psychoanalyst W.R. Bion examined how ‘inability to tolerate frustration can obstruct the development of thought and a capacity to think.’ By learning to control frustration, learners are able to solve complex problems by determining the causal forces in play [how precisely? By role playing Isaac Newton?] and then determining ways to influence these forces through action. For Bion, this is the entire purpose of thinking. It is about exercising competency when confronted with real-world changing conditions.”

Now I found that passage to be alarming at so many levels I just had to find out who Bion was. You can imagine my horror upon finding the info in my lead-in or Bion’s involvement with the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine. But let’s face it, most Graduate students presented with such a passage would not have investigated further. It would simply be taken as a given theory of the new breakthroughs in Learning or the Social Development Model. Something to be foisted on schools and teachers regardless of outcries.

Genuine outcries since these are actually theories of the Mind developed from working with deeply troubled patients. Bion created these theories to go after the unconscious part of the Mind and change that. “Unconscious functioning” was how he described it. Decreeing an organized assault on it should not be in anyone’s job description outside of a well-advertised psychiatric clinic.

But being a stickler for such details is no way to get mass social change and increasingly Education Doctorates are being upfront that credentialing Social Change Agents is their stated mission. They just leave out the details of the ancestry of the theories and models. Which means we have a collision course going on right now as the definition of an Effective Principal becomes about creating coercive behavioral Learning Communities. When Collaboration is touted as one of the 4Cs of 21st Century Skills. When Randi Weingarten, President of the AFT teachers union wants to postpone Common Core assessments for a year to make sure they are measuring the desired objectives of Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Teamwork.

Because it turns out that there is a surge of interest now in Bion all over the world because of his 1961 book Experiences in Groups, based on his research between 1943 and 1952, and the desire to incorporate his theories into creating better group dynamics in schools and reorganized workplaces.  No mention of the ancestry of this “lens for understanding the dynamics of groups and organizations” or Bion’s “fascination with the dark undercurrents of human interaction” as a 2010 Working Group paper in the UK described it. But not for our benefit as parents or taxpayers. Nor will there be any warning to us or the Credentialed Mandaters of the acknowledged “danger of attempting to work ‘below the surface’ in this way”.

The Powers-that-Be who want radical social change ASAP have decreed that Bion’s research on creating a “Work-Group Mentality” will be useful in fostering their New World and revised Human Nature. So we get deliberate targeting in the classroom of each student’s “capacity to contain emotional tensions, conscious and unconscious.” Apparently the desired emotions and ways of thinking are easier if the group has a purpose. You might want to keep that in mind every time you hear the words “our vision” and “our mission” in connection with education and schools.

So the development of a Work-Group Mentality, WGM, is said to constitute Student Growth. Which not so coincidentally is now to be the measure of TEACHER Effectiveness. And WGM is defined as a willingness to take action in the real world coupled with an engagement with the “psychic reality of group life.”

That psychic reality is quite simply about making school address the “tension between shared intention and individual differences.” The Learning becomes a matter of developing “good interpersonal chemistry” and a recognition that any “intellectual understanding” a student has is “mobilized not for personal advantage or pleasure but ‘in the service of the mission.” The utopian vision behind all these group projects and mentions of Teamwork and Collaboration, that are essential components of Common Core Comes to the Actual Classroom, is the idea that:

“By valuing each other’s areas of expertise, for example, trusting each other and speaking frankly to one another, new ways of thinking, relating and acting together can emerge.”

So Bion’s theories fit in perfectly well with the collectivist vision of a planned economy and society we keep encountering as part of all these education reforms. And there’s a reason. It comes from the UN’s aspirations of global Education for Sustainable Development–that Decade Long Program running quietly from 2006 to 2015. But that toxic political, economic, and social vision gets omitted in most discussions of the Common Core except on this blog.

Also omitted is the truly shocking ancestry of all the psychological theories and political philosophies designed to change values, attitudes, and beliefs. To redirect and channel the very ability to think at all. Plus the focus on the “emotional life” of the group, with all this being gathered and kept as data on Growth, is not being talked about either.

So it is now known to us but not known to most Edudoctorate holders or Workforce Development Directors being paid with your tax dollars to force implementation in every K-12 classroom.

Now what do we do?

Future Common Communicative Competence With Regional Economies Focused on Effective Social Relationships?

Readers beyond a certain age or with a fondness for TV reruns are likely responding to that title with a high-pitched “Say What?” This is one of those seminal posts that ties together the education, social, political, and economic visions for the future. I am using US documents since we do have that pesky US Constitution that vests (or is supposed to) ultimate authority in the individual instead of the state. But the vision works everywhere and actually was kindly laid out in a 2001 book The Global Third Way Debate edited by British sociologist Anthony Giddens but with global participation. Notable US writers included reps from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the Brookings Institute (now pushing Metropolitanism and the Global Cities Initiative so hard), and the Ford Foundation (financing so much but especially new economics and Global Transition 2012  http://neweconomicsinstitute.org/  last year leading up to the Twentieth Anniversary of the original Rio Summit).

This future vision is premised on an economy “enabled and shaped by government” at the federal level through “macroeconomic (top-down) policy” coupled to “tailored, place-based (bottom-up) economic policy” of the type we saw being developed in Cleveland and NE Ohio as part of the Appreciative Inquiry Green City on a Blue Lake Summit we have already covered and the Project 21 vision originating there. NE Ohio, the Minneapolis-St Paul Area, and Seattle were explicitly the three pilot sites for this “new model for federal and state investment in regions, and so for intergovernmental relations in America’s federalist system” as the 2011 Brookings document described it. No, it is not a federal or economic vision Madison or Jefferson would have supported but it does explain the need to tie the Common Core in education to a broader economic development vision. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2011/4/12-metro-business-muro/1208_metro_summit_business_framing_paper

Every one of the Social Studies 2009 Enduring Understandings I mentioned in the last post would foster a belief that this kind of wholesale political transformation is permitted by a majority consensus in a society. I believe the Concepts laid out in the Next Generation Science Framework are likewise geared to cultivating beliefs that such social and economic change is necessary. As are the Understandings of Consequence videogames we have covered. To be a large part of the equity in credentialing and increased high school graduation rates that are part of the Common Core and associated Metropolitan Business Development visions.

It is no accident that both seek “consortiums of local governments, business and civic organizations, and the private and non-profit sectors to engage in coherent strategic action.” So no more accusing me of being a conspiracy theorist. To the extent we have organized coordination and collusion Brookings has officially pronounced it to be “coherent strategic action.” And it looks just like what the Aspen Institute is now pushing as the Global Fourth Way or Fourth Sector-For Benefit Economy.

The original vision in that Giddens book called all this “a new political economy of the left” which would “become an effective and lasting new political programme which will guide the next generation.” The actual hope was that this would become the global economic and social vision for the entire 21st Century. Something to keep in mind when you hear a sales pitch for skills needed for the 21st Century economy. It really is not supposed to be the vision you have in mind. But virtually all of the major investment banks and huge philanthropies are on board. If you do not believe me take a look at the Board of the Living Cities Initiative or read the theory behind their Integration Initiative. http://www.livingcities.org/integration/theory/

Education policy is in a position to influence the values, attitudes, and beliefs of the next generation and create the “social capital” and “human capital” of the future. Those beliefs and values can be manipulated to believe in “maximizing communicative equality” through dialogues and the sets of “horizontal relationships” cultivated in school. Bonus points for readers who immediately thought of Fostering Learning Communities as the current example of precisely what is being described. In the aggregate it also fits with the Learning Cities we saw UNESCO pushing globally. I gave you the Integration Theory link because it is my belief that Living Cities is the US version of what is being called Learning Cities elsewhere. They seem to function the same. No wonder effective principals are to be Leading Learning Communities. Perfect priming from a young age for a political transformation is a better description of the effective principal of the future. This is the reason and the vision.

So the third way acknowledged it would need “three structural elements, soundly constructed and mutually articulated.” You can contemplate how useful the ability to impose Enduring Understandings and abstract theories to organize beliefs and filter day to day perceptions of life’s experiences will be to people seeking the following:

“moral principles and priorities (the axioms of the programme: ‘what we believe in and where we are going’);

a fully elaborated ideology which convincingly argues and demonstrates in more detail how these principles and priorities can be practically related to the workings of ‘the real world‘, real people and their relationships to each other and the economy; [Gee wouldn’t something like systems thinking, service learning, or the new 3R’s of rigor, relevance, and relationships come in handy?] and

a specification of the practical policies and measures which are required in order to change the society and the economy towards the desirable model of social and economic relationships that has been elaborated. [see above links, any or all for examples].

Think of those three elements as a common core to get total transformation over time. So “North American social scientists” and educators figured out that “if third way thinking successfully integrates the concept of social capital into its understanding of the market economy, this will provide it with its own new, rigorous and practical [emphasis in original] analysis of the economy.” Then all you have to do to get the third way implemented is make this sociological view of the economy and its view of social capital part of education and urban planning degree programs, especially those masters and doctorates for future administrators. Easy Peezy Transformation once attached to federal dollars mandating compliance with this vision. Or do without those federal and NGO dollars that will then flow elsewhere to competing cities or regions.

I am going to provide a longer quote that explains why the cities are so important in any country with elections. It’s where a sizable number of votes are concentrated. Especially if the vision promises equity and benefits dependent voters cannot or will not get for themselves. So in:

“a polity actively nurturing its social capital, the state has to perform a vital partnership and facilitation role in at least two obvious ways. Firstly, it needs to deploy resources to empower disadvantaged individuals: the sick, injured, young, old, poor and poorly-educated, and other groups subject to social exclusion for reasons that are beyond their power to alter, such as their gender or ethnic affiliation. This is to endow them with their citizenship and their liberties [it sounds like what Goodwin Liu called Social Citizenship!], and so enable them to participate with their fellow citizens on an equal status basis, in all the networks and associations through which social capital functions. [This is also why metrowide school districts and busing are so important to this political vision].

Secondly, there is the importance of the locally devolved form of ‘state’: participatory, local self-government in active partnership and responsive negotiation with the communities and businesses whose environment it administers.

Now you know why Green Cities and Smart Cities and Global Cities just keep popping up. Why the very real Agenda 21 implementers met separately and plan with ICLEI-the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives at the Rio Summit last summer. And had food and wine and a lovely fashion show to boot.

I also think that is why the Asia Society funded an “Educating for Global Competency Workshop”  facilitated by worldsavvy in Minnesota on April 30th, a few days ago. And is holding a Statewide Summit on Global Learning next week on May 9, 2013 at St Cloud University in Minnesota. Inviting precisely the public and private groups to be involved in the Metropolitan Business Plan on the new economy. With Tony Jackson from the Asia Society as the keynote speaker.

So on top of being part of the Global Competence push as we have seen and a primary sponsor of the Global Cities Education Network we have covered and apparently tied into the Metropolitanism new economy vision in the US, we have the Pearson Foundation in 2011 highlighting with films the Asia Society’s role in promoting Global Citizenship. http://asiasociety.org/education/international-studies-schools-network/films-documents-how-students-becoming-global-citizen

That’s right. In the name of standardizing academic content from state to state, we are ending up with a toleration for a new model of intergovernmental relations. Plus Global Citizenship beliefs. Plus the third way’s vision for a new political economy after Communism crashed and Welfare States developed a bad name. Based on the general principle of “maximizing communicative equality.”

That would be why Gifted education is going away and why high-performing suburban schools have to be taken down.

Proper Mindsets and Dependent Mediocrity are needed for this vision of the future.