Conclusion: Now Enacting the Long Sought Planned Economy and Society Via the Open Data Initiative

I did not take you through excruciating details on what has been sought since at least the 60s to fill you with a sense of woe but to ground present known intentions in their proper foundations. This is not just some pursuit hatched by the current occupant of the White House and his friends nor is it limited to the US. It has been a long term scheme for political, economic, and social power. It seeks to shift decision-making away from individuals and vests it in the public sector or with vetted cronies and in international entities like UN agencies and the OECD. But it is such a high priority of this administration that President Obama signed an Executive Order on his very first day in office stipulating that all government information that did not have to be kept secret for security or privacy reasons should be made public. This new policy is called the Open Data Initiative. Its importance to governments globally can be seen by the G-8 Summit in June 2013 adopting an Open Data Charter.

Now people from time to time will ask me if I could please limit my posts or my new book Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became a Weapon to discussions of education because that’s all that really interests them. My answer has always been no as the documents are quite clear that all these education reforms being pushed in the US as the Common Core or globally under names such as 21st Century Skills, Personalized Learning, and Positive Behavior Systems are simply means to certain ends. I think not discussing the sought ends leaves the reasons on why the actual implementation looks so much like social engineering impossible for us to grasp. We do not have to wonder anymore why anyone would do what we can now prove they [Who is ‘they’ many people ask? foundations, ed professors, district supers, and too many school principals will do for starters] are doing and mandating with every bit of legal authority they can seize.

In October 2013 McKinsey Global Institute issued a report laying out the intentions of our governmental overlords in 7 ‘domains’: education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, healthcare, and consumer finance. Basically learner analytics will be applied in the future to the Open Data and business and individual proprietary data to supposedly “enable better decision-making.” But not by us anymore. Think of this as the idea that the Service State we encountered in the last post or the planned society we encountered in the post before that are now achievable in the 21st century via supercomputers, models, and Big Data. The report is called “Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information.” McKinsey uses the terms ‘open data’ and ‘liquid information’ synonymously.

Before we get to the open acknowledgment that the new tech-enabled personalized learning being pushed as an essential aspect of global education reforms is actually intended to “increase motivation [remember our conation discussion and that nerdy phrase triune consciousness?], change mindsets, and adjust learning strategies,” let me go through some of the troubling assumptions from other domains. How about the assumption that “conceivably, credit card companies could raise interest rates on households that waste electricity”? Does that sound like the credit card companies now are independent or an arm of governmental policy for desired future behavior? How about businesses now subject to “open data released by third parties could expose poor environmental or labor practices or show their products or services compare poorly for price and quality”? Isn’t that ‘a run your companies in the manner we desire or you will get bad publicity’ threat?

The report contemplates that “sharing data gathered via ‘smart grid’ technologies can be particularly helpful in spurring energy sufficiency.” How? By publicly revealing relative personal consumption levels. Now I want you to think about the disastrous Obamacare website rollout and all the deceit used by politicians and agency bureaucrats to cover up the true nature of the planned shift in the US healthcare and insurance model:

“As the maker of laws and enforcer of regulations, government can shape the legal and economic environment that maximizes the potential value from the use of open data, while addressing the legitimate privacy and intellectual property concerns of individuals and organizations.”

Right. And how intrusive are the planned releases of data that “intellectual property concerns” even become an issue? Now we know when it is essential to keep data secret and secure as with national security matters [think Edward Snowden] or the personal financial data component on the Obamacare website, governments are terrible at it. Now onto that reality let’s add everything intended as part of this Open Data Initiative. All so that 21st Century society can become not a place of individual decision-makers but a place for “large-scale collaboration among individuals, companies, governments, and other organizations” supposedly seeking each of our subjective well-being as the goal of governments. And also seeking to “help educate the public about the potential benefits to the economy and society.”

The proprietary data will be gone. Governments as usual will be lousy administrators with no real incentives to do a good job. And from looking just at the education component, the benefits appear to me to be illusory but the levers of manipulation over human behavior look boundless. All in all the kind of stupid ideas that would be resisted at every turn if only they were better understood. And without so many advocates with their hand in the cookie jar of intended future governmental spending. All this ed data being gathered is said to improve individual “performance, which can lead to higher graduation rates, greater educational attainment, and increased lifetime earnings.” Not if students do not know much of anything and everyone suddenly has the same credentials.

Now how many of you have heard anyone write about personalized learning as the wave of the future? It is a simply marvelous gatherer of personal info with thousands of data points being collected when adaptive software is used. Which it will be so all those data points can become part of the Open Data Initiative basis for a new type of collective decision-making in the future. Here is the definition of personalized learning from the McKinsey cited and Gates Foundation funded Learning to adapt report from 2013 [my bolding]:

“pedagogical method or process that draws on observation to inform tailored student education interventions designed to increase the likelihood of learner success.”

The personal data being gathered then is extensive and real and just full of non-cognitive information. And the tasks and activities the student is asked to do get adjusted as necessary to gain success. Not exactly the ingredients that would actually foster future economic success.

Getting to public sector-centric decision-making is the whole point. Equity for all and social justice at last are after all the by-words for all these pushes. Economist Ludwig Von Mises in the book Socialism he wrote just after World War I described all these pursuits as Ethical Socialism. It was all the rage in Germany and his native Austria before and after the war just like it is now all the rage in US academia and political institutions and federal agencies in 2013. The fundamental fallacy remains the same as what he noted:

“Most people who demand the greatest possible equality of incomes do not realize that what they desire would only be achieved by sacrificing other aims. They imagine that the sum of incomes will remain unchanged…this idea rests on a grave error. It has been shown that, in whatever way one envisages the equalization of incomes this must always and necessarily lead to a very considerable reduction of the total national income and, thus, of the average income…we have then to decide whether we are in favor of an equal distribution of income at a lower average income, or inequality of incomes at a higher average income.”

Von Mises was simply discussing the overall impact due to the disincentives to be productive in the future. Given the contemplated mind arson I have been documenting, just imagine the actual effects of disincentives to be productive when coupled to the widespread inability to be productive.

And then add on the cost of the public sector to poorly administer this planned society. And all that insecure Open Data. And the wasteful cronyism attached to the planned collaboration.

And the lack of personal freedom. The Open Data Initiative surely will lead to a society incapable of mass prosperity.

Makes you wonder who they think will fund the redemption of all those Social Security IOUs in the near future under these plans. I guess it’s a good thing all the administrators and politicians pushing these plans intend to rely on taxpayer-financed pensions to fund their retirements after careers spent destroying the source of wealth everyone is taking for granted.

Will this really work out well for anyone in the long term?



Students Must See Themselves as Active Participants in Social Change and Designers of Social Futures

Before I tell you where that quote came from and what the connection is to the Gordon Commission, I want to go back in time first. I did what I frequently do when presented with troubling declarations of plans that I know will come to a poor end. I went back to someone who dealt with comparable aspirations and ideologies for insights into what is really going on and how this might end. History is much more reliable than a crystal ball. And, unlike the Marxist historians active in Europe before World War I and the 1920s, I do not use historical research as a “means of political agitation.” I will confess though it can be more useful than espresso as a jolting wakeup call.

No, I am not that ancient except to my kids but I did go back to someone who lived through what happened in Europe in the early 20th century and presciently recognized the gravity of what he was looking at. Economist Ludwig Von Mises saw that history and political theories were being used all around him “to provide weapons against the hated bourgeois order of society.” Remember that quote when we get to the end of this post. Von Mises was infatuated with socialism when he was younger, like most German and Austrian intellectuals of that time. But he wrote the book Socialism to explain why he believed it would not work. Long before Communism had crashed and burned in the USSR or the Germans tried out a more Corporatist and Nationalist version of socialism that launched 2 world wars. I wanted his insights into why planning societies does not work from what he saw in real time. The book was originally published in German in 1932 so Von Mises is speaking from quite a unique vantage point.

What I hit upon instead was so on point with using education to shut down the abstract mind and push action instead. Plus the desire we keep encountering to supply the interpretive concepts and metaphors, instead of accurate facts, to filter student’s daily reality. I decided we could use Von Mises’s observations from so long ago.

“Abstract thought is independent of the wishes which move the thinker and of the aims for which he strives. Only this independence qualifies it as thought. Wishes and purposes regulate action (his italics).”

Von Mises goes on in a footnote to clarify that “the wish is the father of faith.”  Faith is thus what all these education reforms are really trying to create. Do you remember this post  where influential Harvard psychology prof Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi  laid out his vision of the Flow experience? As Von Mises ably observed in dealing with earlier “Let’s Remake the World Schemers,” there is no abstract thought when wish for and feeling are joined to thought. It is the sort of cultivated personality ready to attend and celebrate at rallies without a second thought. Csik’s Flow and the idea of physical activity in a digital environment instead of mental is mentioned throughout this new view of curriculum and assessment we started to look at in the last post. A primary solution for engaging students at school and keeping them in school is Gaming. As in video games.

That really caught my interest for several reasons. I know the Gates Foundation has been funding it for the Common Core implementation. I know that Professor James Paul Gee, who we discovered in this post does not believe in the concept of discrete individuals, has pivoted in the last 10 years in his education research to focusing on gaming. And I know that Amplify has been hyping Zombie-Based Apocalypse simulations as learning on its website. To get to what Joel Klein has called “new kinds of minds” I suppose.

So Pearson and the Gordon Commission and everyone else is pushing Gaming. And Gee who wants education to help create people to be “better modules in a distributed non-authoritarian system” is both a member of the Commission and pushing Gaming instead of linguistic mischief making. His previous research mission. Although if you look up his report “Good Video Games and Good Learning” you will see he is quite excited that Gaming helps move education beyond its fetish with print and words. Important to the schemers as we now know.

What do they mean by Gaming? As we saw with the Zombie Apocalypse simulation story that cited sources acknowledging that this type of digital learning is known to weaken the mind , the point of the simulations described is to practice planning and redesigning societies. You can see why I went back to Von Mises. So the same report that starts off maligning knowledge of facts as “banking education” wants students to practice reimagining other ways for societies to exist and to come to believe that societies can be planned. And the games cited are multi-user to get both social interaction and collaboration practice. Cited are the game River City where the students learn to solve a simulated 19th century city’s problems. At least in the virtual world with the provided, controlled variables. A difference from the real world that is not likely to be pointed out to the students or the teachers.

Then there is the “epistemic game called Urban Science that mimics the professional practicum experiences of urban planners.” Yes, because they are noted for doing a bang-up job with planning in the real world. Let’s ignore that and go with Professor Don Schon’s aspirations for cities and people to be systems that can be treated as problems to be solved. The virtual world awaits and the students immersed in such Gaming are likely to soon accept social and economic planning and fiats as a norm.

Perhaps the most graphic example of where all this is going in the Pearson/ Gordon Commission report is the game Quest Atlantis. There the aim is explicitly described like this:

“the focus of critical design work is to develop sociotechnical structures that facilitate individuals in critiquing and improving themselves and the societies in which they function.”

In fact the creators of the game noted that:

“although they could have focused the Quest Atlantis virtual environment solely on particular science standards about erosion, they became concerned with highlighting attitudes toward environmental awareness and social responsibility.”

And just in case you are wondering where are values, feelings, and beliefs that usually go along with these outcome-based maneuvers to change future behavior, the authors did not forget. They go on to describe how they:

“decided to make a structure connected to social commitments, creating a story [because all political schemers seem to know children learn better with a narrative!] about collecting pieces of crystal, with each representing a social commitment the designers wanted to enforce, like political awareness. They instilled in the community around the game a value of these commitments through the design of the ecosystem.”

The title of this post is quoted from the Introduction to Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures and it was too consistent with the aspirations of the Gaming emphasis not to use. Plus Gee and Courtney Cazden of the Discourse Classroom that we met in the Community of Learners post were both contributors. In fact Gee acknowledged that all these education reforms are to “change the game, that is, to change our society” to what he called a distributed economic system.

You may have noticed all the focus on cities and urban education above and in Edmund Gordon’s mission as a professor. Likewise there are increasingly stories about students being told to learn about White Privilege or their “economic class.” This week’s version involved Americorps workers in Wisconsin but the reports are increasing around the US. So I want to close this post and set up the next one with another quote from Gee’s “New People in New Worlds” essay from the book.

“We, then, really have two school problems. [to get to the sought new economic order]. The first concerns how to ensure that poor and minority children, really for the first time, get well educated enough to participate in building and transforming our societies. The second concerns how to ensure that advantaged children can get out of school able to think ‘critiquely’ about issues of power and social justice in the new global capitalist order.”

How succinct was that admission of the essence of what we are dealing with?