I always feel odd writing down that infamous name, but as I learned when I was researching my book, Uncle Karl is never very far away from the theories behind the actual classroom implementation. Sometimes the link is too direct and too huge in its implications for me to use a cute euphemism either. Especially when Marx is cited directly as the support that leads to all the current hyping of Neuroscience and Brain-based instruction. How direct? Well, Etienne Wenger from our last post wrote a book Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity that I found deeply troubling. Diving into the relevant footnotes pulled up a book I had never heard of that turned out to be $800 used on Amazon when I looked.
Not wanting to eat PB& J sandwiches for the next 6 months to secure a copy of The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology, I decided to go internet surfing to see what cited Soviet psychologist AN Leontiev actually wrote about “The problem of activity in psychology.” In case you haven’t noticed, the requirement of active learning and a shift away from print, lectures, and textbooks is what I would call omnipresent in the real Common Core implementation. Knowing how crucial learning tasks are I thought I would gain some more useful insights. What I was not anticipating was for Leontiev to lay out aims and practices I recognized from all my research and then cite repeatedly to pages from Marx and Engels or from some of Marx’s other works.
Suddenly euphemisms won’t do, not with stated aims like using education and carefully crafted classroom or digital virtual activities to literally “lead to a reconstruction of the ensemble of brain psychophysiological functions.” If the aim becomes analyzing which kinds of student activities produce what types of physical changes in their brains, it sure would explain all the interest now in functional MRI, adaptive software, and longitudinal data. When I read those words and others being attributed by Leontiev to what Marx and Engels really desired that are as provocative as stating:
“This convenient formula [of separating psychology and physiology] leads into a greater sin, the sin of isolating the psyche from the work of the brain”
Waiting until the next book could be published simply will not do. Just last week, independent of this research, someone asked me if I was familiar with the White House’s new Fattah Neuoroscience Initiative. The answer was no, but it did not take much insight to guess that it would be linked to John Holdren, which turned out to be quite correct. http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AP/AP19/20140227/101775/HHRG-113-AP19-Wstate-HoldrenJ-20140227.PDF is some recent testimony from him on all that federal activity involving the physical structure of the human brain. Notice though that Holdren leaves out that Digital Promise and the League of Innovative Schools also report to him and they happen to be carrying out precisely the kind of education activity that Leontiev wrote about.
Holdren also leaves out his long time ties to Paul Ehrlich and his stated desire for Newmindedness no longer grounded in a logical, rational mind. Just think of the implications of all this Neuroscience and Grit, Perseverence research for Ehrlich’s current global research project–MAHB–the Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior. Now that I have reminded everyone of the real current links to where K-12 in the US and globally is going, let me add one more thing. I found this graphic Leontiev book on servers at the Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition at UC-San Diego. The place where Michael Cole and Yrjo Engestrom [see tags] have created the global base for Cultural Historical Activity Theory in the years since the Berlin Wall fell.
Happy 25th anniversary for that Happy Event by the way. Let’s commemorate that Death of Tyranny by continuing to expose that so much of the ideology we thought we were leaving behind in 1989 came on into the West invisibly through a new kind of psychology and a new vision for K-12 education. To bury such destructive required collectivism once and for all we have to know it is there. If you have not yet read my book Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became a Weapon, get it.
The findings on this blog are not a substitute for it. They are the icing, cherries, and birthday candles. It simply keeps getting more pertinent with time. Given Leontiev’s disclosures though, we simply cannot escape the fact that everything now envisioned for the K-12 classroom globally in the 21st century is based on a decision “at the beginning of the 1920s” in the Soviet Union to “consciously structure psychology on the basis of Marxism.”
Specific cites and everything. That psychology is sensory in its base, not mental as we have historically assumed, which really does explain all the links in the previous post. It is a view of psychology and education that “in the modern world psychology fulfills an ideological function.” Yes, which is why Leontiev keeps mentioning its use to create a consciousness in people suitable for a “socialistic, communistic society.” All three words, just like that. Apparently all our encounters with communitarianism and the references to meeting needs are part of this vision linked now directly to Uncle Karl. There’s that softening euphemism again. I guess I just cannot quite adjust to open proclamations of intent of the sort Leontiev uses:
“It must not be said that psychology has exhausted the treasure chest of Marxist-Leninist ideas. For this reason we turn again and again to the works of Karl Marx, which resolve even the most profound and complex theoretical problems of psychological science.”
What do we do when the actual and only support for what a charter or Principal or District Office or foundation grant are mandating for a K-12 classroom turns out to be Karl Marx’s social theories for how to gain the kind of brain and personality that would fit his vision for the future? Here again is what Leontiev wrote, the old view of psychology and education:
“isolated cognition from sensory activity, from the living practical ties of man with the world that surrounded him…Introducing the concept of activity into the theory of cognition, Marx gave it a strictly materialistic sense: For Marx, activity in its primary and basic form was sensory, practical activity in which people enter into a practical contact with objects of the surrounding world, test their resistance, and act on them, acknowledging their objective properties.”
What happens when doing all that as a physical, sensory activity involving group participation becomes the very assessment of student ‘achievement’ or Growth?
What happens when the purpose of digital learning is to access a student’s internal “picture of the world” so that learning tasks, virtual reality gaming, and adaptive software can provide virtual and physical experiences to alter that picture in desired ways? Ways that are chosen by others for their intended effects on the student at a physical level.
What happens when, having cited to Marx and Engels on the effect of vocabulary and words generally on consciousness and perception, educators then do everything they can to limit vocabulary, manipulate the words and concepts that are supplied, and minimize the historic role of print on the mind?
What if K-12 education seeks to circumscribe human thought in the 21st century so that it is “nothing else but a derivative of practical activity”? With the stated goal being a “true solution to this problem of the origin and essence of human thought.” And why is human thought problematic?
Because independent rational human thought with access to a store of facts does not submit to Overlordship easily. All these required practices hiding now as pedagogy and Effective Teaching are all actually about subjugation of the mind.
And personality too. Leontiev’s Chapter 5 has with a lead-in header of “Personality as a Subject of Psychological Investigation.” How’s that for aspirational? Do free societies do that nonconsensually using deceit? That analysis, by the way, has to get to the relationship of “motives and needs” just like innovative education seeks to do.
Let’s end with an aspiration that does explain all the intended use of social and emotional learning and an emphasis on the Whole Child. It fits with all the current UN hype of the post-2015 Sustainable World that will meet the needs of all. It fits with the goals we have encountered that we become a “Spirit Society”. This is how Leontiev ended his vision of a new kind of education arising from a scientific, materialistic psychology grounded, he declared, in Marxism:
“Lost from view here is the fact that it is necessary also to go through a transformation of material consumption, that the possibility for everyone to satisfy these needs does away with the intrinsic value of things that satisfy them and eliminates that unnatural function that they fulfill in private ownership society…”
Lost no more and just in time. Historian Richard Pipes in the book mentioned in the two previous posts pointed out that even animals show repeatedly that acquisitivesness is innate. Trying to dislodge what is innate via K-12 Whole Child education premised on practical activity and social participation is simply not going to end well.
Now would be a great time to start recognizing the ancestry of all these required changes in the nature of education.
No more euphemisms. Not with the stakes this high or the aims so personally intrusive.