Radio Silence and the Dog that did not Bark: Positioning Positive Education Globally

Sometimes the most telling fact for figuring out connections is the non-existence of something we would normally expect to see. For the intrepid detective Sherlock Holmes, it was the failure of anyone to mention hearing a barking dog on the night of a murder. The watchdog, then, must have known the attacker and let him by without alarm. It has been three weeks since the World Government Summit 2017 was held in Dubai. There were two substantial papers released at that summit. One, on desired Innovations in Government, has been written about. The other called “The State of Positive Education” has not. Radio Silence about a desired global paradigm shift so that “schools all around the world should place well-being at the heart of education” means that those of us who are paying attention do not get a chance to bark in alarm.

Why would we be so alarmed you may wonder? The Summit had two Americans as the keynoters on this topic. A U-Penn prof, Martin Seligman, with his own tag who we have previously tied to the UN’s World Happiness Reports and Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi, who is tied quite simply to virtually everything. For starters, it is Csik’s definition of Excellence as bringing together what we want, feel, and think into a single act that is in play every time we hear a desire for Excellence in Education. Think also of the federal civil rights laws and the repeated command for Equity and Excellence.

How does this tie to Mrs DeVos’ statement from the last post and the repeated push to federalize an obligation that every school have a Positive School Climate? Surely I don’t want schools to have a negative culture, belittling the less capable, or strange, student until they can barely look up from their pain. Of course not, but making how students treat each other,  whether they cooperate in joint projects, and whether they show ‘prosocial attitudes’ and reach ‘shared meanings’ of what abstract ideas must mean the new purpose of schools is too transformational to be something imposed under the radar in silence.

Last fall the State of Rhode Island created a Statewide Personalized LearningTemplate for its schools. A little discussed essential component of this student-centered transformation was a requirement for “school culture shifts” of the precise kind laid out by Positive Education. It is also a fundamental component of a Colorado district piloting ‘performance-based education’. Australia, relying on Professor Seligman’s work has crafted a Positive Educational Practices (PEPs) Framework published in 2008 by the British Psychological Society’s Journal. It stated that the “major focus of the positive psychology movement is how to facilitate flourishing lives that promote individual and organisational wellbeing.” Happiness, flourishing, mental health, and ‘what makes life most worth living’ sound like such tremendous goals. Wouldn’t it take someone with the heart of the Grinch, before his Christmas epiphany, to oppose such a focus?

Readers in the United States still unsure about how widespread this focus is and just how much has been put in place under conditions of silence should know that the National Institutes of Health and fed ED have already been funding Positive Education to create “classroom interventions.” It satisfies the criteria for ‘evidence-based’ under federal law and ‘scientifically-based practices’ in legislation passed by states. Last July, the author of that summit paper, the International Positive Education Network, IPEN, held its first ever Festival. 850 delegates from 30 countries came to Dallas, Texas for the event. Apparently those Essential Knowledge and Skills Frameworks Texas has in place marry well with Positive Education.

One more example, this one cited in that Summit Report IPEN created: fed Ed recently announced its “new ‘Skills for Success’ grant competition, aimed at improving students’ mindsets and learning skills. The awarded projects will involve more than 10,000 students in various school districts in the US.” Those districts may brag about the money as demonstrating they are on the Right Track locally. Bet the grants will not be touted as being a Positive Psychology experiment. There are five listed foundations in this approach to education: Social and emotional competency, positive emotions, positive relationships with peers and teachers, engagement through cognitive and character strengths so these can be developed at school, and students having opportunities at school and in the community to develop a sense of meaning and purpose. No need for Personally Identifiable Information at all.

Would anyone like to guess how often anti-bullying is cited as a reason to shift to Positive Education? I bolded the word ‘strengths’ in the last paragraph because the provided definition reminded me so much of how Excellence is also defined. “A ‘strength’ can be defined as a natural capacity for behaving, thinking and feeling in a way that promotes successful goal achievement.” With all the mentions of prosocial actions and instilled values, it is not too clear exactly who will be setting the goals that each student is to achieve. Do remember Mrs DeVos said we all have moral obligations we may not abdicate. I suspect she will just love Professor Seligman’s definition of a ‘meaningful life,’ at least she will if anyone at DoED describes it to her.

“a meaningful life is one that joins with something larger than we are–and the larger that something is, the more meaning our lives have. [Seligman] states that life is given meaning when we use our signature strengths every day in the main realms of living ‘to forward knowledge, power or goodness.'” This really is NOT education in the traditional sense and reads like training for collectivism so that students will not question an obligation to act from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs. We will cover more proof in the next post that whatever the personal intentions of Mrs DeVos or Professor Seligman or others pushing this template, it truly is creating the desired consciousness and personality traits and habits needed for a shift away from the individual’s right to decide their own pathway in life.

Actually I will close with a statement Seligman made in June 2009 for the Oxford Review of Education when he answered the question of “Why Positive Education now?” with “What is all our wealth for, anyway?” I am tempted to pretend to be Tonto when the Indians are attacking him and the Lone Ranger and ask “who is we?” but then no one thinks wealth is easier to come by apparently than politicians and tenured profs. Here is Seligman and the reason for the Radio Silence:

“General well-being–how much positive emotion, how much engagement at work, how much meaning in life our citizens have–is now quantifiable and it complements, and makes sense of, GDP. Public policy can be aimed at increasing general well-being and the successes or failures of policy can be measured quantitatively against the standard.

Prosperity-as-usual has been equated with wealth. The time has come for a new prosperity, a prosperity that combines well-being with wealth. Learning to value and attain this new prosperity must start early–in the formative years of schooling–and it is this new prosperity, kindled by Positive Education, that the world can now choose.”

I bolded that word ‘kindle’ so we can have a chance to make this choice ourselves rather than have it imposed at summits we were not invited to or educators hoping for federal grant money. Because what Positive Education seeks to kindle at the level of each child’s mind, habits, and personality is intended to turn into an invisible bonfire motivating his or her future behaviors.

It really gives new meaning to imposing a cultural revolution from the bottom-up and the inside-out.


Covert Coercion via Controlling Categories of Consciousness

There is far more than alliteration involved in today’s catchy title and its purpose, like all my writing, is to inform, not to scare. I am not Alfred Hitchcock and this blog is not The Twilight Zone. None of the aspirations laid out here at ISC or in my timelier than ever book, Credentialed to Destroy, are fictional. All of our lives would be easier if they were. Education reform is all about invisibly changing human behavior to bring about a new, collectivist, radical vision of what the future of the 21st century might be. I believe knowing the intended mechanisms for tyranny is the first step in escaping their grasp and then removing them altogether.

When Jean-Francois Revel wrote his 1983 French classic that translated as How Democracies Perish, he wanted to give a heads-up to prevent the demise. That’s why I write about education as well. In a chapter called “Attack. Always Attack” he gave information on Communist tactics that is also applicable to education reforms and the ensuing outcries over decades.

“A standard Communist tactic is to mount a propaganda operation to accompany a practical operation. If the latter hits a snag, the former will leave traces in people’s minds that will help condition them to give future actions a kinder reception.”

Think of my work as first defusing the practical operation of covertly controlling students’ minds and thus their likely future behavior. Meanwhile I call attention to the organized deceit so we can begin to remove those traces from both our adult minds as well as our poor, manipulated children. Since my last post EdSurge on February 10 admitted that the purpose of that Early STEM Learning paper I cited was to provide categories to guide thinking in an article that also redefined the acronym STEM–“Setting, Tension, Explanation, Metaphor: A Storytelling Approach for Early STEM Learning.” Too bad no one gives bonus points for prescience in education writing. The oligarchs met in Dubai last week and launched Positive Psychology as the global classroom education template, expressly showcasing Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi (whose work gets pulled in via civil rights interpretations on Excellence and Equity) and Martin Seligman of PBIS and the World Happiness Report.

Yesterday the US NIH admitted that “Current and future BRAIN Initiative research studies aim to elucidate, and potentially influence, the mechanisms that give rise to consciousness, our innermost thoughts, and our behaviors, thereby prompting novel social and ethical questions.” There’s a reason Congress prefunded years of that intrusive research back In December while Obama remained in office. After all, politicians at all levels want to rule under a new definition of Governance that’s not being discussed enough openly. The just out World Development Report 2017–Governance and the Law-explains that Governance is about delivering on normative goals of Security, Prosperity, and Equity for All achieved through the political process. It has nothing to do with elections and everything to do with the ability to shape internalized personal preferences, values, and beliefs.

Sounds like Chapter 7 from Credentialed to Destroy doesn’t it? Here’s the pithy why for that aim: “the ability to shape other people’s beliefs is a means of eliciting an action from another person–an action the person would not otherwise take. The ability to make others act in one actor’s interest or to bring about a specific outcome–the definition of power in this Report–is thus closely related to the notion of ideas as beliefs.

The dichotomy between ideas (ideology and culture) and power as a primary determinant of social dynamics is thus a false one. The idea of power cannot be understood without taking seriously the power of ideas.”

Using education reforms labelled as competencies or the Common Core to provide conceptual frameworks, lenses, Enduring Understandings, Cross-Cutting Concepts and Themes, and Disciplinary Core Ideas is a crucial aspect of Controlling Consciousness. There’s a reason for so much coordinated deceit surrounding it and why I seem to be the only person writing about it. Control the prevailing ideas used to direct attention and perception and the interpretation of daily experiences and you have covert control over likely future behavior. UNESCO knows that. So do the World Bank, OECD, the behavioral scientist community, and the public policy think tanks across the purported spectrum. It’s us, the parents and taxpayers, who are unaware of just how crucial standardizing the prevailing ideas is to plans for a fundamental transformation.

As Bela Banathy put it from our last post on seeing the student and education (see bolding from me) as a system: “Our main tool in working with human systems is subjectivity: reflection on the sources of knowledge, social practice, community and interest in and commitment to ideas, especially the moral idea, affectivity, and faith.” So how do I know this aim is across the political spectrum? I learn a great deal from reading old books and Professor Amitai Etzioni, Mr Communitarianism with his own tag, is an admitted Man of the Left. Professor Robert George, founder of American Principles Project, Bradley Foundation Board member (thus tied to PEPG), recent AEI award winner, and too many other connections to name, is a designated representative of what purports to be Conservatism. I call it the Right Pincer for a reason.

Given all the deceit I can track and shenanigans involving pilfering material from my book without attribution or compensation, I wanted to read a 2001 book called The Monochrome Society because it contained a Chapter called “Virtue and the State: A Dialogue between a Communitarian and a Social Conservative.” That would be Etzioni and George, respectively. When the book came several months ago, it turned out to be part of a series edited by Professor George with “a special focus on the juncture of culture, law, and politics. New Forum Books is guided by the conviction that law and politics not only reflect culture but help to shape it.”

That aim doesn’t sound particularly conservative to me and is a long time aim of all progressives–cultural evolution. If that is also the aim of so-called conservative and libertarian think tanks it would explain all the deceit, concern over what my book laid out with extensive documentation, and my current observations of where School Choice actually leads. For some reason though, I was too busy initially to read anything other than that particular chapter. After I read that World Development Report though and its laid out aspirations to use the law and the mere global existence of less advantaged people and poverty to force what Marx called his Human Development Society, I went back to reread the rest of the book. Turns out Etzioni laid out the template that the World Bank and others intend to use to alter what a student internalizes so that it alters their preferences.

Clearly when he wrote the Chapter on “Social Norms: The Rubicon of Social Science” and Professor George edited it, no one thought someone would ever track it down after already mastering what Tranzi OBE, the Common Core, and Competency-Based Education really aim at. Turns out the Right and Left Pincers ARE acutely aware of a bullseye where education practices and the curriculum used and the ideas pushed “play a key role in ensuring that certain preferences will never be formed in the first place, while others will be strongly held…a major goal of education (as distinct from teaching) is to foster internalization of social norms by children and thus to affect their preferences.”

Since the local Classical School associated with Hillsdale’s Barney Charter Initiative touts instilling ‘virtuous living’ in its students, let’s tie that to what Etzioni wrote. Turns out that students acting at an advanced stage in Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development (that public and private school teachers are now regularly taught is to be part of their new classroom practices) involves “individuals reason in terms of abstract notions” (or ideas or supplied concepts, categories, or ideas) on how, when, and why they should act. Etzioni then quoted Kohlberg that “it is possible to ‘reason in terms of such [high level] principles and not live up to them.'” Etzioni then laid out the essence of what everyone now wants from the classroom and education reforms and too few admit openly so let me quote directly:

“Unfortunately, to know the good cannot be equated with doing the good…To put it in the terminology followed here, [and at the always prescient ISC I must add immodestly], knowledge affects behavior by affecting considerations of costs and benefits but, as a rule, does not shape preferences. Internalization clearly does.”

So the SDG agenda pushed globally by institutions like the UN, OECD, and the World Bank can only change those preferences, as they have declared they aim to do, by education that is about getting at what a student internalizes as their values, attitudes, and guiding beliefs. Precisely what I warned about in my book that the False Narrative pretends is about some database of intrusive personal information. The need for Deceit is caused by others wishing to also use this tool of subjectivity and internalization, while being covert about it as well.

Once accurately perceived, this aim does not just seem tyrannical. It is unabashedly so. Etzioni sees it as a matter of the community having the right to establish the values that all citizens are to internalize. The World Bank does too since that is part of what Governance is to mean. I have pointed out already that this is the essence of what ED Choice laid out as the new definition of Accountability that is pertinent then to School Choice advocacy.

If our individual internalized preferences can now be changed by education reforms that no one is being honest with us about, are we free? Etzioni said no that “if the preferences themselves are changeable by social and historical factors and processes [or just federal laws like ESSA or state Student Privacy Statutes like Georgia’s] the actor is neither aware of nor controls, the actor’s behavior may be nonrational and is not free.”

Etzioni, with his long-time plans for fundamental social and economic transformations is OK with ‘the community’ controlling what must be internalized. Are we?

Is this really the kind of education reforms that anyone should blindly accept on the basis of catchy phrases or an appeal citing some famous person from history?


Psychological Approach to a Humane Politics: Restructuring the West Quietly and Effectively Via Ed

We stopped to pick up that nerdy expression Triune Consciousness in the last post because it rather succinctly explains why nothing in education over the last several decades makes much sense to us. We have a worldview on what education should be that makes it very difficult to accurately perceive that education has become about creating a new “framework of values, a philosophy of life, a religion or religion surrogate to live and to understand by.” The German expression for such an all-encompassing guide of daily perception is weltanschauung. We just translate it Worldview and it has been officially under attack for decades. Why? Because of a belief that humanistic psychology could adopt the human development component of Uncle Karl’s vision and use K-12 and higher ed institutions to invisibly change personal perceptions and culture. Shifting “personal politics can make for a more humane politics for both America and our larger world.”

Triune consciousness then simply reflects the idea that a new, radically different structure of social relations needs to be grounded in emotion and passion. In order to create a need to act to change the world as it now exists to the vision desired. I think such “a ‘knowing-of-the-heart’ which is not an unambiguous knowledge like that of clear and distinct ideas…” is a dangerous thing for our schools, churches, or universities to be cultivating. But I am also warning everyone that such a dramatic shift is precisely what is being sought in the Positive School Climate, Flow, systems thinking, happiness, mental health first aid, and other pushes we have discussed previously. How do I know for sure? Why the people involved have told me in their books and conferences and websites. It is all grounded in the humanistic psychology of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. That appears to be the all-encompassing vision we are dealing with. Still.

I am beginning to think that this naive idea that we can redefine what humanity is and promote specieshood and use education to target the foundation of all social institutions: “how people think and feel, how they comprehend the meaning of being human, how they experience the self, how they perceive their relationship to the environment and each other” really came under an organized, global attack back in 1962. First we have Robert Tucker, the Princeton poli sci prof laying out the idea that the US was closer to little c communism than the USSR and pushing Uncle Karl’s human development vision of the future. Then we have Evald Ilyenkov coming up with his new dialectics that supposedly will later inspire Gorbachev but was also very interested in altering perceptions. Remember our trips through the nerdy expression “Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete” and how Ilyenkov’s work has recently been brought back into print in the US by those Cultural-Historical Activity Theorists in San Diego?

To that interesting cauldron of timing that was almost certainly impacted in a delaying way by the Cuban Missile Crisis later in 1962, let me add a fascinating link. In 1962, the ASCD, then a division of the National Education Association–the NEA–published Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming: A New Focus proposing that the nature of education be dramatically shifted with Maslow and Rogers among the authors. The new type of education would be centered in the psychological tenets of humanist psychology in order to build on human potential to change, instead of the transmission of knowledge. Sound troublingly familiar?

The 1960s and taking these ideas in the direction of hedonism may have stopped much of the historic role of schools in academic learning but the desire to use school’s to alter student’s personalities hit a snag. The Journal of Humanistic Psychology created a dialogue all through the 70s and early 80s on what a good instrument for changing society and the nature of the economy HP (no, not Hewlett Packard even though all the foundations now are imbibing these theories deeply) would make.

Somehow that magical year of 1986 became the point in time to put all those broader political and social intentions and Maslow’s ideal of using education to integrate self-improvement and social zeal into another book. This one was called Politics and Innocence: A Humanistic Debate with Maslow, Rogers, Rollo May and others participating. One of those was a Walter Nord who pointed out that the “writings of Karl Marx have much in common with what modern writers have described as the essence of humanistic psychology.” That’s our HP and we had noticed that striking resemblance in function and sought effects. Nord simply points out that HP needs to be used to create support for “major changes in economic organization and the distribution of power.” Systems thinking and outcomes-based education to the rescue please!

Then in 1999 during the last round of Radical Ed Reform at the federal level before Gore’s loss slowed down the full implementation, the ASCD published an updated book edited by H Jerome Freiberg. It contained the original 1962 essays with new contributions from people like Barbara McComb’s from the Aurora, Co ed lab, McREL, involved in the A+ Achieving Excellence systems thinking, OBE innovation, that would later become an issue in Columbine. This “Motivation and Lifelong Learning” paper published in 1991 gives a good feel for what HP sought whatever it calls itself. Plus it makes its links to the current lifelong learning push and what that League of Innovative Schools is really trying to research on suburban school kids without parental consent. The 1999 book was called Perceiving Behaving Becoming: Lessons Learned.

In 2013 HP comes in as the social and emotional learning mandate that the accreditation agencies are requiring in their standards for what constitutes “Quality” as well as what gets incorporated into all that planned gaming. How am I so sure about Positive School Climate though? Because Carl Rogers writes repeatedly about what he calls the “psychological climate” and the “growth-promoting climate.” It’s the necessary school, classroom, and social environment that may prove Rogers belief:

“I do not find that this evil is inherent in human nature. In a psychological climate which is nurturant of growth and choice, I have never known an individual to choose the cruel or destructive path. Choice always seems to be in the direction of greater socialization, improved relationships with others. So my experience leads me to believe that it is cultural influences which are the major factor in our evil behavior.”

I think Rogers is wrong. Rollo May did too but that is the guiding philosophy behind the Positive School Climate mandate. Use education to change the student’s values, attitudes, beliefs, and emotions and you can change future behavior. Do it in enough students, especially if the heads of foundations and other social and political institutions are quietly on board with this invisible revolution and you can supposedly get an out of sight revolution.

How else do I know for sure that we are still dealing with HP in 2013 in the plans for the actual Common Core implementation? Because Martin Seligman of the Positive Psychology and global School Wide Positive Behavior and Happiness pushes said it tied to Maslow’s work. Because Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi, whose work is described here  also ties his work back to Maslow and does the research on that nerdy word “conation” that is tied to the OECD’s Subjective Well-being excuses for making us the Governed.

Finally there was the Third World Congress on Positive Psychology, June 27-30, 2013 in LA that Seligman and Csik basically led. is the program that clearly ties it all to Maslow and shows the global importance of the Positive School Climate model to achieving the desired transformations.

I think I will close with the admission from the End of Innocence book (citing Frankfurt School member Erich Fromm) on how important it is to use education to reframe “all perceptions of reality” whenever social change is sought. School then becomes a method of social conditioning that gets at the “system of categories which determines the forms of awareness. This system works, as it were, like a socially conditioned filter; experience cannot enter awareness unless it can penetrate the filter.”

Whoever creates that mental filter creates what is perceived as reality. What will guide future action and what will be ignored despite real consequences.

Now you know why we keep hearing about conceptual lenses and Understandings of Consequence and Generative Metaphors and Mental Schemas and frameworks. Every radical with plans of transformations is familiar with Fromm’s insight. We needed to be too.

Student-centered learning=humanist psychology emphasis in the 21st century classroom

Now you know why all recourse from an alarmed parent or taxpayer or teacher is being turned off.