Blending Sustainability and Education to Gain Arational, Nonlinear Minds and New Behaviors

For me, the US discussion over the Common Core national standards and content feels like a “Look Squirrel!” cry to redirect our attention from what is really going on. That’s partly because I track these education shifts globally and over time so I can see the actual template. More importantly, I think, is all the different subjects I track every day to catch how education fits into a much broader planned transformation. When you are also reading the planned economic and social changes that treat the economy and the environment as a co-dependent Ecosystem in need of governmental redesign around the declaration that “Spaceship Earth faces an ‘all hands on deck’ emergency”, you see the preferred redesign tool of education differently. Plus there are always multiple pages just on how to use education to create the desired values, attitudes, minds, and behaviors.

Likewise it is hard to pretend Common Core is about content when I read yet another report on creating this new Ecosystem. This time it refers to people, that’s you and me and all those captive students, and our behaviors, which ought to be free and based on personal decisions, as “sociotechnical systems.” That’s from this summer’s fun report on using the computer and IT industries to promote “greening through IT.”  It turns out that a different kind of future mind is key to the “massive cultural, social, political, and economic changes” self-interested politicians and bureaucrats and their Big Business allies are relying on for this lucrative for them planned redirection. I guess that gives new meaning to education for future citizenship. Really not about the Bill of Rights or why the Founding Fathers set up a republic and a federal system.

Following Paul Ehrlich’s co-author from the previous post on new mindedness,  I located a 1995 book, The Axemaker’s Gift, laying out the desire to move back to the “primitive” intuitive mind lost when certain humans began creating tools like axes or the phonetic alphabet. Or mathematical symbols and explanations for real-world phenomena. These inventions and innovations can create artificial private mental worlds or a means of artificially changing the environment. They also foster specialist knowledge that is not accessible to everyone. According to the book it is that rational, logical axemaker’s mind that created the modern world. And they do not like it one bit. The sequential, analytical mind that can create innovations like the ax or the printing press or the combustion engine is precisely what has been and is under attack. It certainly puts the so-called Reading Wars and Math Wars in a new light, doesn’t it?

Here’s the kind of thinking that the authors, James Burke and Robert Ornstein, defined as “arational” from our title and want to get us back to. They believe “axemaker gifts” unnaturally alter the environment and would like the developed West to shift back to a more natural relationship with the environment and self-sufficient economies that reject fossil fuels. Since we might not be willing to go along, the decision gets made for us by pushing initiatives like digital literacy and Competency and 21st Century Skills and Learner Outcomes in education, K-12 and higher ed, that have planned aspects the typical person is unlikely to appreciate. At least in time. In this vision “Knowledge would then be the experience of having traveled on the web.”  In case that dramatic statement is not enough, the computer will allow everyone access to information and data and “users’ would not need to ‘know’ anything.” It turns out that interacting with a computer if you have not yet developed an axemaker mind is conducive to never developing one.

I am not going to belabor the point now except to mention that some of the digital literacy advocates are simultaneously doing blurbs touting a successor to capitalism or that this new kind of thinking is for a more pastoral, desired mid-21st century future. Delivery of Common Core is being premised on all this IT technology being a primary platform for the student and their daily interactions at school. Advocates do not get to revel in the revenue potential of education and an economy centered on sustainability principles and then pretend this is just about individualizing education around the student’s interests. A suspect goal from the beginning if you ask me. So we are now aware of the real focus of these education reforms and we know what the consequences of previous attempts to plan economies and alter human minds has been. It’s not good.

The report “Computing Research for Sustainability” seems to assume that the problem with centrally planned and directed economies in the past has been an inability to grapple with all the relevant data for decision making. That computers can fix that problem and then model desired plans and acceptable behaviors. If it sounds Orwellian and delusional, it is. Or at least it is if you are in the Payor/manipulated class and not the Beneficiary or Manipulator class. I am going to quote from these plans for our future. I want you to recognize you are reading this post with an axemaker mind. You are imagining this scenario I am describing and plugging in your own life experiences to understand how disastrous it will be. You have more factual knowledge than virtually any teenager is getting from their education anymore. So imagine this planned approach for an intuitive mind trained to respond from emotion to visuals (that’s my snark in parentheses):

“suppose there was a network supporting online deliberation among scientists concerned with sustainability (So our future planners will be the grantmaking class that brought us ClimateGate) for developing key points, areas of strong consensus, areas of disagreement, and supporting evidence (does anyone recall a degree program that would equip anyone to do a good job at this? These arrogant grantees would not know what they do not know). Those deliberations would produce a sustainability action agenda that could be introduced to the public by means of interesting interactive environments designed to appeal to those of all ages. . . One highlight of this system would be a series of consensus news stories, perhaps on a weekly basis. These stories could be based on agenda items created by scientists and rated by public interest.”

We will only know what we are supposed to know to create a consensus for the already planned social and economic policies. And first and foremost to get to this imagined new future is to create new motivating values and a different mindset to filter experiences. So we get a new curriculum and new ways of measuring learning and different classroom activities in order to try to shift students away from logical, analytical, fact-filled minds that create their own conceptual understandings. That creates independence and really helps define each person’s individuality. If you wonder why these initiatives are going on all over the world now, apart from the UN and OECD and the green economy push, I think yet another report this week has more answers.

It declared that both advanced as well as emerging nations “are developing and pursuing policies and programs that are in many cases less constrained by ideological limitations on the role of government and and the concept of free market economics.

That’s the real reason new minds are needed. It’s the same reason slaves were not to be taught how to read. Our political class and their cronies think we need minds of servitude. There are to be no more axemakers gifts without official permission.


Real Change will Require New Values and New Ways of Thinking or Social Engineering Is Hard

Well I am combining two different points that aim for the same goal in that title. The latter part is from a March 2012 article in Scientific American explaining that the future science initiatives needed to be in “psychology, sociology, economics and political science” in order to get “species-wide alteration in basic human behavior.” Well how’s that for ambitious? Wouldn’t a deep seated Common human Core of shared values and common attitudes grounded in emotion instead of facts come in handy for such a transformative aspiration? Here’s the premise that all these education reforms in the US, UK, and Australia we have been talking about are based on:

“Human societies must now change course and steer away from critical tipping points in the Earth system that might lead to rapid and irreversible change. This requires fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international institutions toward more effective Earth system governance and planetary stewardship.”

If the assumptions in that article are not correct, then all these education reforms grounded in socio-cultural theory and Ecological Systems Theory are actually a fast train to economic catastrophe.  Shifting education from knowledge and marketable skills and a wide variety of human differences to a “search for self and social meaning” that “authentically integrates affect and cognition” (from Australia’s 2000 protocols based on US initiatives)  is a social recipe for widespread tragedy. Expectations for the future without any reasonable way of achieving them apart from luck or petitioning the government means no widespread prosperity anymore.

And there is a substantial amount of science and documented evidence that indicates we are in fact not near any such tipping point. Except those created by overreaching politicians and bureaucrats.

And, unfortunately, too many large corporations who have been told repeatedly for 20 years now that a sustainable Green Economy is the future and are already to cash in on a managed, redesigned economy that is based on political power and relationships.  The first part of the title comes from a 1996 book,  Management for a Small Planet, that is designed to teach business students and management executives what they need to know to get ready for an economy that better matches the “evolutionary processes of Nature (p 13).” Regular readers of this blog would recognize many of the professors cited for authority and the utopian aspirations for the future involved. The acute problem for us is the typical business student or manager does not have the knowledge of history or economics or the natural sciences to recognize the book is based on repeated assertions that lack any basis in fact apart from wishful thinking.

And the 3rd edition came out in 2009 ready to be used as a business text or just an aid to large multinational corporations making “substantial commitments to the ‘triple bottom line’ of economic success, social responsibility, and environmental protection.” (online book description) Now who could be against that “triple bottom line”?

Here’s the problem for all my readers, whether your interest is education or climate change or economics.  This gets us back to that Bronfenbrenner Ecological Systems Theory from the previous post as well as a “Caring Economics” from July 9. Everything is premised on using education to change prevailing economic thought and accepted human values so that “the economic system is not viewed as an entity in and of itself but as a subsystem of the larger social system and ecosystem.” That would be an all-encompassing political ideology to put it mildly, but how many of Small Planet‘s readers and listeners in a seminar or workshop are going to recognize that crucial fact? That the ‘Triple bottom line’ has some really troubling and erroneous foundations?

Here are the five basic shifts in human thinking proposed. You can reflect on how handy Common Core and Transformational OBE and Positive School Climate and SEL will  be to such an aspiration in the US. Comparable pushes are already in place in other Western countries.

(1) A shift from focusing on the parts to focusing on the whole in order to more realistically reflect humankind’s position in Nature.

(2) A shift from focusing on structure to focusing on process in order to better understand that “the entire web of relationships is intrinsically dynamic.”

(3) A shift from objective science, which views humankind as a passive observer in the universe, to epistemic science, which views humankind as a participant in the creation of the universe.

(4) A shift in science from an architectural metaphor, in which knowledge is “built” within discreet scientific domains that focus on the differences among things, to a networking metaphor, in which knowledge emerges through cooperative processes that focus on the relationships among things.

(5) A shift from defining truth in terms of absolute dogma to defining truth in terms of approximations of interconnections, reflecting the reality that truth is something humans seek, not something they know.

I disagree even if I have to be loud and obnoxious and disrespectful about it. There are lots of truths we can know. At least until Common Core gains full implementation in a school or university near you soon. But I would agree with the Scientific American author’s point about social engineering being a killer. Except what he sees as salvation I see as ruination.