Targeting Student Values, Attitudes, and Beliefs to Control Future Behavior

I have long known that the function of Transformational Outcomes Based Education and its close sibling, Systems Thinking, is to be able to predict and control the behavior of future adults. Future voters. To change the prevailing culture in a society by attacking its noetic system. Prevailing feelings, beliefs, and values all get targeted by educational institutions for change to get a lasting change in behavior. Such goals (especially when enforced now via a Data Quality Campaign collecting and monitoring such info) may meet the very definition of Totalitarianism, but honestly, who will know in time? How many people will know that a cognitive goal means your belief system is the target? Or that it became fair game for manipulation by administrators and professors who either aggressively deplore capitalism and individuality, or do not understand the importance of either, and just want their paycheck and promotions.

As I mentioned in the previous post while investigating the current intentions of Systems Thinking, the name Milton Rokeach came up several times with work going back to the 1960s. That’s a crucial time period for me because it means a pedagogy or curriculum originally developed to be a weapon against the US during the Cold War has survived to the present. Something designed originally to destroy the rational capacity to think and free decision-making as an individual based on your own set of facts and concerns (assuming as many did that the Soviet Union would prevail over the US) remains in place under a new name. Still with the same purpose but different beneficiaries. Ready to compel behavior from instinct and emotion. Literally without a second thought.

It is very alarming that late in the book Presence the authors are discussing the Dark Side of Acting from the Heart. It is not something being pointed out to Principals and Supers and teachers being asked to promote the practices in the classroom. For someone like me who is deeply interested in history, it is too much a reminder of the unconscious impulse to act as a collective instilled in the German people via education in the 19th century. They thought it was the answer for the humiliation of being defeated by Napoleon. Talk about poisonous seeds.

It is Values most of all that Rokeach targeted because they are the fewest in number and have the actual ability to compel behavior. Can you see why Sustainability is to be the focus of so much of the Common Core implementation? Values also influence attitudes and emotions and the belief system. Values influence perceptions from daily experience. Think about how often you have watched or heard someone reject what should have been definitive proof with an “I just can’t believe it.” So they didn’t. That’s what values do and why manipulating them is so important if you wish to push a political ideology like collectivism or government intervention and direction of an economy.

I must say I always thought the regular use of the term “Competency” now was just to mislead people from recognizing that we are back implementing Outcomes Based Education again. I had even noticed how a Digital Learning advocate had used Objectives (Ralph Tyler’s term from the 8 Year Study) synonymously with Outcomes (Ben Bloom and Spady/Rogers’ term) and Competency. Turns out though as Milton Rokeach makes clear in his 1968 book Beliefs Attitudes and Values Competency combines both skills and values into a single term. The public then assumes a Competency focus of course includes academic knowledge. It is school or college after all. And the educators get to change and influence student behaviors through unappreciated value changes. The emphasis will be on what the student can do and if the actions are largely driven by emotion so much the better. There’s a reason Rokeach’s book has an Appendix laying out the potentials for Advertising of such an education emphasis.

How many parents will recognize the emotional and psychological manipulation being planned and documented under PBIS or Positive School Climate or recognize that Continuous Improvement is affective in emphasis? I may have joked about Purple America and Project Love but this values curriculum by the hugely influential NEA is meant to both make money and change American student values.

And let me tell you how Rokeach planned to fundamentally shift both Individual and Societal Values to increase the emphasis on Equality in each student’s psyche at the expense of Freedom. It’s not the sort of thing a child comes home and tells you about. He used Student Surveys (don’t worry it’s not like Student Surveys are being included as explicit component of the Effective Teacher Measure that gives the school a reason for asking Anything Wished) and asked students to rank different values. Those students who ranked Freedom higher than Equality were then told how they rated their own interests as more important than the needs of others.¬† The exact quote used to needle the students was: “they generally care more for their own freedom than the freedom of others.” Practically like telling them they need an S tattoed on forehead and a Red T-shirt that says Selfish to wear around campus.

And all the self-awareness being pushed? Sometimes with the hugely pretentious name of Metacognitive? That just makes it easier to get the sought value changes, either by specifically targeting self-conception as we saw in this post  proposing to teach what a racist society we remain.
Or by targeting alleged hypocrisies, incongruities, inconsistencies, or contradictions between self-conceptions or self-ideals. Just as no one wants to think of themselves as being against freedom even though forced equality requires an all-intrusive government, Rokeach learned just how effective it was to point out variances in an individual’s values from the group norm. (Aren’t those Common Core student surveys going to come in so handy?) To use his nerdy phrase verbatim this disclosure usually “aroused a negative affective state of self-dissatisfaction.” People do not like to be self-dissatisfied for long so the survey information becomes the impetus for lasting “cognitive and behavioral change.”

And with those types of effects, no schemer since has been willing to leave Values alone whatever the outcry. Values and moral reeducation, I mean education, morphed into Outcomes Based Education and now Soft Skills and Social and Emotional Learning. It is still about targeting Values for change. As we discussed in this post in July, the Canadians adopting many of the same initiatives as the US on a similar timeframe have at least been honest enough to admit the real Common Core is desired values to be instilled in each citizen that have nothing to do with cherishing the Maple Leaf or Stars and Stripes. And when you get that kind of international consistency in education you always know UNESCO is lurking around nearby.

And UNESCO really does now seem to serve as the repository for schemes in the West against capitalism, individualism, and rational, logical, academic knowledge. But during the Cold War, much of that same aim came from the NEA, especially its ASCD subsidiary. In March 1978, Educational Leadership published a special issue called “Education of Judgment and Action: Personal and Civic.” It appears to be the launch of the formal push to make Values Education an integral part of US education going forward. The listed rationale was:

“the cultivation of decision making particularly as it relates to political virtues that are appropriate to constitutional self-government and that are required to achieve a society that stands for justice, equality, and freedom in the modern world.”

And that’s how the War commenced to permanently change the behavior of future voters via the schools by changing the underlying Values. To cultivate that herd instinct that can cause any nation so much grief. And if you actually read the 1978 essay “The Status of Education of Judgment” by one of Rokeach’s favorite values educators, John R Meyer, you would learn that the value of freedom to be fostered is not the traditional American belief that it is a natural right existing prior to any compact with government. No, the essay rejects that definition of Freedom in favor of the John Dewey definition then being pushed hard again (1977) by Columbia Teachers College.

“Freedom is a social benefit conferred by the collective intelligence of society.”

Aha, I believe we have found the long-lingering root of the problem of national Values education. And now it is international with UNESCO and OECD running what are to be instilled as Values. Yikes!!