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.