The original version of this post used the term School Choice instead of Catchy Slogans and Phrases, but that seemed to imply I was picking on the Dearest Policy Desires of our new federal Secretary of Ed. So I broadened the title to make the same point. I may be able to read the School Choice layout and her AFC reports and see the plans of both Uncle Karl and what is called the systems view of education at play, but hopefully she does not. Like many people Mrs DeVos may falsely believe that her personal intentions and understandings of terms guide what they really mean and how they work in practice. That’s a dangerous belief that those surrounding her will likely encourage so let me explain why I recognize this as the Systems View of Education.
While I am at it, let me lay out a few more Catchy and Melodious slogans that are widely repeated AND headed in a different direction with a specific aim whatever the personal intentions of the advocates–Personalized Learning, Excellence, Reaching a Child’s Full Potential, and Quality Learning are a start. One more clarification as well on what I mean when I write about targeting a person’s decision-making capacity. Another transformationalist put the importance of understanding subjective experience quite well in his book Global Mind Change. Willis Harman wrote that education and “science should now accommodate consciousness as a causal reality.” So crucial a point to target that Harman even italicized it just like that.
Boulding considered “the primacy of inner conscious awareness as a causal reality” to be so crucial if Man was to Become a Maker of History and a Driver of the Future that he gave this internalized realm of core values, concepts, and guiding perspectives the nerdiest phrase ever–noogenetics. The odd name though should not distract us from the role Boulding gave this realm in his 1978 book Ecodynamics: A New Theory of Societal Evolution. Boulding wanted to create common “mental structures and images” that would be transmitted as “learned behavior coded in nervous systems.” That’s what noogenetics and full potential means because the “biogenetic structure contributes only potential.” He told us why targeting what is internalized within a student’s mind and personality was so crucial so let’s listen:
“It may well be that biological evolution is approaching its end and that it will be succeeded by an evolutionary process wholly dominated by noogenetic processes directed by human values.”
See how Making Man Moral and Accountability fit right in with these transformational plans unless that aim for education is well disclosed and not shrouded in catchy phrases about Classical Learning, Character, or Virtuous Living? If anyone is tired of me bringing up Uncle Karl like this was a pinball game and I get 50 points for each mention, let’s listen again to what Boulding said was the purpose of what he and all the others I have now tagged to this post called General Systems Theory.
“The evolutionary vision, however, must be seen quite clearly as an alternative to Marxism as a general theory. The general idea of an overall theory of social and historical dynamic processes owes a great deal to Marx, but his particular theories are quite inadequate to describe the complexities of reality and must be relegated to the position of a rather unusual special case.”
I think that statement should have the Slogan “New and Improved” attached to Systems Science covers the relationships among all these education phrases we believe have just an innocuous, common-sense meaning. Following up on the implications of my last post’s citing of both the Right and Left public policy think tanks and academics embracing Boulding pulled up a relevant paper written by Bela Banathy from the early 90s called “Systems Inquiry and its Application to Education.” The paper was “dedicated to the memory of my dear friend and colleague, Kenneth Boulding, one of the founders of the systems movement and the first president of the Society for General Systems Research.” As an aside, SGSR (created at Stanford) merged into ISSS–International Systems Science Society, so all this ties now too to the Laszlos, GELP, the MIT/Skolkovo 2030/2035 Project, and so much more.
In other words, this is not a history lesson and the goals Banathy laid out are still pertinent. Best then to examine the Systems View of Education since we and our children have been Ground Zero of the systems to be transformed. One more point gets clarified for those of us wondering why Mind Arson has become so common and why relatively few concepts and principles are now to serve as Knowledge, instead of a body of facts. Boulding believed systems science needed people to “develop ‘generalized ears'” that could make for common connections of understanding that would “overcome the ‘specialized deafness’ of the specific disciplines.”
I have encountered this before where what we call reason and logic or the Axemaker Mind is regarded as in the way of revolutionary social change. John Dryzek called for something very similar–communicative rationality–to accommodate the defeat of ‘capitalism’ in favor of a more economically just society he called democracy back in 1996. Last week, the Cooney Center (funded by Sesame Street revenue), the Frameworks Institute, and the New America Foundation released “STEM Starts early” that called for much the same if we read the small print, or in this case, Appendix B. It called for a “two-science approach” because “policies are the product of politics, and politics is the product of culture.” I could add that culture is an aggregate of what gets shifted when education becomes about targeting individual consciousness and what guides it, but let’s get back to quoting.
“Determining the narrative needed to engage the public…requires research. A coherent narrative can only be developed by mapping the cognitive terrain so that communicators know which ‘pictures in people’s heads’ they wish to evoke and which to bypass.”
That intrusive analysis, whether obtained by survey or student assessments looking for Higher Order Thinking Skills, is in either case carried out so that politicians, academics, think tanks (the paper keeps quoting the head of Heritage, Jim DeMint), and others “to predict what policy prescriptions are likely to ‘fit’ people’s operative cultural models.” So education operates to manipulate those internalized cultural models and also pushes Generalized Ears and communicative rationality so that “policy science can be coupled with communications science.” Well, that “two-science approach” or “systems science” is indeed a new, not appreciated enough in the least, form of self-governance. Each approach:
“emphasizes using social science to understand where ordinary Americans part way with experts, what this means for public support of [desired] policies, and what kinds of narratives help people engage, reconsider, and endorse meaningful policies.”
It is tempting to add ‘meaningful’ to whom and to wonder how we can get a job as one of those ‘experts’. Let’s get back though to Banathy’s confessions. After all, if my analysis that School Choice, as pushed by all the think tanks we have tied to PEPG and the Atlas Network, is actually a shroud covering what Banathy called GSTE–Guidance System for the Transformation of Education–we need to know its aims and elements. Banathy told us that “working with human systems, we are confronted with problem situations that comprise a system of problems rather than a collection of problems. Problems are embedded in uncertainty and require subjective interpretation…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.”
Readers of my book Credentialed to Destroy should recognize that I have boldfaced words that fit with what the phrase Rigor actually means now and also much of what is assessed for in its name. Can we repeat Not. A. Coincidence. before moving on. Banathy did not just want to redesign and transform education, he wanted to redesign all social systems to fit the “new realities of the current era.” People, and especially children, were merely a start and the way to effect the desired change without popular outcry. Anyone implementing the systems view of education template unwittingly because they fail to understand what these catchy phrases really mean is still engaged in:
“systems design in the context of human activity systems is a future-creating disciplined inquiry. People engage in design in order to devise and implement a new system based on their vision of what that system should be.”
With only Generalized Ears and carefully instilled guiding Core Values, Ideas, and Perspectives we can all grasp that few students will be in a position to appreciate what actually cannot be as we are all encouraged to help design better tomorrows. When I was so concerned about that Roadmap for the Next Administration I uncovered before the election, this is precisely the assumption built into that Roadmap. Bela must be so pleased his and Boulding’s work endures so, even if it is dangerously wrong to be pushing via education.
“Social systems are created for attaining purposes that are shared by those in the system [see values, ideas, and perspectives above]. Activities in which people in the system are engaged are guided by those purposes. There are times when there is a discrepancy between what our system actually attains and what we designated as the desired outcome of the system. [Data, especially with respect to what counts as Learning]. Once we sense such discrepancy, we realize that something has gone wrong, and we need to make some changes in the activities or in the way we carry out activities. The focus is changes within the system. Changes within the system are accomplished by adjustment, modification, or improvement.”
Now Banathy was talking about more than a student and education in that quote on redesigning systems, but both are included in the systems to be purposefully redesigned at the level of what creates purpose, motivates action, and guides perception. That’s what the systems view of education does under whatever catchy slogan it uses in any generation to stay under the radar of public scrutiny. It has been known as Tranzi OBE (covered in my book) and is now more commonly called Competency-Based Education. It is enshrined into the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and how states and localities must redesign education to get its funding. Both Mrs DeVos and President Trump need to accept that reality and decide what kind of a country and polity we will have with this vision of education and the “two-science” approach to managing the public that was funded by American taxpayers via the National Science Foundation.
That’s the beauty of systems science under whatever its current name acting as a cloaking device. Personal intentions can only become the point again when the elements that make education a ‘system’ designed to control what each student has internalized at a neurobiological level are grasped. Remember noogenetics? We have to understand that control over the decision-making capacity of a student so that their future behavior is now predictable and plannable is what gets touted as Evidence-Based Education grounded in science. That aim is what makes a student assessment “high-quality”. Controlling Learning at this level is what gets a charter renewed and access to federal money to expand into new states.
Where’s the Actual choice in any of these visions with this common aim?
Systems Science is really ceasing to be a catchy slogan. Best to grasp its essence before it gets yet another new name.