Since Epistemically Secure Society is rather a mouthful, let’s shorthand this useful phrase as ESS. It’s an important semantic tool to grasp though as it builds on the Shared Reality aspiration we covered in the last post, as well as the rather remarkable set of events set in motion around the US Presidential election. The type of demonstrably provable factual events media platforms will no longer allow to be mentioned or disseminated. The type of assertions, that despite sets of affidavits, may get a lawyer sanctioned now if they push the stories in Michigan. They may be true, but they deviate from the desired narrative of events and thus threaten the ESS. It fits too with how learning standards work and their component conceptual frameworks that now constitute Knowledge with a capital ‘K’. These approved concepts or theories that the standards both disseminate and mandate act as a common core of perception and motivation for future decision-making. The officially approved set of filters installed at a neural level is another way to put it.
The ESS phrase was laid out in a document called “Tackling Misinformation During Crisis” which stated this in October
The current COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying ‘infodemic’ clearly illustrate that access to reliable information is crucial to coordinating a timely crisis response in democratic societies. Inaccurate information and the muzzling of important information sources have degraded trust in health authorities and slowed public response to the crisis. Misinformation about ineffective cures, the origins and malicious spread of COVID-19, unverified treatment discoveries, and the efficacy of face coverings have increased the difficulty of coordinating a unified public response during the crisis.
In a recent report researchers at the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) in collaboration with The Alan Turing Institute and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) workshopped an array of hypothetical crisis scenarios to investigate social and technological factors that interfere with well-informed decision-making and timely collective action in democratic societies.
The UK’s Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence put that out October 21, and a newsletter in the US tied to global change aspirations linked to it in mid-November, after the election. I was struck when I read it how well the expressed aspiration fit with everything I was hearing in the name of Equity in the US and the Science of Learning and Development being led by Biden Education Advisor Linda Darling-Hammond. It fits with an interview I watched before Christmas with the same NCEE that created the New Standards Project where the name David Albury came up. I tracked that new name to a 2016 Australian document called “Innovating for Global Excellence,” which matter-of-factly informed readers that China too had embarked on an ideas-oriented transformation of its educational system. A little research confirmed that shift.
When a well-known dictatorship wanting to be the world’s dominant power thinks an ‘ideas’ curriculum reform is also compatible with its plans, the potential embodied in ESS certainly comes into perspective. It fits with how the media in the US seemed to coordinate to keep out any bad news about one candidate prior to the election, while refusing to cover even documented election fraud. As the Leverhulme paper put it: “If there is no shared belief among the actors in a community about the nature of a crisis or the efficacy of a proposed response, collective action is less likely to come.”
And it turns out collective action and its need for a common core of a widespread shared belief among the actors is what ESS is all about. Since we are all living in the midst of this, I thought the phrase would be a helpful arrow in our quiver of recognizing what we are dealing with and all these plans for transformation over this next decade. Many of us with 20-something graduates will recognize that the expressed “need for robust and reliable systems of information production and dissemination” is already being met by elite higher ed institutions and the media and tech platforms are merely following suit. The Leverhulme paper may have premised the need for an ESS “in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming 2020 elections,” but it also recognized it as the “solution to managing infodemics” which require a coordinated effort to control what information is produced, disseminated, and how it is UNDERSTOOD by individual minds:
the promotion of epistemically secure democracies will help us be more resilient to similar events in the future.
Methinks in an ESS, there will be no inconvenient assertions about fentanyl overdoses when a horrible video emerges that can become a totem for allegations of systemic racism meriting the wholesale transformation of society, its component minds, institutions, and prevailing normative values. Another paper I located in a footnote to that Science of Development and Learning openly called for a New Sociology of Education that would enable a TPS–a Totally Pedagogized Society. No wonder the Chinese are on board and digital learning experiences are now becoming ubiquitous. The TPS and the ESS go together nicely like interlocking gears turning something much bigger. No need to point out that the TPS analogy for what is needed now compared it to “the medieval period during which Religion played a totally pedagogising role and function.”
Awareness of TPS and ESS as openly expressed global aspirations help us understand what is going on around us and what is ahead of us in a way that clearly deviates from the hoped-for widespread shared belief system. Let’s stick though to the facts as long as we can. I joke about my bookshelf, but I did go looking there yesterday for insights after I decided these unequivocal concepts actually helped me grasp what otherwise seems to live more like bad science fiction than the reality that 2020 has been. I landed first on Richard Falk’s 1975 book A Study of Future Worlds from the World Order Models Project that the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations funded that I have covered previously here at ISC [see tag]. Its Prospectus for Transition seemed to be precisely what Donald Trump’s surprise Presidential election in the US in 2016 or the earlier Brexit referendum shock from that same year seem to have interrupted. See if this sounds familiar if a bit off schedule:
In terms of political action we anticipate t1, the 1970s, to be the decade in which value changes occur mainly on the level of political consciousness, i.e., orientations toward action. In t2, the 1980s, the main value changes will involve mobilization for action to achieve the new value priorities, while in t3, the 1990s, the focus will be on action to achieve transformation of institutions and organizations, both to alter value and goal priorities and to adapt organizational forms to the emerging value consensus.
Just because the timing is off, doesn’t mean the plans changed. Unlike the bolding in this post, those italics were in the original Proposal for Transition. I think Professor Falk and WOMP’s funders were a bit optimistic in how much it would take to change minds. That is probably why both sources of funds began to push educational reforms around conceptual frameworks beginning in 1980. Now we also get Competencies and Performance learning standards that fit right in with Mobilization for Action. Beyond Falk’s plans though, I also pulled Kenneth Minogue’s always excellent book The Servile Mind. His insight of what had changed in our conception of society really hits its mark in 2020, ten years after its publication.
…our very conception of society has changed. It is no longer an association of independent self-moving individuals, but rather an association of vulnerable people whose needs and sufferings must be remedied by the power of the state.
A few pages later in the book’s Introduction Minogue pointed out that
At the heart of Western life as we inherited it within living memory are self-conscious individuals guiding their destinies according to whatever moral sentiments they entertain…this moral idiom is being challenged by another, in which individuals find their identifying essence in supporting public policies that are both morally obligatory and politically imperative.
That’s the essence of learning standards properly understood all over the globe and the ESS and TPS they are to lead to in the 21st century. It is also the reason, I believe, that the False Narrative around education reforms, especially the Common Core, that commenced in earnest in 2011 in a most coordinated manner, keeps tying back to certain public policy think tanks. We will cover that more in 2021 so we can ‘be alert to the semantics’ as Minogue put it in this quote. Seems like an excellent way to finish this post and this troublesome year designed to resurrect the desired Transition and Transformation from unexpected electoral interferences.
I for one am not dismayed that attitudes have a life of their own, and that the demos in the twenty-first century is not entirely plastic material suitable to be sculpted by rulers. Rulers may get excited about ‘changing the culture,’ but modern peoples are usually brutish enough to resist being improved. Being alert to the semantics by which the moral has been transposed into the manipulable is one protection against a gullible acquiescence to the projects of government.
ESS and TPS, election fraud with no legal remedy, allegations of systemic racism with no regard to the facts, mask mandates regardless of whether they work, and lockdowns whatever the economic destruction and lack of efficacy–just a few of 2020’s Projects of Government.
See you in 2021 so we can stay alert to the semantics and try to avoid the mental and socio-emotional sculpting.