Titanic Alert! The Iceberg Problem and the Blueprints for Proximal Volitional Regulators

“When we do indeed decide to pushback against our evolved nature” would have been the rest of the title, but that would have been too long. Moreover, when a book linked to here https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-10-07-what-we-need-to-unlearn-and-relearn-to-thrive-in-the-future contrasts its intentions for social reengineering at a biological level with what Stalin and Mao tried to do, I think we should pay attention on whether the distinctions are valid. First, though, let me quote from a 2019 book being talked about all over the world Second Nature: How Parents can use Neuroscience to Help Kids Develop Empathy, Creativity, and Self-Control, even though for some reason my copy of the book said it had already been discarded by the Phoenix Public Library. Perhaps before any parent could make the connection between language in Arizona’s ubiquitous charter schools and what Erin Clabough lays out to get the desired neural rewiring in place?

This is from the concluding chapter called “Parents Shape Future Free Will,” which sounds lovely, except if learning standards, school charters, mission statements, or Portrait of a Graduate require those same practices, then the effect is the same. Suddenly, math, science, or history are not about the transmission of knowledge. It is instead:

…this is why the way experience crafts our neurons is so important…If a person’s actions are governed by neural pathways that aren’t accessible by consciousness, then that person’s choices and actions may not be governed by true free will. And the most compelling part of this for parents is that as neuroscience research pushes toward mapping the way neurons are connected, we’re learning that if we can trace brain circuits, we can also predict behavior with nearly 100% accuracy…

kids are born with a vast network of synaptic connections–a wealth of possible connections that are then eliminated one by one as they lie unused. And in exchange, the pathways that have been activated–one to learn the letter g, another to recognize the smell of an oatmeal cookie, and yet another to understand it’s not okay to hit a playmate–are strengthened and remain, since neuronal pathways get stronger when used…Freedom of decision is possible, though it’s governed by neuroanatomy that can’t change instantaneously. We are defined by our neural circuits, and those circuits are defined by use…

if what we call free will is a natural biological process, then not only can neuroscientists track it, but parents are placed in a unique position to craft it. As parents, we have this miraculous opportunity to lay down those critical brain pathways for our children simply by deciding what they practice. When repeated practice makes something a habit, neurophysiology changes, and future behavior choices narrow.

That was a longer than usual quote because the self-regulation that comes from the brain’s planned neuroanatomy in this vision of what learning experiences can do showed up in several recent papers for our schools. Professor Clabough footnoted to a January 1993 paper called “Mechanisms of Self-Regulation: A Systems View” by Paul Karoly that made it crystal clear that references to ‘standards-based education’ in the 1990s, or now, are simply goal-based education where the desired results are neural structures that become Habits of Mind to guide perception, the interpretation of daily experiences, and the motivation to act. So reports like this https://www.inacol.org/resource/aligning-education-policy-with-the-science-of-learning-and-development/ or this https://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/05-SAL-What-Educators-Need-to-Know-About-Adolescent-Development_FINAL.pdf , both pushed last week, need to be read in light of the planned neuroanatomical changes.

Also last week, we had this paper that I found to be rather curious https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/overcoming-the-challenges-facing-innovative-learning-models-in-k-12-education-lessons-from-teach-to-one/ , especially since the author had never written for AEI before. He also had the same last name as the Harvard prof who created the Mind, Brain, Education template. Joel Rose turned out to be tied to something called the New Classroom Innovation Partners, which had Tom VanderArk as an Advisory Board member and his Getting Smart was pushing those two reports above. Also on the Board was the former district superintendent of the school system where I live that my children attended. Many of the insights that would ultimately become Credentialed to Destroy came from listening to his deliberate misrepresentations to parents and school board members as to what terms meant and what the curriculum changes actually intended to accomplish.

Neuroanatomical changes to students’ brains are not an effect, in other words, but the entire purpose of these education reforms. When the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Joel Roses’s group is tied to the global evidence-based policymaking template and last week’s winners of the Nobel Economics Prize, we have our ties to the ‘evidence-base’ in education being changes to the neuroanatomy of the brain in planned, hoped-for ways. The group had recently put out this report https://www.icebergproblem.org/ that was supposedly about math deficits in certain students. Anyone who has read Karoly’s paper though (and it has been translated into other languages), would recognize that what is really missing are “deficits in memory, attention, or knowledge [that] compromise the effectiveness of the proximal volitional regulators.” Translating that quote into slightly less stilted language would mean that a student is missing a neural pathway needed for him or her to perceive and act as desired.

When New Classroom Innovation Partners writes that “Our hope is for a new perspective on accountability that preserves rigor, transparency, and equity, while also creating the space for new approaches to learning that have the potential to achieve better results for all students,” that lofty language actually pushes practices that have as their purpose neuroanatomical changes to the brain. The opening quote came from Nicholas Christakis’ 2019 book Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society (which had also been discarded by the Jefferson County, Colorado system that has also been home to so many education reforms). Among the funders was the Gates Foundation that underwrote so much of the curriculum created for the Common Core learning standards and the related progressions (detailed in CtD) and the Templeton Foundation whose Conscious Cultural Evolution, Positive Neoroscience, and Jubilee Center work we have covered recently on this blog. It had blurbs from Angela Duckworth of Grit, the Character Lab, and National Growth Mindset Network fame, as well as from Jonathan Haidt who will be the keynoter at Jeb Bush’s annual ed conference this year (in San Diego).

Nicholas Christakis’ father, Alexander, was involved in the 1968 Rockefeller Foundation conference at Bellagio that would give rise to the Club of Rome and later became tied to the 1980s GERG-Global Evolution Research Group that created the Achieving Excellence template that became so controversial in Colorado schools. When Nicholas writes of ‘learning’ as a tool in planned cultural change as a medical doctor and sociologist, he knows precisely what the plans involving this term have been through the decades. To pull together the last several posts, it strikes me that George Will in his Soulcraft book, Candace Vogler with Self-Transcendence and her work with the Vatican’s Humanity 2.0 Initiative, and the Lightbearers curriculum are all trying to get at the same kind of neural change via education as Nicholas Christakis.

Each of these writers is pushing a vision of education tied to What kind of society is good for us?, except none of us are part of the group planning ‘thoughtfully’ the desired neuroanatomical changes. This is the contrast with Mao according to Christakis:

A notable aspect of Mao’s philosophy was an analogous confidence in the malleability of human behavior, on both individual and collective levels. Mao felt that the state must directly intervene to shape the belief and actions of human beings because the transformation of society ‘depends entirely on the consciousness, the wills, and the activities of men.’ Mao did not think highly of notions of an innate, shared human nature.

Mao’s views sound remarkably like Soulcraft, agency-based education, and Tranzi OBE, don’t they? Those are just a few of the euphemisms used over time to mask this transformational template. Are we really comfortable with a distinction as to whether it is okay to rewire brains for political purposes if one argues that the ‘learning’ being created is simply uncovering our preexisting ‘good’ human nature? All of these pushes want to get at the realm of moral judgments precisely because the writers want to place the emphasis away from “the state the world is in” to “the state we would want it to be in”. What Clabough pushed above to be neurally practiced until the pathways created a habit as Creativity and Empathy gets to the same place as what Christakis stated as “moral judgments implicitly contain commands. Ought invites us to do something in a way that is does not.” Templeton and Professor Vogler push the same vision as a Science of Virtues.

Is it really a valid distinction to push visions of education that get at the neurobiological realm in order to control future behavior in a difficult to perceive way because the future vision will “be good for us”?

How can anything be good for us when it has been shrouded in so much deceit? Is this why no amount of school shootings has ever been able to alter this template for neurobiological change?

Is global governance in the 21st century not about any kind of world parliament or binding judiciary, but rather the neural structures global learning standards and prescribed learning experiences, especially via technology and virtual reality, can deliver?

Just because we are not invited to these meetings does not mean that the purpose of the meetings and the sought changes cannot be tracked. Next time though a book is too direct in its laid out blueprints for change, it should probably be truly discarded in a trash bin and not resold to someone who recognizes either the name of the author or the book’s connections to plans for schools and students.


17 thoughts on “Titanic Alert! The Iceberg Problem and the Blueprints for Proximal Volitional Regulators

  1. Pity please, Robin and all the good folks who follow this site:

    I need an elevator speech, or something appropriate to the attention-challenged people in my field, executive coaching, and with regard to neural programming, and social engineering agendas that have now been embedded.

    I am tired of coming off like a curmudgeon, or a person who simply does not ‘get it’, or worse yet, a “conspiracy theorist”.

    Could you please HELP ME craft a terse little explanation as to why I do not think Carl Rogers or client/student/person-centered anything is a good idea; or why I think Transpersonal Psychology is an un-researched, quasi-religion, etc., etc.

    The challenge in communicating these sentitiments seems to lie in the fact that the humans I am communicating them to are willing victims of the programming.

    All suggestions MUCH APPRECIATED!!!

    • I had to go find the book I had in mind as I believe that Carl Rogers’ work is key to what is now known as Integral Consciousness and the practices it mandates have known neural effects. I went to my chronologically organized library and pulled Steve McIntosh’s Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution: How the Integral Worldview is Transforming Politics, Culture and Spirituality and once again it is clear that person-centered makes the neural changes the focus. The concern is not knowledge, but creating at a physiological level the receiver/transducer that controls what gets noticed and what gets ignored (the receiver function) and then how that perception is interpreted by the mind’s structures that have been deliberately instilled to interpret in a politically useful way. I am working this weekend on something called the Living Systems Framework that ties together everything I have ever encountered in CtD, this blog, and all the things I have documented as I work on the rest of the story.

      I have also discovered the very term ‘self-regulation’ in English traces back to Soviet psychologist Luria, whose reesearch has been captured in what is called Cultural-Historical Activity Theory in the US. If the words ‘goals’ and ‘standards’ are synonyms (which Karoly says they are), then Clabough’s statement here could substitute standards for goals.

      Goal setting is the process of setting an intentional outcome(a goal) to serve as the aim of one’s actions…Bribing is absolutely worth using to craft brain development at sensitive times. We know practice strengthens pathways. Regardless of what motivates you to act, in the end, your decision to do so uses the same neuronal connections, and practice activates those same neural pathways. You could literally just activate the neural pathway with an electrode placed in the brain, and it would have the same effect. Those pathways are growing stronger. And once used, they’re more likely to be used the next time.

      I will think about some more when one of my kids isn’t hollering “Mom”.

      • Robin, thank you very much for this, and I am happy to say we are AT LEAST discussing the need to understand and solidify our position on Rogers, et al.

        Also, I received a desperate message from a Canadian professor this AM. Story is that a colleague participated in an Erhard “Ontological Leadership” program, and has now convinced faculty to include this course in the offering next term. The prof wants to stop this but needs ammunition.

        I really think we need a simple white paper/set of FACTs that educators of any stripe can use to push back.



          Even a few years back, I was relishing my role in the coaching field and saw it as an opportunity to provide a very valuable service, and to engage in continuous learning on my side. It does not get better than that!

          But, it got significantly worse, when use of various technologies was being mandated from on-high, and client work had less and less to do with business needs and more to do with neural and social engineering.

          All I can think to do, now, is to use my knowledge and expertise to help folks like the professor mentioned above, put the breaks on this nonsense.

          My sense is quite a few people sense that something is quite rotten in Denmark, but don’t have the information at hand to protest this rottenness. I hope we can help!!!

        • This may help as the Living System Framework cites Carl Rogers numerous times as well as Milton Rokeach, who actually created the term ‘competency’ under a government research grant in the 60s. I know in coaching you are seeing competency frameworks as well mandated by those with the authority to shut down an entity from its revenue streams. Quite a hammer for compliance as with accreditation in K-12 or higher ed. Notice how much ‘valuing’ is emphasized and then appreciate that the World Bank last week circulated speeches from the recent UN opening in NYC and there was the same Angela Duckworth cited in this post and described here https://www.bu.edu/ccsr/professional-development/ryan-symposium-what-builds-character-with-dr-angela-duckworth/ laying out about how all her Character Work was to enable the SDG implementation. World Collective Governance at a neural level.

          Humans appear to have an inborn valuing process that matures under certain conditions [cite to Rogers 1951] which enables them to regulate their functioning, to construct personal and social values from their own experience, and to adopt values constructed and provided by other humans. These constructed values are evaluative cognitions that function as standards instead of criteria by which people can judge or evaluate their behavior and regulate interpersonal relations.

          The operation of this valuing process results in a ‘learned organization of rules’ or a ‘value system’ which a person uses ‘for making choices and resolving conflicts’ between two or more desirable ‘modes of behavior’, that is, ‘instrumental values‘ or between two or more ‘terminal states to strive for,’ that is, ‘terminal values‘. In addition these values are used as ‘standards for evaluating ourselves and others,’ ‘justifications for thoughts and actions,’ and as ‘guides for maintaining and enhancing self-esteem.’ [cite to Rokeach, 1968, 1973, 1979] Thus, this valuing or regulatory process functions to establish priorities among goals and means, and to influence transactional behaviors so they produce consequences that conform to those priorities.

          Precisely the realm the MH vision needs to change and probably why the NEA co-sponsored Maslow and Rogers Becoming vision in the 1962 book. Same year the MH vision launched globally if you have my collection of books.

          How do you feel about coincidences?

          • This is my original Milton Rokeach post from September 2012. http://invisibleserfscollar.com/targeting-student-values-attitudes-and-beliefs-to-control-future-behavior/

            I had forgotten about the 1978 NEA Values Education initiative, but it certainly fits with that quote and the ties to Rogers and competency.

            I found this while looking for that Duckworth link on SDGs. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education/brief/the-science-of-learning-expert-series

            Clabough recently joined UVa where Willingham is and Davidson is heavily involved with CASEL and also the Dali Llama. Here is his lecture http://blogs.worldbank.org/education/can-changing-your-mind-change-world

            Also, this https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education/brief/world-bank-unesco-institute-for-statistics-join-forces-to-help-countries-measure-student-learning Remember UNESCO is a partner in the Center for Curriculum Redesign at Harvard/MIT and I found Clabough at a Russian ed forum speaking where Fadel was also speaking. Apparently the Living System Framework is grounded in what the Soviets and the Eastern Europeans called ‘action theory’. Lots of cites to Lauren Resnick’s work and she of course co-headed the new Standards Project, created the HOTS template that federal law now requires annual assessment for, and was involved with the Common Core.

            See what I mean about a single actual template with a myriad of names?

          • ARGH…

            What a bitch’s brew of affiliations hath the founder of the “Character Lab”. If I ticked off a list of the most devoid of character people I know, many have been associated with Boston University, the World Bank, Harvard…I simply shudder.

            A few months ago, I participated in a coaching program with a former principal of the World Bank’s OD program. Whilst we were brainwashing to participants with messages about noble and worthy characters, onto the screen flashed images of Gandhi, and Nelson Mandella. The aforementioned creature became dewey-eyed and started rhapsodizing about non-violence/non-violent change. I could take no more and had to summon some ‘facts’ about the Mandella’s and ‘necklacing’; and Gandhi’s selective violence. I got ‘the look’!!!

            See my comments about the student interns…who are amazing absent ‘character’.

            I keep threatening to drop them into a steel mill in Kawasaki, but I think it is too late on the character-building front, alas.

          • I think I have remembered the paper on Irreversible Change from Vicki Phillips (before she moved on to Oregon and then the Gates Foundation) and Michael Barber (before the peerage and Pearson) where they pushed the idea that behaviors drive beliefs. It goes to creating change as an ontological fact. This paper used to be impossible to find, but now is more accessible. I found it here https://www.hkier.cuhk.edu.hk/document/OP/OP32.pdf

            I think the pyramid on page 20 is precisely what you were getting at in the link you shared offline and what coaching and K-12 ed reforms now have in common in the era of performance standards as measures of student ‘achievement’.

            “Winning hearts and minds is not the best first step in any process of urgent change. Beliefs do not necessarily drive behaviour. More usually, it is the other way round–behaviours shape beliefs. Only when people have experienced a change do they revise their beliefs accordingly. And often they must experience change over a period of time for such beliefs to change permanently. Denial is a powerful force and it is not always possible to overcome resistance simply by attempting to win hearts and minds. Sometimes it is necessary to mandate the change, implement it well, consciously challenge the prevailing culture, and have the courage to sustain it until beliefs shift. In other words, sometimes it is more effective to show people something or to let them experience it than to tell them about it. The driving force at this critical juncture is leadership.

            That definition of leadership certainly sounds like an elite that know better what is good for us, doesn’t it? Blueprint for a Good Society indeed.

      • Related to the above, I had an interesting conversation with my young ward, yesterday. This person in an 18 year-old product of NYC preparatory academy. I was discussing with him ‘trends’ I had seen in Human Resource Management practice over the years, and all of the fallacious constructs that would be ‘in vogue’ one year, and go poof in the next. This chat at points touched on the idea motivational drivers (the individual employee’s agenda) in the context of larger organizational agendas.

        The 18 year-old took pains to tell me that this being the most ‘progressed’ of times, and he being a product of that progressive, ever advancing agenda — well, “we focus now on individuality, that each student is unique”.

        I had to inform him that in my experience of 12 ‘unique’ human interns, I struggled to tell one from another in terms of their stated values and beliefs, and behaviors. I corrected in saying that there was (1) who differed, a female computer science major, one of (2) in her section, who seemed to hold what we would call traditional values, and did not appreciate having her IT lectures peppered with inter-sectionalist ideological rants.

        So, what I would say based on my tiny sample is that a generation of humans has been created that believes themselves to be individually unique, but who are for most intents and purposes, interchangeable — same knowledge base, same interests or lack thereof, same squidgy, vague political sentiments, same obliviousness to the world around them.

  2. Now I don’t feel sorry for Nicholas Christakis any more. He was the recipient of the shrieks and lecturing from Shrieking Girl and her crowd a few years ago.

    I admit to a more mundane reaction to that “Iceberg Problem” link. If the kids who are behind on 6th grade math at the end of 6th grade, can’t improve any of that in the course of learning 7th grade material i.e. their brain is just little compartments and they never relate anything to anything else in a different compartment, then they’ll never be what we used to expect from a high school graduate anyway. They’re hopeless!

    But the idea that they could be administering psychological assessment and move people aside for extensive psychological remediation later, if they somehow slip through the indoctrination the first time unchanged, is pretty horrible to contemplate.

    • Notice the importance of ‘learning standards’ to the reenvisioning because they created an Appendix for the significant events. What is missing could be a math skill or phonological needed element, but it can also be desired category abstractions, values, or goals. All of those come under the rubric of ‘higher order abstractions’ in the Living System Framework that ties to everything and everyone tied to ed reforms.

      I think it was his wife Erika, who wrote the common-sense Halloween memo that caused the outrage, that had Shrieking Girl, but I remember at the time wondering how someone could have moved in and out of so many hard to get into programs. Remember it was his father Alexander who first mentions the Rockefeller 1968 conference at Bellagio that laid out the social science push to reimagine the future. Very unusual to have someone who has the medical background to recognize biological change and what can create it tied to an undergrad background in sociology at the very place-U-Penn–where his father says Ackoff went to begin pushing social systems reimagining at Wharton after the Club of Rome decided to go with the Meadows and Jay Forester’s simulations of supposed ‘hard science’ instead of the social science push to transform what people value and believe until it becomes prevailing collective cognition.

      Now we are clearly back to that. I am not done with the Iceberg Problem. I just, as usual these days, have quite a few real life impediments to writing quite as regularly as I would like.

  3. This is pretty funny. Now in California, they don’t call at-risk students “at-risk”. They call them “at-promise”. Which is OK with me I guess because I didn’t like the at-risk name either, it seemed to make some kids much more important to help than others, an idea I didn’t accept.

    Now everyone’s going to be a good little zombie and say how promising they are, and the worse they do the more promising they are!

  4. Robin, it will take me time to digest what you have sent. i will revert once I have.

    On a related note, I had lunch, today, with the person who coordinates the student intern program I support and participate in.

    This individual is under 30, and we lapsed into our usual conversation regarding, “what is wrong with these ‘kids’?

    We talked about the ostensible mission of the program; to expose students to international work and cultural environments; to build skills in communication, self-discipline in work…what one would expect.

    We then discussed what we encounter:
    1) kids who are completely oblivious to ‘culture’
    2) kids who do not recognize hierarchies of skill, achievement
    3) kids who vastly overestimate their current value to employers, i.e. expect leadership or influence role based on ‘no’ prior experience/achievement
    4) kids who view education/learning as a commodity that they have purchased, and the terms of which they can dictate
    5) kids who believe that in being kids they are better, smarter, more righteous than adults, and, therefore, their opinions are of ULTIMATE IMPORT
    6) kids who never receive negative or constructive f/b — its all good, just getting up in the AM is good
    7) kids who can’t compare or evaluate data, options — its all good
    8) kids who don’t process their own failures, e.g. two interns had missed the last train, ended up walking all night; described this as “a wonderful experience, full of fresh air, and and opportunities to see the countryside” ;-)….showing up late for work on multiple occasions and getting fired, would be “a chance to experience a new employer*.

    • You should take a look at this from today. https://gemreportunesco.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/educating-for-the-social-the-emotional-and-the-sustainable/#more-12481

      It really makes the global change at the level of the student clear. Gotta love the idea of Bangladeshi students ‘role playing’ to make the learning ‘deep’. Then there’s this “Cognitively-rich, motivational and nationally relevant topics should be developed to enrich the schooling of adolescents with ideas for responsible citizenship and sustainable development.” Sounds like Angela Duckworth’s use of the term.

      Or this: “It demands that textbooks support teachers to develop students’ empathy and sense of shared humanity, by including elements of social and emotional learning.”

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