“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.