What Happens When Sovereign Political Powers Get to Dictate the Way People Should Behave in the Future?

Years ago the Frankfurt School researchers stumbled upon a useful fact. Once people have heard the same pitch or story from someone they view as authoritative about five times or so, most people simply come to accept the pitch as true whether it is or not. Now as you can imagine, given the stated Frankfurter aim of altering the nature of Western culture towards a more collectivist orientation, this key point (from the Radio Project work if you want to look it up) became a Masterful Manipulation 101 strategy to be used for transformative political and social change. I think whoever was creating the broad outline of points to be pushed at last week’s (co)lab in Atlanta knew all about the Radio Project research.

As Harvard’s new Innovation Fellow Tony Wagner put it, perhaps not realizing someone was taking notes so determinedly, “we need to prime the adults for the change needed” and we need to “create the consensus necessary to preserve this change once it is introduced.” So what was the vision being pushed at (co)lab in addition to King’s ‘beloved community’ we talked about in the last post? Since the head of the US Council of Competitiveness, Deborah Wince-Smith, said the inaugural (co)lab is “going to be transformative for our country,” we really ought to know what is in store for us. It’s this new social and economic vision that requires a new ‘revolutionary’ vision of education as Ken Robinson called it. A vision of the future that requires us to be able to “think differently in the future” in order to meet that revolution and “do things in a different way.” Minds that are “responsive and flexible” so they can “adapt to a world of change” is how Sir Ken described it. Of course he also really liked the vision of change laid out in that Fulton district conversion charter and said so, which may well mean it will be coming to a community near you soon. Yikes!

So if Ms Wince-Smith is right and (co)lab was about Atlanta getting ready to “pioneer new policies and models for our nation,” what might we all expect? Well, the retired head of  Ernst Young said it was part of what is the “most profound geoeconomic shift in history.” Of course, he also said that this push started at the World Economic Forum in Davos about 3 or 4 years ago and was being pushed by CEOs globally. The dramatic changes sought were not just in “education but also infrastructure, transportation, and logistics.” In other words, a boondoggle for globally-operating, politically-connected, established businesses which is probably why it looks so much like Corporatism and authority capitalism.

In case you are getting worried that State capitalism is not a place where mass prosperity has ever reigned no matter how many times Statist professors utter the word ‘innovation’, one of the urban planning speakers informed us that “it was not the government deciding this is the future,” but rather “government plus nonprofits and business all together.” Feel better? Me neither but apparently a solid knowledge of history that recognized what comparable visions were called back in the 30s was in short supply. Or people who would have gasped in horror at the comment that “every half century we reinvent the paradigm for how communities should exist.” No, when planners and politicians make that call historically it never works out well. Someone is unfamiliar with the tragedies of Urban Renewal in the 60s in an earlier version of this state planning vision or the Chinese Ghost Cities of the present.

Other descriptions were the Post Post-World War 2 Model and the collaborative consumption new economy where human needs could be met by ‘currently underutilized assets’. That vision sponsored by April Rinne with her ties to WEF and its Dalian/Davos confabs we keep not getting invited to seems to be priming for the needs/support economy Shoshana Zuboff laid out in her 2002 book we have talked about. The sharing economy dovetails quite nicely April said (with her Harvard law degree she may have taken classes from Shoshana) with what would be its “largest beneficiary-the city.” April made it clear that her vision of the sharing economy was a “reintroduction of the social contract” and about  “building communities, not the marketplace.” In fact she said it was a new “way of seeing the world” where “I need” gets matched to “you have.”

Of course in this vision pretty soon any concept of private property goes away in function if not name since private property has always ultimately been about having a “Do Not Enter” personal zone that even a king could not infringe upon without consent. In this new vision, as we will see with ed in a minute, there is no more sphere that the political sovereign cannot try to direct or remake. Personal ‘sensibilities’ and ‘dispositions’ become the stated subject of needed change and more than one speaker also said that. You can only have private property in a society that has established the primacy of the rule of law and respect for the rights of individuals. As we have seen repeatedly, both of those are areas under coordinated attack by this new ‘revolutionary’ vision of education. Probably because they are impediments to the beloved community society with its new economy.

And Ground Zero for this shift are our urban areas. Washington, DC was said repeatedly to be gridlocked and broken so Atlanta’s mayor, fresh back from speaking at the TED conference in NYC on Reenvisioning The City: 2.0, said that “many of the powers now in DC should be shifted to the 50 largest metros.” Which will of course be an enormous boondoggle for the urban political machines. Taxpayers send money to DC. DC takes its cut to keep that area booming and then the money gets transferred to urban areas all over the country. How could prosperity not ensue? Well beyond political waste there is this pesky little detail that Tony Wagner actually defined the “innovation economy” as both “radically different” and “about solving the pressing problems we face on this planet as a species.”

With federal dollars targeted directly to so many urban areas apparently all things are now possible. I don’t think so but this is in fact the vision attached to all these ed reforms this blog has painstakingly laid out. Getting new kinds of minds and new ‘sensibilities’ and ‘dispositions’ is precisely why we keep encountering such a psychological emphasis as the real theory of how to close the achievement gap in a way that allows all children to ‘learn’ in a definition tied to behavioral change. Now I happen to think both the social and economic vision as well as the education reforms laid out will be toxic. But I do recognize the vision for ed being laid out by the speakers. Beyond Uncle Karl and John Dewey, it is the vision we have described from 1962 that Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers laid out as the new focus. It’s both where Psychosynthesis and the OECD’s Competency/Robert Kegan focus go when you peel away the misleading references to the PISA ‘test’. Now let me explain why all roads and pathways always lead back to a Curriculum of Affect.

In 1970 the Ford Foundation (which also was and is a huge funder of Urban Renewal and Regional Equity visions) published a book called Toward Humanistic Education: A Curriculum of Affect. It complained bitterly that when the focus of education and teaching was on subject matter–what you and I would call content knowledge–it did not “necessarily affect behavior“. And therefore people’s attitudes and actions “with regard to social injustice” needed to be changed in ways that would provoke desired actions. So school should become about discovering “the feelings, fears, and wishes that move pupils emotionally, that can more effectively engage pupils from any background.” By the way, that page kindly cites to Maslow and Rogers for doing research in this area. What are the odds?

That’s how All students can learn and why the methods used must be accessible to the least capable students or those who do not speak English. Which sounds much better as a  rationale than being honest and saying:

“the broad objectives of American education must include the preparation of students to engage in constructive personal and social behavior. We believe existing practice is not affecting behavior adequately. We also believe that in today’s complex, precarious world a society has little choice but to pursue the path toward humanitarian behavior…The ultimate purpose of this report, therefore, is to search for paths to greater consonance between education and the way in which people might or should behave.”

What a coincidence. More than 40 years later that seems to be the real purpose of  (co)lab, that TED-x City 2.0 conference, AND the actual education reforms being hidden as connected to the Common Core implementation.




24 thoughts on “What Happens When Sovereign Political Powers Get to Dictate the Way People Should Behave in the Future?

  1. It says a lot that they’re pushing to change the core of the individuals in the economy. But I’ve never seen a clear description of what they are pushing to create. If it’s not the individually expected-utility-maximizing rational individual, what is it? Behavioral economics and finance seem to be new hot fields even though to my eyes they look like random babbling with arbitrary assumptions and no reasonableness testing. Perhaps the future will be unreasonable. The present is getting pretty unreasonable too.

    My son’s Social Studies teacher said at parents’ night that the unit they’re now doing would be about “paying it forward, not paying it back.” The last part, “not paying it back,” really struck me. I though the basis of personal morality was to pay one’s debts, including maybe the unspoken debt to one’s family, then if one has some left over one can choose to give to charity. Clearly this is the paradigm she wishes to fight against. She’s such a believer she even said it explicitly, she doesn’t even realize it’s wrong. I always used to find Social Studies teachers annoying but I don’t remember they were this bad. She said she has been teaching 22 years, which is a long time but not as long as it’s been since I took Social Studies in school.

    “So school should become about discovering “the feelings, fears, and wishes that move pupils emotionally …” no wonder they keep making kids write journals that are a bit too personal for my 7th grader’s comfort level. He sometimes complains and we suggest what he could write about.

    • Hmmm… I read that comment from the teacher differently than you understood it. I thought she meant doing something kind to someone instead of “paying back” (ie seeking retribution) against someone who did something mean to you.

      • That would have been expressed more accuratly as “paying it forward instead of paybacks”
        Rather than ” paying it forward, not paying it back ” what is ” it “?
        These kids are in 7th grade?
        Endless Slogans like
        ” paying it forward ”
        are so trite at this
        point and meant to get into the psyche of vulnerable adolescence. Some teacher got the template from a free website. Teachers see themselves or are taught to feel they are
        ” practicioners” moral doctors of pedagogy who are evangelizing their progressive little c communitarian ideology… Its there duty! So no it seems unlikely that the teacher meant paybacks or retribution…
        Another point, its 7th grade so why the vague clever class title? Typically vague and multimeaning, ripe for parents to think its one thing while it is social justice tripe in reality.
        It smacks of redistribution….

      • Heidi, with all due respect I think you’re being naive. Here’s a plot summary of the movie “Pay it Forward” from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0223897/plotsummary

        “Plot Summary for
        Pay It Forward (2000) More at IMDbPro »

        Young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother’s alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward–repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. …”

        The plot doesn’t involve “returning good for evil”, an old phrase of more traditional morality I’ve seen at least 50 years ago. But I didn’t realize it was so self-referential for the Social Studies teacher to show it in class!

        The Chinese used to have “politics” class, maybe they still do, where in olden days students would do things like repeating phrases from speeches of Mao Zedong verbatim, in answer to prompts. This way the students were supposedly indoctrinated but it was unsophisticated and a student could pretty easily realize it was nonsense and just compartmentalize it. I think our Social Studies establishment is trying to do the same, but do it better. History is great, but its “little cousin” Social Studies taught before high school is not so good. I always found it vaguely annoying when I was in school, but it’s gotten more insistent in the eons between then and now.

        This social studies teacher made up an absolute lie about my son the following week, which my son and I were able to debunk in writing to the whole teaching “team”. It’s pretty much open warfare, minus the physical stuff of course.

        • There’s a reason David beyond what I have been writing on the blog. I was getting ready to write this morning and decided instead to glance at a book that had come from Bruno Latour in case it gave me insights into how to best explain to people why I literally keep coming across aims that say “we want the students thinking dialectically from now on.” I was not quite ready for what I came across even though it ties with everything we have discussed and what I know from book. Inside done. Cover being finalized. I changed spine slightly over weekend. But I am literally looking at it while keeping up with blog.

          What I read rang too true with what I heard at (co)lab not to be completely in motion at this point and moving nicely. I think Harvard’s push in innovation coming out of its education change work is to be comparable to Latour’s Innovation=Sociological Change work. Here’s a link I found today when I was verifying that what I feared was in fact what we are dealing with. http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/images/content/5/5/553591/30.Conley.pdf is one of the things I pulled up and it is short. It also has an innocuous title on the internet that is not the title of the piece. Odd, huh?

    • Hey David, i wrote alot of my kids personal journal life skills stuff, pointing it carefully in opposition of what they were looking for.
      I taught my kids to say ” this is not your business ” or make things up. Thats how bad it is, this is where we are. Pathetic and scary. I also told teachers we were not doing things, to give us an alternative.

      • So far we’ve been discussing and he’s been writing. but your solution is probably better. He just wouldn’t have to think as much about it.

        • Read Elliott Eisner if you want a feel for how the arts get used. It’s no accident that education radicals like Howard Gardner at Harvard and Sir Ken Robinson started their assaults via an emphasis on arts education. The aesthetic is emotional and non-rational.

          I have tried to explain to one of my kid’s that her ease in reading music, in addition to piano lessons, is because she reads phonetically and symbols for sound are 2nd nature to her.

          • Robin that’s an interesting comment about reading music, and I see that in my younger son too. He started on piano lessons but dropped out when he wouldn’t practice, but now he’s doing well on violin which seems to suit him better.

            Learning the arts with professional quality teaching, which Eisner recommends, is great. But the professionals learn scales, arpeggios, chords, the “alphabet” and building blocks of music, the musical equivalent of phonics. This enables them to apply their brains to the music. There’s no debate in the music community like “scales vs. whole music”, that would just be absurd. Even the modern music people master the classical stuff first.

            So unless he’s really proposing to drill all students on some beginning music theory (probably not a bad idea, but it might seem “mean”) what does he really think he can convey in school?

          • Nothing much. Elliott is a firm believer in using school to develop the aesthetic qualities Dewey wrote about. It equates to promoting the irrational mind as dominant.

            If you find Eisner’s 2002 John Dewey Lecture t Eisner you will see what I mean. Plus I have quite a few of his books. It is this view of his that is creativity in the 4 Cs of 21st century learning.

  2. I was just thinking how far down this road they have already advanced when you consider intellectual property and how widely Creative Commons licenses are being used today.

    So a possible answer to the question posed in the title is—we won’t even have the right to have an idea.

  3. Endless obfuscation but also endless admissions of the basic fundamentals of the bruntland commission, so nice to model that of norway for the good of all those altruistic souls from the third world at the UN who want to kill us. More dupes collecting baksheesh.
    Meanwhile the endless pontificating about new age transformation is like nails on a chalkboard to those who listen and like a lost melody in the distance to those who don’t. When will they hear it?
    When heard enough that maslow sounds like an idiot. Really it is all mad!
    I’m mad as you know but the other kind. Not wishing to spend
    my prime fighting the insane, or
    shadowboxing the cultural parasites and trolls.

      • Alberti’s unique use of the word “scenarios” reminds me of how you’ve described the PARCC. Fact or fiction, it doesn’t matter. They’re cloning Upton Sinclair.

        • They are hoping if you come to believe in the fiction so that it prompts you to act for change, it will alter the actual facts of the economy or society and prevalent Mindsets.

          But incentives still matter and the constant refrain of innovation is about new political and social arrangements that have perverse incentives.

          I was reading Will Durant’s book from the 50s on The Renaissance yesterday and it was a reminder of how predatory states and rulers make a middle class rare in history. The idea that government acting as overlord can make virtually everyone middle class by fiat makes about as much sense as decreeing they can all fly.

    • That’s timely. This was in my morning in-box from one of those integrating mind-body-soul entities and involves the Sustainability coordinator for Baltimore. http://www.garrisoninstitute.org/about-us/the-garrison-institute-blog/1798-collaborators-and-innovators-alice-kennedy

      When I read Robert Moses’ Radical Equations last year the Baltimore schools were one of those urban areas where the created dysfunction of the inner cities gets used to politically radicalize and then community organize the students.

      I monitor TOD-transit-oriented development-as part of paying attention to the ancillary aspects of the vision that radical ed reform, TOD, the sustainability emphasis are all angling to use to ensure social, economic, and political transformation. No one even pretends anymore that is not the purpose although they do still use metaphorical language to hide the true extent.

    • narciso-I was just thinking of you in connection with my Martha Nussbaum point about capability theory being what the feds are promoting through the federal agencies spending, especially with the Promise Zones. Just finished a Robin West Fordham law review article from 2001 where she pushed Nussbaum in a way that was so thoroughly Marxist in its theory without saying so that she bolstered my theory.

      It would also explain why I keep encountering Nussbaum’s theories and also why the Educational Leadership degree frameworks push accomplishing Amartya Sen’s human development theories.

      In the end it is always John Dewey’s vision.

  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLrrk_hF-aM

    This is a fascinating series of videos about 70 minutes long about the breakup of ethnic Catholic neighborhoods, the opening of inner cities to become entirely black, and subsequent busting of Catholic suburban neighborhoods. This housing-based solution to the US “nationalities question” is all is alleged to have been driven by national or international authorities, like what we’re seeing here with education.

    Similarly, it has a component emanating from the Soviet Union.

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