What if I told you that global conferences none of us were invited to have Slideshares available laying out “By transforming individual conceptual systems, we can change society?” All of a sudden all that emphasis on New Kinds of Thinking and stipulating the desired categories of thought and, even in the US, making annual assessment of those ‘Higher Order Thinking Skills’ a federal mandate for virtually all students, begins to make sense. Transformation plans need malleable citizens either unaware of the plans for them or eagerly on board. There was a meeting in October 2017 in Chengdu, China of the International Academy for Systems and Cybernetic Sciences where the IASCYS President usefully pointed out the desire to examine the “effect that a theory has on the system observed.” If you control the conceptual framework of a student or adult citizen’s mind, you control the theories they will use to perceive and interpret the world.
Very handy for anyone seeking to reject the status quo in terms of political, economic, and social structures. Suddenly, science needs to shift to include purposeful systems and education needs to shift to control the purpose of human systems. In a Newtonian, transmission of knowledge world via textbooks or lecture, “scientific theories do not alter” the physical structure of the world and how it operates or can be made to operate. “Theories do not change the way that nature works…But theories of social systems are constructed in the hope that theories will guide actions that will change the way social systems operate. There is a dialogue between theories and societies.” If theories are to be introduced via public policy think tanks and a new vision of the law to transform social and political institutions and practices and economic structures and activities, controlling the human conceptual system turns out to be the foundation for making the change without overt coercion.
IASCYS is a cybernetics honor society that features many names we have stumbled over in education plans such as Ervin Laszlo, Mary Catherine Bateson who was at the 1987 World Order Models Project meeting in Moscow (her dad Gregory Bateson coined the term ‘framing’ back in 1972 in his Ecology of the Mind), Ernest von Glasersfeld of constructivist math fame (covered in Chapter 3 of CtD), and George Soros, international mischief maker. If the President of that society on one of his last slides stated that “If Cybernetics is seen as a theory of experimentation and reform in social systems, it will connect the earlier work in cybernetics with political reform and the evolution of society,” then we have powerful people wanting to use the mind’s conceptions to change how the world works. They can do that if education targets people’s goals and purpose by altering how they make sense of the world.
Almost simultaneously with stumbling across that slideshare, the globalist Center for Curriculum Reform published Artificial Intelligence in Education: Promises and Implications for Teaching & Learning which also stressed targeting a Core Concept emphasis where the curriculum would develop the highly malleable ‘expert amateurism’ that “aims for ‘a robust and flexible understanding of the fundamentals.’ By internalizing the most important concepts of each discipline, and across disciplines, which we call core concepts, students are better equipped to deal with multifaceted problems and have a more diverse set of tools with which to interpret the world.” Then in Appendix 1 under desired Cross-Cutting Themes we are told that students need to have Design Thinking because “the twenty-first century challenges we now face are demanding a major rethinking and redesigning of many of our societal institutions from education, to agriculture and energy use, to product design and manufacturing, to economics and government.”
Well, that’s confessional, but it followed a push for the theme of Systems Thinking which “requires a shift from the mechanistic and reductionist model of twentieth century Western culture [where the theories did not impact nature. See Slideshare above], toward a more balanced approach.” You know who else wanted to get Theory into Practice? Uncle Karl and John Dewey. The Appendix then goes on to hype:
According to educational theorist and cognitive scientist Derek Cabrera, students should be encouraged to consider distinctions, systems, relationships, and perspectives (DSRP).
**Distinctions: develop increasingly sophisticated characterizations of ideas and objects
**Systems: Deconstruct ideas and re-constructing new integrated concepts with a variety of part/whole interactions
**Relationships: See connections between things
**Perspectives: See things from different points of view
By considering the common properties of complex systems, learners can apply this approach to view more traditional disciplines from a modern, systems perspective.
Now two things jumped out at me when I read that, DSRP functioned just like Dialectical Materialism did as a guiding philosophy of academics in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Plus I remembered reading that after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Soros’ Open Society funded the conversion of the DiaMat departments in Eastern European higher ed to a sociology (science of society) emphasis. Secondly, I had never heard of Derek Cabrera which is a tad unusual at this point. I was able to locate his “Simple Rules of Complex Conceptual Systems” paper and was told that “Context is a set of processing rules for content,” which seems highly useful for someone seeking transformative change in the status quo. Even more forthcoming was his statement in pushing DSRP that:
all human and group identity is derivative of the aggregation of conceptual systems for the individual or group. In other words, humankind is what it thinks either alone or in groups or sub-groups…In general, human beings are not irreparably divided by biology or geography, but instead by their conceptual systems…What causes humans to be incompatible are their conceptual systems in the form of beliefs, ideologies, ideas, and assumptions.
Another speaker at Chengdu also wrote a paper “Addressing the Critical Need for “New Ways of Thinking’ in Managing Complex Issues in a Socially Responsible Way” which ominously has a section called “Starting with the Young”. It made it clear that the foundation that must be changed to achieve sustainability is to alter Prevailing “Mental Models/mind Maps/ People’s Understanding”. That is the prerequisite transformation which is precisely why it gets pitched euphemistically as ‘student-centered personalized learning’ or ‘citizen-centric governance’. Having targeted the individual mind and imposed the desired theories, categories of thought, values, and attitudes practiced until they are Habits of Mind, “Systemic Structures–What does the System Look Like?” can be adjusted. That’s exactly what Cabrera’s DSRP trains students to do (and motivates them to want to do it.)
It’s not just CCR advocating this type of thinking, the website features school systems touting his Systems Thinking Made Easy “will transform your school district” and that “Developing every child into a systems thinker is an ethical imperative.” If that is not alarming enough, we have a closing quote around “developing shared consciousness across the district.” How very comradely. Cabrera did rather betray the transformational intention by admitting that “DSRP also provides a mechanism for the memetic behavior that must exist in order for evolutionary epistemology to be a viable proposal.” In other words, a transmission of knowledge curriculum does not force the needed change in worldview and daily behaviors desired for the Inclusive, Equitable, Transformative vision all these education reforms and new ways of thinking are tied to.
To add to the global push for these changes I found this https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/K-03-2017-0120 showing the Russian Science Foundation’s current interest in this kind of conceptual, 3rd order cybernetics. Finally, school districts may be imposing Cabrera’s DSRP, but Cornell Policy Review clearly shows it is a university level textbook intended for public policy coursework. Two purposes in social science achieved with one book. Changing the conceptual mind’s function via K-12, and also using it to credential in higher ed so that students can go to work for think tanks, philanthropy, governments at every level, or even run for office implementing these theories in the real world.
Today the OECD, working with the US NSF Science of Learning Centers Project released “Developing Minds in the Digital Age: Towards a Science of Learning for 21st Century Education” that laid out precisely how curriculum and technology will quietly implement this agenda. In a preschool, no less. I guess that fits with Cabrera’s quote that “When a mind is young, few conceptual bonds have been made and there is still much conceptual space in which to work.”
Practically a blank canvas is another way to put that aspiration. Just the vehicle for DJEM–Designed Joint Engagements with Media.