Another Gear Change: Perceiving the Patterns Underlying the Human Learning Process

Over the weekend, I was reviewing my notes and trying to figure out how to explain the common transformative aims of what has arrived in my inbox  since the beginning of 2019. A quote Kenneth Boulding made in the mid-70s in his book Ecodynamics: A New Theory of Societal Evolution jumped out at me. He wanted to target the “evaluative processes of human judgment, which are the foundations of decision-making,” just like UNESCO announced in May 2018 was to be their goal for K-12 education. laid out how to change images of the future and anticipatory assumptions and fits with what Boulding hoped for decades before.

“reasoning about the self and about society is likely to accelerate the patterns of evolutionary development, but we can be sure that reason as we know it today is not final…In the future we may be able to perceive patterns and handle models of complexity far beyond our present capability. Should this enable us to perceive the patterns underlying the human learning process itself, this might indeed constitute another gear change in the long process of evolution with a further acceleration of the evolutionary pattern through time…all decisions are about the future and all our experience and records are of the past. It is only as we see patterns in this past record that we have any hope of making projections of the future and of making decisions that will change the future in ways we desire. To change the future, after all, is the object of any decision.”

Now what if a planner with desires for fundamental transformations could control what “patterns are seen in this past record” by making learning conceptual, instead of factual? Couldn’t that planner and any learning standards created to internalize the desired pattern perception actually control people’s desired images of the future? That’s the plan anyway as an October 1991 article called “Ten Ways to Integrate Curriculum” made clear. It talked about using Concepts, Topics, and Categories so that eventually “The disciplines become part of the learner’s lens of expertise; the learner filters all content through this lens and becomes immersed in his or her experiences.” Some autonomy, huh? See why it mattered in the last post if the explicit instruction is to impart conceptual lenses, instead of imparting facts? Who will then recognize if the concepts are inapt and the provided example is false?

Before we talk about the social and emotional learning emphasis of this contrived web of perception and interpretation as laid out in that came out in January from the Aspen NCSEAD we have covered repeatedly, I want to pull up a January 1998 speech Martin Seligman (of IPEN and Positive Neuroscience among others) gave upon assuming the Presidency of the APA. Several of the people mentioned in the speech titled “Building human strength: psychology’s forgotten mission” are also involved with that Nation of Hope report and its supporting documents. wants to “create a science of human strength…focused on systematically promoting the competence of individuals.” That science’s goal and the new role of education will be to “foster these virtues in young people” as likely buffers against mental illness: courage, optimism, interpersonal skill, work ethic, hope, honesty and perseverance.

One of the supporting papers from that Nation at Hope vision can be found here from December 2018 and it is also tied to both that 1998 APA speech as well as the Nation at Hope NCSEAD vision. Its cover gives a nice concise definition of social and emotional learning (SEL) that fits with Boulding’s, Seligman’s, and now the NCSEAD plans for evolutionary education to a new kind of mind and decision-making processes.

SEL is defined as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

To change the future, after all, is the object of any decision is what Boulding wrote decades ago and suddenly that hoped for gear is the focus of so much interest and plans. A Nation at Hope states that “children require a broad array of skills, attitudes, and values.They require skills such as paying attention, setting goals, collaboration, and planning for the future. They require attitudes such as internal motivation, perseverance, and a sense of purpose. They require values such as responsibility, honesty, and integrity. They require the abilities to think critically, consider different views, and problem solve.” It goes on to talk about “helping children learn these traits and skills” using the usual contrived arguments so lets go back to Boulding’s far more forthcoming explanation:

“It may well be that biological evolution is approaching its end and that it will be succeeded by an evolutionary process wholly dominated by noogenetic processes directed by human values.”

Noogenetic may sound like a mouthful, but the prescribed concepts, categories, and topics, learning standards, competency-emphasis, SEL hype, are all examples of how experiences alter in foreseeable ways the genetic, biological material we were all born with. Think of all these books, plans, reports, and speeches as simply declarations of “Boy, do we have plans for you using the Holy Grail of education” to mask the hoped-for transformation. Remember how I called attention to the focus on values, attitudes, and beliefs in my book Credentialed to Destroy and then the False Narrative hijacked that insight to mean a database of PII on each student? A Nation at Hope explains that targeting like this: “No one involved in education can view the values and beliefs held by students as trivial or secondary. They are the very things that can grip the imagination and determine the direction of a life.”

Values, attitudes, and beliefs, in other words, act as the rudder of personal decision-making and being able to prescribe them and manipulate them is a crucial aspect of steering a society as a collective without effective opposition. Internalized at the level of ideas, images, and emotions is quite hard to see unless, like me, you keep stumbling across those very plans for internalized subordination and unknowing submission. The False Narratives themselves make far more sense when we read of the NCSEAD plans of Convergence using the SEL focus because “it brings together a traditionally conservative emphasis on local control and on the character of all students, and a historically progressive emphasis on the creative and challenging art of teaching and the social and emotional needs of all students, especially those who have experienced the greatest challenges.”

Right on cue, we had an essay by a Maryland State Education Board member and ed consultant Andy Smarick, with ties to a number of supposedly conservative or libertarian think tanks pushing for a vision he called Capacitating Conservatism which would see “policy as a tool for re-empowering individuals and their mediating institutions so that they can re-instill beliefs and practices that have atrophied.” If what is to be instilled has to live behind deceit about the true ed reform agenda and how learning standards really work, it’s not actually Conservative. That’s simply a label to gain implementation and support without opposition.

Human Flourishing as a goal does not come from deceitful, False Narratives of the kind we keep encountering. Yet if the Civil Society emphasis of that article’s author fits with A Nation at Hope‘s rhetoric about “effective education involves values, healthy attitudes, social skills, and a commitment to the betterment of the community,” we have a Convergence by think tanks around a common vision for education that is not being shared as they fundraise. If a Classical School’s Pillars of Excellence or a charter school network’s Due North Moral Compass also illustrate what A Nation at Hope envisions as  “working to transform schools into places that foster empathy, respect, self-mastery, character, creativity, collaboration, civic engagement and–on the strength of these values-academic excellence. They are encouraging communities to embrace the ambition, compassion, and rigor of social, emotional, and academic education,” assertions begin to make more sense.

Every one involved with these visions and the supposed alternatives appears to actually be going to the same place. They are on the same page to use a different metaphor. We are not supposed to grasp that though. Think about what Boulding said would be possible once Human Learning knowledge reached a certain point and then read this quote with the Header: “Think About the Skills that Help You Learn and Grow as an Adult Every Day.”

The ones that help you think, relate, and act responsibly. What if we could help our children develop that same set of skills in school? We know more than ever about what it takes for optimal learning; now is the time to put that knowledge into practice for all children everywhere.

Is the focus on Equity then, really about Fairness and Justice for All? Or is it a slogan that lets How We Think become a basis for prescription, monitoring, and adjustment for purposes of political change? The latter can be called ‘public policy’ as a euphemism and pitched instead as the “lessons, beliefs, and norms that make a free society succeed.” After all, how many students and adults grounded in supplied concepts, categories, and topics, coupled to contrived learning experiences to instill the desired Attributes, will recognize factually what free societies really had in common historically?

If we do, in fact, have an unacknowledged Convergence now globally around education the following quote makes more sense as it talks about the shared vision.

In Every Collective Human Endeavor There Comes a Moment–a moment when we know so much more about what we ought to do. A moment when multiple voices and perspectives coalesce around a shared vision. A moment when, together, we can make the possible real. In education, that moment is now.

I think the moment is now too, which is why it is so important to decipher the actual shared vision that is intended to transform us and our children. Professors Boulding and Seligman were honest about their intentions of transformation using education. The purposes of an Integrated Curriculum and an SEL focus are also crystal clear.

If a Clarion Call is sounding, we darn well better understand accurately what we are being called to do, be, and become.




10 thoughts on “Another Gear Change: Perceiving the Patterns Underlying the Human Learning Process

  1. Robin, this lovely bit from NPR should worry us all. If the social engineers are ready to teach ( “scientific ” Hardeeharhar ) phonetics again then they must feel that not just the reading material which is provided to kids is appropriately controlled but that their ability to control all of their attitudes, values and behaviors is a slam dunk as well.

    • I think that’s right. They want them to be able to read the controlled vocabularyphonetically because that’s more efficient, but the vocabulary will still be dictated by that desired internalized semantic web of ‘lenses’, as described in the integrated curriculum to get to a ‘mindful school.’ Every kindergarten or 1st grade teacher any of my kids ever had called me in for a conference and asked me to explain to them how I taught reading as they had never seen kids reading so fast. Don’t see any effort being made here to explain that there are roughly 42 sounds in English and that the appropriate logic is that “sounds have letters,” not that “letters have sounds.” I bet these kids still cannot read a dinosaur book with multisyllabic, unknown words.

      This came out yesterday and parents have no idea what formative assessment really is or how these immersions into indeterminate situations get at a child’s decision-making instincts so those can be evaluated and then manipulated.

      It’s funny you linked to that NPR article because I was thinking last week about how the U of Pittsburgh, where Lauren Resnick is, had copyrighted the phrase and classroom materials for Accountable Talk. As you probably remember Resnick was the first to push Higher Order Thinking Skills based on translations of Soviet psychology materials. Then she is involved with the New Standards Project, but only about half the states sign up for that, along with so many of the urban districts. Then she is involved with CCSSI, which basically gets the rest of the states on board with targeting the mind’s conceptual blending abilities.

      Perceived analogy then becomes a means for students to be told they can “apprehend a system” without appreciating this unique human ability is being thoroughly manipulated to create desired worldviews and images of what the future might be. We end up with idiots like that Congresswoman from Queens who are completely oblivious to how little they know. If ever, there was an example of someone “living in the semantic blend of a contrived neural net of concepts and categories” she did not create and thus doesn’t really understand it is she. She could be the poster child for where this hyping of emotion and manipulation of ‘how we think’ takes us.

      • ” She could be the poster child for where this hyping of emotion and manipulation of ‘how we think’ takes us.”

        She truly is. She is worrisome. On so many counts but most especially as she is an indicator of the New Global Citizen.

        • Boston University is heavily involved with NSF ‘recreation of the Brain research and she seems to be a product of that kind of vision of learning. I have been poking around in Learner Analytics, in part because I recognized that the higher ed hype was applicable to K-12 and how CEDS actually works and competencies, but also because it makes sense of all the deceit around so-called ‘Data Rape’ and hyping GDPR as the solution. GDPR would simply further enable LA and the treatment of the student as a manipulable system. Pushing on that I found this from the SoLAR annual conference in Sydney, Australia.

          Read this language and envison AOC as an exemplar.

          The most important unit of change is the story and identity of the learner–not the teacher, the curriculum or the measurement model. Legacy systems tend to privilege the content of the curriculum, a reductionist measurement model and the teacher as agent of change. The challenge for learning analytics is to build a digital infrastructure based on a data architecture which provides a ‘single view of the learner’, where data belongs to the learner [sounds just like a Jane Robbins’ presentation on data, doesn’t it?] and can be used, one student at a time, in real-time, for better decision-making as they navigate their way toward complex problems to solutions that matter to them. This is sometimes described as a call to move to Education 3.0–a challenging worldview shift from a topdown, individualist and dualistic worldview towards an integral, participatory, and wholistic one… A key design principle underpinning the learning journey platform is that learning is a journey that begins with a purpose and moves towards an outcome or ‘performance’ of some sort. When a student defines and owns their own purpose –the why-they are at the beginning of resilient agency. They need to use their learning dispositions –their learning power –to understand themselves as learners and to figure out howto move towards their purpose. The whatis the data, information, experience and new knowledge they need to identify, collect, curate and re-construct in order to achieve their purpose. This is a familiar enquiry cycle for most educators –the key difference here is the emphasis on purpose and agency and self-directed navigation.

          Aren’t I having a fun Saturday morning?

        • By the way have you seen the language in this new Integration document for NYC schools?

          From the definitions in the paper–

          Ally–someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways

          And another from our old friend Freire–

          Conscientização–Paulo Freire’s conception of critical consciousness– raising the consciousness of both the oppressor and the oppressed about the system of oppression that implicates both of them. It is seen as a form of liberatory pedagogy that, in turn, helps both the oppressor and the oppressed consider their situation critically and creatively and work towards systemic transformation (praxis), towards a more just social order.

    • If you know anyone who creates software systems, this ‘personalized learning’ makes people into coded systems.

      I am adding this since I wrote in the past about the Gate-funded Big History and sponsorship of David Christian. Now he is saying it is about creating the necessary traits in citizens suitable for a World Political Party to aid transformation.

      Somehow it feels more like April Fools than Valentines. is the original article being responded to. From Finland of course. Goes well with their transversal competencies I suppose.

    • Thanks Alison. Yes, Layard is involved with Jeffrey Sachs in creating the World Happiness Reports for the UN. I also think Layard has a tag on this blog.

      I have actually been looking a lot at UPenn over the weekend. I have covered AISP–the actionable intelligence for social policy database there as it appears to me that CEDS is a component of those metrics. We have covered Seligman and his Positive Neuroscience work that the NSF and the Templeton Foundation fund. Templeton also funds the Constitution Center in Philly which has written highly communitarian lesson plans. We have Angela Duckworth being hyped for Grit and her Character Lab, while her serving as co-director of the PENN-Wharton Behavior Change for Good Initiative. She is also faculty director for Wharton People Analytics.

      What better way to create behavior change as well as game pay for success than to ground the pay-off metrics in Learning Analytics. Sure enough, Penn Prof Ryan Baker is the keynoter at the upcoming SoLAR conference in Tempe, Arizona.

      Pulled up and read this from the 2012 meeting this morning on the confluence and Differences between LA and Educational Data Mining. Understanding all this makes what constitutes ‘success’ under these evidence-based models for change crystal clear. It’s not what parents think education is about, is it?

      People like the Pritzkers, being from Chicago where so many of the SEL definitions of Success and Achievement were created are in a very lucrative position to profit from both those unappreciated new definitions as well as Pay for Success returns on their ‘investment’.


  2. “There are no facts, only interpretations.”
    -Friedrich Nietzsche

    Hi Robin. I suspect many of these change agents subscribe to the Marxian Primacy of Matter and Reality of Change principles. For them, the only absolute is that there are NO absolutes – moral absolutes included.

    I think this is why they also embraced Nietzsche – beyond good and evil, they declared that God was dead and stepped into the breach. They chose to become our new demigods… themselves, instead.

    • I think it is a mistake to see the why on this at too intellectual a level because we get Post-Modernism like Nietzsche, who few ed doctorates will even know how to spell much less have read, and then the solution across the Board is what I recognize as Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory. It’s why Classical Education with its insistence that theology and philosophy are enduring and not to be questioned, but Science is in play, begins to look like the Tarbiyah Project in terms of aims and techniques. Must get at the internal level of values, beliefs, intentions, and perceptions and then call it Transformation Science as this did from this week or ‘Personal Success Plans’, also from this week.

      It has to be holistic in order to get at intentionality and what motivates action as another well-known 20th century philosopher, John Searle, made clear. His 1980 essay “Minds, Brain, and Programs” was included in a 1997 book that makes it clear some people, especially those in proximity to the Charles River in Boston or Palo Alto in CA, know precisely what is really in play with learning standards or Tranzi OBE. The book is called Mind Design II: Philosophy, Psychology, Artificial Intelligence and it is what I was working on yesterday as I continue to decipher who knew what and when that pertains to what now gets hidden as simply ‘competency-based education’ or Portrait of a Graduate.

      This is being implemented by people though who are not Demigods in the least. As with the new NSF-funded AI4K12 that launched in March or all these Science of Learning Centers they previously funded or the State Systemic Initiatives in the 90s, we have people following grant dollars and advocating whatever theory it takes to get the grants. We have people working simultaneously with the IEEE on learning standards, while also working for think tanks misleading the public on those very learning standards and their actual purpose. Doing road shows o speak to concerned parents and frequently located in church fellowship halls in my experience. There are Godless people here, but also those who hype their Godliness at every turn. Wanting to use this most excellent tool of manipulating experiences to create desired neural connections, while pretending to offer analysis of what is going on in education in the various states.

      When there is a ‘competency model’ to receive an education doctorate that hypes the need to only physically come to a campus twice (enroll and graduate) and the coursework is on How to Implement the Theories in Order to Create Transformational Change, no one involved except the original creator of the curriculum has any familiarity with lofty principles. They are being credentialed to implement theories they do not actually understand so that they won’t fear the resulting consequences. They can just think about their benefits package and consulting fees.

      If you are familar though with those theories, like you or me, you recognize precisely what those likely consequences are to be. A few days ago I wanted to scream at an author, who is now involved with GEFF2030 to quit quoting Martin Heidegger. I am quite aware he was also the Nazis’ favorite philosopher. Our Edudoctors though just get told this was the theory of experience of the “20th century’s greatest philosopher” and leave it at that. They are to implement Albert Bandura’s agency theory or its euphemistic life skills because he is the “most widely cited psychologist” with no mention he is widely cited because of the desired effect of his theories if put into widespread practice through “education reforms.”

      Thanks for chiming in. I am awake at this ridiculous hour because too much is going on these days. Writing at least allows me to concentrate on something else for a bit. Stay dry and I will try to stay cool. Very odd May weather-wise.

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