Collective Cognition: Stipulating Right Thinking and Prescribing Prevailing Ideas to Defeat Polarization

Never heard the phrase ‘collective cognition’ before? Wouldn’t creating required learning standards and then assessing for their presence in guiding a student’s thoughts and actions amount to learning How to Think as a Community? After I wrote last week’s post, but knowing we were about to pivot next to something called the Hidden Tribes Project, I was fascinated to read the bio of the co-author of this recent article where Professor Sloman admits that the cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences can be used to create Collective Cognition. If only some ultra-rich person would bequeath mega-millions to his employer, Brown University, to set up a Center to create models for K-12 education reforms.

Think of the Hidden Tribes Project as what to do about the adults whose minds and values got away when earlier versions of K-12 education reforms, like outcomes-based education, failed to shift as desired away from subject-content to changing:

the ideas that give your life direction. And the answers fit together into a larger picture–what we call a ‘worldview,’ a way of understanding and making sense of our world. Your worldview determines (consciously or unconsciously) how you interpret and respond to everything in life. This is why it is so important to begin thinking about your worldview and the ideas you believe to be true…develop a worldview that influences everything you do.

That is a really useful definition of worldview and why, I believe, we have found it as the aim of what my book laid out as Tranzi OBE from the 90s, and what we are seeing as Portrait of a Graduate or Learner Profiles now. It’s why learning standards globally carefully lay out the desired elements and seek to prescribe the ‘learning experiences’ that will create the characteristics at an internalized, physiological level. The Hidden Tribes Project, clearly related to the same aim but geared to adults and located at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, stated that its “focus is to better understand the forces that drive political polarization and tribalism in the United States today, and to galvanize efforts to address them.” I found the Project after it was hyped here in July and I recognized the links to both Seedbed of Virtues and the 1997 “A Call to Civil Society”.

George Will, in his Soulcraft book, kept using the same term “Better Angels of Our Nature” so let’s look and see how ‘our nature’ can be reengineered with education reforms and other social science projects. After all, one of the co-authors of the June 2019 More in Common report “The Perception Gap: How False Impressions are Pulling Americans Apart” is tied to the Templeton-funded Positive Neuroscience initiative at U-Penn that is also tied to the World Happiness Reports the UN has taken to publishing. If he states that “in coming years I plan on continuing to use the tools of social science to improve human interaction and society. Through teaching, speaking, researching, and writing, I hope to do my part to help humanity realize the best possible version of itself,” we would be wise to listen.

Humanity is so grateful, I reply with my usual sarcasm. Hopefully such aspirations and scholarship in “studying how social context in various populations can impact people’s moral judgment and behavior…” will get Mr Yudkin tenure somewhere. According to the 2018 “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape” the “work of rebuilding our fractured society needs to start now” and it needs to occur at the level of each person’s values, attitudes, and beliefs. This will allow “re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to building a renewed sense of national identity: A bigger story of us.” More in Common believes that “a healthy democracy…requires a sense of shared values and commitments, and a willingness to find common ground”. That desired answer to polarization and tribalism, a desired standardization at the level of “mind, heart, and soul” for all citizens, young and old, requires deliberately targeting:

At the root of America’s polarization are divergent sets of values and worldviews, or ‘core beliefs’. These core beliefs shape the ways that individuals interpret the world around them at the most fundamental level. Our study shows how political opinions stem from these deeply held core beliefs. This study examines five dimensions of individuals’ core beliefs:

  •  Tribalism and group identification
  •   Fear and perception of threat
  •   Parenting style and authoritarian disposition
  •   Moral foundations
  •   Personal agency and responsibility

This study finds that the hidden architecture of beliefs, worldview and group attachments can predict an individual’s views on social and political issues with greater accuracy than demographic factors like race, gender, or income.

So education at every level and the media, whether broadcast, print, or websites of various supposed spectrums, need to get at and change that hidden architecture. To uncover and understand core beliefs, and “explore how this understanding can be used, not to deepen polarization but to bring people together.” Does the coordinated effort to pretend that the Common Core was about workforce preparation or a database of personally identifiable information about students instead of an effort to change those prevailing values, attitudes, and beliefs suddenly make more sense? What if I told you that the initial indented quote on worldview came from something called the Lightbearers Curriculum from Summit Ministries that I found after a Daily Caller article this summer made a reference to something called a Blue Sky Worldview and a camp to create it? What if the same article simultaneously misrepresented socialism and asserted that Marxism is only what was found in the past in Communist countries or is what Bernie Sanders pushes?

Let’s just say our False Narrative purveyors were well-represented among the advocates for this curriculum that also seeks to control “what ideas will rule the world” and provide “guidelines for shaping society for everyone’s benefit”. It is a curriculum intended for “endowing [the student] with the responsibility for shaping the future of the world.” Theoretical Marxism, the non-historical kind that is a theory of Man as a Maker of History seeking to drive a transformational process in the real world, would recognize that aspiration as bringing about what Uncle Karl called the Human Development Society. It is still the same theory even when the M word is not used and the sales pitch is the need to “redeem culture as part of God’s creation.” Worthy aspirations and a theological emphasis do not change the nature of this theory or who created the idea of how to get such a theory into practice (Praxis?).

Calling it “faith in action” instead of praxis, or opining that “without action, students may relegate what they are hearing to dry academic philosophies and not realize that these ideas should become part of their lives on a daily basis,” doesn’t distinguish aims that function the same with comparable purposes. So religious based or classical schools want ideas embodied into action as an integral part of the curriculum to create Desired Habits and Behaviors and so do public schools now as part of learning standards and what is called High Quality Project-Based Learning. See what I mean about going to the same place and targeting the same normative realm in each student?

Tranzi OBE, in function even if now euphemized into a myriad of new names, still is in play if the curriculum actively seeks to tell students they should be change agents and

stop being conformed by the ‘water’ around them, the culture they were in. Rather, they should be transformed by renewing their minds. The idea behind the word ‘transformed’ is that of metamorphosis–changing into something different. While conformity to the world is something that happens passively, being transformed is something that happens actively. Conformity just happens, but transformation requires effort. Transformation only happens through mind renewal, changing the way you think.

I bolded that last part from the Lightbearers Curriculum to call attention to a discussion in the comments from the last post when I said that the predecessor to the Common Core was something in the 90s called the New Standards Project. Before Professor Lauren Resnick helped create that initiative, she called her curriculum a Thinking Curriculum to be grounded in HOTS–Higher Order Thinking Skills. Stipulated Ideas would dominate so that the real world perceptions would be controlled by Desired Ideas and Theories of What Could Be. The Soviets in 1962 called this a new kind of Dialectic Materialism that would allow a transformation of the existing world via a theory they called Ascending from the Abstract to the Concrete.

Its ideals still work the same today whether pushed on adults to supposedly bridge a Perception Gap and create a Convergence to defeat Polarization, or on children via mischaracterized learning standards and Thinking Curricula.

All of these advocates recognize that changing how we think leads to “transforming our behavior” in predictable ways. If anyone wants to prescribe “the basis of our decisions and actions,” as these various NGOs like UNESCO or the OECD, faith-based institutions, think tanks, or any other institution have explicitly said they wish to do if we know where to look, we should all be aware that has become the new purpose of education and the goal of much of what is broadcast or published by the media.

I suppose I should be grateful my book and then this blog set off such an orchestration of False Narratives. The deceit left the crumbs that enable us to see the common vision. Everyone seems to want to get at what we believe and feel in order to control how we will behave.

And it has nothing to do with training pigeons except that once installed in our neural circuits via cognitive psychology, we will be programmed indeed.



16 thoughts on “Collective Cognition: Stipulating Right Thinking and Prescribing Prevailing Ideas to Defeat Polarization

  1. I don’t get to comment much anymore with life’s turn of events in my fam but I still read. This is Interesting, Robin. Lightbearers appears to be SDA, not that it matters. It is all infected. There are still staunch homeschooling families who think they can shield their kiddos with “ Classical Conversations” curriculum. No one gets a hall pass in this reprogramming. I see the story tellers are still at creating reprogramming of their own. Creating worker bees and they don’t even realize it. Well… maybe.
    Macey and I still cannot unsee what we have learned from you and your book. Even returning to school I cringe over chronic group projects, sitting for 4 hours not hearing or learning one fact but listening to the encouragement of just sharing your feelings about the material. I may vomit if I hear, fixed mindset, one more time this week.

    • It is so good to hear from you again. Ignorance aids peace of mind, but then there is no way to help our kids. I do find the most stunning things following up on what I recognize to be false, don’t I? I had never heard of the Council on National Policy until I was trying to make sense of Donna Hearne’s Education Policy Conference in St Louis and its stage managing of a certain narrative and then finding that curriculum down to the teachers manual back in July and then seeing they were having Joy Pullmann in to speak at a conference made so many things click.

      It is David Blankenship who has gone from being in charge of the Bradley-funded IAV and its sponsorship of the communitarian Commission on Civil Society and the later Hardwired to Connect who later sets up an NGO called Better Angels of Our Nature. He showed up at the Kennedy School’s radical Ash Center to do a Democratic Governance seminar and does workshops now on “How to Talk Politics for Greater Understanding”. There really is only one vision apparently. It’s just we are not supposed to recognize that.

      On that note, perhaps I should quote Lightbearers vision of “how to read.” It is a lot like Common Core’s Close Reading, IB’s annotation push, and Balanced Literacy.

      “Today, many students have to be taught how to read–they may know how to take the words off the page, but we want them to go beyond that and take the ideas off the page. For this class, the readings are designed to lead to understanding, not just recall…Ideas affect more than just our minds–people will help or harm others based on what they believe is good or right. And if a whole society begins to believe wrong ideas, it will probably move in the wrong direction…[what follows is an erroneous retelling of the tragedy of Nazi Germany]…plan a strategy to change your behavior…remember that: first, you read; second, you understand; and third, you say: ‘Now what? How will I be different because I know this? What will I do about what I know?'”

      It turns out that Julian Huxley, UNESCO, and Brameld are not the only ones intending to use education for social reconstruction. It’s also the purpose of Harvard’s PEPG and that Lightbearers Curriculum links to Hillsdale, Acton, the Heritage Foundation, First Things, Focus on the Family, Cato Institute, Eagle Forum, and the Federalist Society among others.

      Hang in there please and come comment as you can. I happen to possess already the explicit, laid out global plans for the next 10 years and I am not talking about GEFF 2030 or Pavel Luksha. Probably a good thing I do not read in a directed fashion to support someone else’s vision of the desired narrative.

    • You will appreciate this and the admission that

      Beam contends that empathy is a moral position, not a discrete set of skills, as it is sometimes taught. She says empathy can be strengthened, but before that a person must be grounded in an empathetic understanding that often comes from literature, art and theater…I worry about [empathy] being taught as a skill because it should be something of a core identity and a way of moving through the world,” said Beam…While none of these examples are definitive, they hint at the possibility that systems can change as the people within them change their attitudes. Humans conform to social norms – the good ones and the bad ones – and shaping those norms can be a powerful force for promoting empathy.

      The Clabough book Second NatureI mentioned in the comments to the previous post admits that Empathy is one of the components of self-regulation that is to be cultivated at a neurological level so that its presence and automatic use becomes Second Nature. Talk about a Habit of Mind.

    • I think the term ‘collective cognition’ aligns with the requisite ‘shared understanding’ required for groups of humans to function as a desired ‘system’ with common purpose and worldview. Both the terms you used have taken on a pejorative tone and may be the result of an accident. There is nothing accidental about collective cognition from carefully sculpted neural nets created by learning standards tied to CEDS and ISCED and competency frameworks.

      As I have mentioned in other comments, I am working on several books right now, all published in the past year, that openly proclaim the intended neural rewiring via a new kind of ‘experiential learning’ and the new kind of global society it will create. Honestly, it’s like all these plans get hatched in the club car of the train running from Boston, by Providence and then New Haven and then on to NYC with Columbia and then on to Philly and U-Penn. We know from Alexander Christakis’ books that Wharton is where social systems science, which is where he wanted the Club of Rome to push instead of Jay Forester and the Meadows’ modelling, was created. Now we have his son, Nicholas, with his medical degree, writing a 2019 book called Blueprint with funding from the Gates and Templeton Foundations and with Angela Duckworth of Grit, IPEN, National Growth Mindset Network, the Character Lab and other links writing one of the touting blurbs.

      I was reading that yesterday while sitting in a waiting room as my mom had a root canal. I finally had to get up and pace from the implications of all of this and how thoroughly the open proclamations fit with how learning standards, content objects a la IMS, and competency frameworks actually work. Collective Cognition via the systematic targeting and continuous ‘improvement’ of KBVAF–the student’s Knowledge, Beliefs, Values, and Faith.

    • You should appreciate this. Notice the call for ‘new mental models’.

      Like AI, a few people were talking about the climate crisis back in the 60s, but it became prevalent in global media in the last few years as freak storms seemed to hit one after another, compounded by sea level rise and a hot planet

      The following are 10 signs we’re in a new age—a new economy and a new ecology. These shifts are not exclusive, but they are representative of this new era. More than trends, these turning points suggest it’s time for an operating system update—including new mental models and new ways to share the planet…These turning points suggest we need to update our working assumptions and mental models, to reconsider what it means to be human, what our role is in society, how we think about enterprise goals, how we govern ourselves, and how we share the planet.

  2. Empathy toward whom I would ask them.

    Across my kids grade school was a large company that fired their IT staff and hired Indian H1-Bs. I don’t blame the Indians for grabbing an opportunity. I would see the Indians with their ID badges walk over the bridge and turn left to work. I feel empathy for the fired US citizens. Does this mean we fire the Indians and re-hire the US citizens?
    No? Brown trumps white?

    OK. I fell empathy for Indians now. Let’s fire all the teachers and admins and replace them with smarter Indian H1-Bs. They, mostly women, can live 8 to an apt and save money for their dowry or a business back home. We could cut class sizes!
    No? This empathy thing is kinda difficult.

    I feel empathy for students denied an education by disruptive and often violent students. Can we expel the trouble makers?

    I met a homeless 60 + year old woman. She had worked in a factory until the work moved to China. She had built a house with her husband. He was diabetic. She stayed with him through diabetes, two leg amputations, dialysis, and finally death. She lost the house to medical bills. She was a cancer survivor and had heart stents.

    She was on a long waiting list for public housing. You see the Somalis in MN qualify as much as US citizens because they are ‘refugees.’ Also illegals with an anchor baby, on behalf of the baby.I feel empathy for her, can she go to the top of the list because she worked for 40 years?
    I would guess the people deserving or not deserving of empathy would have to be taught to the students as well.

  3. Robin,
    Like all your blog entries, this is well said and disturbing at the same time.

    Have you written your thoughts on what constitutes true/pure education?

    Being a faithful reader of your blog and owner of CTD, does your view of what is good education deviate from the proverb below?

    “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
    “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

    How does this advice differ from the clear plan to change students’ values, attitudes and beliefs from Western Traditions to one of global, marxist humanism or is it the same?

    Do you believe America’s Founders were off base in the education they recommended for the population of our new country and what should they have done differently?

    I appreciate your work.

    • I am not really a philosopher of education so much as a translator of what all these euphemisms actually mean so that taxpayers and parents can evaluate what is really intended and whether that is kosher to them.

      I do think I see a great deal of attributions to the Founding these days that strike this history major as erroneous. It takes a deep factual background to recognize the errors in an Inapt Metaphor though. In my case the Founder I know best is the 3rd President that I learned to shorthand as TJ. Let me think about a more detailed response to your question, but as much as I agree with both passages, my concern is where the desired ‘renewal of the mind’ and ‘training’ are to bring about a transformation of this world and its current social relationships without a recognition of what may be jettisoned in the process.

      • I would very much appreciate a more detailed response. Mine is really not a philosophical question as much as it is one that wants to attack the ideological revolution in which our country appears to be in the final stages. In my own way for many years, I have pointed out marxist thought and process without much success. There must be a way to actually fight back against this subversive revolution. For instance, do you see evidence of Marx’s dialectic process in the Lightbearers Curriculum or is it their stated purpose to change the world with what they’ve learned that is your red flag? Again, if we are to avoid what appears to be inevitable how do we oppose it? Thanks.

  4. Reporting in from Japan. I am now hosting my 12th student intern, American. It occurred to me, today, that every ten out of the 12 have stated that they intend to become ‘entrepreneur’s’. In my experience, successful entrepreneurs engage in this business model because they are passionate about some form of human service; have an idea they cannot get out of their heads. My young charges approach this more like a game they are trying to figure out/master. No real interest in the world around them, or others. Don’t really engage with the projects assigned, don’t generate ideas…just seem to be waiting for inspiration that I fear will never come.

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