Congressionally Mandating Dialectical Thinking and then Forcing States to Annually Measure and Manipulate It

In the past week there has been a dust up on several blogs as to whether assertions about the purposes of language in the Bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act–ECAA, that has now unanimously passed out of Senate Committee, amounts to conspiracy theories. Now I cannot speak for others, but I too have read every page of ECAA. I recognize what certain terms mean and what other synonyms for the same phrases have been over the decades. We get to talk about those terms and that history without being accused of theorizing when we are having a fact-based discussion with sources. Moreover, the ECAA, whatever the intent of the Senators approving it or those who drafted it, has language that forces all states to abandon the “didactic purpose” of K-12 education because of how it defines “Challenging State Academic Standards” in the legislation.

Likewise, by mandating that states must use assessments that target ‘higher order thinking skills’ Congress adopts what that term has come to mean in education. Lauren Resnick laid it out in a 1987 National Academy of Sciences report explained here. Marc Tucker, her co-director of the New Standards Project and its performance standards, explained it here in 1988 while he was at the National Center for Education and the Economy. Tucker also linked it to the fulfillment of Peter Drucker’s social vision that I explained here The 1968 book The Age of Discontinuity book from Drucker I wrote about is the same one Tucker cited in 1988 as necessitating a new vision of K-12 and the shift from basic skills to “higher order thinking.’

Now I will admit that I have always thought HOTS, as I abbreviate it, functioned like dialectical thinking, but I am a precise person. I do not theorize as to what is going on except in the privacy of my own mind or in speculations with a cat sitting in my lap as I research. We get to tie HOTS in ECAA to the term ‘dialectical thinking’ like we are all back at U of Moscow in the 60s because Educational Leadership published a series of essays in the 80s by Richard Paul where he explained that HOTS, and his concept of critical thinking that was equivalent to it, were also known as dialectical thinking. He cited Resnick and Tucker as I linked to above. Paul also made it clear that all these terms are designed around participation in a new, different kind of ‘democracy’ going forward.This is from an essay called “McPeck’s Mistakes: Why Critical Thinking Applies Across Disciplines and Domains”.

“If you believe in democracy you must believe that citizens have the potential to judge. If you believe that one primary function is to prepare students for participation in democracy, you must agree that helping students refine their ability to judge social, political, and economic questions (and questions to which these subjects apply) as clearmindedly, fairly, and rationally as possible is among the most important and useful functions of education. Use of ‘common sense’ is not inborn, but developed.”

And monitoring that development, and manipulating it as needed, through learning tasks, student learning objectives, prescribed activities, formative assessments, etc is precisely what the ECAA calls for once we track the language in it through to its actual meaning. is an April 2015 report called “Using a Learning Progression Framework to Assess and Evaluate Student Growth.” It is from the Center of Assessment involved in the pilot greenlighted under ECAA except those materials and the Student Learning Objectives Toolkit are in use in districts and states far beyond New Hampshire. The Cognitive Rigor Matrix described also relates to dialectical thinking and HOTS. That is what creates the cognitive complexity being called for.

All the references to “careful study of student reasoning” or “understand student reasoning” or “based on student reasoning” are all trying to monitor the extent to which the student has moved beyond what Ralph Tyler called the ‘right answer’ syndrome into dialectical thinking. The desire to shift the Learning Progression (described in depth in my book) to “cultivating formative practices” comes from the desire to ensure that the student is using the supplied ideas, principles, and concepts desired in their everyday interpretations since that is what guides and prompts behavior. The same reason is also why there is a determination to get at motivation. Thinking and emotions must be integrated and that must control action. Again, thanks to Richard Paul for being explicit and all these intentions attach to these words and practices mandated or allowed by ECAA regardless of the intentions of any politician that votes for it.

Before I go back to the 1960s to show once again just how long this desire to use the bribery power of the federal purse and its regulatory power to change the nature of K-12 education, let’s remember that virtually everyone involved confessed their transformative reasons. That’s why my book has so many footnotes. No need to speculate or theorize. If people say they are coordinating around a particular purpose, they do not get excused from scrutiny because someone yells ‘conspiracy.’ Anyone here ever hear of Guy Fawkes and the 1605 Gunpowder Plot? People conspire around the desire to get or keep political and economic power and to impose their pet belief systems on others. Anyone ever hear of Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley? Who a 16th Century Monarch married mattered if the ruler was a she because it affected political and economic power. Who had it and who wanted it.

Only someone being disingenuous or acting as a historical simpleton can look at something like ECAA and not recognize its potential to have a transformative, permanent effect on what individual citizens believe, know, or can do. That’s a great deal of power and if my book and this blog do anything it is track down confessions of using education for transformative purposes, whether “We the People’ acting as individuals would consent or not. Certainly no parent would consent to formative assessment if it were accurately described and understood. To get at what makes assessment of thinking now different I want to go back to the description of Science: A Process Approach created to be an innovative curriculum in the 1960s that would be accessible to all “economic, ethnic, educational, social, geographical” groups without any “marked effects on student achievement.”

Does that sound like an obligation to close the achievement gap and have Equity in learning to anyone else? The Process Approach was not really about facts or concepts and that shift was controversial at the time. It too had a Learning Progression designed to practice specified behaviors. The whole point was to “develop in students the intellectual and investigative skills of the scientist, and hopefully these skills will provide a generalized method of defining and solving problems which can be applied in other subject areas as well.” So in the 1960s there was a desire to look for Transfer to New, Untaught situations and different contexts. A Process Approach called it ‘Generalizing Experience’ instead of Rigor, but it too had what it called ‘Competency Measures’ that employed “content and materials different from those used in the exercises so the student must apply what he has learned in a new situation.”

I bolded those terms because the Common Core has the same stated goals in what it is assessing for. That Learning Progression link and what Student Learning Outcomes means wants the same. Between the early 60s and the 1998 publication of the Assessing Science Understanding and now, the behavioral scientists discovered practicing behaviors was not enough. Students needed to be guided by principles and concepts they acted on arationally. That is what proficiency and competency actually now mean as this post made clear This federal manipulation apparently began with unappreciated language in the 2002 No Child Left Behind that ECAA would double down on.

Cognitive science does not just want to practice behaviors. It needs inside the black box and it needs the ‘thinking’ to be grounded in emotion and dialectical in the sense of HOTS and rigor. Quoting a definition of ‘learning science’ that dovetails with what I call cybernetics, let’s go back to 1998 in what must have been created as part of that New Standards Project that is now the renamed Common Core:

“in the constructivist view, learning science is a process of making connections: connections among experiences with the natural world and mental representations of those experiences; and connections among concepts that result in the generation of principles new to the learner. These concepts and principles, in turn, are connected to events and experiences in the natural world.”

Monitoring and manipulating those mental representations that guide perception of reality and everyday behavior and likely actions is precisely what SLOs, a high quality assessment, Competency-based education, and formative assessment are all about. It’s what led to the Math and Reading Wars as my book makes clear. It’s why Outcomes-based education never goes away. It just gets renamed.

It’s why this post’s title does not impugn anyone or allege a ‘conspiracy’. It simply understands ECAA in terms of the language used and the history of those terms. That statute and the educational activities and assessments to be carried out by states and school districts under its terms has a clear trajectory and purpose, whatever the personal intentions of anyone involved is.

All of these aims are simply too tied to facts with clear purposes of social engineering. We cannot allow the mind and personality to be manipulated into an invisible prison by using the C word to bar rational discussion.

Politicians wanting to expand their authority without either consent or publicity. That’s not a conspiracy. It’s just history properly understood. In a didactic, fact-based, soon to be forbidden, old-fashioned way.



30 thoughts on “Congressionally Mandating Dialectical Thinking and then Forcing States to Annually Measure and Manipulate It

  1. I am still concerned about the waivers that continue under the proposed reauthorization. of ESEA. Please comment on waivers noted in Chaper V, 3. Request for Waivers
    (A) Federal Statues and Regulations
    (B) State and Local
    What is the point in having federal, state and local statues and regulations if they can be waived?

    • Well they bind when it is convenient and confine the individual and get waived when that is what is conducive to the transformations. I hate the waivers because they lock in the vision now being expanded on in ECAA. The Learning Progression/Growth link builds on what the waivers originally locked in. When I saw the Denver super testifying before Lamar’s committee I knew it was about the School Performance Framework. When I read the Framework it reminded me of what was in Georgia’s waiver for statewide school eval. Now we have the New Hampshire Center for Assessment and Colorado CADRE pointing to Ga as pilot. So much deceit here.

      • One more point, the waivers are like accreditation or a Positive School Climate XO or using IDEA to push PBIS for all students. Binding to those who control institutions and the students, but unlikely to be on someone’s radar.

        You cannot hype the realities of binding language off the radar screen.

  2. As you have more than successfully documented, this is a slow boil process. Takes time to completely revise a culture. Those with the agenda have been more than patient but it seems they are ramped up a bit

    I had a conversation with a mother whose son has been in a state of high stress to the point of being ill, because of this first round of the Georgia assessment testing. I can confirm the same about my grandsons as well as one teacher who admitted that he has not slept in weeks. That alone indicates to me there is something wrong on so many levels here.

    The woman I was discussing this with said her sister, who lives in a northeastern state, had opted out for her son. They had done some research and discovered that, this year, the answers right or wrong on the test do not matter. This year it’s about assessing the teachers. And what does that mean? Teachers who have been successfully pouring base information into children for decades suddenly being assessed? The question is begged, assessed for teaching or for being able to teach the open-ended, convoluted method, not the information?

    And what happens if those good teachers fail this assessment?

    • My experience is that if the assessment reveals that the students still perceive untaught or ambiguous situations factually instead of conceptually or through desired themes or principles, the teacher is in trouble. In the book it’s why Cambridge Education gets brought in first to force a district away from a transmission of knowledge, didactic approach and then a Spence Rogers to show what will constitute Teaching For Excellence. By the way the State School Board quietly renamed the State standards not the Common Core or Georgia Performance Standards, but Standards for Excellence. That would fit with phenomenologist and cultural evolutionist Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi’s definition of Excellence being combining what you think, feel, and want into a single action. That gets assessed and the Rigor and what makes the Milestones high quality is looking for Transfer in the sense talked about in this post.

      Your friends should go to the same site mentioned in this post and get the Student Learning Objectives Toolkit to see what rubric looks like. This is what the state and school districts quietly admit they use and this center trumpets. Very stressful for the logical mind nurtured that way at home and in previous, non-constructivist coursework.

      Most of what is so stressful are the SLOs, but remember the Georgia Milestones is based on David Conley’s work. He has a tag and is the creator of the College and Career Readiness definition that is quite reminiscent of Csik’s definition of Excellence. on Conley’s work and its relationship to Paul Ehrlich’s bragging about a means to reorganize human behavior should be read by every parent and taxpayer in Georgia.

    • Meema-how’s this for the sort of confession that explains the reaction of the kids that never makes it into the more public talking points

      “changes called for by the Common Core require emotion recognition and management.”

      Same Maurice Elias I quote in the book. Sounds just like Richard Paul’s point that emotions and cognition must now be integrated. Now we are getting to Excellence again.

      Or this insisting from Next Generation Learning Challenge on the need to drop the terms ‘soft skills’ and ‘non-cognitive skills’. Why yes especially with ECAA being all about mental well-being as the new focus of K-12.

      • The teacher I referenced has been on my mind. I’ve thought about giving him your book and pointing him to this blog. The principal is a short-timer and I think his focus is on retirement but maybe a one on one with this teacher might net something, if only some open eyes. Truth is regardless the outcry, it’s not enough yet to impact the change that is already being implemented. This isn’t 1999 and Goal 2000. The need for fed funding, whether real or perceived, is the Trojan Horse.

        • Maybe start with the part of the Learning Progression document from this post that talks about Georgia in particular.

          I actually wanted my youngest to take these assessments and then tell me about it, but Opting Out became the rage at her high school. At least this way no one can say I know all this from my kids. Really, it’s more that I get what the language means.

          Everything in that book remains necessary for appreciating the rest of the story. I had a crucial, Missing Link confession this morning when I was not really looking for it. In the next post we will chase down what Critical Thinking really entails per Richard Paul’s book. It was originally published in 1990, but collected mostly earlier essays and which conference they came from or article and date.

  3. Well Robin , your research with names and new programs is invaluable. My definition of the program which originates from Georgia university programs for the humanities, including the Education departments of, the University of Georgia,
    Georgia Southern and now Armstrong University in Savannah. UGA is the leader in imparting what was previously called Common Core to perspective .teachers . My current advance writing courses say to throw out the dictionary and present the facts in simple language.The goal of the new system is to ultimately change the US government into a Marxist society through the
    education system. Students in the humanities evaluate all the other students papers, essays and thoughts. All of those classes use students for evaluation,;
    These students can be freshmen evaluating juniors in the same class. The professor acts as the referee. The science classes have much less of manipulation, due to the exact nature of science. However those students must take core courses in the humanities. Textbooks are socially engineered for “Social Justice.” African American history, featuring their former slavery, replaces classical subjects in literature throughout the English major. Creative writing texts use unknown authors with banal subjects featuring miscellany as subject with vulgar and profane themes. Students in my class who were African American were told to write mirror memoirs. Those are usually comprised of vulgarities, abuse of parents, rape, pleasant sex and abundant profanity; they may receive A’s. The Georgia Senate vetoed the College board’s new curriculum
    in Georgia. The board wanted to reduce dramatically ,the US government documents, giving Thomas Jefferson only a few lines. They must criticize the US documents — in order to eventually change the system.

  4. Thank you for the cogent post, Robin. Sure hope those unnamed bloggers read your work…and appreciate its breadth. A failure to recognize the history embedded in this transformation is not only naive but also terribly dangerous.

    • Thanks JT. Many of the bloggers appear to have ties to this group that had a conference in Chicago last weekend.

      Looking at the Board and the allies made quite a few alliances more public and also reasons for wanting to discredit those viewed as in the way of the message.

      I found the photo gallery from the 2014 conference fascinating as the use of Opt Out hype in the broader pursuit of Equity and democratic schooling is laid out on background whiteboards in several of the photos.

      In the small world category one of the NPE Board members was a Legal Writing Instructor when I was in law school. Probably no accident then the Athens, Ga Super just won National Super of the Year.

    • No but this quote from page 28 says it all: “PBS Kansas promotes the use of proactive evidence-
      based strategies to meet the social and
      emotional needs of all Kansans by partnering across
      systems to enhance behavioral expertise and use new
      and existing resources in an efficient, effective manner.”

      This is about the shift to the Human Development Society where it is the obligation of all to meet the needs of all. So is Every Child Achieves Act when we track down the history of HOTS, the reasons for Rigor, and the legacy behind Competency. We are not discussing these ideas on this blog because I am a nerd. ALL these ed reforms are designed to shift us to that Human Development Society. So was that Inclusive Prosperity Commission whose report came out in January. So is Ban Ki-Moon’s Dignity For All we have talked about.

      Social and emotional needs obligation fits with making subjective well-being the new focus of governments in the US and UK as happened in December 2013 as I wrote about here.

      Governments who wish to be in charge of citizens, societies, and economies HAVE to control thought. That can be overt or covert. ECAA, like WIOA’s workplace ready language, is a covert means that my book and this blog are making overt. There is unfortunately just an avalanche of consistent information out there as to what is going on once we know the fundamental framework. As we’ve discussed. I now know far more than what is in the book or this blog, but everything I know retains what I laid out in the book as the fundamental foundation. Honestly it is so prescient it practically scraes me I was able to so accurately grasp the essence.

      ECAA is an evil piece of legislation designed to finally and fully create that fundamental transformation Obama promised, but many Republican politicians want as well. They want the money and power that comes from so much political control over a society. It is scary that the report I linked to yesterday stated that the economic stagnation was caused by too little government.

    • In light of the language in ECAA now is a good time to bring back this post

      The sought revolution based on Marx’s writings that so many of the architects of these educational practices and mandates admit they are looking to is the vision of a future world where “The revolution is not a political one but rather a revolution of man’s attitude towards himself and the purposes of his existence, a revolution of values.”

      The kind of human self-change created by formative assessments, Competency, and Higher Order Thinking Skills–all mandated and pushed by ECAA– is the very kind pf “psychological” and “moral revolution within the self” that Robert Tucker said was necessary to actually get what Marx really envisioned communism of the little c variety would look like. We keep running into all these ideas for a good reason. It was always the West with its technology and affluence that was the true target for change.

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