Drawing Back the Standards Curtain to Discover the Global Coordination to Redesign the Very Nature of Curriculum

We have discussed the fact that the phrases “Common Core” or “Competency” or “21st century skills” make wonderful excuses that obscure virtually all of what is really changing. Especially since we also have new ways of measuring the results and effects and turning it into data. When those of us who read the small print of reports, or attend PTA meetings, or actually look at what students are being asked to do, notice a complete paradigm shift away from factual knowledge as a primary purpose of schools and then try to raise our concerns these days, we usually get nowhere. We get to hear the typical supportive talking points about how “Standards are not curriculum,” and how the country “needs these standards to be internationally competitive,” and finally, how “Business wants these standards to create a skilled workforce.”

If we happen to be armed with some factual knowledge and point out that endorsements from tech companies who will benefit financially is not what will bring tomorrow’s jobs, parents quickly discover that disputing the talking points on the Common Core is like trying to have a discussion with a robocall or a parrot. Now I am going to say do svidanija!, the Russian phrase for goodbye, to any discussion today of Soviet psychology and the fact that the education model the Common Core reflects when we look at what is being asked of teachers, measured in students, and theories imposed on the classroom all comes from the old USSR. Decades of experimental research and now imported to the US and other countries as cultural-historical activity theory. I suspected it before but recently reading the 2002 book Learning for Life in the 21st Century removed all doubt.

But curriculum is our focus today. The developmental perspective that CHAT and learning theories grounded in Vygotsky represent needs a redesign of the very paradigm of the curriculum. And it turns out they have it because in 2011 Harvard set up a Center for Curriculum Redesign that has UNESCO, Pearson, the Gates and Hewlett Foundations, the Nellie Mae Foundation behind the Competency Works report from the last post, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Google, the OECD and World Bank, and the governments of Massachusetts; Finland; Alberta and Toronto, Canada; Korea; Singapore, and the Australian curriculum authority (acara) all involved. Global coordination indeed of precisely what students everywhere will be interacting with and experiencing on a daily basis.

CCR came to my attention a few days ago when the OECD began touting it http://oecdeducationtoday.blogspot.com/2014/02/mathematics-for-21st-century.html . Since my book has an entire chapter on what was really being sought in the so-called math and science wars, announcing that the “Center for Curriculum Redesign’s Stockholm Declaration has stated: We call for a far deeper and reconceptualized understanding of mathematics by the entire population as a critical right, requiring:

* a new vision of mathematics education that anticipates needs and reinforces the role of mathematics in society, economies, and individuals, and strengthens gender equity,

* changes to existing Mathematics standards as presently conceived, through a significant rethinking of what branches, topics, concepts and subjects should be taught in Mathematics for human, economic, social and career development…”

Well, THAT got my attention. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered Charles Fadel was a Visiting Practitioner at Harvard. Ooops, I see I have forgotten to mention the University of Pennsylvania and MIT are also involved. And not just Stanford but the very prof, Roy Pea, we met in this post http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/the-need-to-know-as-we-understand-it-today-may-be-a-lethal-cultural-sport/ on the NSF funding of cyberlearning and informal learning.

Prof Pea is psyched to be an advisor to CCR since “In my studies of learning and development enhanced by technologies over the years, I’ve often emphasized the importance of meta-cognition, planning, leveraging distributed intelligence, and other aspects of human competencies (my bolding) that are often tacit or left out of curriculum studies and standards. Like many of my colleagues, I’m keen to see more integral support from educators for developing learner’s adaptive expertise–a framework I find preferable to 21st century skills. Once we separate ‘skills’ from expertise, which incorporates skills, knowledge, dispositions, interests, and identities–all essential aspects of competencies–we run the risk of having separate curriculum units on skills, divorced from content and other aspects of expertise.”

Now that is someone thoroughly immersed in the Vygotskyian education as humanizing the entire personality paradigm from that defunct country we are not discussing today. Pea clearly sees CCR as furthering that tradition of how curriculum is to be used. Another fascinating description from someone involved with the Common Core Next Generation Science Standards read like this:

“The vision you are building toward–to deeply redesign curricula so that we focus young people on experiencing content as purposeful, interdisciplinary and personalized–is key to the process of transforming education globally.”

That was Margaret Honey of New York Hall of Science. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is also on board and “applauds the vision of CCR to redesign curricula for the 21st Century that is both relevant and engaging, and goes beyond core content.” These letters are available on the CCR website under partners. I will give one more quote from ERB since it is speaking on behalf of its member schools and that includes many of the most prestigious private schools in the US. It says “We relish the opportunity to help redefine what it takes to be a knowledgeable, ethical, and wise citizen of an interconnected and interdependent global community of learners.” A very interesting end goal that is probably not what a parent has in mind when they ship off their high schooler to an expensive boarding school.

Now obviously the various UN entities pursuing their Sustainability and post-2015 vision and the OECD with its Green Growth and Great Transition visions of the future could hardly find a surer vehicle for reaching the most people during the period of their lives when they remain the most impressionable than being involved in such a planned curriculum redesign. One that, in the words of the Finns, “necessitates a corresponding, bold  reconsideration of the nature of knowledge and learning, contents and the pedagogical practices of the school. It is time to rethink what it is that we want students to know and be able to do in future societies and in a globalizing world.”

The curricula redesign then is an essential component of creating a means of enacting a fundamental transformation of systems (Making History is what the theorizers call it) plus a bridge to then transition to that supposedly more just, communitarian-oriented future. Fadel has a 33 page White paper on the curriculum redesign site that makes it quite clear that the idea is to Rethink what is Taught in order to transition to a better world. Page 18 shows a drawing straight out of Hard Times with the heading “So it is a grand time to act unless we want a Dickensian society.” Page 19 quotes the winner of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Medicine that “We have evolved traits [such as group selfishness] that will lead to humanity’s extinction–so we must learn how to overcome them.”

Eliminating human selfishness as the point of the curricula and education and then making the public sector the dominant planning force in society. That’s much more likely to create a Dickensian future than be a means for avoiding it, but then I am still a fact-based person, not a theorist looking to implement infamous or untried ideas on a global scale. It is also interesting Fadel envisions “Leveraging our entire selves–head, heart, and hand” in this effort of social, economic, and political transformation. He also sees curricula redesign as a means of fostering personal fulfillment. Right.

So Standards are not curriculum, but the Common Core Standards, whatever their new names in the various states, serve as a vehicle to obscure this intended global shift in what is to be going on in the classroom. Big Business wants this because they hope to benefit from the associated public-private partnerships planned. The international competitiveness is grounded in a vision of global transformation to public sector planned economies and pushing for social justice for disadvantaged groups in each country. So much for those talking points.

Now we better focus on where this new concept of curricula is taking us. Because it is to be conveniently hidden for the most part on inaccessible computer databases and networks. How convenient that so many interested in the ‘cloud’ and Big Data generally have signed up to help reconceive the curricula paradigm. Some entities are about to have quite a useful control over a great deal of pertinent information. While at the same time they are trying to minimize the actual knowledge any citizen is likely to have.

Does this curricula redesign feel like an effort to uninvent the printing press and its liberation of the individual’s access to information to anyone else? A future vision that combines economic and political power and seeks to limit unapproved knowledge.

Anyone else recognizing what time periods we seem to want to ape here?

28 thoughts on “Drawing Back the Standards Curtain to Discover the Global Coordination to Redesign the Very Nature of Curriculum

  1. Here’s a good one about math


    “(1) The gatekeepers that surface for teachers who teach mathematics with an emphasis on social inequity. Gatekeepers are those individuals or groups of people who are perceived as potentially expressing dissatisfaction with the teachers’ choice of social justice pedagogies, e.g., a principal or parents. For many pre-service and practicing teachers, the conversation regarding gatekeepers is more about perceptions they have regarding the struggles they will face when faced with gatekeepers within the structure of the school system than with actual realities.
    (2) The curriculum politics that determine who decides what is taught in K-12 mathematics, and how these political forces connect to the implementation of socially just curricula and pedagogy, specifically for mathematics. We highlight the experiences of early childhood educators because of the recurring question posed to us as teacher educators: “How can I teach about social justice to the younger children?” The deconstruction of conversations that pre-service and practicing teachers pursue can empower the participants to be intellectuals and social agents in their classrooms and schools, and to make critical decisions around curriculum and pedagogy in mathematics.”

    And another


    Ch.1. Mathmatics as a Weapon in the Struggle
    Eric Gutstein

    Oh yes math is no longer about numbers…


    • Madmommy-

      Look at this article on the deep and powerful learning available from getting the emotions involved in ‘meaningful work.’ http://plpnetwork.com/2014/02/13/passion-based-learning-day-2-passion/

      Once again we are pushing concepts that the Soviet psychologists have spent decades researching and experimenting on children. There is even a Russian word Vygotsky used to describe why this was so important to the desired obuchenie transformative mindset and personality. It is called perezhivanija. The 2002 book described this as well.

      More Russian words to describe the very practices being mandated in our classrooms.

      • This is horrible. It is the idiotic waste of time that school. 8 is now. Its all for them. The only thing theydo for the kids iskeep them pseudo entertained like a bad babysitter so they dont bug them at best, and at worst thry ae usi g psychosocial techniques to break down their souls with deep learning about perverse acts in Sex ed, suicide in death ed and many other things that if we did the same to our neighbor they would call the cops or move away.

        • Anon-

          Plus the real problem with all the snow days this winter is that it shows how little is gained now from the time at school once it ceases to be about knowledge. Do you have any idea how many teenagers ask me “why their teachers will not teach them anymore?”

          Not everyone pushing this in earnest is bad. Some are naive and think utopia is possible and some hate this great country that has done so much for so many and some are just oblivious and greedy for what they can earn permanently at our expense for pushing this s**t. But we are the host being feasted on and those eating up are the least likely to appreciate that parasites can kill the host. Then no one wins in the long term.

        • Anon-

          Watch this 9 minute video interview of 7th graders and this new view of content to be “interacted with” in a virtual world. http://www.adlnet.gov/imaginarium-panel-at-otronicon-watch-video-of-the-event/ It’s from about a week ago and it turns out there is an Advancing Distributed Learning lab in Orlando and in Alexandria, Virginia creating this view of what should be going on at school to push critical thinking and complex problem solving. And it just happens to involve indigenous people from British Columbia and endangered species.

          And what did kids ‘learn’? One says he learned how easy it is at this age to make a difference. The other says he did not know prior to working with the game developers that he “could really help.” That’s the learning? No accurate knowledge about the world involved.

          • Sorry its mad mommy forgot to sign in that last comment. They are coming at us from All sides. Before i switched my kids to a classical school i kept them home all the tine, my son missed like 28 days! Haha so much for my tuition but i felt a day with me wS better than 5 minutes with the sj robots at his school.
            Here are lyrics from a so g they sang at mass ( private catholic school)
            ” go make a difference, you can make a diffefence, go make a difference in the world”. Of course a catchy hipster tune… Yes go make a difference means ” go sork for a nonprofit helping to get money from anonymous foreign sources, the federal government and from hour families pockets so we can teach you to hate them , hate america, hate babies and help psople destroy their own culture in foreign counteies u der the fake slogans of , good will, common purpose, wellness, eradication of disease, etc..

    • Cindy-

      Look at this illiterate economic vision attached to this vision of education. http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/economy/report/2014/02/04/83356/cities-at-work/

      How much mind arson will occur before the fact that it will not work this time either becomes apparent. True wealth is the knowledge being destroyed. How dare IBM create a business plan asking what students actually need to know in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.

      Actually William Manchester’s A World Lit Only By Fire is one of my favorite books. We are playing with very bad ideas here and we must pore through lots of deceit and undisclosed conflicts of interest.

  2. The Dawn of the New Dark Ages…has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? However, what came immediately to my mind was that this new curricula redesign sounds frighteningly close to the goal of the Khmer Rouge of the 1970s; that is, bringing civilization (more precisely, the masses) back to Year Zero, and starting all over “fresh”. And doing it by taking the children away from their parents to be raised in the loving and all-powerful Embrace of the State. Sounds great…just ask any Cambodian over the age of 40 or so.

    Robin, I had the honor of participating in a conference call last night with the one and only Charlotte Iserbyt (the American heroine, to whom I give credit for my own awakening). During the call, I had the opportunity to ask if she was familiar with your work, and she spoke SO highly of you! She seemed very impressed by your original approach to the problems facing education and the quality of your research. I think it is of great comfort to her that there are competent researchers willing and able to take up her mantle when she’s gone.

    Now here’s a practical question for you: how on earth do you keep all the names of all the participants–from theorists to activists to policy-makers and the rest of them–separate in your head?? I think I counted 11 different players in just ONE of your articles! Do you keep files on each person, or do you remember them based on papers they’ve written, or conferences they’ve attended, or what? It’s worse than the Old Testament! If you have some sort of technique or system that you’ve found to be helpful, can you throw me a bone?

    • I guess I have come to know these people through their writings and their declared goals and my struggle to make sure I understand how the known knowns fit.

      Remember I have usually read one or more books by anyone I think is important enough to name. Especially to give a tag to.

      Charlotte and I had lunch in August when she was passing through Atlanta. What I have been mulling over since I finished this post and started another article out of Europe and encountered familiar language is that this Soviet developmental approach and what we called Transformational Outcomes Based education in the 90s and I covered in the book in my Chapter “Competencies: How to Hide Multiple Revolutions in a Single Word” are the same thing. Same function and end goals.

      I think it will take me at least 2 more posts to add clarity and also why Roy Pea wants competencies taught in connection with subject matter. We have already encountered a similar sentiment in the Ga DoED 2009 commentary of Lynn Erickson and her Enduring Understandings. Plus the 2002 book cites David Perkins of Harvard who was involved with CORE-Cognitive Reorganization and now the NSF-funded Understandings of Consequence.

      I run into the emotion that I am looking at the same concept with a new name but the same old function these days. I have a pretty tight web of understanding these days except mine is grounded in demonstrable, provable facts. Which is why it is herd defying.

  3. Wow, Robin. Thank you for your analysis. New York Ed. Department is now formally promoting Vygotsky AND lessons where standards are the main focus with students using “I can” statements attached to each standard EVEN at the 12th grade level. No content is promoted. Units/”modules” are linked by standards not themes, Shakespeare is taught through excerpts, and vulgarity in non-fiction is viewed as “authentic.” Why are the COREistas using the word modules? Another special feature is no American literature AND the communist manifesto taught in 11th grade. I hear that selective private colleges are downgrading a New York high school diploma because of the Cc$$ nonsense. Any truth in that? private colleges, what say you. By the way, what is “efficacy,” Pearson’s new propaganda?

    • Nimbus-

      I think the Modules are designed to be the equivalent of a turnkey approach to promote particular desired attitudes or values or conceptual understandings.

      You then doublecheck by making the assessment something ambiguous or untaught and then looking to see if ‘transfer’ occurs. Does the student now apply what was just taught? That is the essence of what the Soviets called “systemic-theoretical instruction” according to an essay by Seth Chaiklin of Denmark in that 2002 book I mentioned.

      I will also be getting into Piotr Galperin in the next post as we talk about the use of subject matter in a paradigm that is no longer about knowledge transfer. Instead as we talked about in the post where I walked through what “continuous improvement of student learning’ would really mean, it is about changing the values, attitudes, feelings, beliefs, or behaviors of the students. That’s the new focus of education globally. That’s what college and career ready standards actually mean when you follow the terms all the way back to David Conley and Amitai Etzioni at first and then Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers in the 1962 book I wrote about.

      We really are back to what was first tried in the 60s in earnest. Chapter 6 of my book “Step-By-Step to Hobble and Then Reshape the Individual Student: Anatomy of a Coup from Within” lays the groundwork that makes it much easier to recognize when I am looking at similar aims from a slightly different direction and with new names.

      On private colleges, I went to one that is rated in the Top 10 and they unfortunately have taken $40 million from the Duke Endowment to remake the nature of liberal arts education. Basically taking UNESCO’s change the student vision and applying it to college. The school’s communications keep emphasizing they are creating tomorrow’s leaders. They had Tony Wagner come to campus to speak last fall, but the alumni office insists that no one videotaped the speech and thus it is not available for an alumni to see. I wanted to compare what Tony said to a college audience to what I heard him say at the (co)lab summit a week later. So my long winded response is that so many of the elite colleges have transitioned or are transitioning to perspective alteration and worldview creation as their purpose instead of knowledge transfer. Many of the students are so honored at the prestige of being at a perceived elite school that they are highly likely to adopt whatever mindset is being pushed on them. I had this discussion with a mom whose child had gone to one of the Ivies and that is precisely what shifted for all that money and time.

  4. But in truth, it would be so simple to free ourselves from all this if education were not compulsory (which it is in some measure everywhere). It is compulsory on the moral or legal (not that I speak to that with authority) authority that it is consented to by the people (whose resources are used) and the parents (whose children are used) and that it carries out the will of the people in the public interest. It seems to me one could legally challenge government’s capacity to compel attendance or registration of children to this program which is not what the people are investing in education for. Or it could remove the basis for education taxes. We invest to sustain our society, not to transform it. That would open both Albert O. Hirschman’s “voice” and “exit” options by which people respond to organizations that no longer meet their expectations or their needs. I’m pretty convinced that the law is the means by which we overcome all this.

    • Karin-

      I think about that a lot. That the property taxes we must pay or have a lien put against the property that can force a tax sale are be used to pay ridiculous salaries and benefits to administrators and compensation rates to consultants. They have no genuine knowledge or expertise that anyone would voluntarily purchase with their own money. What they are selling is their willingness to impose harmful policies and practices on children.

      In my old Gypsy Principals and Gypsy Supers post I said if they like the socialist ed model so much we should charter a plane and let them see what else comes with it in Cuba or Venezuela. Instead we get them pushing virtual reality gaming so students can supposedly appreciate the dynamics of societies and economies. Except the models do not reflect reality. We get mindsets amenable and eager for change and unaware of how the world works.

  5. Special education law came up in a listserve conversation the other day (I come at things myself via labour law and collective bargaining (as a layperson, mind you); I’m seeing the foreboding of Wellington and Winter – The Unions and the Cities – come true).
    Special ed law is all about proving that the right methods – research based – are not being made available to special ed kids. But there may not be a similar legal imperative to use research based methods for all kids if the people are perceived to consent to what is being provided to kids in schools, and paid for. So it seems to me that the legal basis would be to show that it is not what the people want. And that’s almost inherent in the argument, isn’t it – if these forces claim to want to “transform” society, unless explicit consent is acquired for the transformation, it is not by consent. It’s not like they willingly join the church.

  6. Robin, I hear many places have adopted proficiency based grading or standards based grading. Does that somehow fit in with what they are looking to measure? Doesn’t seem like it measures content knowledge.

    • No, it looks for the skills and use of concepts.

      It will take me several posts to make this fully clear, but in the end it will be, I believe, 20-20 clear. I was reading a recent book today. Because the focus was on trying to involve federal civil rights laws so it would be invisibly mandated on classrooms, the authors used phrases that have very fixed meanings in my Ed dictionary.

      I end up reading it as a confession as what is up. Much better than Robin Surmises.

    • LL-watch this video interview of Alex Pentland http://thepenguinpress.com/book/social-physics-how-ideas-turn-into-actions/ and how he confirms precisely what I argued in the book and on this blog. There is an intention to use Big Data to in his words “redesign human society and our systems so they are equitable and fair.” That George Orwell simply was not imaginative enough about what could be done. That it has the potential for Great evil.

      He makes the point that there’s no handle for a dictator to get at so they would have to interact with everyone to get their way. Except we know that’s not true because preschool, K-12, and higher ed are all being reimagined to create known mindsets that can be manipulated. Watch the whole thing, but the truly chilling aspects are from about 11:30 on.

        • This sounds just like the implementation of B.F. Skinner’s ideas that he lays out in crystal-clear terms in his introduction to Walden Two (the story was written in the 40s, btw).

          • I find what Pentland says about Davos to be fascinating too. At the (co)lab summit the retired Chairman of Ernst Young was one of the panelists and he kept mentioning Davos. I guess it is like the Chinese summit. The people invited just assume that invite means they get to be in the planning class and we lesser beings should simply submit to the Overlordship.

        • That is a disturbingly honest declaration of what they seek, the level of intrusion and planning admitted, frightful. Certainly a confirmation! He seems positively joyous about the remaking of America.

        • It is fascinating how many people fail to realize just how much info those customer loyalty cards give off.

          On education, the copout is that there will not be personally identifiable info collected on students. I have researched a story on the Learning Registry that I have not yet written up. I learned there is a term for precisely what I have warned people about. It’s called paradata. And just as I surmised it is looking for what types of students are changed by which curricula and practices and SEL programs. What works on bright kids from good neighborhoods? What works with minorities? That’s the Big Data involved. In the book I mentioned Big Blue’s System of Systems vision and then a few months ago I discovered that the Intl Society for the Systems Sciences was quite excited about that vision. http://isss.org/conferences/sanjose-2012/20110722_ISSS_Ing_PresidentialAddress_v0722a.pdf

          • The level of data wanted on our children makes me so very angry! How do you think they will obtain it from homeschoolers? They will not be left out for long.

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