Raise your hand if you think the purpose of education, P-12 or higher ed, is to change a person’s values, attitudes, and beliefs from within so that we can create a new sustainable or harmonious culture? Where we reject our current economic, political, and social systems and “learn to live in harmony with one another and Mother Earth at the level of the whole?” My reaction to Peter Senge and his Standards of Learning (SoL) and SoL Sustainability Consortium work that pushes comparable mindsets of an altered future and a need to change individual consciousness has always been to wonder if he spent enough time observing the dynamics of the playground when a bully comes along. Plus I am getting very tired of reading all these professors disparaging the “focus on the individual [that] is so deeply embedded in our culture.”
Damn straight and Proud of it is the proper retort for anyone with a love of history. I disagree with the idea that schools need to create “new ways we will need to think and interact in the 21st century” where we learn to collaborate as a collective first and foremost. There are times when it is useful to develop a shared vision but we do not need teachers and Principals and Supers and accreditors insisting it is mandatory and collecting data on students to monitor continuous improvement and Growth in what are quite frankly attitudes of submission. We want this country’s children, this globe’s children, exposed to all the knowledge of our existing cultures that they can take in. If some take in more than others, we need that diversity of knowledge and skills among individuals. Anyone who necessarily assumes that book learning translates into financial success has not known very many valedictorians as adults. Useful but no be all and end all.
Instead we get systems thinkers like Peter Senge enjoying a lucrative lecture circuit and workshop living seeking to make learning about changing “people’s beliefs, ways of seeing the world, and ultimately their skills and capabilities.” I do not want professors who are hostile to the concept of individuals and free market economic systems dictating beliefs in workshops for superintendents, principals, and teachers to bring home and apply in a classroom.
We talked about systems theory some in the previous post. Let’s look at it some more and appreciate just how many high powered corporations have signed onto Senge’s SOL Sustainability Consortium. It certainly puts new meaning into how Bad Ideas get pushed at us via our schools with the explanation “Business wants this.” Maybe so but not necessarily because it is good for students or any country’s long term economic health.
Just after Senge created the Sustainability Consortium he held a conference in Bergen, Norway in July 2000 where the dominant theme was the need to get rid of “non-systemic ways of thinking and acting.” I take that to mean jettisoning individual independent thought with its own arsenal of facts and an ability to apply them logically and without interference from a meddling bureaucrat. But you can see what you think of the need to “invoke a type of learning that moves us away from a conceptual analysis focused on details about ever smaller parts of the world to a holistic model that promotes competent understanding and action based on a grasp of ‘the whole.'”
I bolded the holistic because I kept hearing that the other night in conjunction with promoting the joys of the IB learner Profile. I have learned to see the mention of holistic as a shorthand for telling students what they are to accept or believe at an emotional level. Holistic education integrates the desired concepts or values or beliefs into the very essence of a student’s being without the student having any logical, rational idea why. I think the troubling aspects of Holistic become apparent with Peter’s next probing question that reveals the need to limit facts and personal rationality:
“how do large diverse groups of people come to shared understanding of complex subjects so they can effectively coordinate their actions?”
Well, Peter, that mandated shared understanding is a real problem. Who picks? Who enforces? And aren’t we back to a centrally planned economy and state control over private behaviors? Just in case that statement above was not clear and the extent to which supposedly free people are now to behave consistent with the computer models is not apparent, let’s go to the following quote in the next paragraph. Senge does a brilliant job of explaining why neither OBE or its sibling, systems thinking, wants us to have much knowledge. Nor are we supposed to retain our own beliefs and values and attitudes from home.
“Behavioral complexity arises when diverse agents (I believe he means you and me) have decision making power (that kind of personal liberty will not do apparently in a Sustainable 21st Century), people with different and often conflicting values, mental models, and goals (Oh. No!!). In such situations, seeking common strategies (which is quite beneficial for those seeking wealth and power by government fiat) is typically undermined by behavioral defensiveness and games playing and people ‘conferring immutability (i.e.-not flexible enough with statist collective goals) on value assumptions and ideological considerations.”
If Senge identifies such individualistic recalcitrance as “wicked” problems, which he does, what will he do as parents, taxpayers, school board members, and politicians begin to recognize the collectivist vision of a restructured future he is pushing on our school children via Common Core and the UN. Yes, it turns out Peter has quite an affinity for the UN’s Millenium Development Goals even if we do not. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/you-mean-i-cant-teach-because-the-economy-should-not-grow/ is where we first talked about those MDGs.
And Peter is very well-connected. Lots of big name corporations are part of his Consortium although I have a feeling they are in for the Big Idea part that seems to benefit their bottom line and have not been reading the small print like us. What really worries me most was seeing the open embrace of Columbia Professor Jeffrey Sachs and his ideas on how to end global poverty. I don’t think he has a good track record in the countries he has advised. But I am really worried by how often we keep running into him in our global ed story. First the UN’s Broadband Commission that wants to make that a basic human right that has the tech companies jubilant. Then he is a lead author on the UN’s first ever World Happiness Report as we discussed here. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/is-the-global-happiness-and-wellbeing-push-a-means-for-mental-and-emotional-burglary/. Now this. What an ambitious busy man with a global vision for all of us apparently.
Now that’s enough about Senge and systems thinking, let’s close with an illustration of why this is a spectacularly bad idea being pushed if we are to have any hope of keeping our individual liberty and autonomy and quite frankly our minds intact. At the 2012 Summer ST Conference in July for K-12 educators one of the workshops was called “Five Important Feedback Loops from Limits to Growth.” Now Limits to Growth was a hugely influential and hyped 1972 book put out by the Club of Rome. Its assertions were so over the top that the Club of Rome itself has acknowledged it is not good science, never was, and these are not really valid risks for the Earth.
But systems thinking and dynamic modeling advocates still want this in your child’s classroom because it helps create a politically useful mindset in a malleable mind. And how many teachers or parents would be in a position to know the child was being taught to reimagine the future via repudiated facts and bad science? And you thought NOAA not caring about the actual temperatures was bad.http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/if-reality-is-ignored-or-disregarded-when-do-we-become-a-state-against-its-people/
Told you we have a real problem now with what appears to be an official desire by our government on misrepresenting reality to us. And our children’s ability to ever perceive it accurately. Do you think it has anything to do with that Future Earth Alliance we profiled?