Laundering Notorious Ideas in Degree Programs to Gain Radical Social and Political Change

Can you imagine if your new District Super or a School Principal or the head of your state’s Workforce Development Panel announced that they were basing their mandates for the classroom on psychotherapy techniques developed at the Tavistock Institute?  Insights from a man best known for his work “stemming from his psychoanalysis of patients in psychotic states.” Now I know Psychanalysis is a change of pace from all those theories and philosophies pretending to be a better way to teach or learn while leaving out their ancestry in the Soviet Union or 19th Century Germany or aspirations of how to gain a Model for a new collectivist World Order as our last post openly touted.

Well kind of openly. It was open in the book and conferences. By the time these ideas make it to coursework for a Masters in Public Policy or a Doctorate in Educational Leadership or Curriculum or School Improvement, we might get more euphemisms. Laundering Ideas to Gain Committed Implementation with Fidelity relies on a large helping of Ignorance with those Degrees.

But maybe the Degree Holders should know something is wrong. I first encountered the name Wilfred Bion in a Masters paper for the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs called “Eleven Distinctions” and written by a Bryan F Lindsley. Now I am not picking on Bryan as his paper popped up as I was researching innovation and my idea that it is actually being touted so much now to create the conditions to make it much less likely in the future. But since 2009 Bryan has been the Executive Director of the Minnesota Governor’s Workforce Development Council. So his ideas on what constitutes thinking and the purpose of education are relevant and Common Core related education reforms have been a big part of his job.

His paper contemplated creating Learning Work Communities which would go hand in hand with the high school reform model we are quietly seeing in the states. Plus it fits with what we saw being pushed in the Twin Cities in their Living Cities and Regional Equity involvement. Not to mention that Minnesota is where community organizing visionary Harry Boyte lives and works with his aspirations that the US become a “cooperative commonwealth” in the 21st Century. And Minnesota was where the Asia Society went recently to trumpet Global Learning and a Metropolitan Business Plan centered on the new economy. You know the one centered around Green Energy and Sustainable Planned Development involving public and private groups?

So Lindsley is quite influential in a state interested in being cutting edge on shifting to a planned Regional Economy centered on Sustainable Development. And his mentors in his Masters program have been quite busy in getting him to focus on how students supposedly Learn How to Think so they can develop self-efficacy (20 points to the first reader who thinks of psychologist Albert Bandura or the California 2010 Equity Frameworks) and an ability to overcome frustration (another 20 points to remembering Carol Dweck and Fostering Growth Mindsets instead of Fixed Ones).

I am joking, kind of, because Lindsley actually did not mention either Bandura or Dweck but he used their ideas that we have discussed previously. Those ideas have a history and a purpose that come with them even if the Degree Holder like your School Principal or Learning Community Assistant Super are ignorant of it. Lindsley then went on to say:

“In an influential essay entitled “A Theory of Thinking,” pioneering psychoanalyst W.R. Bion examined how ‘inability to tolerate frustration can obstruct the development of thought and a capacity to think.’ By learning to control frustration, learners are able to solve complex problems by determining the causal forces in play [how precisely? By role playing Isaac Newton?] and then determining ways to influence these forces through action. For Bion, this is the entire purpose of thinking. It is about exercising competency when confronted with real-world changing conditions.”

Now I found that passage to be alarming at so many levels I just had to find out who Bion was. You can imagine my horror upon finding the info in my lead-in or Bion’s involvement with the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine. But let’s face it, most Graduate students presented with such a passage would not have investigated further. It would simply be taken as a given theory of the new breakthroughs in Learning or the Social Development Model. Something to be foisted on schools and teachers regardless of outcries.

Genuine outcries since these are actually theories of the Mind developed from working with deeply troubled patients. Bion created these theories to go after the unconscious part of the Mind and change that. “Unconscious functioning” was how he described it. Decreeing an organized assault on it should not be in anyone’s job description outside of a well-advertised psychiatric clinic.

But being a stickler for such details is no way to get mass social change and increasingly Education Doctorates are being upfront that credentialing Social Change Agents is their stated mission. They just leave out the details of the ancestry of the theories and models. Which means we have a collision course going on right now as the definition of an Effective Principal becomes about creating coercive behavioral Learning Communities. When Collaboration is touted as one of the 4Cs of 21st Century Skills. When Randi Weingarten, President of the AFT teachers union wants to postpone Common Core assessments for a year to make sure they are measuring the desired objectives of Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Teamwork.

Because it turns out that there is a surge of interest now in Bion all over the world because of his 1961 book Experiences in Groups, based on his research between 1943 and 1952, and the desire to incorporate his theories into creating better group dynamics in schools and reorganized workplaces.  No mention of the ancestry of this “lens for understanding the dynamics of groups and organizations” or Bion’s “fascination with the dark undercurrents of human interaction” as a 2010 Working Group paper in the UK described it. But not for our benefit as parents or taxpayers. Nor will there be any warning to us or the Credentialed Mandaters of the acknowledged “danger of attempting to work ‘below the surface’ in this way”.

The Powers-that-Be who want radical social change ASAP have decreed that Bion’s research on creating a “Work-Group Mentality” will be useful in fostering their New World and revised Human Nature. So we get deliberate targeting in the classroom of each student’s “capacity to contain emotional tensions, conscious and unconscious.” Apparently the desired emotions and ways of thinking are easier if the group has a purpose. You might want to keep that in mind every time you hear the words “our vision” and “our mission” in connection with education and schools.

So the development of a Work-Group Mentality, WGM, is said to constitute Student Growth. Which not so coincidentally is now to be the measure of TEACHER Effectiveness. And WGM is defined as a willingness to take action in the real world coupled with an engagement with the “psychic reality of group life.”

That psychic reality is quite simply about making school address the “tension between shared intention and individual differences.” The Learning becomes a matter of developing “good interpersonal chemistry” and a recognition that any “intellectual understanding” a student has is “mobilized not for personal advantage or pleasure but ‘in the service of the mission.” The utopian vision behind all these group projects and mentions of Teamwork and Collaboration, that are essential components of Common Core Comes to the Actual Classroom, is the idea that:

“By valuing each other’s areas of expertise, for example, trusting each other and speaking frankly to one another, new ways of thinking, relating and acting together can emerge.”

So Bion’s theories fit in perfectly well with the collectivist vision of a planned economy and society we keep encountering as part of all these education reforms. And there’s a reason. It comes from the UN’s aspirations of global Education for Sustainable Development–that Decade Long Program running quietly from 2006 to 2015. But that toxic political, economic, and social vision gets omitted in most discussions of the Common Core except on this blog.

Also omitted is the truly shocking ancestry of all the psychological theories and political philosophies designed to change values, attitudes, and beliefs. To redirect and channel the very ability to think at all. Plus the focus on the “emotional life” of the group, with all this being gathered and kept as data on Growth, is not being talked about either.

So it is now known to us but not known to most Edudoctorate holders or Workforce Development Directors being paid with your tax dollars to force implementation in every K-12 classroom.

Now what do we do?

14 thoughts on “Laundering Notorious Ideas in Degree Programs to Gain Radical Social and Political Change

  1. I admit that I suspected something like this. Administrators and even teachers have seemed to try to cause conflict for my son rather than making situations easier. When I asked why they didn’t do this or that to make things go easier, they were nonresponsive. This year I found a way to step in with some good effect.

    In open-ended group projects in Social Studies, he was getting in a lot of trouble in for telling other students when they were saying something stupid. So I announced to the school that he would henceforth participate at the same level as his fellow group members. If they were doing good work, he would do good work. If they were doing nonsense, he would go along with that too. They may not like it, but I don’t think it’s anything I can get in trouble for, nor can they be too hard on him about it if his Dad has told him to do that.; Since then things have smoothed out. And my son has found that stupid classmates can be fun too, as long as he gets away from goal orientation with them. Group work = social time, full stop. If it’s just training on good old interpersonal skills, that he can deploy in the way he wants (rather than according to some social programming) then I’m all for it. He did have some rough edges to smooth off.

    So that’s a thing that I did. Just a stopgap but I hope someone else may find the idea useful — using the parental authority that we still have (much as they may dislike it) to set some loose boundaries on teacher expectations.

    • Group work. That’s what we use to call cheating. Today it’s the norm—all in the name of building self esteem.

      • Aha Group Work. Last school year I did some substitute teaching. K-8th. Every class had at least 1/3 of the time set aside for Group Work and my first thought was “That’s what we use to call cheating”.

        • And in some ways teachers today are encouraged to facilitate cheating. They’re trained (PD) in strategies to accomplish this—whether it’s cooperative learning, accommodations—heck, just let me do the work for you and tell me if it meets your approval.

  2. Collaboration is an overused term. Yo Yo Ma jamming with Jake Shimabakuro—that’s collaboration. This stuff in schools, be it teacher-to-teacher or student-to-student, is just lame. I suppose it’s an answer to the question “what do we do with the unmotivated or incompetent . . .?” Answer: “Push them off of their peers.” How’s that for management?

    • Don’t forget this troubling original Community of Learners post

      One of the insistences is this is how companies work and the answer is not really. The Businesses doing the pitches attesting to Teamwork are the same businesses using this push for Cronyism. To make Creative Destruction less likely. To never have to worry about a competitor’s superior product again.

      • Another great post—You mentioned Carnegie involvement in the NGSS so I looked it up. When I read the little blurbs by the sponsors of NGSS (Carnegie, GE, Cisco, NOYCE, DuPont) you’re right, it’s all that global, equity, peace, underserved community stuff.

        Experiential science—Descartes is rolling in his grave. Like you mentioned before, it’s like the Enlightenment never happened. There’s no standard of certainty or truth. Is this still planet earth?

        • Noyce is Intel. The money from the foundation comes from the early days. Also funds much STEM work in the not a body of knowledge sense.

  3. here is another blog that has identified sustainable development with common core.
    this is funny, had to link, but many of the posts identify common core as a tentacle of sustainable development, 1987 our common future, bruntland commission and UN sustainable development among others. actually they called common core a plank., which seems accurate.–a-bad-deal-that-will-only-get-worse.aspx

    • I have posts from last summer on the programs coming out of the decade and I spent part of the weekend reading the related economic vision.

      Never forget that this triple bottom line works best for anyone already at the table. This is the original post where I noticed that the Triple Bottom Line was being used as a selling point to stop competition.

      And so much more.

      The social engineering is harder comes from Scientific American. March 2012.

      As I have said. Think stealth coup at our most vulnerable yet lasting points. At Our Expense.

      • Triple bottom line! I know a neighbor who is head of that at an international accounting firm. She is certifiable. You are right. Also
        B corps. Also for example the roundtable on sustainable palm oil. Declared themselves responsible ( with legally circuitous documents which really absolve them of rule following)and require all others to pay for theircertification and seal of approval, putting small farmers out of business to corner market.

        • Especially the fact that the 1996 Management for A Small Planet was brought out in a 3rd edition in 2009. All ready to be incorporated into the Common Core/Regional Equity/Green Energy Planned Economy.

          If you go back to My Belmont Challenge post from last summer the documents consistently say we are not talking about Growth for the future. We get well-being and the satisfaction of everyone doing well instead.

          But contrary to the model it’s not a fixed sum pie.

          I am actually a corporate and securities lawyer by experience and training. I know what the dynamic was when it was the Big 10. Big Accounting and Big Law and the Underwriters all know now with the emphasis on public private partnerships, you need to play. i don’t blame them. That’s the current story but it does relate directly to education and the money is finite. And diminishing.

          Incentives matter. Genuine knowledge matters. We are playing with a dangerous power play here.

  4. Hi Robin. Just wondering if the text you quoted from the Future Worlds Project is online somewhere in a PDF or some other format? I Googled it but came up empty.

    • No I bought the book by Richard Falk called A Study of Future Worlds. It was part of a Series called Preferred Worlds for the 1990s with Saul H Mendlowitz as the General Editor. He is still around as this shows from 2012

      Another point of interest from the General Introduction was that the first WOMP book in 1972, Economics and world Order: From the 1970s to the 1990s came out of a conference at MIT. It was organized by Jhagdish Bhagwati who has since moved on to Columbia and is very active in giving interviews even in the last few months. The publisher of the book I have is the Free Press and came used from the UK.

      My tiptoeing through the footnotes yields gold. But WOMP fits what happened. It fits systems thinking and dynamics models which Jay Forester was also creating at MIT at the same time in connection with the Limits to Growth work for the Club of Rome. The book cites the Club of Rome as being involved in comparable visionary work.

      You can just imagine what my book bill has been this past few months. Ouch.

      Good to hear from you again. It is just over a 500 page book.

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