Preemptive Authoritarianism: Governed by Our Monitored and Redesigned Brains

I almost added “21st Century” to Brains in the title, but it made it too long. Please do me a favor though. Every time a politician or anyone else mentions the need to transform K-12 education because the current vision is based on an outdated factory model, or any other justifying statement, to mask what is in fact a desire to control how our minds work for political purposes, remember this post. If anyone was worried I was missing in action or had finally decided to simply shut up about the real intentions behind education reforms, no such luck. Some posts though have no business being written during the traditional period of joyful merrymaking and family gathering. With the confirmation hearings for the proposed new Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, being in two days and her repeated statements and connections tying her vision to what I am about to lay out, it is time to get going again.

Back in the late 1980s the ASCD (tied to NEA) created a framework for what would become better known as Outcomes Based Education, “standards-based reforms,” or “brain-based learning.” Turns out these terms have always been interchangeable if we cut through the deceit and go back to the creators of these theories for educational change. The intent was to link education to what was known about human neurobiology. The framework would have ‘bottom-line integrity”, which today we euphemistically call evidence-based policymaking in education, effective schools, or just research on best practices. To qualify the education practices mandated “must integrate human behavior and perception, emotions and physiology.”

Remember astronomer Carl Sagan? The ASCD quoted him to provide the reasons they wanted to “significantly reprogram and redirect old brain propensities…the potential of the neocortex is that it can find new ways to survive because it is capable of profound learning. And that, we will see, requires us to use our brains in ways that they have never been used before on a large scale.” See what I mean about waiting to write this post out of fear some of us would be tempted to try to drink the entire punch bowl of spiked eggnog? Sagan’s 1977 book The Dragons of Eden is then quoted at length. No solar systems or stars are involved here:

“As a consequence of the enormous social and technological changes of the last few centuries, the world is not working well. We do not live in traditional and static societies. But our governments, in resisting change, act as if we did. Unless we destroy ourselves utterly, the future belongs to those societies that, while not ignoring the reptialian and mammalian parts of our being, enable the characteristically human components of our nature to flourish: to those societies that encourage diversity rather than conformity; to those societies willing to invest resources in a variety of social, political, economic and cultural experiments, and prepared to sacrifice short-term advantage for long-term benefit [whose?]; to those societies that treat new ideas as delicate, fragile and immensely valuable pathways to the future.”

It’s about redesigning existing institutions and systems via changes in how the student’s mind works and what motivates him or her to act. No wonder there has been so much deceit around education reform and a desire to pilfer from my book Credentialed to Destroy, while also repressing its central insights. Let’s go over the Atlantic to see what the UK meant by “high standards” and “raising standards” in the early 90s. Instead of using the graphic term “brain-based” changes to the neocortex, we get regular references to altering how the “central cognitive processor”  or the “central processing mechanism of the mind” works. No mention that this physical target belongs to someone’s children.

“We would rather aim for an even higher road, the unconscious development of a central cognitive processor that would produce far-transfer effects by a mechanism invisible to the learner (perhaps we should say ‘developer’) and thus far more powerful and generalisable than anything restricted to conscious processing.” Monitoring and manipulating the operation of the human mind via K-12 education at a level invisible to the learner sounds rather authoritarian to me, but we cannot rebel against what we are unaware of, can we? In November 2016, the publication Neuron published the article “Neuroethics in the Age of Brain Projects” that was, unfortunately, quite upfront that the BRAIN Initiative (now funded for ten more years by legislation passed by Congress in December supposedly about opioid addiction) and learning standards generally “have the potential to affect the essence of who we are as humans.”

Apparently though we no longer have a say in that fundamental arena of what it means to be human. That article mentioned that one of the funded research grants had gone to a Professor Nikolas Rose. A little research uncovered a 2013 book of his published by Princeton called Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind. My copy showed up just in time to be read while I ate my good luck black-eyed peas, which I knew would be especially needed this year with the book’s ubiquitous references to “governing through the brain.” The planned and taxpayer-financed “conversations between the social sciences [like education] and the neurosciences may, in short, enable us to begin to construct a very different idea of the human person, human societies, and human freedom” ought to be something discussed openly with taxpayers and parents.

I am not sure who ‘us’ is, but giving Congress, a state legislature, or even a school principal such transformative power to transform the human mind and how it works on a biological basis is not a hallmark of a genuinely free society. Especially when the vision is brought to us by professors who are looking for “the basis of a radical, and perhaps even progressive, way of moving beyond illusory notions of human beings as individualized, discrete, autonomous, coherent subjects who are, or should be, ‘free to choose.'”

“Acting on our brains,” “this new topography of the human being,” and the touted “passage of neuroscience from the seclusion of the laboratory to the unruly everyday world, and the new styles of thought concerning the intelligible, visible, mutable, and tractable brain that characterize the new brain sciences are beginning to reshape the ways in which human beings, at least in advanced liberal societies, are governed by others” should all be front and center for discussion in a free society. Instead, we get the deceit surrounding the real purpose of School Choice and misrepresentations on what competency-based education is really intended to modify and change.

Back in December, Jeb Bush had the Director of the Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) Program at Harvard as one of the keynote speakers at his annual summit, sponsored by his foundation (that Mrs DeVos was on the Board of prior to her nomination). I happen to have a copy of an MBE philosophical paper downloaded from Harvard’s website on the morality of the MBE methods and theories. It calls for public debates on the “ethical limits that should be placed on use of biological and psychological technologies in education” and the “kinds of communities and individuals that ought to be fostered.” That Bush foundation states that competency-based education, School Choice, and educational technology are its priorities. Which of these does MBE relate to then or is it all of them is a fair question to ask a Board member at the time the invitation to speak went out.

That cannot happen though because of all the organized misrepresentations that have surrounded learning standards like the Common Core, what its true purposes and history are, or what practices get hidden behind titles like School Choice, high-quality assessments, charters, or classical education. We went back in time and overseas precisely because I wanted to show that this shrouded neurobiological bullseye that the law and ‘public policy’ seeks to invisibly impose is both global and longstanding.

Everything is now in place, except a genuine public recognition of just how much we have all been lied to about what is really intended for our children in the name of education. In the Foreword to the GEM 2016 Report released in early September, the head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, stated:

“Lastly, we must fundamentally change the way we think about education and its role in human wellbeing and global development. Now, more than ever, education has a responsibility to foster the right type of skills, attitudes and behavior that will lead to sustainable and inclusive growth.” That openly declared repurposing of education cannot be discussed when a false narrative pretends that School Choice and competency-based education does not have the precise same aim. Did you know that the term Neuroethics does not necessarily mean the ethics of using a transformational vision of education to redesign how the mind work and then lock it in biologically? It actually also means how to use Neuroscience and brain-based to impose an internalized ethical vision that puts the so-called common good and responsibility for others above individual choices.

Isn’t that something that should at least be discussed if we are still in fact a free society? Is the vision of the future that Marx called the Human Development Society really something that deceitfully imposed educational changes and legislation and regulation can impose as long as the enacters are “duly elected” or appointed?

Is my term “Preemptive Authoritarianism” just a pithy way of getting attention or the biggest understatement so far in 2017?

28 thoughts on “Preemptive Authoritarianism: Governed by Our Monitored and Redesigned Brains

  1. I have no words.
    Well..wait…maybe this:
    I wish Irina Bokova had no words.
    She and all of the other people like her are insufferable.

    • The Bradley Foundation-financed publication arm of PEPG at the Kennedy School at Harvard has been quick to ride to Ms DeVos’ defense. came out today online even though it will not be published until May. How nice to have out before Wednesday’s confirmation.

      I ran out of room. but did you know that the NSF has a Human and Social Dynamics research program to try to combine the social and natural sciences? That the same legislation that prefunded the Brain Initiative also eliminated any cuts in the NSF’s Social and Behavioral Sciences research?

      Here’s another quote from Bokova: “The Report makes clear that understanding and acting effectively upon inequalities requires looking beyond income and wealth disparities to capture their political, environmental. social, cultural, spatial, and knowledge features…Countering inequalities requires robust knowledge–but knowledge alone is not enough. The challenge is to improve the connection between what we know and how we act: to mobilize the knowledge of the human and social sciences to inform policies, underpin decisions and enable wise and transparent management of the shift towards more equitable and inclusive societies.”

      They clearly have plans for us that we were not supposed to recognize in time. Too bad, so sad. Not.

      • This would be my sons 9th grade biology class: population, pharamacology? Pharmaceuticals? tipping points, species loss, fear! Now this semester, how alchohol effects the body, cell structure, cancer, mtv’s reality show about heroin addiction, youtube PSA’s, sex and
        ” health” ( wink wink) a jolly good time except oops they forgot the freakin biology! I am ill. I am not joking this is what they are doing in the flesh. Of course for the tuition i pay i am going bananas on them.

        • Few institutions in the world are as contemptuous of parents as a private K-12 school with a wait list.

          As you are noticing, science turns into buzz terms that are intended to invoke an image in the mind of the student when they come up in the future as a ‘cultural problem’ that must be solved by political action.

    • Good one mc. So many wasted words. Thats all they do is imbed the truth under piles and piles of vague abstractness surrounded by medium big repetative barren words. Just ever so smugly rejoicing, bragging about their sinster machinations. International Bonkers Society.

      • Speaking of illusory, look at this planned program and the pretend schism is apparent.

        There is no divide. Just pretend rhetoric to mask the actual long-standing convergence. That’s why we get Exemplars of Innovative Schools touting Project Lead the Way, which has purported ‘conservative’ Bill Bennett as its lead Senior Advisor last I looked. If you read the PEPG reports going back to its establishment Hess is all over it back when he was a poli sci prof at UVa. Like Jay Greene at U-Texas, education reform is how one forces the desired political transformation without protest. The parents and taxpayers still think this is all about teaching a subject.

        The PEPG, AEI, New ventures vision all are based on a comparable vision to what is laid out openly here.

        • Beware of Community Organizers

          That last link to — Collaborating for Equity and Justice: Moving Beyond Collective Impact — describes 6 principles to help promote the agenda they endorse. While I’m still trying to digest this 17-page manifesto (I’m a s-l-o-w reader & searcher for *meaning”) I note that community organizing is to be a large part of their plan.

          We will need to do our homework on this. Saul Alinsky, considered the founder of the community-organizing movement, wrote “Rules for Radicals” in the early 70s and activists use these behaviors to this day.

          Here is a link that might help us speak out in opposition if these people come riding in —

          • I just came across this from a Canadian on a blog discussing the pope’s latest tyrannical actions:

            Declaring authority over our property.
            I hope you know this is exactly what is planned. The word “sharing” is very popular with Francis. We heard his claim that not sharing food, house and life with “refugees” is not Christian. The “elites” talk about abolition of private property in Davos, and in the UN, in line with Agenda 2030 (former Agenda 21). Last year I heard a report on CBC radio – our Canadian politicians, scientists, educators and media personalities talked about the coming end of private property: homes, cars, home appliances, clothes, toys. Everyone was clapping and celebrating the fact that the youth are all on board thanks to proper education. They called them agents of change, same thing Bergoglio has been known to call the young people. They are taught to correct their parents on their environmentally unfriendly habits. In November a whole day on CBC Radio seemed to have been devoted to educating us on the evils of home heating. An old lady called in and claimed that she uses warm sweaters instead.

            One more thing – regarding our diets, our lords are investing heavily in research into replacing meat with bugs.

            There is also the New Age organization connected to ascended masters and the coming of Lord Maitreya – Share International. I am sure Bergoglio is well acquainted with it.

            I wish I was making this up. [End quote]

          • In reply to Robin’s link re Education Deans’ Declaration (below, 9:59 am):

            Deans Of Education & The Collective Mindset

            The subgroup of Education Deans for Justice and Equity (EDJE) in the US is trying to establish themselves as the voice for this cause. But their cause is not just equity and justice — it’s also about preserving the whole public school system is it is today. Preserving the status quo!

            In 1984 Milton Friedman said this about the growing concern about school quality: “ . . . centralization and bureaucratization of public schooling are the fundamental reasons for the deterioration. As financing of public schools has moved further and further away from local control, the educational bureaucracy has tended to replace parents in deciding what and how our children should learn.“

            This call–to-arms by EDJE is really a hasty move to waylay the incoming president-elect, Donald Trump, even before he has taken office, a week away from today (Jan 13 ’17). They know his philosophy supports parent involvement in the education of their children. His proposed appointee as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is a strong supporter of parental choice.

            The collective mindset illustrated here is self- serving and is far, far away from the aspirations and needs of individual students and their parents.

          • A Huge Report On “Progressive” Methods

            The National Association of Scholars took three years of research to produce their report — Making Citizens. A story about this is entitled — Report Reveals Massive Indoctrination of Students at Universities Through ‘Transformative Civic Engagement’. Over 5700 comments!

            At the same time that this 525-page report was released the Education Deans for Justice and Equity issued their shorter piece — a call for presidential support in retaining the public school system and the teacher training institutions as presently in place (175 “deans” already signed this petition). (link in post Jan 13, 9:59am)

            The EDJE petition was hastily organized as a response to the election of Trump for US Presidency. In classic anxiety engendering language EDJE says they are “seriously concerned by recent rhetoric of the incoming administration that has already led to increased bullying, violence, and fear in classrooms across the country.” Revealingly, this EDJE initiative originates from an address at University of Colorado Boulder — one of the universities described by the Scholars group where students are systematically being shaped for “progressive political activism”.

          • I found that report and its timing to be odd, especially given what I laid out about higher ed in Chapter 5 of Credentialed to Destroy and the timing of what I referenced. This is a problem that goes far beyond how Civics and Government are taught and so many of the Ed writers at these think tanks with ties to PEPG, like Jay Greene and Rick Hess, came to education from a poli sci background and were Government profs.

            This is a link to a Personalized Learning webinar with an Equity and Social Justice theme too in honor of MLK Day–

            It asks “How can learners develop the skills necessary to foster a better society?” It’s not just higher ed wanting to turn the students into Change Agents. They all want to build on what has been going on in K-12. Why isn’t NAS going after the implications of Lumina’s Diploma Qualifications Profile and its grounding in Robert Kegan’s Cognitive, Intrapersonal, and Interpersonal Competencies as I have?

            Agree on Boulder. It is where NEPC is based. Many of us with kids in well-known higher ed institutions have set at Convocations and Commencements in the last several years and been fascinated by the new purposes openly announced by the various deans. Why not go after what is going on in Public Policy schools generally that is all grounded in behavioral science insights? Neuroeconomics or that new Princeton Kahnemann-Treisman Center on Behavioral Science and Public Policy?

            Here is a quote for where Personalized Learning is supposed to take students to emphasize Equity and Social Justice starting in Preschool. By college, these mindsets will be locked in at a neural level and be largely unconscious habits.

            “Schools need to be laboratories for a more just society than the one we live in now. We live in a society that is diverse and, unfortunately, too many schools fail to confront the inequalities woven into our social fabric.[Rethinking Schools] Teachers have little control over class size, school practices, and planning time. One classroom at a time can become places of hope. The curriculum needs to encourage learners to “share their voices” with the world. We want to learners of all ages to see themselves as truth-tellers and change-makers. Social justice is not an “add on” for classrooms; it is a way of teaching and being that supports higher-level thinking and learning throughout our lives. [Edutopia] Since our society is changing, more voices will be sharing what they believe. However, they may not know if the source they read about is based on facts. Read Rusul Alrubail’s Five Ways to Advocate for Justice in Education and consider this quote from her: “We discuss social justice and equity in the classroom to help raise awareness that these issues directly touch our lives, and if we don’t speak up for ourselves, then who will?”

          • When the advocated solution tracks back to Clinton Ed Sec Richard Riley we can be sure the NAS Report is actually a Trojan Horse.

            We also know Joy Pullmann is hyping the NAS Report , which suggests the Bradley Foundation cannot be far behind. The local Barney Affiliate that is tied to Hillsdale’s Terrence Moore was advertising that it creates students equipped for virtuous living and good citizenship. Sounds like it fits with the ASCD concepts-first and then experiential model as well. Everyone seems to want to get at how students are to think and what it is they are to believe and value. Fits right in with that Moral and Spiritual Education Framework and what is called holistic education by the Mullah’s ed profs in Iran. I will get to all that next. I was just dotting the i’s and t’s today to make sure Robert George really did write what I remembered and then cross-checking it against something Stephen Breyer wrote that functions the same way.

      • Take a look at this and the assumption that ed administrators can somehow explain to much more tech savvy parents how IPAD use and immersion are a good idea.

        My husband, who has a CS degree from Ga Tech from back when they used punchcards, explained to a hoity toity daycare director once touting the computer lab that “we preferred books.” It’s the ed admin’s who do not get the consequences of making school about the use of a tool. Spartanburg County, SC would come under my heading of an Inapt Analogy.

        This is yet another reason why hyping the Local as ‘conservative’ simply means we are asking to get even more screwed by politicians and governments.

  2. Robin, this post is a tour de force, one of your most lucid, heart-stopping posts to date. Thank you for your Herculean labor, your willingness to persist in subjecting yourself to a form of hell for the sake of the truth…

    We are all in your debt.

    • Thanks. Interesting link, but as I am not a fan of ESSA, which I have read, and I have spent part of today trying to access the new “Equity for Children” report to get a handle on what is planned in the name of alleviating poverty, I think that is a dangerous remedy to be touting. Maybe someone else will have better luck. My computer keeps telling me the site is hacked.

      This was the original article that tipped me off. I have written that the Equity in Health and Right to the City and the SDGs generally are what is pulling us all towards what Marx called his Human Development Society. It’s not that I am a misanthrope who does not want to share. Objectively looking at the Mind Arson of competency-based education and assuming this is a zero sum world where wealth can be distributed without negative consequences is false in my mind and my reading of history. We can recognize it now or when we are in utter turmoil in five to ten years. As I said in CtD, we might as well be convincing students they can fly and shoving them off the fourth story. Wanting something cannot always make it so and we don;t always get another chance to fix what should never have been broken by anyone with wisdom.

      The flippant “it’s not about the Common Core” reminds me of this disingenuous piece that came out last week and then was reprinted this week by Fordham and today in the state Atlas affiliate–the Georgia Public Policy Foundation-‘s newsletter. Fordham, PEPG, AEI, and New Schools Venture Fund are all doing that program I linked to on January 25, 2017 on Race, Social Justice, and School Reform. Back in 2014 at its annual meeting, David Coleman, the purported CCSSI architect now at the College Board when he is not regarding China as the sun we should pay homage to, said that by 2017 we would have moved on past the Common Core.

      That is precisely what is happening because of this misexplanation, with a great deal of coordinated effort, of what the Common Core was really all about. My book Credentialed to Destroy recognized that reality, which is why it is not a book Pondiscio can cite and then disniss. I have never been part of the approved effort to create the right side of the sluice that would send everyone sliding into the behavioral science template of competency-based education without protest. I can tell when someone is describing it correctly as Michael Horn did in that EdSurge interview or deliberately misexplaining it as the APP/Pioneer paper did preparing the way for the Catholic Schools to implement the behavioral science template. Notice how complimentary that article is though on Pioneer’s work. It does seem to provide cover for the PEPG and Center for Curriculum Redesign Work.

  3. These recent news articles reminded me of the privacy lawyer video referencing block chain. Also, the experimental economics you have mentioned before.

    “The blockchain becomes the city’s operating system, invisible yet ubiquitous, improving citizens’ access to services, goods and economic opportunities.”

    • Which fits with how this, which I read yesterday that came out this week, works.

      Notice the Foreword to that link is a UN official who admits this is how the SDGs Obama committed us to in 2015 get met.

      Also notice that the K,L & SC link above states that this is part of the Belmont Challenge and Future Earth System I stumbled across in 2012 that caused me to temporarily put off publishing my book to start this blog. Credentialed to Destroy did accurately figure out the true context for the Common Core, which is what continues to make it a beacon for recognizing what is really going on. The neurobiological purpose is a horrific detail that goes to purpose, not effect. We knew, for example, from what is cited in my book, that fluent, phonetic reading is known to create an Axemaker Mind that is hard to manipulate into Inapt Analogizing and Emotions First Decisionmaking.

      Glad you are making it out of the Deep Freeze.

    • Take a look at what is acknowledged in these PreConference seminars to the sold-out Learning and the Brain Conference in SF. Also notice how often it is a private, parochial, or charter school teacher presenting.

      So College and Career Ready is actually about self-regulation (‘self-governance’?) of the student’s ABCs-Affective, Behaviors, & Cognition. I knew that of course, but with ESSA now everyone seems to feel free to trumpet, at least to each other, what is really aimed at. It’s what the Harvard MBE program calls the simplex system and aiming at it is precisely what School Choice as the mantra is intended to obfuscate. It’s also why that Pioneer/APP paper deliberately misrepresented the nature of Competency-based education and Tranzi OBE so that everyone’s aim at the Simplex could be presented as somehow the essence of Catholicism and what Catholic ed must target that public schools do not. These false narratives actually have had the effect of turning Klieg Lights on precisely the aims these think tanks and the intellectual whores they employ want to obscure.

      The think tank paymasters want the invisible, steerable noetic keel without that being recognized. Too bad, so sad.

    • I think you should download this report that came out today called Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity.

      Not only is a clearly the Marxian Human Development Society by function and intent if not name, it shows precisely how ‘quality education’ fits into the template. It also cites two different Multnomah County recent reports. One is called What is the equity and empowerment lens? and the other is the 2014 “Foundational Assumptions of the equity and empowerment lens model”.

      It also says that after the election, President Obama issued an Executive Order establishing a Community Solutions Council making the local the ‘focus for policymaking.’ I wonder if Tom Price knows? Just think of how well this fits with the mayors insisting they can be the place that defies the focuses of the Trump Administration and any attempts to reneg on the UN’s SDGs. It also fits with what came out of Habitat III and the Right to the City edicts.

      Here is the link announcing the XO about a week after the election to consolidate the past 7 years of community work.

      I am about to invent a new word to deal with all these machinations that are to ultimately be grounded at the neurobiological level. First though I had best locate all these cited reports and XO.

      It also fits with this new UNESCO report launched today from the Davos WEF forum to create a new view of what constitutes ‘prosperity’ going forward. How’s this for confirming yet again what I warned about in Credentialed to Destroy:

      At the same time, as the economy becomes greener, it must also become more inclusive. Prosperity must be conceived in ways that leave no one behind. Closer integration of education, economic and employment policies are essential for that change to happen.

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