Prescribing How We Frame Experiences is the Lynchpin of Wholesale Unconscious Behavioral Change

Historian Robert Conquest has a great term for the kind of ideas and concepts we are dealing with as education all over the globe thinks reframing our consciousness is the legitimate new focus. To get a different kind of society and economy and future of course. Because good intentions excuse all? When any kind of knowledge of the past and the consistency of human nature and governments that accept no boundaries would be sending up red flags of danger. It feels a bit like 1938 when Churchill’s knowledge of history told him that there would in fact be “no peace in our time” from conceding to a not yet full-strength tyrant.

Conquest calls these ways of framing our perceptions and experiences that have in fact escaped the reality that currently exists and any empirical controls–“brain blindfolds.” An apt term it seems to me to deal with K-12 and higher ed institutions globally where the principals and Supers and college Presidents are being pushed to see their new mission as transformation of the students they are presented with. Like this as the instructions on how to push the desired changes (my bolding for emphasis):

“one continually sees that a critique of one’s identification with the values and loyalties of one’s cultural or psychosocial surround precedes the construction of a fourth order system that can act upon those values, set them aside, or modify or reappropriate them to a new place within a more encompassing organization.”

That passage is from a 1994 book by the now-regularly present, Harvard prof Robert Kegan, called In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life. Written before the Democrats lost the House for the first time in 40 years in 1994 or Outcomes Based Education and School to Work controversies began to undermine the educational ‘reforms’ the Clinton administration was pursuing at the federal level in the 90s version of what is being called the Common Core now. These old blueprints do not go away and books written before controversies tend to be graphic in their intentions. Now that we have learned that the OECD is pushing ed reforms in K-12 globally around Kegan’s vision of shifting consciousness and that the US plans to reshape higher ed announced in January 2012 by the White House are also grounded in Kegan’s work, we had better understand what we are dealing with. The $50 word ‘omnipresent’ is not an exaggeration of the role Kegan’s theories are playing.

Except they are not really his theories as in unique, original work. It’s more like he is a major spokesperson and proponent of theories with an even more troubling pedigree. According to the Comparative Education Research Center based at the University of Hong Kong as laid out in a 2001 book Values Education for Dynamic Societies: Individualism or Collectivism, this focus on personality-oriented education and a socio-psychological concept of “personality development” comes straight out of Russian and then Soviet traditions. And upon reading that I did some checking yesterday on the current integrative models being pushed by Mikhail Berulava (he gets cited in book). Alive and well and stronger than ever since the Cold War is one way to describe it. And apparently Sochi is ever so much nicer than Siberia.

In other words, we have a real problem. It is global but that 2001 book does let us know that “elites’ in the US want American citizens to have a much greater orientation toward the collective. So does Kegan. This is what he wants to see for an adolescent curriculum. He wants the school to “grow the mind” so that each student’s daily perceptions become guided in a way “faithful to the self-psychology of the West [think Maslow and Rogers] as to the ‘wisdom literature’ of the East.” Elsewhere, Kegan mentions a Zen-like orientation as desirable. He wants education to create “a process by which the whole (‘how I am’) becomes gradually a part (‘how I was’) of a new whole (‘how I am now.’)”

Kegan may talk a lot about ‘autonomy’ and ‘self-direction’ but both he and the global ed reforms movement that pushes his and the personality development purpose generally (which is basically everybody with power now to be honest) expressly reject defining these terms as “personal authority or psychological independence.” No, this vision of education as ‘a reconstitution of self’ via “a transformation of ‘the way we understand'” never loses sight of the person as a mere part of a greater whole that should be dedicated to a common good.

Kegan envisions adolescence developing so that each child takes “out membership in a community of interest greater than one, to subordinate their own welfare to the welfare of the team, even, eventually, to feel a loyalty to and identification with their team, so that its success is experienced as their own success.” Talk about No Man is an Island. No Man Stands Alone. I am going to interrupt this discussion to point out that these are the same reforms that were so controversial in Hong Kong when they were introduced there. Kegan even mentions Kohlberg on his Acknowledgments page as his “late teacher and friend.”

They would be controversial in other countries too if they were not hiding in what PISA is actually measuring or in poorly appreciated definitions of “lifelong learning,” “self-directed learning,” or “college and career ready.” Everything is geared towards us never seeing what is coming that we are funding until it is too late. The internal psychological changes will have already occurred. Because they are intrinsically tied to feelings and emotions from an early age they are supposed to be almost impossible to reverse.

Reader alert! If the mention of sex is not something you want to accidentally read about, skip this paragraph. But Kegan saw teenage sex, not counting intercourse in passages I cannot believe I had to read, as helpful to priming adolescents to be guided by their experiences at both a physical and emotional level. Doesn’t that put a new spin on the unending push for graphic presentations to students in schools over the last few decades? He literally sees such a push as being beneficial for adolescent students to learn what mutuality means and how to relate to others and their needs. That’s enough. I am blushing now and this is mild compared to his descriptions in the book. But mentioning this and the reasons for it should help all of us appreciate how important the desired wholesale changes in behavior and how things are perceived is. And how crucial education is to the venture.

As many teachers have already either intuited or actually heard from a Change Agent Principal, these personality changes and consciousness shifts are needed from teachers as well. No one in the building or on campus shall survive in the form and with the values they entered would be one way to describe it. I want to go back to Robert Conquest again and his fine book from 2005 The Dragons of Expectation: Reality and Delusion in the Course of History because he and I are worried about the same thing–“the general state of the Western Mind.” It’s just that this blog has a great deal of detail on how it is being targeted for wholesale change. But I would argue still for the same end as what Conquest recognized. We have bureaucrats and politicians and self-interested cronies in the public and private sectors who personally would benefit from “state control of much of human activity.”

When I mention the Soviets as the source of a theory or practice, I am not trying to frighten you. As a history major, I get what it was created to do and why it does not belong in schools or college classrooms or any society that hopes to remain truly free. Where individuals still matter in the original meaning of autonomy. If history is not your idea of a good beach read, you may never have pondered the significance of Robert Louis Stevenson’s (remember Treasure Island?) observation that “Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone, but principally by catchwords.” And one group with aspirations for social transformation will know exactly what those cultivated catchwords are.

When we are worrying about the origination of these theories and practices being pushed on us without our consent, let’s keep in mind this Conquest observation (my points in brackets):

“The ideal totalitarian state should control the mental as well as the physical lives of its population. Real life is not quite up to this. But if we consider the Stalin and other similar regimes, we see that they had progressed a long way towards it. [Precisely what has been imported to the US and other countries]. The most obvious and critical point is the degree to which all channels of information were blocked [by poor reading methods? cultivated erroneous perceptions? reliance on feeling and propaganda visuals?], and the extent to which a radically false picture was forced on Russian minds. For the Stalinist regime did not merely deny reality; it substituted for it a fully ideologized world fantasy.”

False pictures and world fantasies and substitutions of videogames for reality are precisely what is coming at us in 2013. Stay tuned.


10 thoughts on “Prescribing How We Frame Experiences is the Lynchpin of Wholesale Unconscious Behavioral Change

  1. Wow. This sure explains why NYS wants 9th grade teachers to teach Black Swan Green–specifically the chapter that begins with a character thinking about a valentine that says “suck my….” Though that introductory paragraph is not part of the “officially” sanctioned excerpt, parents opposed to The Bluest Eye might give pause. Can’t imagine many 9th graders feeling comfortable with this or the excerpt describing she-werewolves urinating in their room. Whatever happened to Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice, or Tale of Two Cities?

    • Thanks Nimbus. I was concerned about writing that paragraph but the vision was central. And I felt the idea that we are using schools to encourage sex because it should be beneficial to a transformative vision was something I knew needed to be people’s radars.

      Hoping my mom and none of my kids read this post. It would merit an Oh Good Grief. Truly was a huge part of the “Coaching the Curriculum” for adolescence.

  2. Kegan, who I’ve encountered before (not just here, but in some reading I’ve been doing over the last year or so, though I can’t remember where (I’ve probably got some of his stuff on my hard disk)) is an atavistic throwback to the late sixties/early seventies sexual revolution era.

    Its quite impossible to take his breezy, moral nihilism seriously except as a projection of his own internal fantasies and ideological reveries. It all sounds a bit like a cross between Marcuse and Kinsey.

    These people need to be exposed, intellectually decimated, and then ignored.

    I fear, however, that that cultural moment may have passed.

    • Loran,

      What is so frightening as with all this social engineering is the focus shifts to this being helpful to achieving the desired transformation in society (which I would debate but that’s the premise} and the damage to individuals who are children entrusted to adults is just ignored.

      But right now Kegan is the living spokesperson for a view that holds great transformative potential over the West. We can dismiss him after we know it is there and how it is being used. Which is what I am painfully and systematically doing. I was at a conference today with some Bigwigs and no one really seems to understand what they want really means. And they all seem to be doing things at the local level because feds are picking up most of the tab that would be looked at harder if everyone did not assume this was free money.

  3. The use of Linguistic Structure prescribes the frame of language and thereby prescribes how we frame experiences.

    The Sophist Linguistic Structure is based upon unbalanced subjective definition as a means of contention to convey certainty, and since the Sophist Linguistic Structure is based upon subjective definition, rather than objective balance, the Sophist Linguistic Structure of language results in subjective framing of language to frame subjective certainty.

    The Dialectic Linguistic Structure is based upon balance between the meaning of the words used to convey certainty and the meaning of certainty as a whole that the words convey. The Dialectic Linguistic Structure is based upon objective balance; therefore the Dialectic Linguistic Structure results in objective framing of language as a means to convey objective meaning and metrics in and of nature.

    A third option of Linguistic Structure is the use of a Sophist Linguistic Structure with a Dialectic Linguistic Structure that results in subjective contention being mixed with objective argument, so that objective argument can be used in support of propaganda and subjective contention.

    A fourth option of Linguistic Structure is the use of either positively charged dialectic or negatively charged dialectic in the place of positive and negative balance in dialectic to provide either a positively charged argument or a negatively charged argument for use in propaganda.


  4. Is This Rush To Transform Just More Of The 100th Monkey Race?

    I believe most people know the story of the 100th Monkey. It is worth reopening the chat — is it myth, real, wishful thinking or what? Does it relate to this steamroller effect we see re 21st Century Learning?

    With people like Gar Alperovitz travelling the world with his social prophecies, with references to “the Frankfurt School” easily rolling off his tongue and no apologies for their social engineering visions, we might wonder what’s the rush, what’s the excitement?

    It was a shock to me to read our local newspaper heralding another such guru event, Robert Reich’s upcoming keynote speech to my neck of the woods — Vancouver, BC, Canada. Message? Income inequality could bring down democracy and lead to social upheavals — part of a weeklong Community Summit on our economic future.

    What blows me away, and underlines my naivety, is seeing the popularity and strong audiences these folks command. I thought they were fringe and extreme — maybe utopian at best.

    Where is this propulsion coming from?

    Are these crusaders racing to be the 100th monkey? To be the final link ensuring the critical mass of mind-to-mind conversion to a new social order?

    When Ken Kesey, Jr published his little book (1981), urging people to copy it without copyright concerns — just spread it far and wide — he had been bitten by two influences. One, he became convinced of the doomsday certainty of nuclear destruction. Two, his “exposure to the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon, which I [he] learned about in talks by Marilyn Ferguson and Carl Rogers.”

    Maybe I’m way off base in suggesting these gurus are operating under this mission. Wikipedia clearly notes: “The story as told by Watson and Keyes is popular among New Age authors and personal growth gurus and has become an urban legend and part of New Age mythology.”

    Nevertheless, it’s not just these gurus who make me nervous. It’s also the crowds they fetch. Are they buying into this one-size-fits-all template — one that bedevils the public education system with such disastrous results?

    I much prefer the story as re-interpreted by Elaine Myers in “The Hundredth Monkey Revisited” wherein she questions and doubts that any “critical mass” happenings will occur. Instead, she feels we can welcome new alternatives but simply to add to choices we are already dealing with.

    I believe she sees freedom of choice as a far superior way to evolve changes in our communities against eagerly following some central planners’ agendas.

    And, by the way, I must add how insulted I feel to read and hear Alperovitz say so arrogantly and assuredly that we need not worry, we’re simply in a state of “prehistory”. As if his glorious vision is already a fait accompli !

    • Tunya,

      I have not mentioned Marilyn Ferguson but people I have mentioned cite to her and she to them. Same vision. One problem is simply not enough people appreciate what generated the levels of wealth they take for granted. Or that it’s not a fixed pie and places have wrecked their ability to ever get back to the levels they were at when they started wholesale redistributing. It can easily become a shrinking pie but Gar and Reich have spent their careers in academia or government service or nonprofits which pay no taxes and distribute out in salaries instead in all too many cases.

      Reich also wrote the Foreword for A Spirit Level that I wrote about.

      Bioregionalism is strong where you are. My old post “Why Make the Long Sought Goal of Anarchists and Socialists the 21st Century Education Ideal?” started off with visions from books written in Vancouver. The MH/HP oriented book I am looking at today has 3 contributors from U of BC: Patricia Kennedy Arlin, Michael J Chandler, and Stephen Holliday.

      I think tomorrow’s post will help you with some more bullet points. Another problem is that the 21st century is being sold as the age of China and the West post port cities are being told they will be able to ride on Asia’s success.


  5. It’s Disheartening To Realize How Deep And Embedded Is The Ideological Takeover

    Marshall Berman who just died in NYC — a Marxist Humanist, a professor, an author and active promoter of his ideology — is no more but some will say his works will carry on.

    I had never heard of him or his works until his death was mentioned.

    Another Marxist Humanist is one I do know — Peter McLaren — also a professor, author and active promoter of his ideology. I’ve only seen him once at a recent AERA conference doing a presentation. It was within the first few minutes that he identified himself clearly as a Marxist Humanist and that it was a mission with him. He travels a lot.

    The Internet says: “Peter McLaren is internationally recognized as one of the leading architects of critical pedagogy worldwide.” And that is how I know about him and his influence. Because, while I’m generally interested in world affairs, it’s been the education field that mostly worries and troubles me and takes my time.

    While I respect freedom of speech and promotion of one’s beliefs I do not stand by coercion and scheming indoctrination, which I fear is increasingly happening through our public schools. The worst part of this perception is that this has been growing by determined, contrived, stealth.

    The absolute worst part of this scenario is that this ideology does not believe in consent or choice. Their ideal would be that all children and their families would partake of this one-total system.

    I believe otherwise. I, individually, must have choices. Furthermore, economically and politically, I’m convinced from history that individual choices make for the best futures. No mass totalitarian central controlled regimes ever provide for a happy, fulfilling life. I do not want “state equalizers” coming to my home. (BTW: In Canada we DO have equalization payments made by the federal government — 10 provinces over the last half-century have received or paid, depending on whether they are a “have” or “have not” entity. Bioregionalism?)

    Marxist Humanists and fellow travellers have agendas, which demand mass obedience.

    I’ve been reading an important book (a thesis in published book form) — “The critical turn in education: The emergence of Marxist thought and the rise of an academic left from the 1960s to the 1980s”, Isaac Gottesman, 2011. It charts how Marxist and Frankfurt School influence has methodically grown in the last half century. And, became embedded in academe.

    We have an immense challenge ahead if this juggernaut of total population control as we see emerging — with such catchy terms as 21st Century Learning — is to be derailed. Here are just three quotes from the above-mentioned book

    “Schools do not only control people; they also help control meaning.” (147)

    “ . . . an unapologetic argument for mass movement building around issues of economic injustice as a necessary step for realizing progressive school reform” (220)

    “If we are to develop scholars and activists who are working in solidarity towards the goal of radical social change, and perhaps even a democratic socialism underpinned by a critical Marxist impulse, we must do so with all the analytical and conceptual care that we hope a more just social order might offer.” (223)

    • Tunya,

      I would add Bertell Ollman who is also at NYU.

      But I believe he has been open in his advocacy all along.

      A point I make in the book is how proud many of the admitted Marxists are when they can can embed the theory without using the M word. So people are advocating and implementing without awareness of ancestry.

      Robert Tucker says he embraces the human development theory but not the economic theory. I don’t really think you can separate them. There’s a 1935 book I have on Collectivism which argues that once a society has industrialized with mass private property, Fascism will always be the form collectivization takes. Ed now is about to be devoted to changing beliefs and values and attitudes. If I have not been clear, that is what the OECD defines now as an autonomous individual. One who considers others first. That feels the interdependence of all as a matter of reflex. In other words, at an unconscious level.

      Digital learning is the key because of the dominance of the visual, the powers of virtual immersion, and the ability to track the affective and strategies being used.

      It sounds melodramatic to say this Competency push, what used to be called Transformational outcomes based education, is an invisible political coup. But it’s an accurate statement and a specific intention of way to many people globally. They want to keep power or extend and live at taxpayer expense for life.

      That cannot last but how long it does will determine the extent of what is intended to be irreversible change.

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