Let’s go back in time to the 1960s for social plans before comparing them to plans from last month in the UK clearly following the same long desired blueprint. The back cover of The Art of Conjecture book from the last post mentioned a related book called Social Technology that helpfully explains to us that:
the gap between the social and the physical sciences will not persist…[as long as people come to recognize that] the comparison with the social with the physical sciences is a spurious one, based on an epistemological misconception regarding the nature and purpose of scientific activity…this is the crucial point–there is every reason to believe that, by effecting specific changes in attitudes and procedures, we can substantially narrow the gap between physical technology and sociopolitical progress…The time has come to emulate, not physical science, but physical technology.
Translating that into more graspable English, it is the role of the physical sciences to describe what is or, at least, what seems to exist. The role of physical technology is to be put into operation in the existing world to see what gets changed as a result. For this vision of Social Technology to work, it needs means for “devising appropriate educational innovations” that can “construct a common frame of reference in order to promote a unified collaborative effort.” We might call such an aspiration as the creation of an internalized common core of prevailing attitudes, beliefs, conceptual Ideas, values, and motivations to act. It was all laid out many years before what we today would call THE Common Core or Competency-Based Education. Think though of the potential of learning standards globally tied to UNESCO criteria if the sought sociopolitical transformations need a specified contextual map grounded at the physical, neural level, establishing:
a common vocabulary, an agreed-upon ideology, a set of reasonable goals, a common context for symbols, and ways of translating ideas into actions… [These would lead] above all, to acquiring an integrated overview of the problem area…forcing the analyst to make specific which elements of a situation he is taking into consideration and in imposing on him the discipline of clarifying the concepts he is using. The model thus serves the important purpose of establishing unambiguous intersubjective communication about the subject at hand. Whatever intrinsic uncertainties may becloud the area of investigation, they are thus less likely to be further compounded by uncertainties owing to disparate subjective interpretations.
Put the Reading Wars in a whole new light. doesn’t it? It also explains why phonetic reading and how to teach it had to be constrained until after learning standards could be mandated that would specify the desired conceptual frameworks that would provide the required new categories of thought. Let’s go back to The Art of Conjecture one more time since it accurately recognized that “Our perception of the facts depends on our ideas: it is through our ideas that we know reality.” Therefore through education that uses learning standards and required annual assessments of Higher-Order Thinking Skills to monitor and control which Ideas a Mind uses to guide perception and the interpretation of experiences, political authority and its think tank allies across the political spectrum have stealthily managed to control what every censor and authoritarian government in history craved control over: “our awareness of reality and our expression of this reality.”
That is because as a practical matter “our mind ‘sees’ by means of ideas” and education and the media have formally joined hands to control those ideas. The role of prescribed lenses, frames, narratives, or scenarios to imagine what might be different has the effect of prescribing the ideas we use in reading the facts. Now, the author of the Social Technology book, Olaf Helmer, was a co-founder of the Institute for the Future in 1968 to bring about the vision from both his book as well as The Art of Conjecture to create an institution to create a “constructive approach which will ensure to us some measure of control over the future of our society.”
IftF works closely today with Knowledge Works to create Forecasts involving to future of K-12 education and push Competency-Based Education. Its employees are also closely involved with pushing the potential of digital technology to reimagine what the world could become and why it is needed. http://invisibleserfscollar.com/when-gaming-intends-to-shape-and-distort-our-perceptions-of-everything-around-us-viva-la-revolution/ is from 2013. IftF also repeatedly shows up working with the GEFF 2030 visions surrounding the SDGs and all of the OECD’s work called Education 2030. Now let’s come back to last month’s https://media.nesta.org.uk/documents/Our_futures_by_the_people_for_the_people_HrqsGPo.pdf on how mass involvement in shaping the future can solve complex problems. It is where the term ‘Destination Identity’ and the aspiration for “scaffolding public imagination” come from.
Crucially, before the social planners writing that paper get to specifying the desired changes at the levels of the community and institutions, they first target a desire to control each individual’s ‘Mapping horizons,’ ‘Creating purpose’ for individuals, ‘Charting pathways’ for each individual, specifying the criteria to habituate ‘Acting together’, and, tied to the discussion from the beginning of this post, framing ‘Testing ideas’. The Framework for Evaluating Participatory Futures, in other words, just happens to coincide with what 21st century skills hypes, as well as Project-Based Frameworks to implement Competency-based Education. It gets at what learning standards specify and it says the real reason all this must be standardized through a reenvisioning of education globally is to
build collective intelligence about the future by helping people to diagnose change over the long-term, draw out knowledge and ideas about how the future could be, and develop collective mental images of the futures people want.
Well, at least the futures people will want when digital simulations, required learning experiences, formative assessments for HOTS, and High Quality Project-Based Learning get done with their ‘imaginations’. After all, that report disdains “only engaging people to think about the future in an analytical and rational way.” Mustn’t greet the future, in other words, with an Axemaker Mind full of actual factual information and your own developed categories of thought. Might lead to disparate subjective interpretations of what is important or even a wise idea to be transforming at all. Instead, we get the admission:
Art, embodied and experiential processes have a much greater influence on citizens, their sense of meaning, motivation and subsequent actions.
Can you repeat after me: “Inside Out and Just as Specified for Habitualizing Future Actions”? Nothing sounds more effective for creating a desired Social Technology than helping participants, whether they be K-12 or higher ed students or adults on a Learning Together retreat, “feel the future” so they will come to believe “how malleable these futures are.” Activities and learning experiences can be used to “scaffold public imagination; drawing out knowledge and ideas about how the future could be, and developing collective mental images of the futures people want.” Then those deliberately instilled common collective images of the future can be used to create “new collective actions and behavior in the present”.
Remember how Catalyzing Change from the last post hyped student agency and critiquing the present as the excuse for reimagining high school math? It turns out to be essential for a requisite “need to help people and communities deal with uncertainty, build resilience to change and act collectively.” Now, math, science, or history learning experiences become a means for “helping people to feel a sense of agency over their own futures is critical for maintaining social cohesion and preventing a fracturing along ethnic, racial, cultural, historical or other identity lines. Participatory futures can also facilitate collective action that is necessary to tackle systemic challenges like climate change.”
The Social Technology book set out a vision for dynamic social planning that works a great deal like what NESTA is now laying out and it also relies greatly on the control of ideas. So much more effective at evading any perception of censorship or control and less rigid than any Five Year Plan. Think of required Literacy Activities through the following aspiration from the NESTA report:
Collective images of the future help orient and organize in times of disruption. Throughout history, humans, organisations and societies have used mental images in the forms of myths, legends and religion to organise themselves. Images of the future play a particularly significant role in our lives, since our ability to make plans, decisions or set goals rests on them. Brain research shows that collective images offer orientation in times of uncertainty or when the necessity of reshaping our living environments becomes apparent. Participatory futures approaches use and create shared public images of the future that can provide a ‘destination identity’–acting as a motivating force to turn the ‘imagined’ into the real…positive images help pull us toward the future helping to catalyze social change and overcome cultural obstacles to it.
I think that is enough to take in right now as we contemplate the use of the ubiquitous Greta Thunberg or why common weather events now have to be the lead story on the national news. If you desired that social science, including its education and pedagogy components, have a role to play in shifting from what is to what could be, social planners know they need to create a “shared diagnosis of the key facts, trends, and problems,” even if that shared diagnosis is factually untrue in the world that currently exists.
The whole point is the effect of the shared mental images on actions that can remake what currently exists. I wonder if anyone else will grasp all these aspirations as Uncle Karl’s Man as a Maker of History, usefully brought into place at a neural level by achievement standards that hype student ‘performance’ and actions.
It turns out to be a plan for social reengineering with a long pedigree if we know where to look.